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CPSR Newsletter Winter 1995


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The Need for Public Access

by Peter Gordon
British Columbia, Canada

CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995


I've been using computers for over 10 years and have been professionally employed as a computer analyst for the last six. I think my most significant contribution so far has been my involvement in founding the Victoria Free-Net (Canada's first). I'm a founding executive member, and have been most active in keeping public terminals on the agenda, creating and distributing a simple introductory guide, and starting a series of free public introductions to the Free-Net. As a sideline I have also started the first commercial, anonymous message service on the Internet (details available from, which allows people to share personal sentiments while protecting their privacy.

Once people have the communication tools... they will teach themselves.

The most important action computer professionals can take right now is to provide free, popular, public access to news and mail. And to do so with considerable hand-holding, education, and support. Offering the service for free is important in order to make it inclusive. There is an ever-growing segment of society that has little or no money to spare. Food and shelter will always take priority over education.

Popularity is important because the most effective communication reaches a lot of people. Using the service should be fun and easy, which doesn't require graphical front ends, but rather easy-to-read guides and live phone support.

Once people have the communication tools (news and mail), they will teach themselves. They just need help in the initial stages. Then you will have community support, popular support for the issues that affect everyone. If a goodly chunk of the community learns the value of free, uncensored, international communications, there will be substantial support for fights against dumb ideas like ClipperChip or plans to sell publicly funded information back to the public.

Peter Gordon is a CPSR member in British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached at, or by phone at (604) 387-0141 or fax at (604) 356-7184.


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