Internet Access is not a right
© Tony Lawrence, aplawrence.com
Someone on a newsgroup reminded me that access to the internet certainly is not a "right", and that's absolutely correct. Our government can decide that it is necessary to restrict access at any time, and can enforce that however they feel is necessary.
I suggested that possiblity at /Blog/B397.html and will reproduce that here:
I've written earlier about "illegal" Linux, but I now think I have a pretty good idea how it could come to be.
John Dvorak wrote about licensing computer users, but that's not what's going to happen. No, what the s.o.b's will probably try to do is license operating systems that can connect to the internet.
Here's the argument they'll make: unpatched, unlicensed operating systems are too dangerous. National security is at stake, and businesses are losing billions of dollars because of this.
Only "approved" operating systems will be allowed to connect. Of course Microsoft will happily include Windows 98 and NT4 in the unapproved list, because then it's not their fault you have to upgrade.
Microsoft and anyone else who wants to play will have to build certain bogus "safeguards" into their offerings, but no Open Source need apply because obviously it's too easy to pervert the safeguards if you have source. So anything you can build yourself, that hasn't been compiled by a duly licensed operating system vendor, will be illegal on the Net.
So you'll be able to use your Linux, but not if it connects to the internet. Effectively, that means you can't use it at all.
This really can happen. I am certain that plans along this line are being pitched right now. Our legislators will love the idea: it shows them as being proactive on national security, pro-business, anti-virus, anti-spam, and think of the economic boost from all those forced upgrades and conversions. Heck, it's tech boom all over again.
Keep your eyes and ears open. If you see anything that even vaguely smells like this, report it and try to counter it. I don't think I'm off base here.. though I would love to be.
I can absolutely see our legislators getting scared and doing something dumb like this. Of course enforcement would be difficult, but it would drive things underground, and not be pretty.
Businesses are losing money. Home users are losing time. We are all being suffocated with spam and viri. People are worried about terrorists attacking key infrastructure targets over the internet.
Our legislators are generally not technically savvy. When Microsoft tells them that Open Source is dangerous, they listen. I'm not saying they'll believe it instantly, but sometimes that doesn't matter in politics: it's not whether you do the RIGHT thing, it's whether you do something that makes people think you are addressing their problems.
Somebody is going to do something, that's for sure. Licensing operating systems is just the kind of thing governments like doing: it's revenue, it creates a bureaucracy to set and enforce standards, it helps the economy by forcing upgrades ( sorry, OSR5.0.7 is no longer a legal version. You must upgrade before the end of the year), and it makes everybody feel that we are DOING SOMETHING.
And there would be real benefits, too. A lot of the viri crap spreads because people don't upgrade, don't patch, don't have firewalls or virus scanning. This wouldn't just be hollow effort; it would have a positive effect.
But Open Source is vulnerable here. Microsoft has already made rumblings about the dangers of Open Source; it's all very Orwellian because we know it's really the opposite that is the problem. There are rational arguments against the contention that Open Source is dangerous, but rationality doesn't always work well against fear, particularly when it's tech babble.
See also Legislation chatterCopyright August 2003 Tony Lawrence All rights reserved
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