Freedom to Connect
If you are at all interested in issues like Internet openness and net neutrality, then you’ll want to check out F2C: Freedom to Connect. It’s a fantastic two-day conference devoted to preserving and celebrating the essential properties of the Internet, coming up on May 21 and 22nd, in Washington, DC.
Read on to learn how to win a free pass to F2C or get a discount on your registration!
This year’s F2C conference features a very strong lineup of presenters and panelists. Confirmed keynote speakers include Vint Cerf, Michael Copps, Cory Doctorow, Benoît Felten, Rebecca MacKinnon, Eben Moglen, Mike Marcus and Aaron Swartz.
Here’s a good explanation of what F2C is all about:
The Internet is a success today because it is stupid, abundant and simple. In other words, its neutrality, its openness to rapidly developing technologies and its layered architecture are the reasons it has succeeded where others (e.g., ISDN, Interactive TV) failed.
The Internet’s issues are under-represented in Washington DC policy circles. F2C: Freedom to Connect is designed to advocate for innovation, for creativity, for expression, for little-d democracy. The Freedom to Connect is about an Internet that supports human freedoms and personal security. These values, held by many of us whose consciousness has been shaped by the Internet, are not common on K Street or Capitol Hill or at the FCC.
F2C: Freedom to Connect is about having access to the Internet as infrastructure. Infrastructures belong to — and enrich — the whole society in which they exist. They gain value — in a wide variety of ways, some of which are difficult to anticipate — when more members of society have access to them. F2C: Freedom to Connect especially honors those who build communications infrastructure for the Internet in their own communities, often overcoming resistance from incumbent cable and telephone companies to do so.
The phrase Freedom to Connect is now official US foreign policy, thanks to Secretary of State Clinton’s Remarks on Internet Freedom in 2010. She said that Freedom to Connect is, “the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace.” Her speech presaged the Internet-fueled assemblies from Alexandria, Egypt to Zuccotti Park.
Win a Free Pass, or Get 33% Off Registration
F2C meshes very nicely with our corporate ideals about how the Internet should work and how it needs to be protected and nurtured. Our mobile service Ting is a proud sponsor of the event and we have a couple of discount options for those of you who are looking to attend.
- First up, we have a free pass to give away to one person. We simply ask that you email us and give us a short explanation on why you think you should attend. Act fast – we’ll have a look at the emails and choose a winner on April 11th.
- For those who don’t get the free pass, we also have a discount code that you can use to get 33% off the registration fee. When you register, use promo code “TING33”.
The cost for the conference is $349 until April 16, after which the cost goes up a bit. That discount code will work until April 30.
For more information, and to register, visit the F2C: Freedom to Connect website.
The Internet is Sentient
There is a battle going on between the Internet and those who are threatened by the Internet’s values. This includes anyone protecting old business models; incumbent telcos and cablecos, and rights collectives representing old distribution models for intellectual property. Most importantly, the greatest threat is to the power of the nation-state itself.
This struggle is marked by the Internet achieving sentience. I use sentience here to describe the deep symbiosis of the network and the people that use it and the huge quantity of emergent properties that result. The whole is vastly greater than the sum of the parts.
The Internet has achieved sentience. It is some different version of Kurzweil’s singularity, but it exists today. The Internet is self-improving, it propagates its unique values and, most importantly, it has now matured to the point where it is able to protect itself from any threat.
This sentience is a fusion of network and people. Recognizing its existence is central to understanding how society will evolve with and through it and to making this symbiosis as healthy as it can be. For many, this sentience is understood on an implied level. This will be better if made express.
It constantly improves
Every element of the Internet eventually gets improved upon with huge network effects, and those network effects are just accelerating. Not only is the Internet improving with the number of people connected, it is improving the very people connected to it.
It propagates its values
The Internet has often been described as valueless. It is not. In fact strong values have emerged. The Internet stands for openness, connectedness, sharing and fairness. It facilitates these things and propagates them. Think of the generally increasing difficulty that corruption and unfairness are having, from dictators to unfriendly business practices.
The Arab Spring and Verizon removing an unfair $2 surcharge are equally good examples. A groundswell starts and does not come from any one voice, but seems to come from the collective consciousness. It seems to come from everywhere at the same time.
It responds to threats
The Internet itself now clearly responds to things that threaten it. The response is multi-faceted, coming from many different places and in many different ways.
We see responses to legislative threats like SOPA and ACTA where people all over the world have responded to specific national legislation in a way never before seen.
We see this when we see Anonymous and others attacking various parties and entities that threaten the Internet and its values, almost like mutated white blood cells in the Internet’s bloodstream. And of course there is no specific person or thing that is Anonymous. Watching those threatened take a traditional approach to stopping it approaches farce.
We see this when we see plans arise for alternatives to the present Internet in response to threats from those who fear it. As the SOPA debate kicked into high gear a Reddit discussion on “Plan B” kicked off and has not slowed down despite the immediate threat passing. This was not even close to the only dialogue of its kind. The collective consciousness of the Internet understands the threat as continual and existential and in no way limited to SOPA, PIPA or ACTA. Those threatened, on the other hand, think they have a “PR problem” and that somehow Google and Silicon Valley have fooled people.
Finally, the Internet responding to threats to its existence is happening at an increasing rate. Draw a line through Citizen Lab, EFF and others in the late 90’s, TOR and others in the late 00’s and the responses that we have seen in the last months. This trend will accelerate.
What are the implications of sentience
When we interact with the Internet, whether it is in platform design, marketing or our own personal use of social media we need to keep the concept of sentience in mind. It can change the way we approach these tasks.
When we interact with the Internet we need to not only to expect it to change and evolve but we need to actively think about our own participation in this evolution. We are each a tiny part of the sentience of the Internet.
Perhaps most importantly for this post and for the broad theme of conflict between value systems, any attempt to legislate, regulate or otherwise control the Internet ignores sentience at its peril.
The genie of the Internet is out of the bottle. From now on, its sentience will protect its independence, whether one likes it or not. If those threatened try and squeeze too tightly the Internet will simply get up and walk away. The nation-state can no longer control the Internet but it can do significant damage to it, and in doing so to itself.
The hope is that acknowledging and discussing the Internet as sentient will allow us to approach its relationship with the nation-state, and other interests who feel threatened by it, in a way that more smoothly eases us into the future.
Why We Don’t Like SOPA
The proposed SOPA (and equally odious “Protect IP Act“) legislation is fundamentally flawed in how it works and the damage it is likely to do to the Internet, which has been the greatest platform for innovation the world has ever seen. For that reason we will be joining the blackout organized by our friends at Reddit by blacking out the Tucows Software Download site on January 18th from 8am to 8pm EST (1300-0100 UTC).
The Internet is a global creature. A “Made in the USA” solution will no more work to stop the problems talked of than would one made in any other single nation state. Worse, the US has been at the forefront of ensuring that the Internet has remained free and a platform for innovation for the last fifteen years. With SOPA, or ProtectIP, that leadership will effectively end and Syria, China, Iran and others will not only use the US as a role model, they will also use these actions as further evidence of US control of the Internet and justification for trying to turn it over to the UN/ITU. This is best described by Susan Crawford.
Worse, the legislation itself is fundamentally corrupt. It is bought and paid for by big media, trying vainly to protect anachronistic business models. This has been demonstrated clearly in all of the hearings and the very conduct of the debate. Listening to how deeply uninformed those being asked to legislate this issue are has been nothing short of scary. Watching how support and opposition has lined up has been disheartening. This is the worst example of the kind of fundamental corruption that is at the heart of the US political system currently and is well defined by Professor Larry Lessig. If you have ten minutes please watch this video on the subject. If you have an hour please watch this one.
The Internet is not a corpus, it is not a thing. It is a series of protocols, which are really agreements on how computers will behave when connected to the Internet. Treating the Internet like a thing to be legislated and controlled is as ill conceived as treating “Intellectual Property” like physical property and leads to even greater perversions. If governments squeeze too tightly, the Internet as we know it will simply get up and walk away. It will fracture and split with a “clean” Internet and a much larger Darknet. than there is today, but not one used mainly for file sharing. Instead the Darknet will become the real Internet. Brands will sell things and Media will offer content on the “Cleannet”, but the Darknet will be where ideas are shared, plans are made, memes are propagated and where most of the cool people, including most of our children, will be.
Prohibitions have never worked to change behaviours. They simply make people who fear things feel good and create a new mini-industry for fear mongers to make money off of. They do not change behaviours.
If you wish to get involved we suggest you visit Stop American Censorship, BlackoutSOPA.org and that you follow @tucows on Twitter where we’re we’ll be tweeting regularly about the movement to stop SOPA.
Tucows Announces Commencement of Dutch Auction Tender Offer to Repurchase up to 6.5 Million Common Shares
TORONTO, Dec. 20, 2011 – Tucows Inc. (NYSE AMEX:TCX), (TSX:TC) a global provider of domain names, email and other Internet services, announced today that it is commencing its modified “Dutch auction” tender offer to repurchase up to 6,500,000 shares of its common stock, representing approximately 12.2% of Tucows’ outstanding shares, as previously announced on December 15, 2011. The closing price of Tucows common stock on the NYSE Amex on December 19, 2011 was $0.75.
Tucows Supports StopBadware.org
Tucows is proud to be a StopBadware partner. StopBadware is an organization that strives to make the Web safer through the prevention, mitigation, and remediation of badware websites.
StopBadware’s goals are right in line with our corporate vision which states that “Tucows seeks to provide simple, useful services that help people unlock the power of the Internet.” The removal and prevention of badware is key in making the Internet more effective for all users.
Badware is defined as software that fundamentally disregards a user’s choice about how his or her computer or network connection will be used. Some examples include things like browser toolbars that users are tricked into installing that steal personal information or malware like viruses that takeover a user’s computer to send spam or spread more badware to other unsuspecting users.
We obviously think badware is bad and has no place on the Internet and we support StopBadware in there efforts to help stop it.
Visit StopBadware.org to learn more.
The TRUSTe Privacy Seal Is Now Available Through the OpenSRS Reseller Network, Making It Easy for Small Businesses to Provide Online Privacy Assurances to Customers
Vote in the 2011 CIRA Elections
The Internet belongs to all of us and impacts every aspect of our lives. CIRA’s election process provides Canadians and .CA Members an opportunity to take a leadership role in the development of the Internet of the future to ensure it continues to be an open and accessible public resource.
As a CIRA Member, this is your opportunity to vote for the individuals who will take part in developing strategies and policies for Canada’s Internet– your Internet.
Why is voting important in the 2011 CIRA Elections?
By voting, you are choosing Canada’s Internet leaders and helping to build CIRA into a leading-edge organization that strives for excellence as a registry and supports Canadians and .CA Members in building their online presence in the global digital economy.
Not sure who to vote for?
While the decision is ultimately yours to make, we endorse the candidates listed below. As a board member, I am confident that each have the skills and experience necessary to assist the board with its important work this coming term and have already demonstrated a strong commitment to Canada’s Internet community.
Member Nominated Candidates
Nominating Committee Candidates
Vote in three easy steps:
- Access the 2011 Election website.
- Confirm your identity – Complete the Member or Member Representative declaration (depending on your membership status), then submit.
- Select up to four Candidates– Once the declaration is submitted, select up to THREE Candidates from the Nomination Committee slate and ONE Candidate from the Members’ slate, then submit. Volià!
If you have any questions about the election process or the qualifications to vote, drop us a line in the comments.
Earlier today we took the wraps off a new project we’ve been working on for a while now. It’s a new mobile phone service launching in the US later this year called Ting. You can learn more about at ting.com.
Spectrum as Plentiful as We Let it Be
This is a letter we sent to the Manager, Mobile Technology and Services, Industry Canada today and I wanted to share it with you:
We are submitting these comments on behalf of Tucows Inc. Tucows is a Canadian company that has been around since the dawn of the Internet. We were part of the early days of Internet access when Canada had a position of leadership. We have watched with sadness as Canada has gone from an Internet access leader to an Internet access laggard according to objective observers (Berkman Center releases final broadband study, World Top Continents’ Download Speed). As governments at all levels across Canada agonize over our lack of innovation and productivity gains, it is clear that fantastic Internet access – fast, symmetrical, affordable – is perhaps the greatest platform for innovation that any government can provide.
We appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts on spectrum allocation in particular. We feel that spectrum allocation policies provide one of the best opportunities to rectify the poor Internet access situation that currently exists in Canada. We also note that spectrum policy is based on artificial notions of scarcity. Much like current Intellectual property policy, notions of scarcity were important ideas in the industrial age.
The Internet has truly changed things. The Internet allows us to think in terms of abundance, not scarcity.
The notion of Spectrum as a scarce resource is based on very old science. This is understandable, but changeable. We also recognize that spectrum allocation has become an important source of revenue for governments and that any serious changes to allocation policy need to encompass this point. In this submission we do not propose to address the issue of government revenue, but we do plan to as the dialogue progresses. Our goal here is to introduce the idea of spectrum as a plentiful resource. Specifically:
- Spectrum is plentiful, not scarce;
- Interference is a function of the receivers, not an inherent property of wireless transmission; and
- With smart radios and well-defined equipment specifications we could take much greater advantage of the Spectrum we have.
Following the above would allow Canada to take significant strides in addressing its Internet access issues AND to establish itself as a world leader in telecommunications policy.
As with our submissions to the copyright consultation process in the summer of 2009, we have employed the pen of David Weinberger in an effort to create a submission that is readable and hopefully accessible by an audience wider than most policy submissions are able to reach.
Spectrum as Plentiful as We Let it Be
When I was a lad, our family doctor was a young man named Dr. Murtceps. He took good care of us, and I have stuck with him for over fifty years. The last time I saw him, he shocked me by telling me that he was leaving his practice in order to pursue an important discovery he’d made in physics: over the decades he’s noticed that his loyal patients who have grown old with him are increasingly having trouble with their vision. He leaned in and said with a firm voice that seemed a hedge against the alarm he felt, “I am very much afraid the evidence points in only one direction. There is simply no other explanation.” I waited. “Photons are failing.”
I have to admit I laughed at first. “Doc, you’re joking, right?” I said. “There’s no problem with light. The problem is with our eyes.” He looked at me uncomprehendingly. I struggled for an analogy, but the one I found apparently just made matters worse: “Next thing you’ll be telling me that radio interference is a property of spectrum, and not just a problem with bad receivers.”
Dr. Murtceps wasn’t joking. Neither was I. (And I, unlike Dr. Murtceps, am not entirely made up.)
Unfortunately, our misdiagnosis of the situation with spectrum is analogous to Dr. Murtceps’ taking the weakness of our eyes as evidence of a limitation of photons. The price for being wrong about spectrum, however, is not even slightly laughable. By continuing to treat interference as a physical limitation of the medium itself, we will drastically restrict the usability of spectrum at what could be the highest opportunity cost in history.
Here’s a simple experiment. Plug in an expensive radio next to a cheap one. Play with the radio dial of the cheap one until you find a station with a signal made cruddy by interference. Now tune the expensive radio to the same station. It is likely to have a much clearer signal than the cheap one. Where did the interference go? Nowhere, because interference is not a thing or a property of radio waves. Interference is receiver failure. As far as I can gather – I am not a physicist – radio waves don’t really bounce off one another and knock each other out of shape. They may degrade over distance, and physical objects in their path may diminish their strength, but when one radio wave meets another radio wave, they pass right through each other.
The static and fuzz we hear when we talk about interference is caused by the inability of the receiver to distinguish one signal from another. The system we’ve designed solves that problem by assigning broad continuous swaths of spectrum to designated broadcasters. Fine, but that solves the “interference” problem by limiting the amount of available spectrum: We take the continuum of frequencies and divide them into a relative handful of ranges of frequencies (= “bands”).
At one point, that was a reasonable approach. Unfortunately, that point was in the 1930s. Eighty years ago it made sense to regulate who could broadcast at particular frequencies, and to make the assigned swath of frequencies quite broad: if all you have is a blunderbuss, then you do best if you make your target the size of the broad side of a barn.
There are two important good consequences of our current practice of auctioning off slices of spectrum: First, the government raises lots of money from businesses that then make yet more money from the transaction. Win-win is a good thing. Second, we get a system that works.
The problem is that we’ve defined “works” disastrously narrowly. The current system works in that it enables a handful of large corporations to provide quite reliable one-way broadcasts. We are now, however, witnessing a worldwide redefining of “works,” so that a system that does not allow maximum multi-way communication and maximum innovation is broken.
The first half of that criterion— maximum multi-way communication— addresses the cultural, social, and political benefits. Call it free speech, call it open culture, call it open group formation, call it a renaissance, we all nevertheless know it’s just waiting to happen.
The second half— maximum innovation— addresses the economic reasons why we should care so deeply about getting the Internet’s broadband infrastructure right. It’s where growth is going to come from, and it has the potential to be the greatest market-based generator of wealth since we invented open marketplaces.
So, how do we make this new definition of “works” real? Fortunately, what has been keeping us from opening vast new quantities of bandwidth is primarily our old habit of assuming that we have to divvy up the continuum of usable frequencies into thick, scarce bands. Notice that the fundamental verb that gets applied to “spectrum” under the old assumptions is “divide.” Dividing is a verb of scarcity.
We could instead assume abundance. Today’s receivers and transmitters are smarter than they were when you had to turn a dial to tune in a station. They can do what we do when we drive a car on a highway: change lanes to avoid over-crowding and thereby maximize throughput. In this case, the lanes are frequencies. If the frequency the receiver and transmitter are using is getting crowded, they can send a signal and hop over to a different one. This type of intelligent, dynamic spectrum management wrings far more capacity out of the airwaves than doing the equivalent of assigning each car its own fixed lane.
Assuming abundance can create abundance because information is not like a car. Over the years we have figured out ways to compress information, to combine multiple signals into a single “lane,” and even to create what David P. Reed (one of the architects of the Internet) calls “cooperation gain”: an improvement in information capacity as more nodes join, say, a multi-hop mesh network.
It’s vital that we drop our assumption that information needs a dedicated, unvarying channel. When broadcasters need to get assigned a “lane” by a centralized authority, it’s expensive and slow to become a broadcaster. Where frequencies have been opened up to all comers in a free market, enormous innovation has occurred already. Imagine if the public airwaves were in fact open to the entire public, with their management handled in real time by the technology itself, rather than by a government office. It would be like the Internet, and we know the result: There are currently 200 million registered domains, and we have just run through 4.3 billion Internet addresses. That happened for two reasons. First, the Internet enables anyone to jump in, without first having to apply for permission, pay a fee, or hope to be assigned a route; the Net gives participating computers addresses, and negotiates the routes between them dynamically. Second, we are a damn innovative species just waiting for the chance.
But, we are being held back by an old way of managing a resource that works by turning it into something scarce. Spectrum is bounteous if we want it to be. It will be a tragedy for which we will not be soon forgiven if we continue to slice this shared abundance to ribbons that we then sell off for short-term gain.
Open up the spectrum and we will figure out what to do with it. Trust us. We’ve just spent the past fifteen years proving that we’re more innovative than even the craziest of us imagined.
Celebrating the Domain Pioneers at the .com Gala
Last night in San Francisco, California, VeriSign celebrated the .com 25 – the people and companies that, over the past 25 years, helped shape the web as we know it. This was part of the 25YearsOf.com celebration. In addition to the .com 25, Verisign also recognized a select group of Domain Pioneers. We’re proud that Tucows, and Elliot Noss, Tucows President and CEO, were on that select list of those recognized as pioneering people and companies in the domain name space.
VeriSign visited our Toronto offices a few weeks back to give Elliot the opportunity to talk about how the Internet has impacted his life, and about where he sees things heading in the future:
The Internet is people
Look back all the way back to 1994, when Tucows.com software library launched in Flint, Michigan, you’ll see that there was a focus within Tucows around the idea that the Internet is made up not of wires and routers, but of people.
Tucows.com used a network of thousands and thousands of mirrors – mostly Internet Service Providers – who provided a local copy of the Tucows software library to their customers as an additional feature on top of an Internet connection. In 1999 Tucows extended this network of relationships by adding domain name registrations to the mix through OpenSRS. We leveraged the existing relationships that we had in the Tucows network to build out a global network of domain sellers who used the OpenSRS backend to power sales and management of domain names to their customers.
These days much is made of Web 2.0 and the social qualities of the Internet. But the truth is that the Internet has always been a synergy of technology and people. Without the physical interconnections, the Internet wouldn’t exist and conversely, without the Internet, many of these social connections wouldn’t be possible.
What was originally a way to connect computer networks to computer networks quickly morphed into a way to interconnect the billions of people on planet earth with each other at the speed of light. Mobile, ubiquitous Internet access leads to a more social Internet which empowers people through the Internet.
This generation of kids who grew up with the Internet have come to expect to be able to access it on demand, wherever they might be. They forge relationships with each other via the web, they communicate via the web and they seem to be constantly connected to each other via the web.
Much thanks goes to VeriSign for putting together the 25YearsOf.com initiative. We’re honoured to be recognized as part of this select group of Pioneers. It’s a testament to vision that both Elliot and Tucows as a whole share–that the Internet is more than a vast physical network but that it is an extension, and an extender of social interactions between people that makes the world wide web so incredible and powerful.