More on Costs

When Nikita Khrushchev came into power in the Soviet Union, he inherited a country where creative thinking was in short supply. It seems that under Joseph Stalin’s rule, fear, which kept people inline, also suppressed the kind of creative thinking that is necessary for a nation to thrive.

By anyone’s measure, the US prospered most during eras when it promoted free thinking and minimized oppression.  The 60’s may have been plagued in some ways but it was also the era when we went all the way to the moon and we haven’t been outside of low Earth orbit since.

For people to create a better reality for themselves, they first have to dream it, then they can move forward to build and realize it.  But in a country where your every move is watched, people are afraid to even dream.  And in a country where the future is so uncertain, even those with dreams are afraid to invest themselves in building.

We have become a country where people go to work, drudge through the day without even a hint of what that drudgery is for, save for their own short-term existence here, then come home and turn on the television to numb their brains until they pass out.

This is not the kind of country I want to live in or the existence I want.  I want to live in a country where people achieve great things for the common good, not a country where people slave for the ruling elite.


The Cost of Surveillance

One of the downsides is the cost of surveillance.

Broadband Internet would be ubiquitous and cheap if it weren’t for one thing, the government severely limits competition.  In any given area there is generally only one telephone company with physical plant, one cable company with physical plant, and two wireless carriers with physical plant.  And these companies are invariably giant multinational corporations.  Everyone else resells the physical facilities these companies own and operate.

The reason this is so is the government has legislated monopolies for these companies.  Why?  Well, for one thing their lobbyists have contributed heavily to the legislators and misrepresentatives election campaigns, but another reason has to do with the NSA rooms where they intercept all internet and telephone traffic.  They generally do this at locations where carriers exchange traffic and so to be able to do this efficiently they have to limit the number of these locations and the number of carriers.

The reason Internet, Telephone, and Cable service is expensive beyond the natural cost of providing the service is government mandated monopolies, or duopolies in the case of wireless carriers, aimed at making the surveillance and filtering of your telephone conversations, Internet access, and television programming, cost effective for the government to carry out.

It is the filtering aspect of this that troubles me even more than the surveillance aspects but really both are troubling.  This makes a free society impossible because anyone who opposes the status quo can’t effectively organize political opposition because the parties in power both can monitor and disrupt their activities and prevent their ideas from gaining political exposure.  Yes, we play the game where they make it look like there is a wide range of political diversity between the Republicans and Democrats, we shut down the government supposedly even, really we only shut down the few humanitarian services the government offers, the war machine marches on, but it’s really just a game.

Both parties really do the same thing, take all the resources from the common people and put them in the hands of the ruling elite which uses them to further consolidate power and feed the military-industrial complex war machine.

Positive Side of a Surveillance State

I am not in favor of a surveillance state like Big Brother in the movie 1984, but I do see a plus side to it where crime and punishment are concerned.  For example, the FCC can levy up to $40,000 and two years in prison for the act of transmitting without a license.  Now that’s draconian for transmitting without a license.

Right now we have draconian punishments because we know the majority of crimes will go undetected and so rely on these punishments to serve as a deterrent.  Scientifically it doesn’t work but legislators don’t pass laws that work, they pass laws that appeal to peoples emotional sensitivities which unfortunately have little to do with reality.

This new surveillance society will bring about a state of affairs where the certainty of being caught will approach 100%.  Then if we throw everyone who is caught in prison we’ll have 99% of our population locked up.  That won’t work because the remaining 1% can’t sustain the 99% locked up and so we will have to look at more sensible alternatives which will include not making it illegal to breath and making punishments more reasonable.

And for society that will be a good thing because what has been proven scientifically, is that a less severe punishment with a 100% probability of being caught is a much more effective deterrent than a severe punishment with a small percentage being caught.

It will also level the playing field a bit because when everything is recorded, it will be more difficult for the rich and powerful to exempt themselves.

If you go to WikiLeaks and look at some of the atrocities that took place in Iraq, the intentional killing of civilians and the complete lack of respect for life.  The video of those things becoming available is resulting in people being held accountable.  It is also the reason the banks did everything they could to try to cut off funding, because the people behind these wars, profiting from these wars, don’t want to be held accountable.

Well, that’s a big plus in my book. So in as much as I don’t like the evolving surveillance state, I do see some positive aspects of it.

People, I need your input…

I started Eskimo North as a single line BBS in 1982.  By 1985, it was taking as many as 300 calls on a single line.  If I unplugged the modem at 4AM and plugged it back in it immediately took a call.

In 1985, I went multi-line.  We decided to go with a Xenix platform, Xenix was a Microsoft port of Unix.  It was basically the least expensive Unix platform I could get my hands on.  Initially I set it up with four lines but that grew to eleven even though the machine was not designed to handle more than eight.

In 1991, I upgraded to a Sun 3/180 with 16 lines.  In 1992, started offering Internet services.

In 1995 I incorporated and also left Qwest, the telephone company I had worked for the previous 17 years.

Eskimo North presently has about 1/6th the customers it had at it’s peak.  In the last 1-1/2 years, I’ve totally reworked the infrastructure and eliminated the reliability issues, greatly enhanced some of the services such as e-mail and the shell server.

Mail is now reliable, fast, capable of handling multiple devices simultaneously, and very configurable allowing the end user a great deal of control over how they handle their e-mail and filter spam.

The shell server now has a graphical interface, several actually, allowing users far more access than the old text-only interface provided, though the old interface is and will remain available to those who prefer it or who must access over a low bandwidth connection.

This has greatly reduced the rate people leave, but it hasn’t greatly increased the rate that new customers come to us.  And this is a problem, because while Eskimo is bringing in sufficient income to pay it’s expenses, it is not generating enough for me to sustain my family or retire some of the debts I have.

So if I can’t find a way to increase the user base, I’m going to have to take a job and make this a part time thing like it was in the beginning.

Part of the issue seems to be that I just can’t find a way to make it relevant to more people today.  I’ve really put a great deal of effort into making this a secure reliable platform, but it seems few people even care if they’re being spied upon these days.

So folks, instead of my having to guess, I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me what is important to you today.  What do you need to make this service useful and relevant to you?  What would you need to make it something you would want to tell your friends about?