[iDC] lambda lambda lamda

Eric Goldhagen eric at openflows.org
Tue Feb 21 08:43:43 EST 2006

>I don't know if people are familiar with Paul 
>Garrin's latest project, WiFi-NY. He is building 
>a wireless network in NYC using a 
>user-stakeholder model in an attempt to bolster 
>electronic privacy and network neutrality.

WiFi-NY is a for profit corporation run by Paul 
Garrin (WiFi-NY LLC to be exact). It is far from 
a non-commercial alternative to anything, in my 
opinion. It is not a non-profit project, not run 
by a 501(c)3 community organization.

WiFi-NY is using a multi-level-marketing amway 
type model, not a community based model. WiFi-NY 
does not exist as a service for a community, it 
exists to attempt to make profit for its 

A small cafe a couple of blocks from my apartment 
used to offer "free" wireless to its customers. 
Now they subscribe to WiFi-NY and sell access 
tokens (and get a share of wifi-ny's profit). 
While I see how that benefits Paul, I fail to see 
how that in any way provides an alternative 
community based option, or bolsters 
net-neutrality. There is no subscriber or 
community control or feedback mechanism within 
WiFi-NY to prevent it from being just as evil as 

When WiFi-NY says "We do not purchase bandwidth 
through Verizon nor Time Warner, and only use 
their infrastructure as mandated by the FCC where 
no other means exists to connect our network to 
the Internet." It looks to me like a smokescreen. 
While he might not purchase bandwidth directly 
from verizon the last part of that statement 
seems to imply that they go through verizon 
anyway at some point "where no other means 
exists". That's too big an out to leave and 
expect me to feel in any way safer about how my 
data is routed into the internet.

The problems of net-neutrality can not be fixed 
by rouge cowboys like Garrin and WiFi-NY. Short 
of building our own people's internet, we sadly 
have to rely on regulation to ensure public 
access and net neutrality. This is a systemic 
issue that must be addressed in a large scale way 
by community and government, not by individual 

Is WiFi a model that can be replicated by 
community based groups? Probably, but that is 
because WiFi-NY is a cooptation of models built 
by people interested in creating genuine 

WiFi-NY will most likely end up just as his 
NameSpace project for the same reason. He is 
taking ideas that should be developed on a 
community-centric and  collective manner and 
taking the corporate model instead.

to quote from: 

Firstly, there was Paul Garrin as the lonely fighter. On the Internet
protocols and standards have always been developed collectively, as
Rop Gongrijp noticed in the discussion: "This is not a problem that
you solve on your own or with a few friends. Internet is built by
hundreds of thousands of people that have programmed it. You can't
solve this with three people, not from the structure Name.Space has
now. You solve this by working with large groups, involving
universities etc."

Garrin ignored this unwritten rule by developing his own standards by
himself. In his own words he clearly favoured the "quick’ corporate
model compared to the slow’ basic democratic decision models".

I'll end this rant here:
boycott wifi-ny; build real community based alternatives.


>In his words:
>"WiFi-NY is a subscriber-supported 
>non-commercial alternative access provider whose 
>mission is to provide affordable broadband 
>access to local communities while building 
>locally owned and operated communications 
>infrastructure. We do not purchase bandwidth 
>through Verizon nor Time Warner, and only use 
>their infrastructure as mandated by the FCC 
>where no other means exists to connect our 
>network to the Internet. As WiFi-NY grows we 
>seek to provide other "last mile" solutions that 
>reduce our dependency on monopoly ownership of 
>infrastructure both in interconnecting to the 
>Internet and delivering service to our 
>subscribers." http://wifiny.net/
>Hopefully this won't come to the same conclusion 
>as his NameSpace project in the late 1990s.
>On Feb 20, 2006, at 12:03 PM, Martin Lucas wrote:
>>Brian's suggestion that legal means may be a 
>>route to controlling the net is quite 
>>intriguing.  It prompts me to think of how 
>>previous systems of communication have been 
>>defined.  To look at the decimation of the 
>>ecology  in the interest of the proprietary in 
>>radio for instance.
>>It is instructive to  remember that the radio 
>>acts of 1912 and 1927 took a medium, radio, 
>>which  had two-way potential, not to say 
>>educational potential (e.g. in a non-profit 
>>universe) and defined it as a one-way 
>>commercial medium built around a few large 
>>monopolies in a clever way.  The effect was 
>>very thorough.  The 1911 Webster¹s defines 
>>Œbroadcasting¹ as a method of throwing seeds 
>>with a flick of the wrist, with no mention of 
>>radio, still seen as point-to-point.  By the 
>>time of Brecht¹s famous article on ³The Radio 
>>as a Method of Communication² in 1932, the 
>>notion of radio as a two-way communications 
>>tool has disappeared, and the heirarchical 
>>broadcast model is reified in a combo of 
>>software, hardware, legislation and financial 
>>arrangements.    The two-radio option was 
>>legislated into a geek ghetto for Œhams¹, a 
>>move that has some analogies in terms of a way 
>>of  culturally separating the politics from the 
>>technology in newer communications forms.
>>Brian goes on to suggest that the use of these 
>>legal means and  public debate at least means 
>>the issues are discussed.  This is true.  It is 
>>a difficult discussion that is seen as 
>>esoteric.  (I remember Ted Byfield and DeeDee 
>>Halleck arguing at N5M4NYC about how useful 
>>popular campaigns on these issues are.)  My own 
>>experience with cable access legislation 
>>suggests that this kind of discussion is both 
>>difficult and necessary.  And unlike radio and 
>>television there is both the more utopian 
>>history and the larger weight of small players 
>>for the Net.
>>Marty Lucas
>>On Feb 20, 2006, at 5:44 AM, Brian Holmes wrote:
>>>Ryan Griffis wrote:
>>>What does decentralization really mean
>>>>in a proprietary ecology? maybe i'm taking 
>>>>this somewhere way out in  left field, but i 
>>>>guess i think this is important in relation 
>>>>to  potential crises (not unlike recent 
>>>>earthquakes and hurricanes, but in  a more 
>>>>mundane way, economic problems as well).
>>>I wish I understood the excursion into left 
>>>field, because the question itself is great.
>>>The idea provoking the question - Christian 
>>>Sandvig's claim that the Internet is centrally 
>>>controlled because each major piece of it 
>>>represents an investment in routers and 
>>>backbones - is partly true, and I think, 
>>>partly a simplification.
>>>The true side has to do with the specific 
>>>agendas that have led to each piece of the 
>>>hardware being built and maintained by its 
>>>specific owner. This has been done partially 
>>>on university research mandates (with complex 
>>>calculations about the benefits of national 
>>>and international cooperation), and partly on 
>>>projections of commercial benefit (with 
>>>equally complex questions of speculative 
>>>investment for tomorrows that may not come). 
>>>Of course all the parties involved expected 
>>>specific payoffs, and they still run their 
>>>systems for the benefits derived.
>>>Which of course means that the cables go to 
>>>certain places, for certain people, and all 
>>>you have to do is look at a map of undersea 
>>>cables or a map showing the intensity of 
>>>Internet connections between the different 
>>>areas of the globe, and you will see the 
>>>geographical expression of these specific 
>>>The ruse of history, however, seems to be that 
>>>the university came before the market and 
>>>bequeathed a basic set of protocols which 
>>>don't involve control functions on what can be 
>>>transmitted, accentuating the possibilities of 
>>>cooperation and resource-sharing instead. Then 
>>>the speculative boom meant that lots of 
>>>hardware got installed very fast, for use with 
>>>these initial protocols.
>>>Now it seems that just technically blocking 
>>>certain kinds of transmission (eg. mp3, 
>>>torrent, etc.) isn't possible, indeed just 
>>>turning off a website by remote control isn't 
>>>possible either, and yet the Internet has 
>>>proved so useful for so many things that just 
>>>shutting the whole system down is out of the 
>>>question. So the only recourse is to go after 
>>>the authors of the contested transmissions 
>>>using legal means. Which is a more interesting 
>>>situation, because it at least requires a 
>>>public debate about what knowledge, 
>>>cooperation, sharing, use-value and freedom of 
>>>expression are good for. In fact that public 
>>>debate has been one of the more interesting 
>>>aspects of life in neoliberal society in 
>>>recent years.
>>>That would be the way I understand the paradox 
>>>of "decentralization in a proprietary ecology."
>>>Now it is clear, with Digital Rights 
>>>Management and many related initiatives, but 
>>>also with Total Information Awareness, MATRIX 
>>>and probably many other spy-programs we don't 
>>>know about, that this element of partial 
>>>decentralization is considered a big big 
>>>problem by some very powerful forces, 
>>>particularly but not only in American society. 
>>>What will they do next?
>>>The perennial interest of the 
>>>content-producing industries in cables that 
>>>can bring products right into peoples' homes, 
>>>while also conveniently providing a payment 
>>>system directly attached to the mode of 
>>>delivery, was one of major commercial dreams 
>>>initially driving speculation on the Internet, 
>>>and of course it explains the interest these 
>>>industries now show in "lambda lambda lambda," 
>>>which sounds like the real open sesame of 
>>>video-on-demand. But you can bet they want 
>>>more control over transmission this time! 
>>>Could that not be the magic formula of 
>>>I'm afraid the ecology will get left in the 
>>>dust by the proprietary. But maybe I never 
>>>made it to left field where the really 
>>>interesting part of the question lies.
>>>best, Brian
>>>iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for 
>>>Distributed Creativity 
>>>iDC at bbs.thing.net
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