Wednesday, March 07, 2007


My opening remarks at F2C: Freedom to Connect

F2C; Freedom to Connect 2007 was a big success, if I say so myself. I'm hoping to do it again next year.

Over the next several days, I'll be posting and pointing to other people's summaries, videos, notes pictures and speeches.

For starters, here are my own F2C Opening Remarks. After one total bumble (2005) and one that tried to cut a middle path but dribbled into oblivion, by comparison my 2007 remarks have structure and substance. Here they are:

• Friends,
• colleagues,
• participants,
• students
• Citizens of the Internet,
• Scientists, Poets, Technologists, Artists, Learners and Lovers,
• builders of the critical public infrastructure,
• my heroes who made the Internet the miraculous place it is today,
• creators of the winner apps we value and love and use every day,
• advocates for the public good,
• FCC and Congressional staffers who work against the odds to ensure that the public voice is heard when policy is made,
• workers at telephone companies and cable companies who struggle to teach your company to change,
• misguided fossils who buy the telco lingo of scarcity and privatization,
• daydream believers in the magic hand of the market when there is no market and what you're seeing is not magic but sleight of hand and misdirection, and
• paid shills who are here simply to find out what to oppose tomorrow,
To all of you, I say,
Welcome to Freedom to Connect!

The future of the Internet is uncertain.

In one plausible future, we get the Internet that the telcos say they'll build for us.

In another future, we get the Internet we're afraid that the telcos will build, an Internet controlled by those who thrive on scarcity and opaqueness.

In a third future, we ourselves create the Internet we want. This is the Internet Tim Bray described when he declared "Fat Pipe, Always On, Get Out of the Way!"

Our Internet is more than a series of tubes. It is not a truck. It is not a basket of apples.

It is a place, a place to meet each other, to make friends, to buy stuff, to express ourselves, to do deals, to exchange ideas and information, to contend, to work together, and to create new, valuable stuff for ourselves and each other. It is a place for citizenship, democracy, and freedom. It is our country, our homeland, our planet. It is worth fighting for.

Being digital and being fast is not enough. To "Fat Pipe" and "Always On," we must add, "Get out of the Way." The Internet we love owes everything to the end-to-end principle, also known as The Stupid Network. The Internet became the miraculous venue it is today because it is Stupid, while we at the edges are smart.

The locus of control, the decisions about what we hear, see and do, and what we say, show, program and create -- when the Internet is Stupid, these decisions are in our hands. Not everybody likes it that way. And every time the locus of control shifts away from individual human actors -- and the devices, applications and materials we choose and control and create -- the Internet we love is diminished. That's why, in addition to, "Fat Pipe," and "Always On," we need, "Get out of the way."

WhatEVER the future brings, we can be sure that:
(1) Technology will continue to advance.
(2) The fundamental human needs to create and communicate will persist, and,
(3) the rich and powerful will do whatever they can to preserve their money and power.

If they control what's on the net and who puts it there, and the quality of its delivery, it does not matter how fat or how always-on the pipe is. We need "Get out of the way."

We come to Freedom to Connect today to understand the Internet we want, to imagine how we'd like it to grow, and to figure out what we can do together to keep the locus of control firmly in our own hands.

We should not be dissuaded by remarks like Chairman Powell's here last year, that the telcos are so good at the policy game, that if we play we will lose. We're smarter than that. Last year we stopped a million dollar a week lobbying effort, and two bad industry bills in congress. In the states, we've stopped the tide of anti-muni-network bills. This year, we're starting to introduce pro-muni bills. Lafayette Louisiana just battled BellSouth and Cox Cable up to the State Suprene Court, and WON. And we're just starting to learn this game.

You are an amazing audience. No, that's nor right -- We are amazing participants.

And we have an amazing program. But before we launch into our program, I'd like to introduce a few special people who are not on the program.
Gary Arlen
Gary Bachula
Robert Cannon
Bob Frankston
Mike Godwin
Bruce Kushnick
Philip Neches
Brough Turner
Jerry Michalski and
Girsea Martinez, who is sixteen, who wrote to me to say, "I use the Internet every day and I'd like to understand it better." I googled her and found her in a Physics Summer Camp and in a Law Magnet High School. Sara Wedeman and her own sixteen year old daughter Alex are hosting Girsea at Freedom to Connect.

Thanks to F2C's sponsors:
Level 3
The Sunlight Foundation
The Center for Digital Democracy
The Future of Music Coalition
Atlantech Online
37 Signals, makers of Campfirenow
Emerson's Tutorial Bar Review
Now it is my pleasure to introduce Tom Evslin. Tom became part of AT&T's Senior Management Team when I was at Bell Labs. He built AT&T WorldNet, AT&T's consumer Internet venture. When my essay, "The Rise of the Stupid Network" came out, Tom was my advocate in Carpet Land. He told the Wall Street Journal that the Stupid Network was "like a glass of cold water in the face of AT&T's Management Hierarchy." Unfortunately, the senior management team was too drugged out for a glass of water to revive them, and they went sleep walking into the heavy traffic of the future. We've seen the result.
Tom went on to found ITXC, the Internet Telephony Exchange Company, which brokered minutes in 100 countries or so. And now Tom is blogging, doing charitable technology development around the world with his wife Mary, and the author of, a novel, or a fictional blog. Tom calls it a BLOOK. And Tom is a citizen of Vermont, where he is helping the Governor turn Vermont into the first e-State in the Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Tom Evslin!

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