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COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET  June 1993, Week 2

COMMUNET June 1993, Week 2

Subject:

Re: NREN death, etc.

From:

Pres Smith <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Communet: Community and Civic Network Discussion List

Date:

Mon, 14 Jun 1993 22:37:31 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (97 lines)

Bernard D. Aboba writes:
>
> >This is a concept I'd like to see explored. What are examples of
> >technology chosen by public policy that are worth studying?
>
      [deletions-ps]....
 
> So ideally you are looking for promising technologies than industry
> has overlooked, in which a federal research effort can make a
> difference. So you are making a case that you, as a scientist or
> technology evaluator, can see things that dozens of Ph.D.s in private
> industry don't see.
>
    [deletions--ps]....
>
> Even with very good people making the evaluations, truly promising
> areas for government intervention are few and far between. I found
> only one technology that qualified in six years of evaluations. After
> some modest federal support, the technology became immensely
> successful, at which point continued federal support became difficult
> to defend. Looking back, it's hard to decide whether the modest
> government support made a difference; my guess is that it might have
> sped things up by a year or two, but no more.
>
>
> So in summary, the conclusions I reached from my experience were that
> effective governmental intervention in technology is very tricky
> stuff; to have a prayer of succcess you've got to be able to recruit
> the best possible people to make the funding decisions.
>
 
    Others may differ, but it wasn't my intention to get into the "managed
 economy" argument. When I mentioned choosing a technology by public
 policy I was not thinking of government investment in research or
 technology, but of avoiding allowing private industry take a prior
 taxpayer investment and asset and re-designing it primarily as a delivery a
 system of consumer entertainment. Thus interfaces could be designed to
 *limit* public choice to the "product" the supplier finds most profitable.
 Systems can be designed to minimize or make prohibitively expensive the
 two-way carriage of signals, and thus the "home" production of information,
 video, databases, etc.
 
   We have invested in libraries, public records and archives in the past.
 Private industry now supports these functions on the net, even provides
 information or hosts it free. It is currently in their interest to do
 so to attract as many people as possible to the Net to create a market
 for other services. But it will soon become attractive for private
 industry to re-package and make more searchable or otherwise add value
 to the same resources, as many have with certain public databases. That's
 all right, but gradually they will come to resent the accessibility of
 the free "raw" data or any attempt by librarians to improve its accessi-
 bility. They then have two alternatives: one is to complain that
 government is competing with them and all they ask is a "level playing
 field. The same complaint is likely to me made about information
 services provided by the community net, in time.
 
   The other is what's being set up now. As the mid-levels are forced
 into commercial fields themselves, not only will they now begin to
 think and operate like commercial entities as subsidies, end user and
 mid-level alike, dry up, but they are likely to "encourage" the
 educational user to think similarly. Indeed the educational institutions
 may need little pressure to do so. Already strapped for funds and with
 rising costs, they are likely to start thinking of their libraries and
 databases as desperately needed revenue sources to offset soaring
 library and research costs, including Internet connection fees and
 commercial databases-services needed to do high-quality research. Distance
 Education courses, too, rather than being made available inexpensively
 for continuing adult education and exchange with other institutions,
 are likely to be looked at for their income possibilities instead.
 
  Whether things will develop this way or not depends critically on
 whether public policy is asserted in the design of the system and its
 technology. We could guide development to provide the greatest public
 return on our previous investment or we can let a few large firms milk
 it for everything they can get out of it and us.
 
  The postoffice with subsidized rates for educational material has
 been thought a worthwhile service for nearly 200 years. It will soon
 be subsumed and replaced by the Internet. Public Libraries and
 schools, until now, have been thought worthy of subsidy and preserva-
 tion. Do we really want to throw all of that away? The Net will be
 a pervasive and hugely expensive technological plant. Once basic
 decisions and investments are made there will be no turning back. These
 are decisions fully as important as the Bill of Rights that they
 implement and that we have relied on as a nation for 200 years.
 
   Yet the NSF and HR1757 and S4 are rushing us toward privatization
 and commercialization before we have barely examined the consequences.
 Driving them are the telcos/cablers/infotainment giants who want to
 sew it up before enough of the public is familiar with the Net and
 its promise to miss it when it disappears.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  Prescott Smith - Univ. of Mass/Amherst - [log in to unmask]
     Ednet - a forum exploring the educational potential of the Internet
   e-mail to: [log in to unmask] 1st line: Sub Ednet (Your Name)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

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