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Was Dialup Better Than High Speed?

Plenty of data but not much information.

By Aesh M. Daeva

I'm just gonna say it. I miss the Dial Up Internet world. The original public version of the World Wide Web that captured my heart. It was based on freedom of information rather than content distribution...

Dialup was held back by technical limitations, but at least it wasn't strangled by government oversight.

It was slow. It spread quickly because it was cheap. It was often less expensive to form a new node than it was to get more data through a current one.

The Bulletin Board Systems were the "goto" social media and the games were just an excuse to talk. We lived, we laughed...we learned to share a common space. A new world...our world, where anything was possible. A place for the young and old alike. A place for real people.

And then came...HIGH SPEED. The mighty cable modem and its dedicated IP address. Host at home, they said. Websites can have pictures now! (Forgot to mention the latency and instability they would't fully fix until 2003 when its too late to make money hosting at home anyway). Get your business online! Build a website in full colour in high resolution. An Internet for today's computers!

What a sham.

Oh, I like playing video games as much as anyone, and its hard to imagine playing a modern game on dial up; but that's only one function. A trivial amusement. Why'd it require the re-configuring of the entire internet to suit it? Why so monolithic given its peer to peer nature? Instead of another tool like the TV or Telephone used generically in business or home; the entire network had to be bent toward commercial interests. Only the economy matters to the silicon elite it seems.

Is faster really always better? Is more?

We moved away from the gold of information science to embrace the pyrite of consumer electronics. Great services...sometimes, but was the internet really the right network for them. So many of our trinkets and geek toys should have been "Star Treknology" with endless applications. Have we peaked already? Did the dotcom "incident" fundamentally ruin the platform? Are corporate devices the only path forward?

In hindsight perhaps we'd have been better off with a separate network with it's own protocols and innovations focused on realtime device data. How much better might games be today. VR worlds might have taken off years ago. We should have had a dedicated medical network. Financial. How many privacy crimes didn't have to happen? Running all data across the same lines. How much data wouldn't have even existed where it didn't belong.

In many ways Net Neutrality violates security best practices.

Wearables might have served a real purpose by now. We might have connected consumers and producers in ways we can't even imagine rather than pooling retail sales into a handful of online vendors. How many perfectly stable businesses have closed? After years of following the rules and paying high taxes, how many have been disrupted by Amazon who for almost 20 years hasn't even had to turn a profit?

The expense of network production for all creators might have been reduced and the cost of delivery to customers enhanced. Less interference with other Internet dependencies means more opportunities to work with other platforms to develop even cooler ideas. Keeping the core Internet the way it was might have avoided the advertiser takeover.

We know that Twitter is what it is because of the character limitation. It's the special ingredient that keeps it humble and accessible and focused. For all its problems it's more valuable than most streams. I fear the internet is now what Twitter would be if the character limit were removed. Diluted to the point of irrelevancy. Just another way for traditional media companies to avoid paying for its own infrastructure.

Social Parasitism on the Internet to deliver certain kinds of product is the true legacy of High Speed and the mono-network that Net Neutrality promotes.

Selling stuff online is great, but when a company uses the Internet as its delivery system for the product itself then it creates other concerns. It no longer functions as an open highway, but instead a traffic controlled supply chain and no amount of regulation will prevent someone from getting priority access. The proper solution is to get the supply route off the public highway entirely.

Otherwise the incentive to manipulate and control is eventually too strong. It grows with every dollar of profit anyone makes successfully exploiting it. It ultimately destroys the platform which is what we are seeing. It's time to consider whether large data connections should have their own pipelines that remove the wasteful expense applied to all internet users. Net Neutrality has failed and now sadly encourages that which it claims to oppose.

There is a massive imbalance between consumption of redundant content and the production of new quality content or fresh access to old quality content. This imbalance was directly created by High Speed internet packages which have always massively stacked download over upload. So fearful that High Speed might actually lead to uncontrolled wealth creation by Internet users that production capacity was suppressed from day one.

All the ISPs and Net Neutrality advocate groups aligned to sweep upload rates under the rug. Lying about technology limitations, claiming it costs more to upload than download when it doesn't. Using socialist arguments like "most people just want fast download" as though internet were now a product privy to the whims of the market. So you see Net Neutrality was always a cover for production control.

A control that wasn't possible on a Dial Up network. The lack of persistence; the baseline cost controls. The lack of economic connection since the phones were all paid for already through other means. No-one was trying to make the Dial Up Internet any particular thing. It wasn't fast enough to bother.

Small file sharing is free speech. It's how we determine what is valuable and what isn't. Big file sharing is product delivery and moving product should be a concern of producers; not the general public.

The inherent limitations that help form stable cultures all promote a network that naturally separates the wheat from the chaff. Only enough room for the good stuff and bad stuff wastes so much real time; users aggressively weed it out. Real people did a better job of isolating personally valuable information in 1993 than Facebook or Google or Microsoft have ever done since.

The search engine advertiser monopoly has further eroded this basic value Dial Up provided. As have the over-promotion of redundant product to block competitors since no court seems willing to prosecute internet activity for anti-trust. They're paralyzed by the Pandora's box of past abuse that's already gone unaddressed.

In fact, thanks to High Speed, today's social media is more about telling people how to think, who to support through our purchases, and what to say to our neighbours than anything else. Web searches haven't improved our capacity or opened up new opportunities for at least a decade now. Even a persistent web crawler with highly tuned filters comes back with so much bullshit you'll spend more time grooming it than the return justifies.

For a very brief moment in time we had something amazingly powerful at our finger tips. Dial Up was gold; and High Speed helped deliver a mountain of shit on top of it. The gold is still in there, or so the old timers tell me...somewhere...deep under all that shit...is a network of producers toiling away at great personal expense. Trying to get that gold and make it available to the rest of us.

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Author
Aesh M. Daeva
Looking for the frayed edge of the Universe.

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