The Rise and Fall of the Open Internet


Richard Moore

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When I started using the internet back in 1994, there were email lists, but there was no web and there were no commercial messages or spam. The Internet had begun as government project, aimed at connecting researchers and academics. Once it was opened up to universities, then students began using it for personal messages, and it was eventually opened up to the public. In those days the Internet had an ethic, that it should not be used for commercial purposes.
We began hearing about new communications legislation that would commercialize the net. In August of 1994, Newt Gingrich and some his cronies put out a propaganda piece aimed at supporting this legislation, a piece called “A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age” which is still available here:

When I read this co-called ‘Magna Carta’, and looked at the proposed legislation, I could see that it was basically a move to privatize the Internet and turn it into something resembling cable services, where you’d have to pay through the nose, and you could only see what they wanted you to see. 
What I didn’t realize is that this process was going to take something like 18 years to unfold. I could see where the fundamentals were heading, and I thought it would happen much faster. So I started an internet list called ‘the Cyber Rights Campaign’ aimed at fighting against the new legislation. I figured that if anything could mobilize the net community to action, it would be their own right to have an Open Internet, a free-discussion net. Of course we failed to stop the legislation, and it was passed as the Telecommunications Act of 1996. 
In the years that followed the Internet blossomed, the web was introduced, we got lots of commercial sites, but we also still had our Open Internet as well. It almost seemed as if commercialization had been a good thing after all, bringing us faster speeds, video, etc. But the fundamentals hadn’t changed. The potential for closing down the Open Internet was always there, waiting for the right moment to bring down the axe.
I haven’t written much about the demise of the Open Internet in the ensuing years, because I didn’t want to be seen as Chicken Little. I had been wrong in 1994 about how fast this was going to happen, and I didn’t have any way of knowing when the axe was going to fall. Well folks, the axe is now beginning to fall. All the things I predicted back in 1994 are now beginning to happen.
The axe began to affect me personally about a month ago, when I tried to post a message and my mail program said it was unable to send. My computer was unable to connect to my usual SMTP servers. SMTP servers are the ones that send your mail out for you. I got around the problem by posting from the web using my Gmail account. I also contacted my ISP server (which is also my phone company, Vodafone). 
The front-line tech support people at Vodafone didn’t have any idea what the problem was. I finally got through to some kind of higher-up, and he blamed the problem on an outfit called ‘Barracuda’. Evidently my IP address had been flagged by Barracuda as being a spam source. I asked the fellow how it was that Barracuda was able to get between me and my SMPT servers, and I couldn’t get a straight answer. 
I found that by rebooting my broadband modem, I would be assigned a new IP address, enabling me to send messages again. Since then I’ve had to do that about once a week. Just this morning my SMTP access was blocked, and once more I had to reboot my modem in order to post this message. This particular aspect of the axe evidently has a one-week delay, but that delay could be shortened at any time. 
Another thing I’ve noticed is that lots of my postings are flagged by Google as ‘possible spam’. Often when I post to cyberjournal or newslog, I need to go through an extra step on Google, to verify that the posting is not spam. These are always postings with controversial Subject lines, so it is easy to see that ‘possible spam’ really means ‘things we don’t want people to see’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if outfits like Barracuda get their ‘spam source’ lists from Google. 
So for me personally, as a writer on the Open Internet, the axe is very close indeed. If Barracuda tightens their delay loop, and if Google bans me from Gmail based on their ‘spam’ designation, I won’t have any way to post to cyberjournal or even send out personal email. Subscribers will simply stop receiving postings and won’t know why. I figured I should tell folks why now, while I still can.
That’s my personal ‘axe story’. I wanted to share that just to illustrate that this is all getting very close to home. Let’s now look at the bigger picture, where the key phrases are ‘Internet 2’, and ‘net neutrality’. Here’s one good article by Josh Silver, posted to Global Research on May 5 of this year:
The End of The Internet as we Know It
Obama FCC Expected to Abandon Net Neutrality, Universal Internet
In this article we read exactly what I predicted back in 1994: 
In early April, a a federal appeals court ruled that, based on decisions by the Bush-era FCC, the agency lacks the authority to regulate broadband providers. In so doing, the court effectively handed control of the Internet to companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon — allowing them to slow down or block any website, any blog post, any tweet, any outreach by a congressional campaign. The FCC no longer has the power to stop them. 

This isn’t something we can blame on the ‘Bush era’. Like every other part of national policy, from bailouts to Afghanistan, Obama is expanding on everything that began under Bush. Here’s another article from Global Research, posted by Tom Burghardt August 30: 
“Emergency Control” of the Internet 
Here we read: 
As the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773) wends its way through Congress, civil liberties’ advocates are decrying provisions that would hand the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet. CNET reported August 28, that the latest iteration of the bill “would allow the president to ‘declare a cybersecurity emergency’ relating to ‘non-governmental’ computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat.” Drafted by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), “best friends forever” of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the telecommunications industry, they were key enablers of Bush-era warrantless wiretapping and privacy-killing data mining programs that continue apace under Obama.

So the axe has two sharp edges, arbitrary commercial control, and arbitrary government censorship. In this next article, which came out just this morning, we find that the axe is getting very active, the end of the Open Internet is getting very close. This article is from Mike Adams, who usually posts about health issues:
US Government seizure of the internet has begun; DHS takes over 76 websites

Here we read:
As part of a new expansion of government power over information, the Department of Homeland Security has begun seizing and shutting down internet websites (web domains) without due process or a proper trial. DHS simply seizes web domains that it wants to and posts an ominous “Department of Justice” logo on the web site. See an example at
Over 75 websites were seized and shut down last week, and there is no indication that the government will stop such efforts. Right now, their focus is websites that they claim “violate copyrights,” yet the website that was seized by DHS contained no copyrighted content whatsoever. It was merely a search engine website that linked to destinations where people could access copyrighted content. 

Here’s the text of the Homeland Security message on the torrent-finder site:
This domain name has been seized by ICE – Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court under the authority of 18 U.S.C. 981 and 2323. 
Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine. Intentionally and knowingly trafficking in counterfeit goods is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to ten years in federal prison, a $2,000,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution (18 U.SC. 2320)

We might wonder what Homeland Security is doing enforcing copyrights, when its mission is supposed to be to stop terrorism. And we might note that anyone who posts newspaper articles, such as I do with newslog, are also violating copyright.  Homeland Security is going after film and music downloading at the moment, but by the same justification they could shut down anyone who re-posts news articles. And they could start enforcing those severe penalties on those people.
If there was any doubt in your mind, this should make it clear to you that we the people are what Homeland Security considers to be terrorists, and that any kind of dissent can be labelled as terrorism. 
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