Posted by: gdevi | April 21, 2013

Only Connect – Excerpts

Whitney Terrell’s and Shannon Jackson’s marvelous essay “Only Connect” is published in this month’s Harper’s Magazine. I subscribe to the magazine and the article is available only to subscribers. However, I will post some relevant excerpts here. It is a marvelous essay; please read it if you can find it in the local library or via ILL.

Whitney Terrell and Shannon Jackson, “Only Connect,” Harper’s Magazine, April 2013, pp. 68-69.

In its 2010 National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission declared, “Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service.” It’s a worthy goal, given that nearly 100 million Americans still lack high-speed access to the Web.  .  .  . The agency argues that the market needs less regulation, not more–and that the best candidates to fund and control the nation’s next-generation networks are private companies. This is the philosophy that has brought Google to Kansas City, where the search-engine leviathan has signed a deal to build a citywide fiber-optic network.

To get fiber-optic networks off the ground . . .”we need to eliminate regulatory barriers . . . at all levels of government.” The city has certainly complied. According to its contract, Kansas City must give Google access to its underground conduits, fiber, poles, rack space, nodes, buildings, facilities, and available land. It cannot charge the company for “access to or use of any city facilities . . nor will it impose any permit and inspection fees.” And what does the city get in return? It has no say in the pricing of Google’s services, not can it ensure that Google will deliver fiber-optic service to all of the city’s residents. Google’s offices, meeting spaces, and showroom are provided free of charge, and the city pays the company’s electric bill. The mayor, moreover, is barred from commenting on Google’s activities without the express permission of Google.

Utility-owned networks guarantee access to every citizen in a municipality. Google, by contrast, divided Kansas into 202 fiberhood”–and decreed that between 5 and 25 percent of the residents in each fiberhood had to preregister for its service by paying a ten-dollar fee and opening a Google account.  . . . Google’s fiberhood map bisected the city at Troost Avenue, a historical racial divide.

So why would an Internet-search company want to spend a fortune to install fiber-optic cable in Kansas City, Missouri, and neighboring Kansas City, Kansas? Freedom from regulatory headaches is one part of the equation . . . But another explanation might be the treasure trove of user-behavior information that such a network represents.  . . . For Kansas City, it’s too late to ask. But History–and the success of municipally owned fiber-optic projects throughout the country–strongly suggest that we should look this gift horse in the mouth.

Related news:

Hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay. Read Guardian’s coverage here.

Obama proliferating nuclear weapons. Read Guardian’s coverage here.

I don’t know what is more disturbing–racial and class bigots, greedy, warmongering and ignorant politicians like the Dick Cheneys and the James Bakers and the George Bushes and the Condoleeza Rices. Or President Obama who has done so many horrendous horrendous things to the American people and the rest of the world since he became the president, and great god almighty, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.  Under Obama’s presidency, the banks have become bigger than they ever were; wall street has nothing to fear from this president. Can you imagine, a government bailing out in cold-blood a bunch of banking gangsters with the earned income of the middle class? And moreover, telling us that it is for our own good? It is a shame that the year 2008 and the Occupy movements have not really started a serious debate about the future of capitalism. Overseas, Obama’s carte blanche endorsement to kill terrorists using drones has taken the lives of nearly 1000 civilians who had nothing to do with terrorism. Obama is building the American embassy in Baghdad which is bigger than the Vatican at this point. Obama has sanctioned torture to interrogate prisoners. Obama has even endorsed the right to arrest without Miranda rights. There is virtually no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats since Obama became the president. I feel so let down and disappointed by this president and this administration.

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