Saturday, April 01, 2006

F2C: Freedom to Connect audiocast

I'll be traveling to Washington for the Freedom To Connect (F2C) conference this coming Monday and Tuesday and expect to enjoy it... and the cherry blossoms which I hear are in full bloom right now. You'll not have access to the cherry trees but if you want to listen you can; F2C is being "audiocast!"

F2C is organized around the idea that connectivity is essential to a properly functioning community and to a healthy society more generally. The organizers that that "The Freedom to Connect" is a generalized way to think about the family of related ideas we are familiar with as The Freedom of Speech, Assembly, or Press. The implication is that we have find ways to protect making connections in our generation that echo those ways our elders found in their day. These guys were ahead of the curve in their concern as the last several months of increasing furor over net neutrality demonstrates.

Isenberg and Pulver, the co-organizers, are well-known for their smart advocacy of ideas that eventually find an audience and influence. (Isenberg formalized the contrast between smart and dumb networks that is crucial to understanding the now-common contrasts between edge and center in network design and the oft-muttered phrase "edge-to-edge.")

The charm of small, well-defined conferences that are organized by major participants in the area as this one is, is that the conversation is likely to be even better than is promised by the schedule of speakers. If you decide to listen in my recommendation would be not to drop the connection after the speaker finishes--the follow-up questions are likely to be spicy. (I'll try and pass on any interesting hallway and reception room bits I hear.)

The topics will revolve around the aforementioned freedom to connect and this years hot topic, net neutrality. For my part I'll be interested in seeing how realistically folks approach the seldom acknowledged structural problems involved. While there are fewer advocates of achieving net freedom through total deregulation than there used to be (AT&T's Whitacre has pretty much cut the knees out from underneath those who think that political and economic freedom are the same thing) most "solutions" I see proposed don't adequately deal with the issue of the natural monopoly that is last mile big broadband connectivity. (For a take which recognizes the issue but does hope to find an escape see Turner's take on the conference.) The lack of advocacy for pure public and community solutions is mainly, I think, because there is no one who benefits economically from the recognition that the only practical solution to a last mile natural monopoly is public or cooperative ownership other than the eventual customers themselves--no one will get rich directly off commonly owned infrastructure. So I'll be there to stick up where I can for not being mislead by an ideology of free enterprise into solutions that sell our freedom for someone else's profit. We'll see how well that is received.

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