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Digital Access


In order for WeMatter.com to be successful it is necessary for the people to be able to access the site, as well as other sites that contain information of importance. Originally it was assumed that the United States was emerging into an Internet Revolution where everyone would have ultra high speed access to any information they wanted. For various reasons this has not happened, and it may cause problems for WeMatter.com if people can not access the information.

The currently developing restrictions are due to one or more of the following reasons:

Copyright -- The authors and distributors of copyright material want to get paid for their content and see the Internet as an uncontrolled copying system for making billions and billions of illegal copies

Politics -- Countries and organizations have found that the Internet allows a rapid spread of information, miss-information, subversive communities, etc., and they would like to control the instability that this causes.

Obscenity -- The Internet, as many of the other new technologies, allows objectionable material to be available to people that other groups may find objectionable, Pornography, Nazi Memorabilia, etc.

The digital access "movement" got started soon after the invention of digital content and communication when it was recognized that there would be a tradeoff between the people who wanted to make profit from the production of the content and its dissemination and the people who wanted to access and use the content. This tradeoff is expressed in the original Copyright clause, 8, of the American Constitution, Article 1, Section. 8.

Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Clause 8: To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

It was originally assumed that digital content would be freely available as expressed by the "Information wants to be free" phrase, but Larry Lessig pointed out in his initial book, Code, that shows how the Internet, and other digital access and media can be altered to control the access to the content. His recent book, The Future of Ideas, shows how in the last few years, 1996-1999, the original prediction is being fulfilled, and by a combination of technology and law the owners and distributors of the content are "fencing off" the digital commons and reducing and controlling access to the material. This movement from an innovative uncontrolled situation toward a commercial product controlled by the "Free Enterprise" corporations who had been in a similar business and by the countries is similar to the movement that has occurred in previous information revolutions, as pointed out by Debora L. Spar in Ruling the Waves.

Types of Digital Access

It seems useful to recognize that digital media and content is not uniform and that there are various classes and types, each of which may be controlled in different ways and one may determine should be available differently.



Note: The Internet can be usefully thought of a chain of four types of organizations, each of which can control the access of the user to Internet digital content.

    1. The content hosting ISP -- In general there is agreement that the content holding ISP is responsible if Digital content is stored on his computer that is illegal, according to the local laws, and he is informed of this ruling, then he must remove it or prevent access to it. The current open question is whether an ISP is responsible for informing a content provider, RIAA, of the identity of a remote computer that may be violating copyright even though the ISP is itself holding the information.
    2. The communications backbone -- The RIAA has just enjoined, and then with draw it as moot, the backbone providers for carrying illegal copyright material. They affirm that the DMCA allows them to prevent sites that hold and serve illegal material from being connected through the backbone providers.
    3. The user's servicing ISP -- Most users access the Internet through a commercial ISP. This ISP can filter the material that it prevents the user from accessing, based on obscenity or other parental control type restrictions, on politically or commercially objectionable material that is not acceptable to the ISP, or on unprofitable material if the ISP is owned by a competing content provider or is charging for higher speed access to some digital media.
    4. The "Last mile" connection -- The user must connect with a "wire", either hard wire, or via the air ways, from his computer to the servicing ISP. If there is only one ISP at the other end of the wire, then he may have his access restricted by the conditions of the servicing ISP.
    5. The user's computer and browser -- Finally, the user has a specific computer and browser for accessing content. The browser may restrict his access, either for parental control reasons, to prevent viruses, to favor a specific set of sites, hosting ISPs, that run the manufacturers server, or in the situation of a government, to restrict specific ""thoughts"" that they oppose. . It used to be that there were a number of browsers and the standards were controlled by a committee, but as Microsoft becomes predominant and as some countries enforce their laws, it is more possible for access restrictions to be applied by the browser.

  • Dial-up --about 0.056 M bits. -- Just requires a modem, a normal phone line, and an account with an ISP, Internet service provider. {Note: If the user is dissatisfied then he can change his ISP within minutes}

  • Broadband -- about 1.5 M bits -- See DSLreports , Generally needs an installation that is connected to a specific ISP, thus possibly controlling the content the user is permitted to access. Thus this may require weeks to change the service, possibly with down time when no broadband service is available.
    • Local Wireless - generally 802.11b, Range about 300 feet from a base station with some question as to the security of the link. -- This was originally set up as a home system, thus not being a direct connection to the Internet, but it, and its successors can be extended by antennas so that people are establishing community Internet services with this technology.
    • DSL, Digital Subscriber Link, also ADSL for Asymmetric, etc. -- This is provided by using telephone lines from a central office, less than 1500 feet or so from the user. Recently there has been a movement to have congress set aside the requirement that the local phone company allow other DSL providers access, thus limiting the ISP that can be connected to only that of the phone company. There is now a question as to why these are not as common as was expected. The reasons that are mentioned are:
      1. The end cost is now $50.00, over twice the $20 that is charged for a dial-up connection.
      2. The telephone companies are unwilling to configure the lines, maintain them, etc. as they are required, but the Telecommunications act of 1996, to provide the services to competitors at an unrealistically low cost.
      3. The "Third party DSL providers" are not able to make a profit because the telephone company is charging too much for unresponsive and unreliable services to what the phone system sees as their competition.
    • Fixed Wireless -- Sprint
    • Cable -- It is possible to carry Internet traffic over the Cable TV wire. As this wire is often in homes, the provider can offer Internet also. The FCC has recently ruled that such service is an information service and thus the provider does not have to offer more than one ISP
    • Satellite
  • Ultra Broadband -- About 10 M bits
    • Fiber to the home --


  • CD-ROM -- ~0.6 G bytes -- In addition used for storing music
  • DVD -- ~4 G bytes -- In addition use for storing movies, currently, 2002, the DVD writers are somewhat incompatible and cost about $500.00



  • Text --
  • Music --
  • Movies --


  • Scientific papers, theories (Patents)
  • Political papers, broadcasts, WEBsites


  • E-mail -- Directed info to a person on set of people
  • Mailing Groups
  • WEBlogs, BLOGs -- Electronic diaries
  • Discussion Groups


Ways of controlling Digital Access




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August 29, 2002 14:30