Right now, for the second session of Digital Democracy at Harvard Law School, we’re linked up from Austin Hall East in Cambridge, MA, with a group of African experts on Internet Service Providers gathered (after midnight, their time, which is terribly generous of them) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The idea of the class is to explore “the regulatory landscape for communications networks in developing countries, focusing on the fierce clashes between national monopoly telecom companies and Internet service providers, and on the ways in which African governments have attepted to regulate Internet services and access.” After the usual video-conferencing delay, we’re up and running and hearing from some tremendous voices, with intrepid instructor Andrew McLaughlin there on the ground, and the HLS students and faculty — led here by Prof. Charles Nesson and Ethan Zuckerman — are firing in some questions.
Much of this very rich discussion focused on how countries, telecomms companies and Net entrepreneurs feel about enabling widespread VoIP. Is an all-IP future a good idea? If it’s a good idea, is it politically practicable? Who decides? Who cares?