18 October 2010
"We have three phases of the Internet. The first phase is that of the hackers, where access was the issue, making software available. The second one, when you begin to have interest by private actors that did not quite know how to use it. It still was mostly a public space, in some ways protected. And now a third stage, the invasion of cyberspace by corporate actors: It's really combat out there. So, for me the internet becomes a space for contestation. I am here not only thinking about multinational corporations. I am thinking of all kinds of actors, including the misusers of the Net, which is something serious also.
"The bandwidth capacity is always a very difficult issue. It is not clear to me if the capacity will be endless, like in the notion of the old frontier, where you had "endless land." But it is not really endless. It takes a number of events to discover that. Certain laboratory productions of capacity are enormous, in terms of bandwidth. But I am not sure what happens once it moves from the lab to people and companies. There are two issues, the first being the economics of introducing the new technical capacities that are possible. And economics matters, We already now have poor men and women's email, where you wait forever. If you pay, you will have a high-speed connection. The other issue is a "degreening" of the practices on the Net, which I find very disturbing: The issue of bandwidth-consuming multimedia, forinstance, where things could also have been done via email.
"In order to have a broad, general debate about the issue of bandwidth, it might be important to see how we can visualize this topic. Which metaphors do we use, what kind of images? How would you describe the bandwidth topic for a wider audience?
"I grew up in Latin America. Anybody who has spent some time there or in Africa knows how difficult it is to place an international, long-distance call. You have to wait, sometimes for hours. You don't just get on the telephone and get access. Why? Because it is a question of capacity. You will experience the notion of inadequate carrying capacity. Today, those of us who use email through institutions have also had that experience. In Europe, it is different in the afternoon than in the morning.Why? Because in the afternoon the United States has woken up and has invaded the Internet. You get to wait a much longer time. If you have a lot of money, believe me, you will have a fast lane. In Bombay or São Paulo, you will find different circumstances. For instance there are porr and rich universities. Some universities in the United States, in order to save money, shift part of their bandwidth to commercial users after 5:00 p.m. And you will wait there forever to get a connection."
—Saskia Sassen in conversation with Geert Lovink, 1997.