The CPSR Newsletter
Volume 11, No. 2 COMPUTER PROFESSIONALS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY Summer 1993
what the N.I.I. could mean for librarians
The Seattle Community Network Page 8
WELCOME TO THE GRAY LADY
CPSR's Annual Meeting in Seattle, October 16 -17. Page 13
The National Information Infrastructure:
A Public Interest Opportunity
Gary Chapman & Marc Rotenberg CPSR Staff
Imagine a job search in the early 21st century. You go to your "home information appliance," which is
your portal to the "national information infrastructure." You log on to a database of jobs available and
the database interface walks you through a series of questions about what sort of job you're looking for,
what your qualifications are, where you would like to work, and what sort of salary you expect. After a
few moments, your screen displays a list of jobs that match your criteria. The data include the names
and postal and e-mail addresses of the people to whom a resume should be sent. You select all the names,
and then call up an electronic copy of your resume. The document is transferred instantly to the
A couple of days later you get a message in your electronic mail to contact the personnel office of one of
the companies that received your electronic resume. You speak by voice with an automated appointment
scheduler, which offers you an interview appointment at I p.m. The appointment will be by video,
reports the scheduler. At I p.m. you are sitting in a comfortable chair in front of your home
information appliance, having cleaned up the room a little beforehand. On your wall screen appears the
interviewer, who thanks you for the resume and opens the interview with some small talk. The
interview is for a job creating multi-media products. Eventually, when the interviewer get down to
talking about the job, she wants to see some of the work you've done. You open a secondary screen and
start to display some of your best workÑan interactive training film, perhaps, or part of an electronic
book that sold reasonably well. As your work is playing you are describing the best parts to the
interviewer in a running commentary, while the two of you exchange subtle looks over the video link.
There's a part in the book that you have to warn her about, when the volume goes way up and there's a
nearly subsonic "explosion"Ñsometimes it rattles things.
Eventually the interview is over and the interviewer asks if you have any questions. You ask if it's
possible to find out more about the company, what the place looks like, who works there, and what sort
of compensation and benefits package might be offered. The interviewer punches a few keys and a menu
comes up on your screen offering you a selection of choices for finding out more about the company. The
interviewer says thanks and good-bye, we'll contact you. She fades out and the menu stays on the screen.
You choose a short video on the company's history. When that's over you look at an interactive, hyper-
video tour of the company's facilities. A little too slick, you think. Things are never as clean or as
cheerful as they look in such packaged presentations. But the interviewer has offered you the chance to
speak to some of the employees, people you might be working with. That's a good sign. You send a couple
of them email messages and their computers help find a time that you can speak to each other, over the
video link of course. The appointments are automatically entered into your on--line datebook. Finally
the company sends you a package of material on compensation and benefits, which you print out on your
color printer so that you can look at it later, maybe over some coffee. As you are picking up the high-
resolution paper copies, you notice another company has responded to your resume.
To some people this may sound like the way to find a job. Assuming that all of the communication
described above is acceptably cheap, it would certainly streamline the process that most people go
through now. The person in the scenario conducted a straightforward job search in the time it now takes
to look at the "help wanted" ads. The process would appear to have some environmental benefit too, since
it bypasses paper copies of resumes, cover letters, envelopes, and responses from the company, as well
as travel to visit the facility for an interview (not to mention travel by post office personnel to deliver
all the paper correspondence).
But it's precisely the fact that everyone gets to stay where they are, and "see" each other only through
devices, that strikes other people as plainly Orwellian. In the case described aboveÑa typical
"advertisement" for new communications and computing technologiesÑwhat the interviewee learns
about the company is completely managed by the company. The applicant misses the subtle, even
indescribable cues that gives one an impression about a place or people when viewing them "in the
flesh," a phrase that will definitely take on more meaning in the future. While the process in the above
scenario is convenient, as well as technologically fascinating, it doesn't give the applicant a very robust
impression of the workplace. What if the worker insists on seeing the workplace in a way that isn't
perfectly packaged as a company video? Will that impose a disadvantage with respect to other applicants
who might not be so curious or so wary?
And what happens to workers who can't afford, or who won't buy, a "home information appliance?"
The "national information infrastructure," which promises to make the job search described above
technically feasible, has become a key component of President Clinton's technology policy, as well as a
bandwagon for very powerful economic interests, including telephone and telecommunications
companies, cable television operators, computer manufacturers, software developers, acolytes of an
emerging "computer culture," and a wide variety of other people. Teachers and school administrators
want the advantages of "remote learning" and access to sources of information. Librarians are both
excited and concerned about how a national information infrastructure might change the character of a
library. Entrepreneurs are enticed by the prospect of new businesses that can't even be imagined now.
Business leaders are predicting that the "information economy" will lead the United States into a new
era of prosperity: Apple Computer CEO John Sculley has projected a $5 trillion market for information
services and appliances, a figure which is over 80% of the current U.S. Gross Domestic Product and
nearly a third of the entire capital value of the nation. Vice President Al Gore, one of the leaders of the
surge in interest in a national information infrastructure, has said, "Because of computer technology
and related developments, the global civilization prematurely heralded many times in this century is
now a palpable reality. And this global civilization provides the framework within which every
problem, every challenge, and every opportunity must be defined."
In other words, for the soldiers of the digital revolution, virtually nothing will escape the
transformation of society and the economy brought about by a new national information infrastructure.
The very word "infrastructure," which has been mocked by the press and by conservatives as a kind of
"new age" term of Clinton era jargon, implies a sort of bedrock imperative, something essential to the
function of society and the economy. Vice President Gore has popularized the phrase "digital highways,"
a metaphoric reference to the national highway system that his father helped develop when he was the
Senator from Tennessee during the Eisenhower administration. The "highway" metaphor gives the
national information infrastructure a concretenessÑto employ a punÑthat otherwise escapes many
technologically unsophisticated listeners when they hear about a multi-billion dollar public
investment in computer networks. No one can imagine American life without the superhighways that the
nation was known for in the 1960s, and which today are viewed as a basic elementÑ"infrastructure"Ñ
of the economy. The phrase "infrastructure" and the metaphor of a new national highway system are
attached to new telecommunications technologies to impart a sense of inevitability, of national
compulsion, to something that most citizens don't understand or are only dimly aware of. It also lends
the luster of the public interest to a huge public investment that will handsomely reward very specific
industries and which may tend to reinforce disparities in economic status. As Jerry Salvaggio has
observed, "the information industry is investing billions of dollars into manufacturing an image as a
guarantee that the information age is not a futuristic illusion.'']
There is an obvious inevitability to the development of "information infrastructure," since there
already exists a global telecommunications and data network that is growing and shaping world society
and economic enterprise. Global data transmission has accelerated the spread of trans-national
corporations, which are the most significant actors in the world economy today. Much of the crisis in
"national economic competitiveness," the current mantra of policymakers, is actually the result of a
globalization of production made possible by telecommunications. The reason that workers in Detroit or
Massachusetts or California are competing not only against workers in North Carolina or Texas but in
Taiwan and Mexico and perhaps Eastern Europe, can be traced to i investments in computer networks
that allow management and production to be geographically distant. Networks are layered on top of one
another, from the local area network of a facility to the wide area network of a corporation to national
or global networks facilitated by satellites in space. Vice President Gore has said that "Digitized
information is now the lingua trance of the entire world. Those companies, those universities, and those
nations best able to deal with information in that form turn out to be most successful." Computer
networks have become the equivalent of trade routes or competitive advantage in sea power. With
literally trillions of dollars riding on these networks (international currency networks are estimated
to move around about a trillion dollars of value per day), it is to be expected that they will continue to
grow in capacity, sophistication, and influence.
Although telecommunications networks have already altered the world picture dramatically, new
technologies, government and corporate strategies, and international economic competition are all
combining to catalyze a new public debate about the future of the "information age." The new
technologies, such as high speed computers and high bandwidth fiber optic cabling, offer a significant
expansion of a network's capacity for transmitting data. Systems built with such technologies can
transmit moving video images, huge quantities of digitized data, voice, and high quality stereo sound all
at once, and the fiber optic lines can carry thousands, even millions, of transmissions simultaneously.
A fiber optic network mediated by high speed computers can transmit the equivalent of the thirty-odd
volume Encyclopedia Brittanica every second, complete with pictures. Widespread deployment of such
networks opens up an endless list of possibilities for transmitting information. There is even a cottage
industry that comes up with new ways for such a network to be used if it is ever deployed, speculation
similar to Apple Computer's much publicized "Knowledge Navigator" video.
The rough path to acceptance of national industrial policy as a strategy of economic development within
industrialized nations has led to new government-industry partnerships in pursuit of competitive
advantage in allegedly "critical technologies."2 Japan and Germany have become the model for other
nations, largely because of their success in forging productive partnerships between public sources of
funding and private firms. The European Community's challenge to American dominance in commercial
aircraft is also a frequently cited example of targeted technology investment. The U.S. lead in
telecommunications technologies, computers, and software, has given U.S. policymakers, especially in
the new Clinton administration, confidence that the United States can and should invest public money in
these technologies in order to preserve the nation's comparative advantage and keep these industries
internationally preeminent. Thus public investment in a national information infrastructure is viewed
as a "demand pull" strategy for technological accelerationÑif the government is a customer for
state-of-the-art technologies, it supplies a guaranteed market for high tech firms. Guaranteed markets
attract investors, and the resulting innovations will eventually find private markets, which will in
turn build industries and create jobs, argue proponents of this strategy.
Economic competitiveness has climbed to the top of the stack of every policymaker's and legislator's
agenda. The solution to a perceived problem of competitiveness in U.S. firms is productivity
enhancement driven by technology. Data networks are widely viewed as a means for improving
productivity and lowering costs. They can help speed up the distribution of information and data, and the
capability for sending large amounts of data through a network rapidly and cheaply obviously avoids a
lot of expenses. It has become commonplace to hear the argument of former White House Science
Adviser George Keyworth, that the United States is "rapidly approaching the point where lack of [a
fiber optic] network will become our competitive disadvantage."3 Jonathan Aronson of the University
of Southern California, however, points out that "It is unclear whether the provision of advanced
communications and information technology results in productivity gains."4 A number of studies have
described the "productivity paradox" of huge investments in information technologies and stagnant or
even negative rates of growth in productivity over the last fifteen years.5
The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the rationale for sustaining the "national security state," in
which most of the nation's technological investments funded by public money went to the military, has
given birth to a new concern for national economic status and enthusiasm for the futuristic promise of
high tech. A powerful alliance of computer, telephone, cable television, software, and other industry
executives, combined with scientists, engineers, and computer enthusiasts who are policymakers,
activists, and legislators, has produced the rough outline of a "national vision," as Vice President Gore
has described it. But there are many questions about this national vision that have yet to be answered.
Oscar Gandy of the Annenberg School for Communications writes:
Decisions to invest in telecommunications infrastructure, perhaps involving the creation of a
privileged monopoly by means of special exceptions established for public purpose, may be seen by
historians in the future as marking a critical event that led to either an uncharacteristically rapid
expansion of individual freedoms and capacitations through the enhancement of access to information, or
the beginning of a downward spiral toward the panoptic dystopia of constant surveillance and
manufactured public opinion.6
The results of a sustained national commitment to "information infrastructure" may not be as black or
as white as Gandy suggests, but his point that these two different extremes might each be plausible
outcomes is important. The character of any future "information infrastructure" will inevitably
reinforce a set of normative values, and probably at the expense of an alternative set of competing
values. The present system of broadcast television, for example, not only reinforces a particular set of
values, but in many cases introduces values to the nation and educates people perhaps more profoundly
than any other source of instruction. The national information infrastructure could easily adopt the
values of television, those of relentless acquisitiveness, conservative gender roles, widespread and
common violence, stereotypes of racial and ethnic minorities, pious nationalism, etc. Or the national
information infrastructure could be a considerably more open space for public debate, protecting and
fostering diversity, democratic challenges to authority, and self-determined cultural. racial, ethnic,
and gender identities. Current discussions about the national information infrastructure tend to focus
on its technical character and strategies for its deployment, both tied to assumptions about the private
market. What we have heard so far has tended to be the rumble from a "battle of the titans," the conflict
between telephone companies, cable TV operators, newspaper publishers' and computer manufacturers.
But the biggest debate of all, one in which the public should have a voice that matches or even surpasses
all others, will be about how the structure of the proposed network will shape its content, its
character, and its influence on society. This debate is only getting started.
At a meeting of the Board of Directors of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in March,
held at Stanford University, the Board voted to take up the national information infrastructure as a new
national "focus area" for the organization. CPSR's proven and highly regarded combination of technical
expertise and sensitivity to the public interest will be an important asset in the public debate that
should take center stage in the near future. For the benefit of CPSR members who might like to
participate in the organization's work on this issue, this article will describe some of the background of
the emerging national discussion about the national information infrastructure, or NII.
The NII, whatever its configuration, will build on experience with the Internet, the current computer
network developed and supported with public funds and the largest computer network in the world. The
Internet is actually a "network of networks." The Internet connects over 11,000 networks, in 102
countries, that conform to the Internet Protocol, a standardized way of linking computers. Data enclosed
in an Internet Protocol "envelope" can pass from one Internet computer to another. The Transmission
Control Protocol, or TCP, allows data to be broken into chunks to maximize the efficiency of the
network. The combination of TCP/IP is now a universal standard for data transmission on the Internet.
Other networks that don't use TCP/IP have established "gateways" for getting mail and other data
through to the Internet. Many non-Internet networks are now capable of passing and receiving
information to and from the Internet. In fact, the major private U.S.-based networks, such as
CompuServe, MCI Mail, and America OnLine, all have Internet "gateways."7
The Internet has historical roots all the way back to the Arpanet, the first national network developed
by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense. Arpanet was first deployed in
the late 1960s, and has been upgraded incrementally ever since. In the 1980s, the National Science
Foundation received authorization from Congress to set up a network of supercomputer research
Five such centers were introduced, all located on major university campuses. The network that was
created to link these supercomputer sites together became NSFNet, now considered the core of the
Internet. NSF contracted with the Michigan higher education network, Merit. to run NSFNet, and
Merit subcontracts with a nonprofit corporation called Advanced Network Services (ANS) for network
services. There were two significant developments related to the ascendance of NSFNet. First, the
National Science Foundation awarded funding to networking projects that distributed networking
resources on college campusesÑ previously the network had been available only to a few elite
researchers and institutions. This set a precedence of more equitable access to the Internet. Now nearly
every four-year college and university in the United States is connected to the network, as well as over
1,000 high schools.
Second, the fact that Advanced Network Services was funded, as a nonprofit organization, by IBM and
MCI opened the door to commercialization of some Internet components. In 1991 ANS created a for-
profit subsidiary called CO+RE, Inc., to carry commercial traffic, previously prohibited on the
Internet. Since many corporations had employees using both corporate networks and the Internet, and
since managing two or more networks is expensive, private firms have become more attracted to the
Internet as a commercial vehicle. Although
But the biggest debate of all,one in which the public should have a voice that matches or even surpasses
all others, will be about how the structure of the proposed network will shape its content, its
character, and its influence on society. This debate is only getting started.
regulations about the public nature of the Internet have limited commercial use, these rules are
changing and more and more corporations are using the Internet as their primary telecommunications
These developments have contributed to the explosive growth of the Internet user community. Traffic on
the Internet has been estimated to be expanding at the rate of 15% to 20% per month. Since 1985 the
number of Internet hosts has grown from several dozen sites to over 2,000, and from about 2,000
hosts to over 400,000.8 The user base is now roughly estimated at about ten to twelve million people
in the United States, and perhaps as many as fifteen to twenty million worldwide. Users of commercial
and private networks with gateways to the Internet probably add another three to five million people to
the Internet-accessible population.
Innovative services offered on the Internet have also flourished. Not only does the Internet provide
electronic mail (about 15% of traffic) and file transmission (about a third of all traffic), but now
contains searchable databases, on-line access to government information, thousands of network
discussion groups, downloadable software, hypertext, multi-user games and "virtual" domains, and
even communication with the White House and some other offices of the federal government. The
Internet will even start to deliver "radio" as a kind of electronic "magazine" data sent over the Internet
will be run through a local decompression and audio program for audio play of news, music, and talk.
Internet "talk-radio" is not far away.
The history of the Internet and its antecedents is one of developing capacity, with that capacity then
taxed by overuse, followed by the deployment of more capacity. This has been a constant process of
incremental technical improvement being overtaken by growth in the number of users and what they
want the network to do.
At this point, we are at a technical threshold for moving beyond the incremental improvement of the
Internet to a new network paradigm. UCLA computer scientist Leonard Kleinrock believes that "It is
clear that the data networks we inherited from the 1980s are inadequate to handle the applications and
capabilities required by the 1990s." Kleinrock lists some of the problems with "packet switched" data
networks: they are too slow, too costly, they have switching delays, high error rates, and they require
too much processing, among other obstacles.9 What is now at hand is a leap to broadband networks that
will offer a new path of expanding capabilities. This move will be driven by the need to communicate
forms of information too large for current networks, primarily image data, such as the terabytes of
data that are passed from the Earth Imaging Satellite or Landsat, or the imagery that is increasingly a
part of medical care. Consumer demand for High Definition Television (HDTV), as a replacement to the
current television system which has remained essentially unchanged since the early 1960s, will also
require high bandwidth networks. Broadband networks offer "order of magnitude" improvements in
capacity and speed, as shown in Table 1.
A good portion of the hardware for a new broadband network in the United States is already available.
Over a million miles of fiber optic cable is already underground in the United States, used mostly to
carry long-distance telephone traffic. A lot of it is currently unused, so-called "dark fiber" waiting for
a market. It is now cheaper to install fiber than to install copper wire in many facilities. Cable
television networks are also a possibility for broadband services, since over half of the residences in
the United States receive cable TV, and cable is near 85% of U.S. homes.
The ultimate goal, however, is "fiber to the home." Various estimates have speculated on a cost of
rewiring the entire U.S. telephone system with fiber of between $200 and $400 billion, within a time
frame of twenty to thirty years. 10 Amortized over such a long period of time, the dollar figures are
not as staggering as they might seem at firstÑthe higher figure and the lowest time estimate is an
investment of about $20 billion per year, or less than 10% of current annual defense budgets. The
problem is, of course, that the United States government is in a severe cash crunch. Private funders
want to be assured of a return that will cover such a significant investment. And it's not clear
either who the private investors might be, what kind of incentives they should be given to put up as
much as $400 billion for a new national information infrastructure, or whether they should receive
government help. It's not even completely clear whether there will be a market for services that will
pay for the investment. But everyone is charging ahead with vigor anyway.
Today's networks Broadband networks
Packets per second Thousands Millions
Bandwidth 64 Kbps 155 Mbps to 2.5 Gbps
Bandwidth allocation Fixed Dynamic
Services Voice, data Voice, data, image
Switch delay 50-100 ms 2 ms
Error control Link-to-link End-to-end
Source: Leonard Kleinrock, "Technology Issues in the Design of the NREN," in Brian Kahin, ea., Building
Information Infrastructure (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1992) p. 185.
The NII: What Does It Mean For Libraries?
Karen J. Sy CPSR/Seattle
It's simple. The NII means libraries will once again be asked to do more of the same, but do it faster, do
it for more people, and do it with less money.
And it's complex. Today's libraries are information gateways in the broadest sense. Libraries are the
operating base of skilled information professionals who can translate musings and queries into
researchable information needs; they are home to the indexes and directories essential for tracking
down information both within and beyond their walls; and they are links to remote information sources.
Librarians are leaders in inventorying and locating information, two equally important dimensions of
To support these information services, libraries and publishers employ indexers, catalogers, and
computer systems developers to build the directories, maps, guides, and tools that make it possible to
match an information need with an information source. These activities have long taken place in a
cooperative and networked manner. The structures underlying these efforts are a complex mix of legal
agreements, distributed personnel, and dedicated and dial-up communications links. In the near future,
a "national information infrastructure" (NII) is expected to open up many more data and information
resources, but these resources will require substantial descriptive (creator, title, form, source, and
date) and analytical (subject focus) cataloging. Gigabit transmission speeds will also enable
development of computer-generated tools for navigating language and associating related documents in
the global pool of knowledge.
Information intermediaries, also known as reference librarians, are the balance of the team. Their role
is to retrieve relevant information to meet the needs of an exceedingly diverse user group. Looking
across all disciplines and activities, the array of resources to monitor is overwhelming. To cope with
this burden, reference work is typically delegated by broad disciplinary area (social sciences, life
sciences, etc.) or more narrow segments of the universe of knowledge. The Internet has already made
some reference tools more accessible, primarily library catalogs, and has expedited communications
among librarians, book jobbers, publishers, and, to a lesser extent, authors. But the basic print
dilemma is still with us: if the item needed is not on the shelf, the user waits and often does without.
Full text databases are a reality, but only in limited publishing venues. Being able to fulfill more
information requests on demand through the use of digitized information stores is an option eagerly
awaited by librarians and users alike.
But to say that librarians will be able to do more of the same faster does not begin to reveal the
tensions, fears and hopes that mention of the NII arouses. One way of looking at the issues is to pose
them as a series of access questions: access to what? access for whom? who will pay? and how will we
ACCESS TO WHAT?
Providing access to information means identifying and delivering text. data, images, and/or sound to
fulfill the library user's information needs. But to do that increasingly requires access to computer
systems and expertise. And to use tools such as indexes and sources such as statistical data sets on-line
and on CD-ROM requires technical support and training. With the advent of geographical information
systems (GIS), there is a burgeoning new demand for custom data presentations and information
Note the progression implied here from locating available information to providing equipment and
offering assistance in generating user-defined information products on demand.
Consider the example of census data. For decades, librarians responded to queries by pulling the
appropriate census volume off the shelf, opening it to a particular page and pointing to the numbers
that came as close as possible to answering the query. The user could view the numbers in relation to
other numbers, could refer to the headings for columns and rows in the table, could readily locate data
documentation in the same printed volume, and could independently photocopy or record the data needed.
Late in 1991, data from the 1990 Census of Population and Housing began arriving in libraries on CD-
ROM. The disks must be installed for the user, selected cells of data are displayed rather than full
tables, documentation is not on the disk, and recording the data requires downloading. Once downloaded,
the data leaves the library with the user for further examination and analysis. GIS technology is now
becoming the preferred foundation for census data requiring even more assistance from reference staff.
With the power and promise of data manipulatability have come complexity and the responsibility to
provide equipment and know-how for extracting relevant subsets of data. These new developments have
not made print obsolete. The printed tables more effectively convey the overall structure of the data.
The documentation for the set of CDs is in print and it must be used with the printed statistical volumes
for full descriptions of the data.
The learning curve on information technology is never rounded by the occasional user. Test yourself on
this dimension by placing a microfiche in a fiche reader. Did you get it right the first time? I'll bet not.
Was the text upside down or sideways? No panic. There are a limited number of alternatives to try and
if you pay attention you can figure this out on your own before anyone else notices how technologically
inept you are. Can you say the same for using computer systems to access information? No. The
complexity of today's systems necessitates much assistance for all but the most frequent users, and the
frequent users are bombarded by software changes that seriously erode their productivity. Computer
technology in the library has meant that librarians are more involved with the logistics of information
delivery than ever before and are spending more time with library users than was ever imagined or
Visions of computer indexing, automated "agents," and "knowbots" to help users with retrieval, and full
text or data sets always available for instant downloading, suggest to some people that librarians will
not be needed in the future. This seems unlikely if library services are funded to evolve with user
needs. The demand for the basic function of helping people get to the information they need will continue
to grow. Reference questions may be received electronically and answers will be delivered from a wider
array of sources, but the library will still be the critical switching point.
Moreover, expectations for information delivery are high and skyrocketing higher. In early April
1990, a group of high school seniors came into a Seattle library asking for maps marking the street
corners favored by gang members. When told this information was not available, the group became
somewhat rude and told the librarian that they knew better. The census was last week, they boldly
asserted; we know you have the census data on your computer, and you can make maps. All true
statements. It is to their credit that they were aware of the 1990 census, but the census data available
one week after they had filled out their forms was from the previous decennial census. And while data
distributions could be mapped by one or two variables, the determined and ultimately disappointed
researchers had to be told that the census did not ask individuals whether or not they belonged to a gang,
and if so, where they hung out. This is a true story and not an unusual one. What are the lessons to be
Users want access to content that addresses their immediate interests on a level they can relate to, in a
presentation that facilitates analysis and action, and they want it fast. And this is true for all users.
Will an enhanced national information infrastructure help? Yes. it the definition of infrastructure
includes the people, processes, and analytical systems that define data needs, collect data, document data
elements, design systems for data storage, create retrieval software, and generate reports pertinent to
user needs. If reference librarians are to continue to walk the user from the point of inquiry to the
point of information delivery, they will need strong support in the form of computers,
communications, and content.
Techno-hype has resulted in some confusion about what kinds of questions can be answered. I cringe on
behalf of reference librarians everywhere each time an NREN proponent exclaims we will all be able to
get the entire Library of Congress in seconds. The enthusiasts are making a statement about data
transmission speeds, but many listeners are hearing something about information content. The seed that
has been planted is that a question posed will be a question answered. It is going to come as an unpleasant
surprise to many that the Library of Congress houses only a fraction of what is published in the U.S.
More importantly, we must not forget that knowledge production is a methodical, expensive and
time-consuming process, a process that will be facilitated but not eliminated by the Nll. The prospect
that the world of information will be readily accessible in the future threatens the information seeker
with too much to sort through. At the same time, it is certain to highlight the biases and gaps in the
information base our society has developed. What is and isn't out there in the world of information
stems from choices we've made about statistical data collection, funding for research and development,
reward systems for writers and researchers, and criteria for publishing.
Two other content issues for digital libraries are what to digitize and how to preserve the record.
Electronic formats now offer a mix of new material that was originally collected or recorded on a digital
medium, titles perceived to be marketable, historical material selected for pilot conversion projects,
and government publications published on CD-ROM to save money. This represents an exciting
beginning, but at some point a conscious effort to set priorities for digitization, at least for publicly
held material, would be advisable. Library circulation statistics, the collective wisdom of reference
librarians, and information user preferences can contribute to setting wise priorities. It is equally
important that the record remain readable. Trend analysts. historians, novelists, and others who delve
into our past rely on archivists and librarians to preserve a record of civilization. A program of
storage media migration must be an integral part of the conversion plan from the outset.
Techno-hype has resulted in some confusion about what kinds of questions can be answered. I cringe on
behalf of reference librarians everywhere each time an NREN proponent exclaims we will all be able to
get the entire Library of Congress in seconds.
ACCESS FOR WHOM?
The years of discussions that preceded the appearance of the acronym NII revealed a bias in plans to
provide access. As "NRN," or National Research Network, the work of physical scientists and life
scientists was the driving incentive. It had to be brought to the attention of the early network planners
that social scientists, humanists, librarians and school teachers could put information and technology to
brilliant use as well. So NRN became NREN (National Education and Research Network), and there arose
a concern about who exactly would have access and on what terms. Will the inclusion of libraries by
default mean access for everyone? No, because library services are still not available to everyone in
this country, and there is a great disparity in services among public library systems that is not
entirely explained by location (urban or rural), size, or the socioeconomic profile of the community
Connecting to the Internet has a high price tag. University libraries are being brought on board by
their parent institutions, but will the same happen for school and public libraries?
Policymakers need to find a way to make that happen as an intermediate step prior to universal
While the answer to "access for whom?" is pending, we should consider what our experience with
existing on-line resources reveals. In academic and public libraries alike, CD-ROM abstracting and
indexing tools have proliferated, are available for end-user searching, and are heavily used. By
contrast, end-user searching of on-line databases reached through a telecommunications link to a
vendor's computer has never really taken off. Why? The costs are prohibitive. One would-be
independent searcher eagerly signed on with a major vendor this spring, was billed $3,000 for the
first week of searching and still had not located the desired information. In libraries of all types,
searching remote databases is restricted to trained staff members. For whom is such searching done?
The decision hinges on considerations such as the availability of alternative sources for the same
information, anticipated cost of the search, and the ability of the requester to pay.
WHO WILL PAY?
Once the question of how the nation will finance the network backbone is answered, there will still be
the troublesome question of paying for access. What will the individual user pay for and what will the
community at large pay for? The predominant pattern now is that the user pays when external
communication and resources are required, but library budgets cover materials owned by the library,
facilities, equipment, and services.
The explosion of publications and databases coupled with spiraling costs have resulted in a smaller
percentage of available information being in the Iibrary.
Increasingly, the gaps are being filled by accessing commercial databases which offer high value,
current data. Each time one of these databases is accessed it is in fact a new product. Existing
information infrastructure makes this possible. But the prices are steep and often fragmented for
establishing an account, connect time per search, and a per record printing or downloading fee. Thus it
is difficult for even experienced searchers to estimate in advance the total costs for a search. The high
and unpredictable costs have led many library administrators to charge researchers for on-line
searches. In the corporate world and the academic world where other organizational services were
already being billed back to internal accounts, this new practice was accepted quietly. However, among
public librarians the idea of charging fees for on-line search services has inspired heated debate. Those
opposed argue that the library has traditionally absorbed the cost of reference tools and should continue
to do so with electronic formats. They fear that the shift to digital libraries will result in a pay-for-
use system that will be too expensive for most individuals, small businesses, and nonprofit
organizations. Those in favor of fees argue that increases in library budgets have not kept pace with
increases in the costs of accessing information. Libraries, like other organizations, are being pressed
to consider which functions can be conducted on a cost recovery basis.
Equally worrisome are the anticipated costs of accessing the network.
Uncertainty about the costs stem in part from not knowing how high speed digital service will be
provided. Will cable or telephone technology be used? What will it cost to get connected? Will this be a
measured service or a flat rate service? Indicative of what fuels fears that costs will be high is the
blunt statement made by Fortune magazine writer Andrew Kupfer: "Unless fiber-optic networks can
provide services that consumers want to buy, they will be just so many useless strands of glass.
Useless expensive strands." Kupfer's well-wired town of the future does not even feature a library,
revealing a disturbing acceptance of complete commercialization of the infrastructure.
HOW WILL WE DECIDE?
The choices to be made regarding access should not be left to the whims and vagaries of institutional
budgets, local information infrastructures, or the "fiscal year" mentality. The significant leading word
in the acronym NII is national. The application and deployment of new technology is most wisely done in
the context of national goals for health care reform, achieving international competitiveness,
protecting environmental quality, managing natural resources, providing opportunities for lifelong
learning, encouraging telecommuters, helping communities shift to new economic bases, and creating
jobs. The role of library and information services in each of these priority endeavors, and the
information needs we are attempting to meet, should guide decisions about the technologies to be
applied, the distribution of technology, and funding. White House Science Advisor John Gibbons' recent
testimony on information infrastructure recognizes that libraries are a key part of the story.
To seek answers to the access questions posed above, background briefings and issue analyses on the NII
and related themes must be shared with the public and be the impetus for extensive dialogue. Services
and facilities in libraries have been evolving steadily as computer and communications capabilities
have grown, but only with the arrival of online public access catalogs has this evolution become visible
to large numbers of users. Articulating the nature of the choices to be made and the implications to
library users and nonusers alike may be the most difficult challenge the NII will bring to library
advocates. I am suggesting that in the midst of uncertainty about their own futures, librarians should
take the risk of going to their primary clientele and even beyond to involve other citizens in defining
the future of the library. There have been sessions on NREN and Internet demonstrations at virtually
every library and information science conference for the past three or more years. Important issues
have been raised and legitimate worries expressed, but missing in all of this has been the recognition
that the choices looming large on the horizon need to be brought before the public. This is not the sole
responsibility of librarians. But in the roster of leaders for the NII, it is not readily apparent who else
might be recruited to go out with the news that the very way we live and work is about to change
The corporate world talks to clients to determine who will buy what they want to build. It is the
responsibility of the public sector to ask what the citizens need and then develop options for providing
it. Library decisionmakers have surveyed user preferences in the past, but they were asking about
services and facilities familiar to most of us. The next round of decisions will require a new approach.
If the "look and feel" of the library of the future is sufficiently disturbing to raise grave fears about
obsolescence among library professionals, can anyone reasonably expect people to throw money at the
scene without understanding what the fuss is even about? NII offers glitz, glamour and profit to some of
us, but brings foreboding of higher tax and utility bills to millions of others. These millions of people,
however, are essential to the fulfillment of the Nll. How well library administrators and advocates
communicate the NII vision and its home town implications to colleagues, parent organizations and
taxpayers will in large measure determine how libraries fare over the long term.
Libraries are America's best hope to realize the full potential of the national information
infrastructure. Librarians are striving to make computers, communications, content, and services
available to all who would use them. We are a society of economic haves and have-nots, and are well on
our way to becoming a society of technology haves and have-nots. We cannot afford this outcome. The
principle of universal access that has been embedded in U.S. communications policy for sixty years
should be extended to include computers and content. Increasing the ease of electronic communication
and enlarging the audience for dissemination of information will increase creativity, productivity, and
Libraries must not be viewed merely as institutions worthy enough to be connected to a national
network, but as components integral to the meaningful implementation of the new NII. Development of a
national information infrastructure is a long and challenging transition that will require much hand-
holding to pull everyone along. But the hope of having a more literate, information-savvy citizenry is
far too critical to short change. More than fiber optics is required. What is needed is a new social vision
and a renewed commitment to the public good.
John H. Gibbons. Information Infrastructure and H.R. 1757, The High Performance Computing and High
Speed Networking applications Act of 1993: Statement before the U.S. Congress, House of
Representatives, Committee on Science, Space and Technology. April 27, 1993.
Andrew Kupfer, "The Race to Rewire America," Fortune 127(8):42-61. April 19, 1993.
Karen J. Sy is President, Information Resource Management Associates, Seattle, Washington, and a
CPSR member. Her Internet address is. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Seattle Community Network
The Seattle Community Network (SCN) is currently a project of CPSR/Seattle with over forty
volunteers. SCN will ultimately be the project of a new non-profit organization now being
conceptualized. Since the SCN project is a democratic project, the opinions offered below are not
necessarily shared by the rest of the group.
ORIGINS OF THE SEATTLE COMMUNITY NETWORK
The Seattle chapter of CPSR has been meeting for over ten years. Over that time we've been fortunate to
have a committed and convivial group of volunteers that has made it possible to have a newsletter,
monthly meetings, lively electronic (and face-to-face) discussions, as well as special events and
projects. While in basic agreement with the role of CPSR as a critic of specific misuses of computing,
there has been a growing desire on the part of chapter members over the years to develop ways in
which computers could be used constructively in society. The SCN project is very much a manifestation
of that desire.
The 1990 Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing (DIAC) symposium proceedings contained
a paper, written by Paul Resnick and Mel King, entitled "The Rainbow Pages: Building Community with
Voice Technology." This paper had exciting insights on using computers for community development and
communication. I looked deeper and discovered a small but growing world of community-based
computer projects including pioneer systems such as Berkeley's Community Memory and Montana's Big
Sky Telegraph. These investigations developed into a presentation for a seminar on computer networks
at the University of Washington, which became the basis for a presentation on community networks at
the October 1990 CPSR/Seattle meeting. The meeting was well-attended and the idea of community
computing was planted in our collective consciousness. After a couple of false starts on the community
computing front we had a meeting to consider new projects. After watching the videotape "If it Plays in
Peoria...", based on the Heartland Free-Net in Peoria, Illinois. we decided to establish a chapter
project. Since then we've had a series of meetings which are drawing an increasing number of people.
We've made many presentations to organizations. We've also sent out some proposals and had an opinion
piece on community networks and SCN published in The Seattle Times.
The Seattle Community Network has been launched. We're hoping that the network will be used by
thousands of Seattlites within a year.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY NETWORK?
There have been two informative and exciting roundtable discussions in Washington, D.C., organized by
former CPSR staff member Richard Civille, that have helped articulate the community computing
vision and strengthen the community of innovators. The first, sponsored by CPSR with funding from the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, was entitled "Cyberspace Citizenship: Creating Local Civic Networks,"
and was held in February of 1992. The second, entitled "From Town Halls to Local Civic Networks:
Democratic Reform for the 21st Century," was held in April 1993 and was convened by the Center for
Civic Networking and sponsored by Apple Computer and National Capital Area Public Access Network
CPSR's DIAC-92 symposium in Berkeley provided another valuable forum. There were many good
papers and workshops including "Inkeeping in Cyberspace" (John Coates), MUDs (Paver Curtis),
Community Memory (Carl Farrington and Evelyn Pine), Virtual Communities (a panel organized by
Mike Travers), and useful workshops convened by Larry Press, Richard Civille, Carl Farrington,
Peter Miller, and Andrew Blau, among others. The 1993 CPSR Annual Meeting in Seattle, "Envisioning
the Future: The National Information Infrastructure and Community Access" will extend this discussion.
[see announcement of the 1993 CPSR Annual Meeting in this issue, page 13.Ñed.]
Electronic information is also available. The electronic discussion lists, "community-access" (send
mail to email@example.com) that originated with DIAC-92 attendees, and
"communet" (to subscribe, send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following
single line message: subscribe communet "Firstname Lastname") have on-going discussions on a
variety of related topics including access to the Internet, funding issues, user interfaces, policy,
network software, relevant legislation, and many others. Additionally, completed surveys describing
over twenty-five community networks in the U.S. and Canada are available via anonymous File Transfer
Protocol (ftp) from atlas.ce.washington.edu in the community networks subdirectory under
SCN documentation including principles, needs to be addressed, the Seattle Times editorial, envisioned
services, a call for participation. as well as SCN information such as names and addresses of elected
officials and vegetarian restaurants are also available.
In summary, a community network is a computer-based electronic network that provides a wide range
of free or low-cost community-based information and services to the people in a community. These
systems are generally run by universities. non-profit organizations or governmental agencies. Special
attention is paid to providing access to people who traditionally have little or no access to electronic
information and services. Community networks are often activist-orientedÑthey have been established
primarily to meet social needs rather than financial goals. Additionally, community participation
during development and feedback during use are vital to the success of such systems.
MEETING COMMUNITY NEEDS
We articulated our vision on the needs SCN would address in a series of group meetings. These needs
formed five mayor areas.
l. Community needs: "Communities need to be more cohesive, safer, healthier, and more caring.
Disadvantaged neighborhoods need improved economic opportunity."
2. Information needs: "People need to be well-informed. They need high-quality, timely, and reliable
information. They also are interested in a wide range of opinions from a variety of sources."
3. Educational and training needs: "People need training to use technology effectively. People need to be
able to learn independently over the course of their lifetimes.''
4. Democratic Needs: 'People need an inclusive, effective, ethical and enlightened democracy.''
5. Process Needs: "A process is needed that will address the needs on this list now and in the future."
Based on these needs we developed corresponding objectives, implementation procedures, evaluation
measures, and budget items.
Some of the ways that needs can be addressed are discussed below.
LibrariesÑCommunity networks and libraries could be closely linked. Libraries provide portals to
information and communication and one such portal is the community network. Libraries can also make
their information available or provide other on-line services.
SchoolsÑ- In addition to providing access to information, networks make new educational forms
possible. For example, high school students around the I United States have cooperated on a study of acid
rain. They gathered cat.: in their local areas and disseminated the results to other researchers. In
another program children describe their typical day at school. Elementary school children could
communicate with each other and with other children around the world. Universities could also help by
making specialized information available and by becoming more involved in the communities in which
they are located.
City Hall and the Political ProcessÑ Citizens could have greater access to public records. hearing dates.
and other information as well as greater access to the mayor, to city agencies, and to city council
members. Electronic networks could also promote participation in the political process. Electronic
discussion groups on important topics could take place over time. Electronic "town meetings" with
real- time participation are another possibility.
Citizen GroupsÑNeighborhood groups, senior citizens, recreation groups, advocacy and public interest
groups, persons with disabilities, ethnic groups, and many others could use networks to communicate
with each other and promote discussions on important topics.
Planning for the Future--Computers could facilitate public forums on a variety of topics. Citizen input
into land use, public transit, and education issues could help us better plan for the future. A 21st
Century Electronic Forum could be established to elicit and address concerns of people across the state.
region, country or planet as we move into the next century.
Carpool, Bus, Ferry and other TransportationÑInformation Transportation agencies could provide on-
line information on public transportation and traffic conditions (especially in the winter). Computer
networks could also facilitate the creation of carpools and other energy saving projects.
Participatory Action Research-- Action research is a scientific methodology in which improving a
situation is equal importance to learning an objective fact. Action research with strong participation
from users, clients, or citizens is called participatory action research. A community network would
provide an excellent platform for social scientists, social agencies, and citizens to develop action
research programs in community health, economic development public affairs, and other areas.
International ConnectionÑGroups and individuals with international interests could use the system for
a multitude of reasons: students could communicate with other students about common interests:
travelers could find out about upcoming events; sister city activists could use the network to help plan
Joint projects and aid agencies could coordinate famine relief or share health information with people
in remote sites.
BUILDING A SEATTLE COMMUNITY NETWORK
From our amorphous beginnings, we've organized ourselves into a coherent structure consisting of five
committees (services: outreach; hardware and software; start and facilities: and policy) and a
coordinating council. We've started to develop an advisory board with many community activists and
representatives of varied constituencies. We've also developed principles, constructed an information
policy and code of etiquette for the system, as well as informed and involved the public, including the
Seattle Public Library and several University of Washington schools and departments. We've initiated a
funding plan and developed a plan and a budget. Our greatest challenge was to develop a shared vision
that can be readily conveyed to the community. We've attempted to capture this vision in our group
documents which are available both electronically and in hardcopy. One such document, the "SCN
Principles," a strong statement of our intent is reproduced here as a sidebar. By the time you read this
we should have a pilot system running in which at least the outlines of our vision should be visible.
The SCN system will provide electronic mail, moderated and unmoderated forums, question and answer
forums, and special electronic events. All access to the system will be free-of-charge and we hope to
establish public access terminals at libraries, schools, and many other public locations. The SCN will
host a wide variety of information and services. We will also be working with other network providers
to ensure a common user interface whenever possible so that information and services residing on local
community systems will look and behave similarly. We've been working with environmental,
government, educational, and other organizations to better understand the needs of both information
providers and citizens. While volunteers will undertake most of the work we feel that some paid staff
will be necessary. In early phases we expect that most of the funding will come from foundation,
corporate, and individual contributions. Over time we expect that individual users will help support
SCN financially on a voluntary basis. We are planning to become affiliates of the National Public
Telecomputing Network (NPTN) and share information with NPTN affiliates and other information
providers including local BBS's. We're planning to use FreePort software on a UNIX workstation.
The SCN vision is a confluence of ideas. We've borrowed key concepts from various sources in hopes of
constructing a viable and eftective com;nunity computing resource. The community orientation was
borrowed from many sources: public access terminals and a focus on the underserved from Community
Memory; the nocharge policy is from Tom Grundner's Free-Net model; and a focus on social service is
from "Heartland Free-Net." Many other concepts embodied in our principles were first introduced
Richard Civille or through his two roundtables in Washington, D.C. These include the objective of
continuing to develop innovative technological approaches and to look towards incorporation of other
media such as cable television.
Organizations and individuals are interested in connecting with the rich set of information sources on
the network. They also want to communicate with other people and organizations with similar interests.
Many organizations are attracted to the community network approach for two reasons. The first is that
they don't have to support a network by themselves. In many cases this would mean one or more
additional people on the staff. The second reason is that finding all or at least a good portion of
community information "under one roof' is important. As a local transportation agency representative
told me, ''People don't know whether an agency is county. city, or whatever. They just want their
While working on this project we noticed an important side effect. Since individuals and organizations
of all types are increasingly looking into computer-mediated communication and information retrieval,
we have found ourselves increasingly involved in the community. Furthermore, the network must take
its shape and direction from the community. Those issues should be discussed in public forums, both
traditional and electronic.
COMMUNITY NETWORKS AND POLITICAL ACTION
Community networks are becoming extremely popular. Community and civic electronic networks are in
operation or are in the planning stage in over 100 locations in the United States and around the world.
There is so much activity in this area that Apple Librarian Steve Cisler has referred to the "Community
Network Movement." Furthermore, this topic is extremely important as a public interest component in
national policy discussions related to the development of a "national information infrastructure."
Government agencies of all sizes and missions, telephone companies, entertainment/information
providers, educational institutions, and libraries are all involved in the networking free-for-all,
vaguely reminiscent of a land-grab. The large media and communication companies are mounting the
most expensive public relations and lobbying campaign of all time to capture this vast and potentially
lucrative market. Establishing and maintaining a public interest network with public access terminals
and a rich set of free services. information, and communication channels will be challenging, to say the
Two important consensus viewpoints emerged from this year's roundtable on "From Town Halls to Local
Civic Networks: Democratic Reform for the 21st Century." The first is that education and political
action at all levels are critical in the near-term if there is to be decentralized, democratic,
interactive, and affordable access to new electronic communication technologies. The second point is
that no one organization can or should lead this effort. A coalition of organizations and individuals
representing a wide range of public interest viewpoints is clearly called for and CPSR is expected to be
a strong contributor. The effort will require a high degree of cooperation, coordination, and
determination to be effective.
A COMMUNITY OF COMMUNITIES While SCN will focus on the Seattle community, we hope that SCN as
both a network of information services and as an organization will become linked to other communities.
Linking ourselves with other organizations around the U.S. and the world opens up new possibilities for
strengthening the local, national, and world communities. What we can accomplish now will have
important implications for the future. Fundamental issues involving democracy, education, and equity
may be addressed directly or they may be ignored in the vague hope that they'll be attended to as side
effects. The impacts that technological systems engender are often shaped in the early stages of design
and development. Community networks may represent our best and last chance to influence the
development of the information and communication infrastructure that our children will inherit.
PRINCIPLES OF THE SEATTLE COMMUNITY NETWORK
The Seattle Community Network (SCN) is a free public-access computer network for exchanging and
accessing information. Beyond that, however, it is a service conceived for community empowerment.
Our principles are a series of commitments to help guide the ongoing development and management of
the system for both the organizers and participating individuals and organizations.
COMMITMENT TO ACCESSÑAccess to the SCN will be free to all. We will strive to provide access to all
groups of people particularly those without ready access to information technology. We will strive to
provide access to people with diverse needs. This may include special-purpose interfaces. We will
strive to make the SCN accessible from public places.
COMMITMENT TO SERVICEÑThe SON will offer reliable and responsive service. We will strive to
provide information that is timely and useful to the community. We will provide access to databases and
COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACYÑThe SCN will promote participation in government and public dialogue.
The community wild be actively involved in the ongoing development of the SCN. We will place high
value in freedom of speech and expression and in the free exchange of ideas. We wild make every effort
to ensure privacy of the system users. We will support democratic use of electronic technology.
COMMITMENT TO THE WORLD COMMUNITYÑIn addition to serving the local community, we will strive
to become part of the regional, national and international community. We will strive to build a system
that can serve as a model for other communities.
COMMITMENT TO THE FUTURE -- We will continue to evolve and improve the SCN. We will explore the
use of innovative applications such as electronic town halls for community governance, or electronic
encyclopedias for enhanced access to information. We wild work with information providers and with
groups involved in similar projects using other media. We wild solicit feedback on the technology as it
is used, and strive to make it as accessible and humane as possible.
The President's Column
Eric Roberts-CPSR President
Over the last several months, the defining theme for CPSR seems to be transition. Just as we try to
learn how to work with a new administration in Washington, we are ourselves undergoing considerable
change, both in terms of both people and program.
During the next month, we will say goodbye to two members of our senior staff (see story, page 15).
After more than eight years with CPSR, including six as Executive Director, Gary Chapman will be
leaving the organization to pursue his current interests in a way that widens the focus of his project
beyond what we could sustain in an organization focused on computing technology. On top of Gary's
departure, CPSR Managing Director Evelyn Pine will be leaving to return to her earlier work as a
writer and consultant. CPSR will miss them both. his year has also been a time of change for the CPSR
Board of Directors. Over the last year, several long-time CPSR activists have left the Board, including
Todd Newman, Dan Williams, Cathy Cook, and Patti Lowe. I want to thank each of these individuals for
the energy and ideas that they have brought to CPSR in the last few years, and I look forward to working
with them outside of the Board.
Times of change, however, are times when we also have the opportunity to welcome new people into the
organizational leadership. A search is currently underway to hire a new managing director, and we
expect to announce a decision by July 1. I also want to congratulate the new members of the CPSR
Board, Dave Rasmussen (CPSR/Milwaukee, Midwestern Regional Director) and Jim Grant
(CPSR/Acadiana, Southern Regional Director), along with Jim Davis of CPSR/Berkeley, who was
reelected as Western Regional Director.
The changes on the program side are more exciting. In March, thirty CPSR activists from across the
United States came to Palo Alto for a retreat, at which we talked about where CPSR will go over the next
few years. We talked about many different directions and generated many ideas, many of which will
undoubtedly spark some action within CPSR. Even so, one idea arose that seemed to represent a clear
consensus for a new direction: CPSR should focus its energy on the National Information Infrastructure
(NII) and become an active part of that debate. The NII has enormous potential to be a profoundly
liberating technology. If it is designed well, the NII will make the power of computer communication
and a vast wealth of electronic information available to everyone in the society. On the other hand, it is
also possible that a poorly designed NII will accelerate the division of our society into the information-
rich and the information-poor, empowering the powerful at the expense of those who are excluded by
lack of economic power or adequate training from the resources that the network provides. his
newsletter, which focuses on the NII, marks the opening stages of CPSR Information Infrastructure
campaign. Late this month, the CPSR Board of Directors will meet in Washington with representatives
of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and several other leading players in the NII
debate. From there, we hope to broaden our work so that CPSR members and chapters have the chance to
plug into a major national initiative, on the scale of the SDI project in CPSR's early years. The theme of
our annual meeting this year will be "Envisioning the Future: A National Forum on the National
Information Infrastructure and Community Access."
The dates for the meeting are October 16-17, 1993.
We hope to see you this year in Seattle.
1993 CPSR Annual Meeting in Seattle "Welcome to the Gray Lady"
A few years ago, the City of Seattle sponsored a contest to come up with a nickname for itself. The
winner was "the Emerald City," bringing attention to the fact that Seattle is located in the Evergreen
State. A local weekly entertainment newspaper declared their favorite to be "the Gray Lady." Why?
Because Seattle is alluring yet its beauty is obscured by a cover of mist. The depth of its natural
radiance is not obvious, but revealed on a sunny day.
This will be the location of the 1993 CPSR Annual Meeting. The meeting itself will be held at the South
Campus Center of the University of Washington overlooking Portage Bay, one of several waterways that
runs through and around the city. The South Campus Center was also the location of the CPSR's 1990
Participatory Design Conference. The University of Washington campus is situated in the northern half
of the city and is just a few minutes away from downtown Seattle via Interstate 5. The University
District is alive with several new and used bookstores, comic book stores, movies houses, coffee
houses, ethnic restaurants, and a microbrewery.
The Seattle area is also becoming home to an ever growing high-tech industry. Companies like
Microsoft, Aldus, Asymetrix, and of course the largest computer industry employer in the Puget Sound
region, Boeing Computer Services, are all located within a half hour drive of Seattle.
This year the focus of the CPSR Annual Meeting will be the National Information infrastructure (NII)
and community access. Both of these issues are rapidly gaining national focus but from two different
directions. The NII issue is a favorite of Vice President Al Gore and has become a significant concern to
large telecommunications companies. Community access, on the other hand, is a grassroots movement
that finds its origins in urban or rural areas where groups of people want to support their
communities by providing public access to electronic information. The juxtaposition of these two issues
at the Annual Meeting promises to be very interesting.
CPSR/Seattle feels that these issues hit particularly close to home because of three developments over
the last year: I ) the chapter has started a community network project called the "Seattle Community
Network" (see accompanying article in this issue by Doug Schuler); 2) various city agencies, like the
Seattle Public Library, have shown enthusiasm and support for commuity access, and 3) the local cable
carrier wants to negotiate a refranchise agreement with the City of Seattle. This gives the city the
opportunity to think ahead about the future telecommunication infrastructure needs of its citizens.
People who plan on attending the Annual Meeting, might consider taking some extra time to enjoy a few
features that Seattle has to offer such as "grunge," lattes, bookstores, movie theaters, beer,
Nordstrom's, tequila, Eddie Bauer, the Co-op, Louie Louie, Mount. Rainier, Puget Sound, a nightclub
co- owned by a star of Northern Exposure, the 747 Plant, rain, rain, rain, rain.... splish, splash, I
was taking a bath, out on a Seattle night....
CPSR SPEARHEADS CRYPTO DEBATE Raises Questions About "Clipper" Proposal
On June 9, 1993, Congressman Edward Markey, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on
Telecommunications and Finance held an oversight hearing on encryption and telecommunications
network security. Panelists were Whitfield Diffie of Sun Microsystems, Dr. Dorothy Denning, Steven
Bryen of Secure Communications, Marc Rotenberg of the CPSR Washington Office and E.R. Kerkeslager
Congressman Markey, after hearing the testimony presented, noted that the Clipper proposal had raised
an "arched eyebrow" among the whole committee and that the committee viewed the proposal
skeptically. This statement was the latest indication that the Clipper proposal has not been well
recieved by policy makers. Last Friday, the Computer Systems Security and Privacy Advisory Board of
NIST issued two resolutions critical of the encryption plan, suggesting that further study was required
and that implementation of the plan should be delayed until the review is completed.
At the Third CPSR Cryptography and Privacy Conference on Monday, June 7, the Acting Director of
NIST, Raymond Kammer, announced that the implementation of the proposal will be delayed and that a
more comprehensive review will be undertaken. The review is due in the fall. Kammer told the
Washington Post that "maybe we won't continue in the direction we started out."
For more information about the D.C. office, contact them at 202-544-9240 or by email at
Make your reservations now!
The CPSR Annual Meeting will be held in Seattle, Washington, October 16 & 17, 1993.
The focus of the meeting will be on the National Information Infrastructure. The second day, as always,
is a time for CPSR members to come together and take action. There is plenty for CPSR to tackle and we
can't do it without you!
Please make plans to attend!
CPSR'S Annual Meeting will
take a critical look at:
¥ Information Infrastructure:
¥ Federal Perspectives
¥ Public Access to Internetworks
¥ Municipal Networks
¥ Networking in the Community
¥ Computers and Democracy -What's the Connection?
Saturday evening, Seattle will host the CPSR banquet where the Norbert Wiener Award will be
presented. For more information on the meeting, contact the National Office at 415-322-3778 or
In late 1991, the United States Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, the High
Performance Computing and Communications Act.
Chiefly sponsored by then Senator Al Gore, the HPCC program is designed to "ensure continued United
States leadership in high-performance computing." For fiscal year 1992, the HPCC program was
funded at $655 million, and for fiscal year 1993 it received $803 million, a 22% increase. The
principal elements of HPCC include research and development on high-performance computing systems
to improve the speed of computing by two or three orders of magnitude; research on advanced software
technology in pursuit of several technical "grand challenges" in science and engineering; computer
networking; human resources development; and basic research in computer science and technology
relevant to high-performance computing.
The HPCC included funding for a new networking initiative called the National Research Education
Network, or NREN. The NREN, like the rest of the HPCC, is an interagency program coordinated by the
little-known Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology, or FCCSET
(pronounced "Fixit"). The NREN is primarily run by the National Science Foundation and the Advanced
Research Projects Agency (formerly DARPAÑthe word "defense' was dropped this year). The entire
HPCC, however, is overseen by Dr. Donald A. Lindbergh, M.D., the director of the National Library of
NREN is a program designed to increase the networking capabilities of leading scientific and
While the Internet and the : NREN will continue to: develop as models for advanced computer
networking, they will also continue to fall short of a true national information infrastructure unless
several key problems are solved.
research centers. The law says that the participating federal agencies will make available a network
capable of transmitting information at speeds of one gigabit per second or greater by 1996.
While the legislation describes a broad reach for the networkÑ including "research institutions and
educational institutions, government, and industry in every state"Ñ as a practical matter the NREN is
aimed at the community served by
NSFNet. The NREN will not change the basic structure of the Internet, and it does not involve the
deployment of any new fiber optic network. I I What the NREN will do, by developing new tools for
broadband communication, is to absorb some of the "high-end" use of the InternetÑuses that involve the
transmission of huge amounts of data and which tend to degrade performance for "low-end" Internet
users. So the NREN is not a "new" network, although it introduces a new name to the Internet family of
networks. It is a program that will add new capacities and new tools to the Internet. The NSF backbone is
expected to upgrade to a gigabit per second capacity or greater, and most mid-level networks that make
up the U.S. portion of the Internet should upgrade to 45 Mbps within the near future. 12 The NREN
program will also fund software development to take advantage of these higher speeds. The HPCC as a
whole will drive this development with research on several "grand challenges" in science and
However, the NREN has become more than just a program to speed up the Internet. It is increasingly a
symbol of a new U.S. resolve to lead the world in the deployment of high speed, high bandwidth
telecommunications services. A good deal of this inspiration is due to Vice President Al Gore's
enthusiasm for the subject. When Gore started to get involved in computer networking issues an
incremental upgrade to NSFNet was already in the works; the network had upgraded in 1990-91 and
immediately started to make plans for the next step in order to keep pace with demand. The Bush
administration, while not opposing the bill than contained funding for the NREN, insisted that special
legislation wasn't necessary, since the administration had already budgeted and planned for the
enhancement of NSFNet.
But Senator Gore mobilized his legislative colleagues to support the HPCC bill. and Gore himself began
to give public speeches about the vision attached to the nation's information infrastructure. In large
part due to the impetus provided by Gore, "the case and constituency for NREN," says Harvard's Brian
Kahin, "has grown beyond academic 'research and education' to primary and secondary education, public
libraries, and economic development writ large." 13 Now most of the people interested in promoting an
integrated information infrastructure view NREN as the testbed for applications and technologies that
will eventually be "ported" to broadband networks that serve the entire public. In fact, under pressure
from constituencies outside the research community, Gore introduced a second bill, in 1992, called the
Information Infrastructure and Technology Act, which will provide funding for the extension of
networking resources to schools, libraries, state and local governments, and nonprofit institutions. (In
some circles, the HPCC is known as "Gore 1," and the Infrastructure Act as "Gore II.") The Congress has
since proposed another new role for the network, as a support for planned "manufacturing technology
extension centers," which are part of a package of legislation called the National Competitiveness Act of
1993, sponsored by Rep. George Brown in the House and Senator Hollings in the Senate. For the reasons
described earlier, national computer-based communication on high-speed networks has captured the
public imagination, at least among business. policy and technical elites. By default, the NREN has
become the vehicle for such enthusiasms, even though it was first proposed merely as a way to improve
the "high-end" use of the Internet. The Clinton administration's manifesto on technology policy,
introduced on February 22nd, states very clearly the objective of investing in a "national information
infrastructure and establishment of a task force working with the private sector to design a national
communications policy that will ensure rapid introduction of new communication technology."14 The
Clinton-Gore campaign announced the goal of a high speed, high bandwidth communications system to
"every home, school, and business in the United States by the year 2015," although this hasn't been
repeated since the election. Dr. Lindberg, director of the HPCC program, testified on March 25, 1993,
that the HPCC program is developing computing, communications, and software technology the U.S. will
need to meet its information and telecommunications needs. It will lay the foundation for an advanced
national information infrastructure (NII) consisting of high-speed communication links high
performance computers, and powerful, but user-friendly software that will give every American
access to an unprecedented amount of information, as well as the fools needed to effectively process and
use it. This infrastructure will spur gains in U.S. productivity and industrial competitiveness,
improve our national security, and improve the health and education of our citizens.15
Thus, since the Clinton administration took office, the High Performance Computing and
Communications Program and its component, the National Research and Education Network, have been
transformed from programs designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. computer science and computer
networks to a general economic development strategy that will "spur gains in U.S. productivity and
industrial competitiveness, improve our national security, and improve the health and education of our
citizens." The Clinton administration has also introduced the concept of the NII as a natural follow-on to
NREN and its associated results. But what this NII will actually look like is not yet clear.
THE NATIONAL IN FORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE While the Internet and the NREN will continue to
develop as models for advanced computer networking, they will also continue to fall short of a true
national information infrastructure unless several key problems are solved. Marvin Sirbu of Carnegie
Mellon University has summarized these problems well:
"Development of standardized methods for information finding: White Pages directories, Yellow Pages,
"Development of widely standardized methods for retrieving information which may be scattered across
hundreds of different hosts.
"Mechanisms for security and authentication.
"Development of billing and accounting systems which can track the transfer of intellectual property
and provide a mechanism for compensating authors and maintainers.
"Development of standard document representation formats, which go beyond ASCII and allow sharing of
graphics, images, voice annotation, animated sequences, and video."16
These are technical requirements for a robust information infrastructure, some of which must be
supplemented by policy decisions and conventions of use. Sirbu might have added the requirement of a
scalable interface for users, so that novice users will find the information network "intuitive" and easy
to use, but expert users will be able to select a method of using the network that matches their skill.
The two problems that confront policymakers now are: who will decide how to solve these problems, and
who will pay for the solutions?
System uniformity, architectural stability, economies of scale, universal access, and social equity
would all seem to suggest that the best vehicle for implementing a national network is the federal
government itself. This is the position of Vice President Gore, who argues that the government is the
only guarantor of a system that will serve all Americans. This is the model of the NREN, in which
academic and industry researchers are using government funds to expand the capacity of the Internet.
Gore believes that the federal government should build a new national network and then turn it over to
private contractors for systems management, the way that the Internet was developed and is now
managed. John MarkofT of The New York Times adds, "the whole project would be a key test for the
industrial policy that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore view as a way to revive the economy."17
But opposing the Vice President and his allies are the large telecommunications corporations and
opponents of President Clinton's industrial policy. Executives of AT&T, MCI, Sprint, and other long
distance carriers maintain that their networks are well-poised to be transformed into a national
information infrastructure, and that the government should stay out of the business of building a
competing network. The commercial vendors of telecommunication services believe that they can offer
an "upgrade path" of services that will be the most cost-effective. Competition will keep prices down,
as demonstrated in the rate wars between long distance carriers. These players also argue that the
government simply can't afford the massive investment required to develop a new network, especially
in light of competing public demands such as universal and affordable health care.
Public interest organizations, libraries, educators, and other nonprofit service providers have tended
to side with the government, fearing that a purely commercial network will undermine the nation's
tradition of universal service and price out large constituencies who won't be able to afford new
services. Jeff Chester of the Center for Media Education in Maryland warns that a national network
developed and run by corporations will turn television into a "pay per view" system, compromising
what little public character the current "over-the-air" free broadcast system has now. Librarians are
concerned that the open and free model of libraries will be threatened by the commercialization of
information resources. Overall, many people are worried that a purely commercial network simply
will cater to the lowest common denominator of the market, meaning dozens of "home shopping"
services, on-line computer games, "infomercials," and packaged, sensationalized news.
Unfortunately, as Jonathan Aronson notes, "the public is not well organized...[and the 'public good,'
broadly defined, usually is not reflected in the pressures on firms and policymakers regarding
communications infrastructure.''] 8 While pronouncements about universal service and measures to
attenuate the polarization of information "haves" and "have-nots" are routinely heard from business
and government leaders, there is so far little evidence that such concerns are being incorporated into
the policy debate. A first step will be the inclusion of public interest advocates on the government's
recently announced National Information Infrastructure Council, an advisory body set up to chart the
course of the NII.
The challenge that faces policymakers and network developers is how to incorporate public goods into an
innovative system that will be driven primarily by market demand. In order for the information
network to deserve the name "infrastructure," it must have a public character reflected in extra-
market values such as equitable access, privacy, the inclusion of public space, freedom of expression,
and some measure of democratic control. In some instances these values will conflict with the rationale
of "economic competitiveness," which right now is the principal and nearly exclusive justification for
the Nll. The task of the public interest community is to make sure its values are part of the design,
management, and use of the network.
PUBLIC INTEREST GOALS
How the public interest might best be defined is clearly not a simple task. The debate surrounding the
future of the infrastructure combines aspects of traditional media and broadcasting policy with new
questions about common carriage, connectivity, access and privacy. The important roles of the NSF and
the university and research communities have added another layer of complexity to the policy analysis.
Hybrids of technology have created hybrids of policy. Still the need to articulate public goals for the
nation's infrastructure seems clear.
EDUCOM, an association of American colleges and universities, has recommend a number of principles
for the development of the NII, including support for scientific and other tones of collaborative work,
the opening of archives of federal technical, scientific and economic data. and the creation of a
nationwide citizen network that provides access to educational programs, public information, and
commercial information resources. These goals reflect the desire to accommodate private ventures
while preserving the public character of the information infrastructure. I 9
Other initiatives focus on specific policy goals. The Benton Foundation in Washington, D.C., has launched
a campaign to strengthen public interest advocacy on network issues, focusing specifically on the future
of universal service. Karen Menichelli, associate director of the Benton Foundation, says that
"universal service is one of the important measures of infrastructure success. Who will have access
and on what terms are critical questions to examine." Universal service might include tree or
affordable access to basic services, such as news, public affairs, health, education, and electoral
information. Locator and directory services might help users navigate network resources.
Miles Fidelman, director of the Center for Civic Networking, speaks of the need to encourage local
networks that serve the interests of state agencies and community institutions. Such networks could
invigorate civic participation and community life. Taylor Walsh, with the National Capital Area Public
Access Network (CapAccess), expresses a similar sentiment when he says that "it seems appropriate, if
not crucial, at this stage in the evolution of national networking policy to create parallel programs that
help the infrastructure take shape at the local level." Many states are now exploring various ways to
link civic groups and public sector organizations.
For example, information "kiosks" could allow citizens to locate state agencies, to schedule
appointments, and to gather data on government programs. Such kiosks could be located in grocery
stores, shopping centers, or even recreation centers. Iowa State Senator Richard yarn, who also chairs
the State Information Policy Consortium, says that
"The information age offers the opportunity for all levels of government to work together and to provide
access to a broad range of government services through single access points."20
CPSR has also helped promote new local network initiatives. In 1992 CPSR organized a conference to
explore Local Civic Networks. That meeting helped catalyze a number of local efforts to promote the
development of community networks, including the Seattle Community Network now being pursued by
members of CPSR/Seattle. ISee the accompanying article in this issue by Doug Schuler on the Seattle
Community Network, page 8. A recent CPSR Newsletter explored the opportunities of Local Civic
Networks in more detail, Vol. 10, Nos. 1-2 Ñed.]
While these initiatives go forward, organizations and individuals are also setting out policy goals for
the nation's infrastructure. The hope is that these principles will be incorporated into the design of
network services and will be supported by legislative and regulatory decisions. Typically the public
interest perspective on the national information infrastructureÑwhat might be called in this world of
acronyms the "NII PIP"Ñ focuses on one or more underlying policy principles.
"Universal access" has a deep resonance in the history of U.S. communications policy. The country's
commitment to public access to the phone network is a monumental achievement, considered by some to
be the communications equivalent of Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. Broad public access to
the telephone network literally wired together the nation and provided the opportunity for the rapid
growth of new services and activities. Still, defining universal access in an era of "value-enhanced"
services will not be an easy task. Not all users require "premium" channels, and market incentives
areclearly necessary to encourage the growth of new commercial services. But neither can universal
service simply mean an access point to the lowest service level, an "informational safety net" that may
offer little more than yesterdays news, or last weeks employment listings.
Some weight must surely be given to infrastructure features that facilitate the delivery of other
services. For example, if public support for the delivery of dial- tone service to all subscribers in a
region will lead to more efficient service delivery and encourage the development of new services, then
both economists and consumers would agree that such subsidies are sound. Similarly if government
agencies move toward interactive video services to provide public services, then there will be strong
incentive to assure that all members of the target population have the technological capacity to utilize
Universal service also encompasses the view that many groups are likely to be left behind as the
information network develops if some action is not taken to ensure widespread public access. Lack of
economic resources may certainly be one such factor, but geographical considerations, as well a lack of
literacy and training, also act as barriers to access.
Building "on-ramps" to the Internet is also a part of the NII policy challenge Much of the technical
debate focuses on the wires to the homeÑthe telephone line, the cable line, fiber and ISDNÑbut the
larger debate may be about who will be connected and on what terms. The NSF's commitment to support
network access for universities and colleges during the 1980's certainly encouraged the spread of the
network across the nation. Similar efforts are now underway in K-12 schools and public libraries.
Access to network services may be provided in a number of ways. Individuals and companies may
purchase access through private network service providers. Public institutions may obtain access
through federal and state grants.
Libraries remain an important access point for many network users. As Kitty Scoot of the Special
Libraries Association said last year to the National Commission on Library and Information Science,
"Librarians have traditionally been in the in the forefront of using electronic information services to
support their customer base."
For many network users, libraries provide technical support, information resources, and oftentimes
the first exposure to the full range of network activities.
As John H. Suzler of the Government Documents Roundtable of the American Library Association has
said, "The primary NREN policy issue for libraries is developing a network that is based upon service
of the 'public good,' the same as is in the development of public lands, the broadcasting spectrum, and
the interstate highway system."
Connectivity encompasses a wide range of technical and policy issues. The Electronic Frontier
Foundation has recommended the development of an "Open Platform" that might encourage the
development of new commercial services, particularly through ISDN technology. Other policy
initiatives focus on efforts to improve access to public information in government agencies
For example, the Government Printing Office, which carries the responsibility for disseminating
government publications across the nation could deliver services more effectively if connected to the
Internet. Similarly, many federal agencies that have already computerized records and public
documents might look to the network to make public information more widely available.
Says Jamie Love of Taxpayers Assets Project, "Putting the federal government on-line could save
taxpayers billions of dollars."
Connectivity also has an important international dimension. As more countries adopt the TCP/IP
protocols, it becomes possible to move information around the world and between locations as disparate
as Bangkok and Budapest. The Internet Society, chaired by Vint Cerf, has encouraged the growth of
international network communications. A recent INET report by Larry Landweber on international
connectivity notes that "E-mail connections to Algeria, Angola, Gambia, Morocco, St. Lucia, and Vietnam
have been reported."
Concerns about connectivity are only partly matters of technological configuration. Support for
institutions, technical assistance, and government policy all factor into the growth of computer
One attribute that sets NII apart from other forms of infrastructure, such as road and bridges, is that
this infrastructure is fundamentally about the transport of information, and as public safety is
important on roadways, privacy is critical to the success of information networks.
Commercialization of the network is likely to increase pressures to collect and sell personal data. Much
of the information moving through the digital network is transactional data, billing information. This
information is particularly useful for marketing firms because it is easily compiled. It also falls
through the cracks of most privacy restrictions.
There is an important if complex law in the United States that provides some privacy protection for
network communications. That is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which built on the
earlier federal wiretap law and provided protection for "in stream" computer communications and
stored electronic mail.
However, it remains to be seen whether ECPA, passed in 1986, can handle the full range of emerging
privacy concerns, including protection for wireless networks, controls on Caller ID, and electronic
mail within the workplace. One new privacy issue that has attracted much concern in the network
community is the use of cryptography and various government proposals to restrict or control new
technologies that might promote privacy protection. One proposal from the FBI would require
communication service providers to ensure that their networks were capable of wire surveillance.
Another proposal from the NSA would require a key escrow arrangement for encrypted communications
within the United States government.
Several organizations, recognizing the need to address these new privacy concerns, have included
privacy protection as one of the policy tenants for network development. The Computer Systems Policy
Project, a computer industry organization, includes privacy and confidentiality among its goals for the
National Information Infrastructure. A Recent CSPP statement says that "consumers of NII services
have a right to privacy in their use of the NII" and also that "NII users must be free to use effective,
industry-developed encryption to ensure confidentiality of communications and data."
Similarly, CPSR recommended a number of privacy guidelines for the NREN at a 1992 hearing before
the National Commission on Library and Information Sciences. These guidelines roughly follow from
similar principles that have been developed by the European Community and Canada.
CPSR has also organized several conferences on cryptography policy and pursued litigation under the
Freedom of Information Act to obtain government records about specific policy recommendations.
At the federal level, a number of different Congressional Committees and agencies are likely to play a
significant role in the development of network policy. Congress channels its work through committees
and subcommittees that have specific responsibility for certain subject areas. At times, committees
jurisdictions overlap. For example, Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), who heads the House Science,
Space and Technology Subcommittee on Science, plays a critical role in all policy debate surrounding
computer networking. At the same time, Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), who heads the House Energy
and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, is interested in infrastructure issues
by virtue of his committee's responsibility for communications policy.
Moving to the executive branch of government, Vice President Gore will continue to play an important
role in infrastructure debate. He will probably work closely with the new White House Science
Advisor, Dr. Jack Gibbons. who previously served as head of the Congressional Office of Technology
Assessment. Dr. Gibbons also heads the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and he
chairs the Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology.
The Federal Communications Commission may become more active in the infrastructure debate, though
to date, most of the FCC activity has been directed to balancing the competing interests of the private
communications firms in the broadcast, cable, and telecommunications industries. How far the
telephone companies are permitted to go into the information delivery business remains one of the big
telecommunications policy issues in Washington.
One area where the FCC could certainly lend some support to the NII debate would be the development of
privacy policies. Agencies similar to the FCC in other countries, such as the Ministry of Post and
Telecommunications in Japan, have played leading roles within their own governments in the
formulation of privacy goals.
The legislative clock in Washington, DC is a two-year cycle that marks the beginning and end of each
Congress. For a proposal to become law, it must be introduced, discussed and debated, and acted upon
within the two-year time frame. However, it is often the case that proposals are considered in one
Congress and then enacted in a subsequent Congress.
So the failure to pass an initiative at first does not mean that it is doomed.
Federal agencies and the White House operate with somewhat more flexibility. Once implementing
legislation is in place, commissions can be established, pilot projects funded, and rules developed. All of
these decisions will generally be open to public comment, though through an agency process rather than
a hearing on Capitol Hill. States operate with still more flexibility and may develop programs, initiate
services, and support network activities as the opportunities arise.
Policy proposals tends to generate their own inertia, each recommendation accompanied by a call for
"immediate action" before "the window of opportunity closes." In practice, the policy process is filled
with twists and turns, and many opportunities to introduce new ideas and new directions.
While some have characterized the current NII debate as the end of a process, more likely it is just the
1. Jerry L. Salvaggio, "Projecting a Positive Image of the Information Society," in J. Slack and F. Fejes,
eds., The Ideology of the Information Age (Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishers, 1987) p. 154.
2. See Gary Chapman, "Defense Conversion and Technology Policy," The CPSR Newsletter (Palo Alto, CA:
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Fall 1992).
3. George A. Keyworth 11 and Bruce Abell, ''Competitiveness and Telecommunications: America's
Economic Future:House-to-House Digital Fiber Optic Network" (Indianapolis: The Hudson Institute,
1990) p. 8.
4. Jonathan Aronson, "Telecommunications Infrastructure and U.S. International Competitiveness," in
Institute for Information Studies, A National Information Network: Changing Our Lives in the 21st
Century (Nashville, Tennesseeand Queenstown, Maryland: The Institute for Information Studies, 1992)
5. Erik Brynjolfson, "Information Technology and the 'Productivity Paradox': What We Know and What
We Don't Know" (Cambridge, MA: MIT Sloan School of Management. November 1991).
6. Oscar H. Gandy, Jr., "Introduction," in Institute for Information Studies, A National Information
Network: Changing Our Lives in the 21st Century, op. cit., p. xx.
7. For a detailed and readable description of the Internet, see Ed Krol, The Whole Internet Catalog and
User's Guide (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly and Associates, 1992).
8. Larry Smarr and Charles E. Catlett, "Life After Internet: Making Room for New Applications,'' in
Brian Kahin, ea., Building Information Infrastructure (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School
Press, 1992) p. 145.
9. Leonard Kleinrock. "Technology Issues in the Design of the NREN," in Kahin, op. cit., 185.
10. Jonathan Aronson, op. cit., p. 80.
11. Brian Kahin, "Overview: Understanding the NREN," in Kahin, op. cit., p. 5.
12. Smarr and Catlett, op. cit., pp. 149-150.
13. Kahin. op. cit., p. 6.
14. U.S. Government, "Technology for America's Economic Growth: A New Direction to Build Economic
Strength" (Washington, D.C.: White House Office of Communications, Executive Office of the President,
February 22, 1993).
15. Dr. David A. B. Lindberg, M.D., testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space, and
Technology, Subcommittee on Technology and Aviation, March 25, 1993.
16. Marvin Sirbu, "Telecommunications Technology and Infrastructure." in Institute for Information
Studies, A National Information Network: Changing Our Lives in the 21st Century, op. cit., pp. 174-
17. John Markoff, "Building the Electronic Superhighway," The New York Times, January 24, 1993.
18. Jonathan Aronson, op. cit., p. 77.
19. Computing Research Association, EDUCOM, and IEEE, Proceedings of the NREN Workshop
20. State Information Policy Consortium, National Information and Service Delivery System: A Vision
for Restructuring Government in the Information Age (1992)
We've got a new look!
With this issue, CPSR
takes on a new look. We would appreciate your
comments and suggestions. Send us
email at email@example.com or call the National Office at 415-322-3778.
The CPSR Newsletter is published quarterly by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, P.O.
Box 717, Palo Alto, CA 94301, 415-322-3778 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 1993 by CPSR. Articles may be reproduced as long as our copyright notice is included. The
item should be attributed to "The CPSR Newsletter" and contact information should be listed.
Gary Chapman, Editor Nikki Draper, Layout & Design
Board of Directors Eric Roberts, President Jeff Johnson, Chair Lesley Kalmin, Treasurer Jim Davis
Jim Grant Dave Rasmussen Paul Hyland Coralee Whitcomb Steven Miller Terry Winograd
CPSR's Washington, D.C. office Civil Liberties and Privacy program Marc Rotenberg, Director David
Sobel, CPSR Legal Council Dave Banisar, Policy Analysist CPSR Washington, D.C., 666 Pennsylvania
Ave., SE, Suite 300 Washington, D.C. 20003 202-544-9240 email@example.com
CPSR has a list server to archive CPSR related materials and to quickly disseminate official, short
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Participatory Design: Principles and Practices
Edited by Douglas Schuler and Aki Namioka - CPSR/Seattle
Because of the interest in CPSR's Participatory Design Conference (which was the focus of
Communications of the ACM this June), CPSR has published a book that explores participatory design in
depth. Drawing on papers from the PDC'90 conference in Seattle as well as perspectives from users of
workplace systems, this collection is characterized by diverse points of view that share a distinctive
spirit - a more humane, creative, and effective relationship between those involved in technology's
design and those who use technology in their everyday lives and work. For information about ordering,
contact the CPSR National office at 415-322-3778 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roberts Wins Prestigious Award
Eric Roberts, known to us as a CPSR stalwart and activist, was recently honored by Stanford University
where he is Associate Chair of the Computer Science Department. Eric received the Bing Award for
Excellence in Teaching.
The Bing Award is given "to recognize excellence in teaching and a committed interest to the teaching of
undergraduates." Eric will receive $30,000 over a three year period, two-thirds of which is ear
marked for educational projects.
Tony Quan, a master's candidate in computer science, says "a lot of computer scientist tend to be very
technical and very dry, " whereas Roberts "tries to relate what he's teaching to reality." [quote
excerpted from Stanford Alumni Magazine, June 1993. Written by Beatrice Motamedi]
Gary Chapman & Evelyn Pine Leave CPSR
Gary Chapman, director of CPSR's Cambridge office, and former executive director of the organization,
will be leaving the organization on July 1st. Chapman will continue to work on The 21st Century
Project, a national campaign to redirect science and technology policy in the post-Cold War era. He wi]l
also be pursuing the initiation of a National Forum on Science and Technology Goals, a proposal of the
Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government. The Forum will be a democratic
institution sponsoring studies and debates about national science and technology priorities.
Chapman started working for CPSR in January, 1985, as the organization's first executive director.
While managing the organization's Palo Alto, California, headquarters, he supervised the organization's
work on international security issues, including CPSR's opposition to "Star Wars." In 1987, he co-
edited, with David Bellin, the book Computers in Battle: Will They Work?, which won runner-up as
Best Computer Book of the Year from the National Computer Press Association. The book has been
translated into Italian and Japanese.
Throughout his employment with CPSR, Chapman edited and produced The CPSR Newsletter.
Gary Chapman can be reached via email at email@example.com, and by telephone at
Evelyn Pine, CPSR's current Managing Director, is leaving the organization in mid-June to return to
writing and consulting with nonprofit organizations. The CPSR Board is restructuring the National
Office to make more effective use of the talents of longtime CPSR stalwart, Nikki Draper.
Evelyn explains, "As computers impact more and more of our lives, CPSR will become the most
important social change-civil liberties organization in the worldÑand of course, I'm going to continue
to support it with my membership, volunteer energy, and hard-earned money. It has been one of the
pleasures of my life to work for the members of CPSR. Their commitment makes a lie of the sterotype
of the apathetic nerd."
After June 15, Evelyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you move, please notify the CPSR National Office at 415-322-3778. The CPSR Newsletter is mailed
bulk rate and the postal service will not forward bulk mail.
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