... in bandwidth

Patrice on the Sarkozy/Schwarzenegger plan

Patrice (who refuses to have a web presence so i cannot link him) has some thoughtful comments on the recent french initiative to combat ‘casual illegal file sharing’ by having ISPs terminate internet connections of ‘persistent pirates’. Apparently ISPs have to monitor the data streams of their subscribers and report those who are engaging in file sharing to an ‘independent body’1 who can then issue warnings and after two warnings order the ISPs to terminate the internet accounts of the ‘pirates’. sounds a bit like the Californian three-strikes-and-you-are-out regulation and i guess that is why Tilman Lueder calls this the Sarkozy/Schwarzenegger plan’.

Sarkozy himself prefers to call this ‘A decisive moment for the future of a civilized internet’, something which is hard to argue with as this will most likely result in lots of dumb-ass adolescents being disconnected form the internets which in turn will result in less nonsense being posted to youtube and less time wasted on myspace and facebook, which is a good thing. plus this will give these kids plenty of time to acquire the skills they need to participate in the 21st century knowledge economy (by reading good old fashioned books and writing letters to each other). sounds like a seriously well thought out plan to me….

But before i get carried away, here is what Patrice had to say on the good old (in fact so old that the archive has not caught up yet so i cannot link) nettime mailing list. He is quoting this BBC news article before his comments so you might want to read that first:

From all the “clue-less about the Internet” politicians, the French would seem the ones who have put the most ‘less’ into the ‘clue’ (Thank you, Gunner ;-) This impression, alas, is very deceptive. They have probably thought the most of all about it, and they came to very, very wrong conclusions and decisions. This of course, with not a little help of the lobbying industry, but mainly because of their own (mis)representation of what the whole issue is about. And to understand that you have to dig deeper.

French ‘Republican’ intellectuals, from which class politicians are coming to a (wo)man, hold two beliefs that are deeply inimical to the Internet economy as we know it (for a large part): a quasi-religious faith in the ‘moral right’ of the (intellectual) author, which, suitably reformulated to the wishes of the ‘creative’ industries, gives it a much higher moral highground than in the rest of the world (piracy becomes then the real thing). And, less well known, an abhorence of ‘gratuity’ (“La gratuite, c’est le vol” – ‘gratuity = theft’ is a very commonly held opinion). Getting things for free, or to be more precise, without payment in legal currency, is considered unlawful by default, because harmful to the proper order of society. (Hence France also going after ‘LETS’ systems, for instance)

These two comvictions are then combined with yet another commonly held belief in political circles, subsumed in the funny 1970s slogan “In France we don’t have oil, but we have ideas!”. This has led to a very peculiar, that is litteral, interpretation of the “Oil of the 21st Century” concept, loudly advocated by prominent public economists like Alain Minc and Jacques Attali2. The French ‘knowledge economy’ shall be firmly copyright based – or bust. All this results in an irresistible aggregate argument to legislate for ‘robust protection of intellectual property’, against which more enlightened critics in the digital community and some intellectual circles (eg the group around the review ‘Multitudes’) are rather helpless.

And how pig-headed the French position may look like, it could well provide an attractive example for other legislations, especially the more authoritarian ones, to follow.

On a more serious note i have to agree with Patrice here. If this plan is really going through this will almost definitely make the copyright ayatollahs in other countries salivate for similar arrangements… [in fact they (a.k.a the Phonographic Inquisition) already are]

  1. Given the composition of the group that came up with this plan (the copyright/entertainment industry mafia and the ISPs/telcos) this should probably be read as ‘without any representation of consumer interests’ ↩︎

  2. [On 27/11/07 Patrice posted the following correction]: Miguel Afonso Caetano send me a rejoinder which I think I should share with the list since he didn’t post it himself. Apparently I am/was deeply wrong about Jacques Attali stand on IP, portraying him as a fundamentalist. I must confess that my pronouncement was based on a limited knowledge of his work, since I read only one book of his (forgot the title – and he wrote so many… ;-( where I got the impression that he put a lot of trust in knowledge as a marketable good (and he was refering to copyright I am sure – but then…) In any case I am glad there is a voice of reason among hi-profile, mainstream French intellectuals. ↩︎

Why xs4all (my ISP) rocks...

31 May 2007 | 289 words | bandwidth internet amsterdam

Upon coming home tonight, i found a large envelope from xs4all (my ISP) leaned against the door of my apartment. Felt like there was a t-shirt inside and sure enough there was. The included letter referred to my recent switch to a xs4all only subscription (ADSL without having to pay a fee to the former national telco KPN for a landline): Apparently there have been problems with the bandwidth of these connections (which i have not really noticed) as the majority of the people who have switched over to this new form of ADSL subscriptions are ‘heavy users’:

when starting to offer xs4all only we have connected relatively small groups of customers to one port. However we have discovered that this group of customers has generated so much traffic that the speed of the connections dropped during peak hours. In other words: our loyal xs4all subscribers are typical ‘heavy users’ that use every bit available to download :). [translations mine]

The letter goes on to describe that they have reduced the number of subscriber lines per port and that the speed issues should be resolved by now. they offer their excuses and go on to state:

… and secretly we are proud that our customers do not fit in the standard profile of our [downstream] network provider. To thank you for your active contribution [?? i did not even notice the whole thing] and in order to compensate you for your troubles we are sending you a unique t-shirt. It has been specially designed for this occasion and is produced in limited edition. we hope that you will wear this t-shirt with pride and that you will continue to download a lot with XS4ALL only.

I guess i will…

The city of the dead...

Tomorrow will see the start of the parliamentary election in Beirut. (The other parts of the country will vote on the consecutive sundays). The city while feeling relatively empty and calm is full of campaign posters and flags. As all of them are in arabic it is hard to to tell what they advocate but the whole thing seems to be centered on persons anyway. By far the most prominent is the face of the late Rafiq Hariri whose party is now run by his son. There is not a single place in Beirut (and not only central beirut – it seems to be even more extreme in the residential areas) where you could stand and not see his face gleaming down from a building or a wall. There are gigantic banners that mourn his death hanging down from high rises, bleached our rows of din a3 sized posters lining construction site fences, golf carts with his face on the site that offer a free shuttle service in the (Hariri build) central business district, posters with his face and the word truth (both in arabic end english) on them in windows of shops and apartments. Then there are thousands and thousands of pictures showing him and his son: On the election posters of his sons party with the older hariri greyed out in the background, but also on giant lcd screens, in the windows of private cars and businesses and even on the walls of the houses in the village of our hotel.

The city has nothing of the bustling chaotic feeling that i was expecting, people are friendly, but there is a feeling of anticipation in the air. during our walk along the sites of the civil war we are passing a crowd of US secret service agents that protect a restaurant with owerwelming manpower and repeatedly run into small groups of armed soldiers that zig zag through the city in oversized SUVs. There are also the teams of EU election monitors and occasionally small car convoys of Hariri supporters enthusiastically blowing their horns and wielding Lebanese flags (although this hardly has any distinctive quality as everybody and his political party seem to do the same) in support of this son’s party.

We finish our tour at the place of the bomb blast that took Hariri’s life and that of at least 15 others. 3 and a half months after the explosion the place is still cordoned-off and the wrecked surroundings have been left in the same state they were found in after the blast. Apparently a special UN mission will go through all the on site evidence again as nobody trusts the Lebanese authorities to find out who was behind the attack (and no one thinks the UN will be able to do this either). A sole temporary GSM tower extends his makeshift antena masts into the evening sky right next to the fence setting of the area, indicating that this place has seen regular gatherings of huge crowds that apparently needed additional cell phone coverage. Later i am being told that Hariri’s convoy used to be armed with radio frequency blockers that would interrupt all communications when it passed in order to make attacks with radio controlled bombs impossible. Apparently the damage to the frequency spectrum had a much higher priority than the physical damage when it comes to reconstruction.

While mobile phone coverage is excellent, internet coverage seems rather limited. At dinner i am told that internet coverage is rather poor. DSL lines are virtually unknown because they are prohibitivly expensive. the price for set up came down only recently from $2000 to $500. this is the consequence of a quasi monopoly by the national phone company and one mayor ISP (appropriately called ‘Cyberia’ – for which even more appropriately the spellchecker suggests ‘Siberia’) which are both in the hands of the son’s of the son’s of senior politicians. So most people – and also internet cafes – are still on dial up connections.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: