A Response
By James Neff
It is unlikely that the free Internet as we know it, an almost anarchistic arena of free thought exchange, will vanish or become swallowed up entirely by corporate or government control anytime soon. Or anytime at all.
First, there is the simple fact the Internet is international is scope; an essential part of the larger 'one world' global village that has given new life and unlimited potential to commerce, finance, and industry for the coming millenium. Already, the trading and commerce being done 'on-line' is in the multi-billions of dollars. Most of that is dependent upon the basic backbone configuration of the net as it currently exists as an integral part of the free market economy. The internet is also arguably the most subtle and persuasive agent of U.S. 'democratization' of third world nations ever conceived, many of which were teetering on the bring of mass poverty and considering Marxism in the mid '70s as the solution to their national problems. The internet cookie is simply too big for any one nation to eat, much less control, in terms of trying to ration it to either its own people or the world at large.
Owned by no one, and monitored by all governments, the internet is a world super-consciousness racing at the speed of light through hotlines and broadlines in the universe of electronic communication. Radically or even substantially altering its current structure would cause an economic domino effect that could literally wipe out numerous older and many new industries dependant upon this free global network information exchange. In as much as M.A.D. (mutual assured destruction) maintained the (alleged) "cold-war" nuclear peace, the present anarchistic modality of the internet maintains and insures its most cherished resource: uninhibited market economics.
The idea of the internet mutating into an "intra-net" corporate monster is likely only if seen in terms as an ADDITION to the current internet format. We can realistically look forward to several other new competitive AOL-like corporate nets; we'll also see big business creating several new mega-nets in the new cable-based internet field. As big corporations leap to join the coming mega-net, the general public will follow because the majority are not serious cyber-users. For them, the net is essentially another form of T.V. and primarily an entertainment modality. The rest of us will remain here, in the 'basement', performing experiments and maintaining the 'Don't Tread On Me' status quo of the existing internet configuration.
When this transition to the new mega-net happens, the world will perceive the "old" net to be "arcane", and it will be in this atmosphere that the hackers and cyber-heads will truly flourish again, just as they did in the old BBS days, when the internet was crude and unsophisticated. Naturally, most of the electronic and entertainment glitz of the new mega-net will rise up from the 'basement' of the existing net facility, but since the cybercommunity has never been too keen on exposure or credit for its creations, it won't care. It will go right on being what it has always been: the true internet 'society'.
Even if the U.S. were to put restrictions on the net within its own borders, and begin to regulate it as it does the airwaves, there would remain "off channel", private access, and uncontrolled use of the internet by pirates...just as there are off-channel and independents in the broadcast field.
And speaking of pirates, let's not forget there are thousands upon thousands of very capable hackers poised, armed, and ready to launch the most crippling, disabling cyber-attack on the government's own databases imaginable, should there ever be any clear attempt to limit or control the free internet. If you don't think this is possible, check into the hearings on Capitol Hill last year on this very subject.
It was made clear that the government (which started the internet itself for its own purposes) now has NO CONTROL over the genius of its cyber-citizenry, much less this electronic culture's power to out-think, out-maneuver, and out-hack the government in every level of cyber-space. In fact, the U.S. Goverment routinely attempts to enlist many of these super-hackers into the world of espionage and clandestine operations, and mundane make-work programming tasks with offers of big money and high living. This, in hopes of moving them out of their present free-wheeling positions and to hopefully keep a better eye on them from WITHIN the system. You know the government power base is frightened and has recognized a formidable foe when it nervously courts that potential enemy and invites it into its own camp.
Should the government or industry attempt to wrest control of the now free internet, the hacker legion could, and probably would, wipe out the system as a whole. The government knows this and recognizes this de facto cold-war between itself and the cyber-community and will not make a move to upset the uneasy truce that exists. And there is another reason it won't make a move against the existing internet which, of course, began with the government and has remained government centered ever since. The free internet represents a domestic, as well as a global, method of systems and controls over the people.
Much the same way as the economic system is designed to produce neverending varieties of toys and trinkets to dangle before the eyes of a mesmerized public and therby create the illusion of freedom, likewise, the internet remains the government's greatest control weapon against us. Through it, the public can be watched, read, analyzed, recorded, and monitored about every way imaginable. The net can even be used to gain 'evidence' to arrest and detain people when felt 'necessary'. Through the current internet, the government has carte blanche to surveille the populace, just as Orwell predicted. Because of the free flow of information, many think they are watching the government, but in reality the government is really watching them. And it is never going to let that advantage go without a fight. It represents their greatest 'bugging' device ever and gives the government a daily yield of ten times the information and knowledge about its citizenry (and the global community) than it was able to gather in the 50s.
Don't worry about the 'free' internet disappearing. It won't happen. Worry about who is reading your email, watching yours thoughts, hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets, and what can be done with that knowledge...with real FBI agents with real guns and real prisons.

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