Broadband Briefings

Published by NetAction Issue No. 25 December 20, 2002
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Our Stake in Cyberspace
About Broadband Briefings

Our Stake in Cyberspace

Because the future is uncertain, it can be helpful to look at possible alternatives through scenarios. In her fourth and final paper on the future of networking and communications, NetAction advisory board member Judi Clark explores four very different scenarios for the future of the Internet.

"Our Stake in Cyberspace" begins by examining intellectual property laws and common carrier regulations, two significant forces that have shaped the development of the Internet since it's beginning, and will continue to do so in the future. Intellectual property laws have an impact on content and common carrier regulations play a crucial role in access.  Dividing these forces into axes produces four very distinct scenarios for the future of the Internet. Judi describes them as:

1) a "many-walled garden" network characterized by highly competitive, open content and restrictive access;

2) a "just route the bits" network characterized by open and available content on accessible networks;

3) a "you will" network characterized by monopolistic and restrictive content and access; and

4) a "10,000 Mickeys" network characterized by monopolistic and restrictive content and open access.

The four scenarios described in "Our Stake in Cyberspace" are intended to represent the most extreme possibilities; the actual future of the Internet won't look exactly like any of the scenarios but is likely to include elements from each of them. Exactly how much of each depends on many factors: designers and manufacturers of hardware and software, special interests like the recording industry, lawmakers and government regulators, and the millions of Internet users who have mostly been silent in the past. Given what's at stake, Judi concludes that Internet users need to break their silence to maximize the likelihood that the future Internet will be characterized by open and accessible networks and content.

"Our Stake in Cyberspace" is available on the web at:

For an index of all four papers in the Future of the Internet series, see:

The first paper in the series, "Networks for the Future: To .NET or Not," looks at two different models of networks: Microsoft's proprietary .NET and an alternative open network.

The second paper, "The Future of the Regional Bells," looks at what could happen to the four remaining, debt-ridden Bell monopolies if the growing availability of alternative technologies and networks continues to erode their revenues from traditional telecommunications services.

The third paper, "The World Beyond the Bells," looks at how wireless technologies have sparked an ad hoc social movement, and its impact on current and perceived threats to the Bell monopolies.

About Broadband Briefings

Broadband Briefings is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction to promote policies that encourage rapid and widespread deployment of high-speed Internet access. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policycmakers, and the media about technology policy issues.

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