In the beginning, when the Internet was a twinkle in scientists’ eyes there was an idea of creating a network by which information could be exchanged.
This network needed to be robust, able to withstand a nuclear attack. It needed to be self-healing, and route information around roadblocks. This was the 1960s.
DARPA and various universities went to work on this problem over the next 30 years.
In the 1990’s the World Wide Web, the side of the Internet that most people have their daily experience with came into existence. A team at the European Center for Particle Research (CERN) in Switzerland developed a set of protocols that formed the foundation for how we view and exchange information on a daily basis via the Internet.
It was also during this time in the 1990’s that Linus Torvalds (father of Linux) penned the words that were eerily prescient on what happened this week:
“The explosion of capitalist conservatism, combined with a growing awareness of Internet’s business value, has led to major changes in the Internet community. Many of them have not been for the good. “
One must understand the Internet’s deep roots, nourished and grown by science and academia to fully appreciate the impact of the latest decision made by Wisconsin’s legislature.
The Internet is not Comcast, it’s not Verizon, it’s not AT&T. It’s not the local telcos and service providers. They are, at best, access points to the Internet, and at worst jailors of the Internet. They found there was money to be made in portioning off the US like a cow carcass and carving off choice slices as their own in the form of municipal monopolies where they laid their copper, fiber, and cables that serve as those access points for users. It also allows them to control the content that comes over wires – but that’s another rant.
That leads us to Wisconsin University which participates with a non-profit organization called WiscNet. The Chronicle says:
“WiscNet, a nonprofit network cooperative that services the public universities, most of the technical and private colleges in Wisconsin, about 75 percent of the state’s elementary and high schools, and 95 percent of its public libraries, according to David F. Giroux, a spokesman for the university system.”
Furthermore, the university of Wisconsin was awarded “$39-million in federal grants, they were awarded to two efforts: one involving the flagship campus, and another through the University of Wisconsin-Extension. The money is to expand broadband connections for health-care providers, public-safety agencies, community organizations, and schools, among other projects. “
WiscNet is involved in a project that:
“would lay about 600 miles of fiber-optic cable across the state.”
Right now fiber is the choicest connection you could ask for, something the US sorely lacks, and something private telecommunication companies have been dragging their feet for decades now to install despite billions in tax breaks that were awarded to them to do such.
Wow, so Wisnet sounds like something great!
Of course, if this non-profit is getting millions in funding, that means somebody else isn’t.
Enter in Wisconsin lawmakers who in:
“A budget approved by a legislative committee last week would force the University of Wisconsin to return $39-million in federal grants awarded to expand high-speed Internet access across the state, state education officials said. The plan would also require all University of Wisconsin institutions to withdraw from WiscNet… The surprise changes were included among a series of amendments to a bill containing the university system’s 2011-13 budget. “
These changes weren’t even discussed beforehand. There was no debate with those that use the service on potential impacts. There was no actual study of what was actually better for all involved.
“Republican lawmakers told the Wisconsin State Journal that the university should not be in the telecommunications business. “
And there lays the crux of the issue.
Corporations have put in the fix. Future endowments will go to them. In the meantime they control the landscape. And this just doesn’t happen in Wisconsin, this happens all over the US.
When people rise up and get sick of the frayed infrastructure telecommunication companies have left behind them and institute municipal (read government) solutions suddenly they get blocked, sued, or permanently delayed by said telecommunication companies.
It’s a fucking scam – but wait it gets worse!
“Another provision in the plan would bar any University of Wisconsin campus from participating in advanced networks connecting research institutions worldwide, according to Mr. Evers’s memo. For example, the Madison campus would have to withdraw from Internet2, a high-speed networking consortium”
And here we have gone beyond the pale. The Internet2
“ is an advanced networking consortium led by the U.S. research and education community. A revolutionary-class IP and optical network. Advanced technologies that enable services and achievements beyond the scope of individual institutions. An unparalleled human network to make sure these technologies get spread around where they can do some good. That’s us, but that’s just the beginning. “
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Internet2 is aimed at taking the huge strides in information sharing and collective intelligence that has been spread by the phenomenon known as the Internet and creating yet another academic revolution. It’s about making us, as people, collectively smarter, more connected, and ultimately better human beings. It’s the technology that will deliver that information.
And lawmakers in Wisconsin cut it off.
Why? Because the Wisconsin legislature have decreed it’s telecommunications related. Translation: “Our political coffers were filled by telecommunication companies and now we must deliver to them.”
And we, not the corporations or the politicians, get fucked over for it.
Remember this the next time a libertarian says the free market solves all problems and corporations would act in our best interest.
Remember this the next time a politician says… well… anything.