BBS Software for Our Corporate Borg Hive Future
In the mid-80s, I was a BBS junkie. BBS is short for Bulletin Board System. It was a terminal program hosted on computers over analog phone lines. It was primitive, slow, and often frustrating, with plenty of dropped connections and busy signals. It was non-graphical, text-based. By the late 1980s, I had an internet email account, surfed gopherspace, participated in message boards, and read newsgroups, thanks to an ISP in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the early 1990s, all of this changed when CERN introduced the World Wide Web and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications released the first browser, Mosaic. I soon left the text-based BBS universe behind.
If telecoms and massive cable corporations have their way, it may not be long before I am dusting off the old BBS software and once again surfing over ancient copper telephone lines. “There’s a battle going on for control of the Internet, and if consumers don’t watch out they’re going to be playing second modem to the captains of industry,” writes Bloomberg. “The black hats are worn by a handful of media conglomerates who hope to build a two-tiered Internet, with the fastest tier going at premium prices. Everyone else will surf at reduced speeds, which can be the fast track to Net oblivion.”
But those unable or unwilling to pay “premium prices” face not only reduced speed, but a lock-out entirely. “The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies—including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner—want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all,” explains Save the Internet, a coalition organized in the name of network neutrality. “They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video—while slowing down or blocking their competitors…. without Net Neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu…. the broadband barons will choose for us.”
In other words, 500 channels and nothing on, that is to say nothing at odds with the corporate vision of the world and current events, epitomized by Fox News. For our rulers, it will be a perfect world, a hermetically sealed vacuum, a medium designed to brainwash the masses even more effectively.
“There has never been a time in history when more of our ‘culture’ was as ‘owned’ as it is now. And yet there has never been a time when the concentration of power to control the uses of culture has been as unquestioningly accepted as it is now,” writes Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig. In his book, Free Culture, Lessig argues that as society evolves into an information society there is a choice to be made to decide if that society is to be free or feudal in nature. In response to Lessig’s ideas, a non-partisan group of students and young people established FreeCulture.org, proponents of the Free Culture movement and net neutrality. “If we allow the bottom-up, participatory structure of the Internet to be twisted into a glorified cable TV service—if we allow the established paradigm of creation and distribution to reassert itself—then the window of opportunity opened by the Internet will have been closed, and we will have lost something beautiful, revolutionary, and irretrievable,” declares the Free Culture Manifesto.
As well, we will be forced to accept the political straitjacket of our corporate rulers, who are keen to turn all of us into one-size-fits-all McCulture consumers. Inside the corporate Borg Hive, all consumers will unquestioningly support the political decisions of our rulers, decisions resulting in eternal war, mindless exploitation, and environmental degradation. In other words, if the Corporate Borg wins, if the opposition is assimilated, the planet will move closer to becoming Unimatrix One, the central territory of top-down corporate fascism.
“If the broadband providers are successful, then many highly-opinionated and popular weblogs and websites could become inaccessible to users, and may even cause them to shut down just because a certain company disagrees with their content. This directly challenges the people’s right to freedom of speech,” warns a Polytechnic Online op-ed post.
According to our “representatives,” a polite word for corporate whores, the American people are opposed to net neutrality and want to be assimilated. “A nationwide survey of 800 registered voters is being touted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation because it purports to show that Americans are not interested in net neutrality legislation. Calling proposed net neutrality ‘onerous,’ the Committee’s press materials say that the poll makes it clear that Americans prefer ‘video choice’ over such regulations,” explains Ken Fisher for Ars Technica. “The poll also found that many Americans have no idea what net neutrality is, or why they should care; only 7 percent said that they had even heard or seen anything about net neutrality. When pollsters introduced the concept to poll takers, they described it solely as ‘enhancing Internet neutrality by barring high speed internet providers from offering specialized services like faster speed and increased security for a fee.’ When presented this way, 19 percent of respondents said that net neutrality was more important to them than ‘delivering the benefits of new TV and video choice,’ which received a 66 percent backing.”
It should come as no surprise corporations are hijacking the debate. “In a recent survey conducted by The Glover Park Group and Public Opinion Strategies LLC, 90 percent of Americans said they preferred to have choices for video service providers over net neutrality,” writes Tuan Nguyen over at Daily Tech. “Interestingly, the survey did not appear to address the real issue of net neutrality, which is whether or not network service providers should create tiered networks based on application and client. Instead, survey takers were simply asked whether or not they were more concerned about cable TV choices or net neutrality…. the US government is downplaying the importance of net neutrality for both consumers and content providers by introducing a much more well known everyday topic of cable TV. The poll was funded by Verizon, which previously said that it disagreed with the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (COPE). The COPE act allows local governments to collect up to five percent of fees from Internet service providers to put towards developing high speed access in areas without it. The COPE act also will allow local governments to control what Internet service providers do and what they can charge customers if they are the only provider in a certain area—i.e. monopoly.”
“Net neutrality is one of those principles, social principles, certainly now much more than a technical principle, which is very fundamental,” Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web, told the New York Times earlier this month. “When you break it, then it really depends how far you let things go. But certainly I think that the neutrality of the Net is a medium essential for democracy, yes—if there is democracy and the way people inform themselves is to go onto the Web…. I just hope we don’t have to go through a dark period, a little dark ages while people experiment with dropping Net neutrality and then, perhaps, put it back.”
Of course, as history teaches, it will be exceedingly difficult to “put it back” after the corporatists have assimilated and McCulturalized the most democratic communications medium the world has yet to know.
I am seriously thinking about downloading the Synchronet Bulletin Board System, an open source software that supports vector graphics. Call it Back to the Future, using old technology to access a new communication paradigm. Naturally, simply switching technologies will not stop the piggies from making it illegal to send and receive digital transmissions over an old fashioned, copper-based telephone line. In fascist and authoritarian societies, the state ultimately controls all means of communication and those who deviate are punished, as the hive mind demands a collective obedience to a single consciousness, serving and driving the goals of the corporatized fascist state.
If they take away the phone lines, you may see me down on the street corner, handing out CDs and DVDs.
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