cr> re4: QUESTION of open net survival


Richard Moore

Date: Mon, 29 Jan 1996
From: •••@••.••• (Allan Bradley)
Subject: Re: cr> re3: QUESTION of open net survival

 Someone wrote:

  >     As far as the Internet enabling "large-scale, grass-roots, political
> organizing" I say it is time to lay to rest this myth of potential. In case
>you hadn't noticed the net is a mirror medium only, which is why we can find
>every group with a beef in the real world reflecting their beef in cspace. I
>am tired of hearing the same people say how great net anarchy is while at
>the same time trying to get people to organize by emailing their
>technologically illiterate representative. I am sick of token organizations
>trying to defend the net against career politicians. We are all so
>enthralled by increasingly choked bandwidth we can't get away from our
>keyboards to go march on Washington. Then net IS a tool as well, not a
>political party.

  >      Oh, and if I seem bitter? It is because I am. I was happy to see
_>Silicon Snake Oil_ die a quick bookstore death, yet I can't help feeling we
>are missing the point.

I agree with the sentiment, but not with the premise.

Richard wrote:

>There are monopolies that don't have anything to do with natural scarcity,
>and they arise from gaining control of distribution channels.  That's what
>happens with movie distribution, for example, when you get mega chains of
>multi-screen theaters.  It's happening more with food, wine, and other
>goods as you get mega importers and mega retail chains.  Big operators can
>out-bid independents in obtaining product (due to volume), and can
>undersell them in the marketplace, due to product exclusives and/or volume
>discounting.  This kind of distribution-monopoly is what the Reform Act
>enables in cyberspace.

As usual Richard has got the point right on the money.  Whether politics,
censorship, Internet anarchy, phones vs. video vs. email - it all begins
and ends with one thing and that is: Communications Distribution Rights.
Regardless of the technology complexion or ones political view, once the
public loses control of them the world is a much scarrier place.  You
cannot control information or profit margins without distribution control -
it is the key to everything.  What is crucial is that communication
distribution monarchies are being formed at a time when more startup
businesses are needed.  It is a matter of survival given a potentially
constricted future economy in which a whole new dimension of winners and
losers will be defined.  The winners - communication media conglomerates,
the losers - a future generation of broadbased public economic growth.  It
is a very critical issue and I agree the point is not being made.  It isn't
a war between democracy and the capitalists or corporations.  It is a
battle between democracy and economic monarchies for the control of
society's information future.

Instead of arguing the symptoms of censorship, understand the causes.
While I believe there are sincere aspects being made with respect to the
information management of sensitive online material, the issue is also
being used an image watermark to loosen public control of communications
distribution infrastructures.  Yes, let's get to the point.

Allan Bradley

ConsulMetrix, Inc.
Setting the Standards in Technology Consulting


RKM responds to Arun's "Re: cr> re3: QUESTION of open net survival":

>In the case of information on the internet, the producers of information
>are many. The monopolists will only want to *keep* a few. That would mean
>a fundamental change in the quality and quantity of information on the
>net, which would be unacceptable to us consumers. It is as if all your
>local supermarket chains get bought over, and they decide that henceforth
>there will be no more Chinese or Italian foods. Wouldn't work. We already
>have the limited sources of information on TV, people come to the
>Internet because it's different.

The issue here is whether or not monopolies are likely to emerge in the
post-Reform Act cyberspace environment.  I agree that supermarket chains
are not a good model of comparison; I only used that example to illustrate
that monopolies can exist without being based on scarcity.  But I do claim
that monopolies _will_ emerge and dominate cyberspace -- but they will
follow a different model.

        More appropriate as a model, I submit, would be the movie
distribution business.  A producer might have a wonderful movie ready for
release, but if no major distributor picks it up, he's left to peddle it
for peanuts to low-budget arts-movie houses.  The big distributors have the
power to decide which movies reach mass audiences and which don't.  They
can throw advertising dollars at a poor movie, and manage to make good
money, or they can refuse a good movie because they don't like the
political message, as has happened many times.  There are enough producers
that distributors can be choosy.  The same dynamics operate as well with
broadcast television networks.  For chrissake, you can't even get paid ads
on commercial TV if the networks don't like the political content! (eg.,
the Asner ads on the coffee boycott.)

        Why, you may well ask, will the economics of cyberspace resemble
those of network television?  Doesn't Internet have infinite channels, work
point-to-point, have unlimited producers, etc.?  The answer lies in the
pricing, the definition of services, volume discounts, and bundling.  The
telco/media lobbyists have worked hard to achieve for themselves total
freedom to decide such issues, as expressed in the Telecom Bill, and they
will most assuredly use that power to set up a regime that will maximize
their profitability.

        Their own strategic thinking is certainly more sophisticated than
my own, but even I can easily describe a straw-man approach for them that
would attain nearly the same level of control over cyber distribution that
the Networks have over broadcast television:
        o  Set $1.00 as the minimum charge to send a message to one
           recipient.  This would immediately kill 90% of non-commercial
           network usage.  List operators could only afford to send messages
           C.O.D., and how many could afford to subscribe at those rates?

        o  Set the price of high-bandwidth content (video, etc.) high
           enough that only commercial users can afford it, sort of like
           leased lines or satellite channels today.

        o  Offer steep discounts to very large producers.  In other words,
           those with $millions can reach audiences of millions economically,
           but independent producers cannot afford to reach small _or_ large
           audiences because the small audiences are not economical, and
           the captal is unavailable to reach the large audience.  Just like
           television today.

This is only a straw-man model, and probably has holes in it, but you can
see that it could be tuned into a formula that creates a viable
marketplace, but one artificially restricted to a big-players-only club of

>We already
>>have the limited sources of information on TV, people come to the
>>Internet because it's different.

That's true today, but under the robber-baron cyber regime, cyberspace will
encompass television, will in fact be the ultimate evolution of the mass
media, customizable to better mind-program individual subscribers.

Arun, given that you only responded to a single point -- the possibility of
monopolies -- does that mean we're achieving agreement on any of the other


Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996
Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cr> A QUESTION: will the open net survive?

>dream is the day when banned Usenet groups and anonymous remailers are
>hosted on servers located on satellites, where they are outside the
>jurisdiction of all governments.  If things get tough here on earth, I'm
>sure that is what will happen.

Whoa! Hold on there! Who can afford their own satellite? Can YOU?

Think realistically!
R. Smith

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996
Sender: Jonathan Prince <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cr> re3: QUESTION of open net survival

> I said:
> > >If one takes a look at monopolies of the past, there was a
> > >natural scarcity, unequal distribution (like diamonds), few produce
> > >or something in that line. In telecom, there is no such basis for a
> > >monopoly.

Not true.

I live in a rural area of Ohio and we have a 'scarcity' - if you want to
call it that - for quality and quantity of telecommunications.

The phone lines suck (thanks, GTE), and T-1's are more expensive, plus the
region is historically very poor (appalachia).

Of course, GTE has been given a monopoly by te State of Ohio, all of which
proves that liscensed monolopies dont work well (although 90+% have pone
service of some kind, due to state subsidies, etc).

But, Ohio has recently opened up all areas of Ohio to local competition
(set to start sometime this year, I think).  Guess what?  No one wants to
compete in our area - not enough yuppies that make expensive calls I suppose.

Remember, just because competition is allowed doesn't mean that anyone
will compete.

I wonder if the govt didnt force GTE to operate here, if they would at all?

In the service economy, 'scarcity' is undesirable demographics.
(i.e. you can't sell BMW's to poor)


 •••@••.••• <>  Jonathan Prince
._________________________________________________________. Rural Action-VISTA
|      Danger! Your imagination may not be your own.      |      -- -=- --
'---------------------------------------------------------'  SouthEastern Ohio
  Read this! ====>    Regional Free-Net



I'm including this next piece in this thread because it happens to
illustrate the distribution principles discussed in my response to Arun

AOL has achieved, in effect, a distribution monopoly over its client base.
Yes, I know, the subscribers are voluntary, and they have other options,
but nonetheless the monopoly regime continues and we can observe how it

We see a high-handed attitude regarding censorhip, accountability to users,
and the whole concept of rights in cyberspace.  It's just a business to
them, and they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for whatever
reason, which they don't have to state.

I have no problem with enterprises such as AOL existing, but for a
democratic nation's communications infrastructure, it would be unthinkable
for _all_ channels of communication to be under similar arbitrary private
control.  Unthinkable, but alas, inevitable as well -- under the terms of
the cyber-baron Telecom Bill.


Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996
To: •••@••.••• [and others]
From: •••@••.••• (Stephen A.Williamson)
Subject: AOL Banned Poetry Archive is Up

AOL Banned Poetry Dispute Archive

"In a sense, sure the AOL policy is a 'small' battle. But . . .it's obvious
to me that it's plugging into a highly charged broader debate about
freedom, public and private domains, big business and the individual  --
which, in many ways, are the key political themes of our age."
Adam Newey,  Index of Censorship

Documents America Online's shifting attempt to censor poetry on their
online service.  Suddenly in the fall 1995, AOL's erratic and secretive
censorship practices became extreme, poems, even folders of poems simply
disappeared,and poems and poets began being "TOSed" from AOL at an alarming
rate.  Why?

Consists of:

(1) "Freedom of Expression and AOL" correspondence.  AfterNoon Magazine's
position on freedom of expression.  Responses and exchange of letters with
E-Zine editors.

(2) "Archive of Poems Banned by AOL," consisting of banned poetry and AOL
TOSes and correspondence.

(3) "A Personal History of the Creative Coalition on AOL" (CCA) and CCA's
first press release.

(4) Link to the Open Committee of Political Correspondence's
( more extended
discussion of the legal aspects of AOL's censorship practices.

key words: banned, censorship, AOL, free speech, First Amendment, poetry,
free expression, rights, public, private, CCA, America Online


25 word description:

Documents America Online's attempts to censor poets. Includes archive of
banned poems, correspondence with poets, AOL representatives, E-zine
editors, and other interested parties.

My Best Wishes,
Stephen Williamson

Motley Focus Locus


 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 Materials may be reposted in their entirety for non-commercial use.