Week in review: Free as in speech

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Week in review: Free as in speech

It seems this past week was one of either taking or handing out liberties as more ISPs freed ABC iView from download quotas, Cybersource made the case for free software in the school laptop project, and Telstra stood up for a filter-free net. And that was just the beginning.

The word ‘free’ is often over-used but it was at the heart of almost everything that happened in Aussie ICT this week.

One of the big stories was that Internode, iPrimus and Westnet joined iiNet in offering unmetered access to the ABC’s on-demand TV service iView . It’s a move that will no doubt increase usage of the service - and hopefully is a pre-cursor to similar IPTV content streaming deals.

It was a week when Telstra’s BigPond also made a strong case for a filter-free Internet by refusing to take part in Conroy’s technical trials . ISPs in general are concerned that customers placed on the trials will blame the technology for every drop in speed and technical issue they experience over the test period, place more support calls and cost them money.

In the same sphere, Senator Conroy also invited the IT community to vent for free on a new Department of Communications blog. And vent we did. Some 400 posts went up within the first 24 hours of the comment free-for-all, and maintaining a filter-free Internet was the hot button topic.

Still on the ISP front, Exetel chief John Linton exercised his right to free speech with a scathing attack on the Western Australian Internet Association (WAIA) in which he accused it of condoning film and music piracy. Ironically, it was a right he probably could have used more sparingly, judging from reader reactions to the story, but WAIA was keen to keep things civil.

It was also a week where the one laptop per child debate reignited after Melbourne-based open source folks Cybersource claimed the government would need to double it’s financial commitment to $2 billion to ensure it could meet its promises.

Cybersource suggested free software-based machines are probably the only way to ensure as many laptops get into kids hands as possible - something Microsoft didn’t seem to agree with. At least some of the Education departments didn’t rule out open source netbooks as an option, but the USB proposal did meet with some resistance from readers who said it could be a stretch to call a USB key a ‘free computer’.

Telstra did a nice free thing and gave videoconferencing and ADSL to a testbed of four regional aged care facilities to help them see medical specialists in the cities - without leaving their care facilities.

Cisco’s Linksys business meanwhile stands accused by the Free Software Foundation of doing not-so-nice free things - allegedly taking a few too many liberties with the GNU GPL .

And finally IBM and Harvard decided they want your PC power for solar technology development. Hooray for grid.

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