- The U.S. Government is engaged in a new round of spectrum hoarding. While municipal WiFi networks are starved for spectrum, huge swaths are being auctioned off to people who will do nothing with it.
- ICANN wants to let registrars sell renewals of all domains to the highest bidder. This means they could deny Google its own name if Microsoft offered, say, $1 billion for it. And vice versa.
- The U.S. Patent system badly needs reform. Not only are more broad software patents being granted, threatening open source itself, as well as business method patents, but the courts have now created a new test of obviousness which makes the obvious patentable.
On all these issues, both liberal and conservative bloggers are united on the open source side of the issue. Everyone wants more spectrum. No one wants domain blackmail legalized. All except patent trolls recognize reform there is needed.
In other words, a consensus has emerged on all these issues, a consensus which stands against current policies. And it’s around that consensus, if it is organized, that politicians can propose simple, creative solutions that will draw wide support and create positive change:
- Demand that purchased spectrum be exploited, or sold back to the government at cost. Increase the spectrum commons so new services defined by equipment makers have a chance.
- Rein in ICANN and the domain thieves.
- Propose a bipartisan commission to examine patent and copyright laws with an eye toward serving growing businesses and ordinary users.
A recent attempt to impose a "hidden fee" on captive customers of Verizon and BellSouth
shows the way forward. In both cases the companies tried to use legal
gobbledygook to hide what they were doing. Bloggers on both sides of
the political aisle protested loudly. The companies backed down.
Something more is in play here than just a few bloggers angry
over rate hikes. Regardless of their views on other issues, bloggers
instinctively distrust the Bells and cable ISPs. Both sides of the
virtual political aisle want to see competition in this area, and more
Aims are an opening through which to discuss means. Discussion
is a pathway toward consensus. And a consensus can overwhelm any
proprietary interest, even the largest.
On all these issues, the fastest-growing tech businesses and
the user communities are united. The problem is there is no apparent
groundswell seen for this kind of reform in Washington, which mainly
listens only to ideologues or business interests.
So organize it.
Open source politics, a politics based on the values of the
Internet, is a means by which we can change all this. Organizing people
around open source interests – businesses, individuals, government and
community groups – gets them talking and agreeing across what are
otherwise strict sectarian lines.
And if we can reach agreement on issues regarding open source
and the Internet, if we can find consensus and affect change in these
areas, can’t we use the same process to affect consensus and change in
other areas? Can’t we better use the Internet to reason together?
Open source politics, in the end, is about putting the values of the
Internet into action. You start with issues directly impacting the
Internet. But in dealing with those issues, which are otherwise
intractable, and where the open source side has not previously been
heard, you also create new coalitions which can be used to tackle
bigger, harder issues.