[bestbits] [governance] Re: NMI and the Brazilian CGI.br

Lee W McKnight lmcknigh at syr.edu
Sun Dec 7 21:26:26 EST 2014


I do agree that the pendulum swing of liberalization/deregulation of the late 70s (starting with airlines)/80s/90s/2000s may be seen as having run its course in the widespread calls and enthusiasm for 1930s telco re-regulation in the US; and the European Parliament, and elsewhere. Also known as the Title II issue. On other hand, odds of the FCC actually..listening to the President and not their Congressional budget-approving overseers...may have shifted post-mid-term election; similar to the Euro shift now underway led by Merkel's recent not-neutral statements.

So what label to put on the present era other than schizophrenic, which may be insulting to people with mental health challenges, I do not know, but agree that socialism is not the right term.

Nostalgia for the state when most folks are anti-state (and net) intrusions into their lives...is a condition for which I know neither the correct term nor cure, I admit. My own suggestion of a need for 'hybrid HetNet regulation' commencing with a Title I approach I explain a bit further below.

But still admittedly many are longing for an expanded role of the state in setting terms of trade for bit markets aka the net neutraility delusion (and I have already apologized in advance to anyone suffering from that or other delusional symptoms ; ) - at the same time many are afraid of the expansive role of the state in digital surveillance and in that sphere advocating for a more limited role of the state...except in select matters of national security, with each speaker and state wishing to carve their own exceptions. (Which in the case of North Korea apparently includes hacking Hollywood studios which dare make fun of...the dearest socialist leader still standing? ; )

Anyway, I do agree with you Parminder that the wave of digital technologies unfolding over the past decades has much to do with all of this, and neo-liberalism cannot take more than a share of the credit or blame depending upon one's perspective. But I also assume you are also not a technological determinist, and agree with me that human societies have shaped those technologies over time and will do so in future as well, whatever label we apply to the past and present.

While deregulation implies that things were previously regulated, I agree it does not presume a particular philosophy of governance.

Still, from a historical perspective, the coincidence of... the emergence of an Internet economy; the launch of the WTO and growth in global trade in services in the 1990s; and I admit, the extreme pressure the US government and we might also admit, allied capitalist institutions and economic forces encouraging/insisting governments to privatize their telecoms infrastructures first, and establish legal frameworks enabling national digital economies to emerge, I do agree with Milton, was not a coincidence.

Speaking as someone who was slammed online 20 years ago for helping organize workshops to discuss...gasp, the at the time the heretical notion (for some) that things might be bought and sold on the Internet, I do not mind being called out again for the same - neoliberal/pro-digital markets AND pro-information society sins! ; )

I do agree with you that it was a failure of state institutions whether in post-socialist Eastern Europe, or just state-owned cash cows milked and mismanaged in many other nations, which made the transition so abrupt.  But even where states were doing a good job managing their telco, that was not sufficient to enable a digital economy - and information society - to emerge; and heads of state of various political persuasions recognized this. The neoliberal 'law and economics' approach may not be without its limitations, but fit the times and technology.

I also agree with you that the advent of mobile telephony made it far easier to introduce competition and choice. Except...mobiles were invented decades earlier and only took off when...the European market was liberalized for cross-border entry and competition.

Anyway, as to labels, this is the label I am talking about now: 'Hybrid HetNet Regulation.'

Since, technically speaking, that is actually what (most) people mean/are concerned with when they apply terms like Net Neutrality to...hybrid heterogeneous networks.

So yes, I do expect hybrid heterogeneous networks, and over the top digital services to be regulated, but how precisely, ah that is indeed the gazillion dollar/future information society-defining question.

Letting NetFlix, the current biggest bandwidth hog of the US and Europe, and - coincidentally? the most vocal Title II advocate in the US - define our common futures, I suggest is unwise. Especially since they have recently been caught out in classic sleazy market-regulation manipulating behaviors...which indicates they are acting much more typically capitalist and less socialist in their calls for Title II regulation than some understand.

Sorry for the long-winded and not simple answer to your question: but in short, if you recall the film 'Brazil'...that's kind of feel I have for our present era ; )





My recent conference paper touching on some of these issues is at:


From: parminder <parminder at itforchange.net>
Sent: Friday, December 5, 2014 8:09 AM
To: Lee W McKnight; 'governance at lists.igcaucus.org'; 'Avri Doria'; 'Bits bestbits at lists.bestbits.net'; Milton L Mueller
Subject: Re: [bestbits] [governance] Re: NMI and the Brazilian CGI.br

On Thursday 04 December 2014 12:35 AM, Lee W McKnight wrote:


You are being too kind in describing the abject failure of those past non-neo-liberal policies, which had truly vile effects.

Waiting lists stretched up to...12 years...for a simple landline phone, in admittedly 'worst' cases.

Post-liberalization entry of mobile phones uncovered such extreme unmet demand that 1st mobiles (with service subscription) could sell for up to $50,000 - 20 years ago, in one case I am familiar with. Yeah that's right, when all one could do with a mobile was make a call.


If you/ Milton would claim deregulation of the communication sector in 1990s and 2000s  as a final triumph of neoliberalism then would you call the recent call by most US civil society groups, and also by your President, for re-regulating the Internet as a tier 2 (telecom) service, as the US slipping into socialism... Just for the sake of consistency perhaps :) . And perhaps to take from the 'Internet is neoliberal', epithet of Milton, can we say that the Internet is now on the way to becoming socialist..

Remember, it is Milton that proposed the neoliberal - socialist binary, and you seem to be supporting it. I am just further exploring the possible implications of that binary.



From: governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org<mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org> <governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org><mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org> on behalf of Milton L Mueller <mueller at syr.edu><mailto:mueller at syr.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 3, 2014 12:10 PM
To: 'governance at lists.igcaucus.org<mailto:governance at lists.igcaucus.org>'; 'Avri Doria'; 'Bits bestbits at lists.bestbits.net<mailto:bestbits at lists.bestbits.net>'
Subject: RE: [bestbits] [governance] Re: NMI and the Brazilian CGI.br

Can I introduce some rationality to this discussion?

First, neo-liberalism is not per se a “vile label” unless you think liberalism is vile, in which case you need to explain to me why you think freedom of thought, expression, association, choice, popular sovereignty and free trade are vile, all of which are the key features of liberalism as an ideology or movement.

Neo-liberalism in literal terms simply refers to the revival of liberal thought that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s (i.e., “neo” + “liberal”) following the economic stagnation brought on by the excesses of the social democracy and regulatory state that emerged in the 1920s and 30s. Whatever you think of the economic liberalizations of that period, it’s pretty hard to argue with the record of stagflation, budget crises of the welfare state, slowing or declining growth, and a record of complete failure by socialist/communist economies that occurred in that period.

Thus, neo-liberalism does not mean indiscriminate application of market principles to everything, but it did reflect a recognition that many parts of society or the economy which had been exempted from market forces were failing and could be improved through the introduction of competition and market forces.

The centerpiece of neoliberalism was globalization of the economy and free trade. The term neoliberalism was coined as part of the backlash against trade liberalization and the attempt by certain international institutions to enforce budget constraints and sectoral liberalization policies on developing countries as a condition for receiving loans or aid. This is where some of the abuses or harder hands of the Washington approach to liberalization could be felt; sometimes the cookie-cutter approach to policy that was imposed was inappropriate. But for the most part, that period saw rapid worldwide growth and development. In particular, China and India opened their economies to market forces and grew tremendously as a result.

When I say that the Internet was a product of neoliberal policies I am referring to several largely indisputable facts:

a)      Prior to ‘neoliberal’ policies the telecom system was the epitome of social democracy: it was run as a state-owned monopoly, market forces were largely absent.

b)      The developmental record of state-owned PTT monopolies was abysmal, there were 1% - 10% penetration rates, 6 months waiting lists for service, massive inefficiency and protectionism. Opponents of neoliberalism need to own up to this.

c)       Competition stimulated rapid improvements in technology and massive decreases in pricing for telecom services

d)      Free trade agreements for IT equipment and “information services” made it possible for TCP/IP based services to spread rapidly across the world regardless of state censorship or regulation

In short, if you care about prosperity, growth, economic development and freedom, and you want to have an intelligent discussion of the role of public policy in the internet economy, all these things need to be taken into account. If you want to call people names, I’m not interested.


From: governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org<mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org> [mailto:governance-request at lists.igcaucus.org] On Behalf Of Avri Doria
Sent: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 1:47 AM
To: governance at lists.igcaucus.org<mailto:governance at lists.igcaucus.org>; Bits bestbits at lists.bestbits.net<mailto:bestbits at lists.bestbits.net>
Subject: Re: [bestbits] [governance] Re: NMI and the Brazilian CGI.br

On 02-Dec-14 07:38, parminder wrote:
Neoliberalism is defined as the application of market principles to everything, including those areas in which such principles are not normally applied. The above is a perfect case of the application of market principles to governance, as I said , the pristine neoliberal governance model.

You may feel it is your privilege to villify others by tarring and feathering them with the vile label of neoliberalism sometimes and imperialism at other times.  I accept that you do so, yet I reject the label you apply to me.

I generally do not support market principles, but rather believe in the tussle among those with different set of principles.


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