Rushkoff: Abandon The Corporate Internet

Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on opte.org. Source: Matt Britt (CC)

The Internet. Source: Matt Britt (CC)

You can rely on Doug Rushkoff to be ahead of the curve in the world of Cyberia. In his post at Shareable he says we should give up trying to pretend that the Internet can be free of corporate and governmental interference and control, abandon it and start a new, truly free network. Is he being realistic?

The moment the “net neutrality” debate began was the moment the net neutrality debate was lost. For once the fate of a network – its fairness, its rule set, its capacity for social or economic reformation – is in the hands of policymakers and the corporations funding them – that network loses its power to effect change. The mere fact that lawmakers and lobbyists now control the future of the net should be enough to turn us elsewhere.

Of course the Internet was never truly free, bottom-up, decentralized, or chaotic. Yes, it may have been designed with many nodes and redundancies for it to withstand a nuclear attack, but it has always been absolutely controlled by central authorities. From its Domain Name Servers to its IP addresses, the Internet depends on highly centralized mechanisms to send our packets from one place to another.

The ease with which a Senator can make a phone call to have a website such as Wikileaks yanked from the net mirrors the ease with which an entire top-level domain, like say .ir, can be excised. And no, even if some smart people jot down the numeric ip addresses of the websites they want to see before the names are yanked, offending addresses can still be blocked by any number of cooperating government and corporate trunks, relays, and ISPs. That’s why ministers in China finally concluded (in cables released by Wikileaks, no less) that the Internet was “no threat.”

I’m not trying to be a downer here, or knock the possibilities for networking. I just want to smash the fiction that the Internet is some sort of uncontrollable, decentralized free-for-all, so that we can get on with the business of creating something else that is.

That’s right. I propose we abandon the Internet, or at least accept the fact that it has been surrendered to corporate control like pretty much everything else in Western society. It was bound to happen, and its flawed, centralized architecture made it ripe for conquest.

Just as the fledgling peer-to-peer economy of the Late Middle Ages was quashed by a repressive monarchy that still had the power to print money and write laws, the fledgling Internet of the 21st century is being quashed by a similarly corporatist government that has its hands on the switches through which we mean to transact and communicate. It will never truly level the playing fields of commerce, politics, and culture. And if it looks like that does stand a chance of happening, the Internet will be adjusted to prevent it…

Find out what he proposes at Shareable.

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  • Mercuryshots

    I have been saying this since the late 90′s! But never knew how someone could do it (ideas with no know-how to make them happen)… Now however, we all have wireless devices, and there are people who can write apps that would allow us to connect to some sort of “NuWeb” were we each connect to each other, creating a digital “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” instead of having to log-on to some ISP… we don’t need providers anymore because we ARE the internet!

  • Mercuryshots

    I have been saying this since the late 90′s! But never knew how someone could do it (ideas with no know-how to make them happen)… Now however, we all have wireless devices, and there are people who can write apps that would allow us to connect to some sort of “NuWeb” were we each connect to each other, creating a digital “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” instead of having to log-on to some ISP… we don’t need providers anymore because we ARE the internet!

    • http://drwho.virtadpt.net/ The Doctor

      Many of the technologies already exist, we just have to assemble and package them to make them easy to use on common portable computing systems. Mesh networking protocols already exist (some suck less than others). Distributed filestores, bulletin boards, and blogs already exist. Portable filestores already exist (remember the instructions to mirror and distribute the Cablegate documents from a wifi-enabled cellphone?)

      There is at least one service which aims to make it easy to make something running on a portable computer available on the public Net from behind a firewall (Pagekite).

      It’s no longer odd to see someone walking around with a laptop, a netbook, or a smartphone. All of these can be put to use. We just have to figure out how to bring it all together.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve been messing around with the wireless mesh networking protocol part of the package, but I don’t have any results to publish yet.

  • Anonymous

    Many of the technologies already exist, we just have to assemble and package them to make them easy to use on common portable computing systems. Mesh networking protocols already exist (some suck less than others). Distributed filestores, bulletin boards, and blogs already exist. Portable filestores already exist (remember the instructions to mirror and distribute the Cablegate documents from a wifi-enabled cellphone?)

    There is at least one service which aims to make it easy to make something running on a portable computer available on the public Net from behind a firewall (Pagekite).

    It’s no longer odd to see someone walking around with a laptop, a netbook, or a smartphone. All of these can be put to use. We just have to figure out how to bring it all together.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been messing around with the wireless mesh networking protocol part of the package, but I don’t have any results to publish yet.