April 16, 2003
Story outlineClick the "Read more..." link for the outline we sold this story from. Warning: it's one big spoiler. Unwirer: 6,000 words
2003: an America where the MPAA won its 1995 bid at the NII hearings to redesign the Internet. TCP/IP isn't illegal per se, but no funding or regulatory support exists for it (and using TCP/IP in the commission of even a trivial crime is a serious crime). Rather, America lives in MiniTel Hell, metered, centralized networks that deliver "consumer services" instead of end-to-end pipe. By 2000, the leading French IT company, Be, which has been largely responsible for the network's shift from ASCII to UTF-8, releases the first sub $300 wireless AP. WiFi networking becomes an enormous hit in Canada/Mexico, and begins to leak across the border, where the unwirers are on a holy mission to mesh America into anonymous, unmetered, high-speed network access. They're not (just) swapping MP3s, they're SMSing without paying a nickel a message, and that's driven the media companies that control the net berserk. They field shibboleths that equate the unwirers with terrorists and the police clampdown begins in ernest. $PROTAGONIST is an unwirer. He works the US-Canada and US-Mex borders with equal fluidity. $SIDEKICK is his seemingly devoted pal, who is in fact a provocateur, working to undermine the movement by driving it to heights of extremism -- acts of genuine terrorism. $MOM is a reporter who's working on the story, tagging along on condition of $PROT and $SIDE's anonymity. She's playing dumber than she really is, to draw them out, but she's really quite sympathetic and even has a modest AP in her home in DC (many people do now, especially adhesive wireless repeaters that can be frisbeed up against buildings to make local anonymous meshnets). $MOM is about the blow the lid off the Feds' heavy-handedness (and the fact that they're getting their marching orders from media companies, something she can finally document), when she twigs to $SIDE's provo role. She outs him, there is a chase scene, guns are fired, hilarity ensues.
* Whistleblowers come out of the woodwork in great proliferation with the ready availability of anonymous connections
* So do dissidents, who found a new American Glasnost
* The French make a great deal of fun of Americans for having lost the
tech race so badly
Posted by Cory Doctorow at April 16, 2003 08:42 AM