I attended a bit of the meetings today of the Ethiopian Scientific
Society, held in Washington, on the subject of Ethiopian
Telecommunications in the Information Age. I must say that it was an
impressive presentation. With little cash and lots of volunteer
labor, they pulled together some 90 distinguished scientists and
researchers and others interested in telecommunications developments
Many papers were presented. I was particularly interested in that of
Mr. (soon to be Dr.!) Nemo Semret. Nemo is a Ph.D. candidate in
electrical engineering at Columbia University in New York City. Some
may know him as the meister of the WWW pages starting with
http://www.ctr.columbia.edu/~nemo/. (There you'll learn that he reads
Mother Jones Magazine, and has a link to a rastaman page, although
Nemo's hair style is a bit short for that...) ;*)
Nemo made the following remarkable argument: While the analog
telecommunications technologies of old may have led naturally and
reasonably to monopolies like the national telephone companies, the
newer digital technologies, with for example packet switching instead
of data switching and wireless transmission, instead lead naturally
to something completely different. The rationale for national
telephone monopolies is no longer there, and their monopolization of
services such as the Internet are in fact harmful.
An interesting quotation: "[T]he Internet is not a physical network.
It is simply: a) a set of explicit agreements (or protocols) on
routing, packet format and addresses which anyone who wants to join
has to follow; and b) an implicit agreement that all nodes will
forward the others' packets in the way they think is best to reach
the destination at that time."
There was also this: "[T]he economies of scale are not dominant, and
the Internet won't naturally become horizontally integrated, or
dominated by monopolies."
And this: "[A] crucial government role is as a regulator, ensuring
the fair and efficient functioning of the market. This need is best
illustrated by the following fictitious example: XYZ, an Ethiopian
start-up Internet access provider cannot afford its own link to the
global network. Say the best option would be to lease bandwidth on
AT&T's underwater fiber encircling Africa. But if AT&T also owns a
competing access provider in Ethiopia, they could charge XYZ much
more than their own subsidiary, drive them out of business, and thus
end up controlling the market."
I do not do justice to his arguments. He can probably state his case
much more clearly than I. He's at [log in to unmask] I presume
his paper is available from the man himself, or from the ESS.
Congratulations to the Ethiopian Scientific Society!
Jeff @ Washington, DC USA.
AfricaLink -- http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk