Internet

01.12.2005

Kim H. Veltman

American Visions of Convergence

Maastricht
January 2005

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
I. Telecommunications and New Media
2. Internet
3. AT&T
4. Baby Bells
II. Military
5. SAIC
6. Contractors
7. Government
III. Energy
8. Electricity
9. Oil
IV. Finance
10. Banks
11. Private Equity
V. Nano-, Bio-, Info-, Cogno-
12. Corporations
13. New Firms
VI. Implications
14. Telco Pseudo-Crisis
15. Satellites
16. Law
17. Conclusions
Appendices
1. Competitors
2. Telco Statistics
3. Sameness and Diversity
4. POAS and PNAC
5. Vaccine, Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Firms

Abstract


According to the news media, the history of the Internet is straightforward. In the 1950s, the idea was opposed by the telephone companies, notably AT&T. In the 1960s, sponsored by the US military, the Internet started as an experiment to link scientists. This idea gained a wider audience. The breakup of AT&T in 1984 helped the process and the Internet was becoming a great success. All was well until 2000-2001 when there were two great setbacks: 1) the dot.com bust and 2) a crisis in the telecommunications and specifically the telephone industry. Some link these setbacks largely or even exclusively to the events of September 11, 2001.

This essay challenges the received wisdom concerning the Internet. It claims that there was support from telephone companies from the outset; that the breakup of AT&T did not immediately change the situation. During the past decade there has been convergence whereby the telephony and Internet interests of telephone companies have become intertwined with broadband cable and television. This is linked with trends towards convergence on several other fronts in: a) the military; b) energy; c) finance and d) engineering and the life sciences, which some have termed Nanoscience, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science (NBIC). This book claims that these trends towards convergence are all interlinked.

When we stand back to explore the implications of these trends towards convergence, we discover that from a global viewpoint, since 2000, there was no fundamental decline in the telecom markets. Indeed, although some stockmarket excesses of the so-called bubble needed correction, the unduly severe and prolonged market decline that followed in the U. S. may have corresponded to a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the real struggle: control of infrastructure. As a result, satellites, which were essentially owned by public governments have gone bankrupt and are now largely owned by energy companies and military contractors.

Some present these trends towards convergence very positively as a world where everything is becoming interconnected and intertwingled. This book suggests that these developments are complex and pose a number of dangers. In the United States, the military is extending its activities in the civil sphere. Energy companies play a central role in the media domain. Some changes are disturbing: Private investment firms are buying up sections of the entire telecommunications infrastructure from cables to satellites. Research into vaccines traditionally linked with military defence and public health, is increasingly being shifted to private, commercial interests. There is a case to be made that acceleration of bankruptcies in the telecommuncations and media fields were planned; that this “plan” extends far beyond new media and includes other sectors including energy, finance, biotechnology, nanotechnology and cognitive science. The financial consequences and political implications of these events are significant. Perhaps even more important are ethical and legal implications. At a deeper level these changes point to a crisis of trust, which compromises historical values of liberty, freedom and privacy protection and poses dangers of the doomsday kind.


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