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February 27, 2018 | 0 comments

The recent death of an early self-described “cyber-libertarian” has left some in the tech world wondering whether his dream of an online Utopia will ever come to pass. 

John Perry Barlow, a Grateful Dead lyricist turned online pioneer died in his sleep February 7 at age 70. A frequent poster on the early Grateful Dead chat rooms, by 1990, Barlow was known for his involvement with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit he co-founded with two tech entrepreneurs he met through a chat room. For almost three decades, the foundation was the predominant civil liberties organization for Internet users, filing multiple lawsuits against the federal government in an effort to combat its perceived overreach into online speech and privacy rights, including attempts at blocking peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

Although he never formally renounced his published works that claimed the Internet was free from any single sovereign nation's laws, Barlow conceded by the mid 1990s that such a view was aspirational at best. 

In an opinion piece for National Public Radio, writer Stephen Witt wonders whether Barlow's vision for a fully egalitarian Internet would even be possible in contemporary society thanks to the implementation over the last decade of end-user license agreements and other...

February 12, 2018 | 0 comments

Florencio Utreras retired last June. But that doesn’t mean he has quit trying to solve the connectivity issues facing Chile and Latin America.

Among his pet projects in retirement: developing the backup needed to keep Chile connected when its many natural disasters wipe out infrastructure.

With the country running long and narrow, bordered to the east by the Andes and the West by the Pacific, it has a lot of flooding, not to mention earthquakes and tsunamis.

“It’s very crazy geography,” he said. “So, one of the issues we have is floods that wash out the bridges that carry the lines … And we have earthquakes from time to time.  Every five years or so we have a large one and the fiber is cut, and roads are destroyed.  Everything is damaged. The only way to keep connectivity is to build some backup through another country.”

The closest neighbor is Argentina, and getting there requires crossing the Andes, he said, “and that is very complicated, very expensive, so just a couple of fiber crossings exist so far”.

“I was working a few days ago with people from the National Emergency Office and they told me in the last 10 years we’ve had 28 major emergencies. That’s 2.8 every year – earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and fires.”

Another issue Utreras remains involved in is the effort to equalize Internet costs and access.

“About 80 percent of Chile’s population has access to the Internet,” he said. “But 80 percent of those people are...

February 7, 2018 | 0 comments

In 2013, John Perry Barlow was  inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame for the important role he played as an early and vocal advocate for a free and open Internet, including his 1996 composition of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Today, we mourn his passing.

Writes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which he co-founded: “Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into ‘a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth . . . a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.’”

Our deepest condolences go out to Barlow’s family, friends and colleagues as we contemplate his vision and leadership, and mourn his loss.

The EFF added: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

His voice will be missed.

Watch John Perry Barlow’s 2013 Internet Hall of Fame...

February 1, 2018 | 0 comments

When Florencio Utreras set about trying to connect his native Chile – and ultimately the rest of Latin America – to the Internet in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he had a lot more than the usual political, policy and funding problems. He also had some major geographical issues to overcome.

There are challenges that continue to dog him in retirement. But the man known as Chile’s “father of the Internet” credits his relentless determination for achieving as much as he has.

 “This is what happens when you start bugging people about doing things,” he said. “They say, ‘just do it.’”

His introduction to the Internet began in what he refers to as his previous life, when he was a visiting math professor at Texas A&M University in College Station in the early ‘80s and he got a letter from a colleague and statistician in Wisconsin who told him that her university was deploying this thing called email.

“This was the first time I saw this email address with @ in it. So I went to the computing service in the math department, and they said, ‘we don’t have that, maybe you should go to data processing center,’” he said.

They set him up with an email address, but he had to take his bike across campus in the Texas heat just to get his email. So he finally convinced the University of Wisconsin to let him connect to their system with his own modem.

A year later, he says, he was back in Santiago, where he says he once again resumed bugging people about...

January 25, 2018 | 0 comments

An Antarctic selfie is giving NASA hope for establishing a reliable interplanetary Internet connection in the near future.

On Nov. 27, NASA officials announced that a group of engineers took and successfully sent a selfie from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to the International Space Station via the Tracking and Data Relay System.

Unlike familiar computer-to-computer IP connections, disruption-tolerant networking accommodates temporary disruptions as well as long delays, thus making it an ideal candidate for interstellar messages.

"The Antarctic is an excellent analog for space operations," Patrick Smith, technology-development manager with the U.S. Antarctic Program, said in a statement to Space.com. "Researchers are conducting important scientific investigations, operating in extreme conditions, with minimal infrastructure, so it's not surprising that we are using NASA space technology to advance science in the Antarctic."