Good Ancestors

Spiral has worked hard for about three years now on providing faster broadband access for the area we live in. Ironically, we’re in the midst of an area that California and the Federal government have been targeting to close the “digital gap”.

As a result we are closely aligned with the state process for rounds of CASF funding grants to assist in creating the infrastructure for faster broadband (that in other countries is considered paltry progress).  In the process we have explored legal services towards the grant we are submitting. John met Jim Baller at one of the national conferences on Fiber and subsequently talked with him about legal services. Jim Baller, of the Baller Herbst Law Group in Washington D.C., educated at Cornell Law and Dartmouth College,frequently gave presentations and guidance on ARRA (American Rural Recovery Act) grants and other broadband issues and continues to offer insight on broadband issues through BroadbandUS.TV, and Lexmonitor. As well, their group puts out a weekly email feed referencing national activity related to Broadband. Needless to say, but I will: we highly value and trust his experience and judgement regarding Broadband.

In a rare moment Mr. Baller sent an email to his contacts about the suicide of Aaron Schwartz (as reported by CNN Tech), 26, an internet savant and activist.

Here’s one of Aaron’s talks: Aaron Schwartz (as reported on Boing Boing).

Why all the fu-fu-rah?  Because, he was smart, young, and part of the forefront for the next generation of internet use. His ideas in contrast to those of the Boomers and older often don’t understand the power, influence, and what is just the juvenile beginning of where the internet is heading…  Or maybe the establishment does — and they are trying to corner the market for maximum profit.

Aaron had written about his struggles with depression since he was a teenager.

New York Times
San Jose Mercury News
Los Angeles Times
Sacramento Bee
SF Chronicle

Here’s Mr. Ballers story of his encounter with Aaron:

As you may have heard, Aaron Schwartz, 26, committed suicide on January 11, exactly two years from the date on which he was arrested for allegedly downloading, with intent to distribute without charge, PDF copies of thousands of academic papers from the digital library JSTOR.  Tributes to Aaron are appearing across the world, and many prominent thought leaders are condemning the overzealous prosecution of Aaron’s actions as a crime, particularly one  carrying a potential prison term of up to 35 years.  See, e.g., Larry LessigCory DoctorowDoc SearlsAlex Stamos (expert witness), etc.

I did not know Aaron well, but I’d like to share an experience with him that had a profound impact on me.  Several years ago, I had the honor of participating in a 3‑day retreat with some of the most accomplished leaders in the communications field around the world.  Aaron was one of the participants. Just 19 at the time, he had already made tremendous contributions to the Internet.  Among other things, when he was 14 years old, he had co‑written the specification for RSS.

During the first two days of retreat, we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of communications systems in the US and elsewhere, and we mused about what we might have done better if we had started the previous decade with the knowledge that we had now come to have.  On the last morning, each of us had 30 seconds to summarize our main impressions.  Aaron had not said much during the first two days, so the rest of us were particularly eager to hear what he would say.

When Aaron’s turn arrived, he said that his main takeaway was surprise to have learned that the United States might not necessarily develop the advanced communications infrastructure necessary to support the applications that he and his colleagues were busily writing.  He and they had simply assumed, apparently incorrectly, that they and users of their applications would always have open and affordable access to all the bandwidth that they might need.

As Dr. Benjamin Spock once said, “Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.”  As Aaron’s words vividly reinforced for me, we Americans have a duty to do all that we can to provide our young people the tools they need to be innovative, productive, and successful in the increasingly competitive global economy.

Since that day, in my work products, speeches, and other presentations, I have often shared Aaron’s insights, and his words have always resonated with my audiences.  Let’s honor Aaron’s passing by doing whatever it takes to ensure that all Americans have ready access to as many world-class communications networks as possible as rapidly as possible.

Rest in peace, Adam.
Jim Baller

Baller Herbst Law Group, PC
2014 P Street, NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 833-1144

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