Commended to your attention is this short essay by Wally Bowen, profiled by the Media Giraffe Project, which draws a comparison between what happened to small British landowners in the 16th and 17th centuries, to non-profit U.S. broadcasters in the 1930s and -- if something doesn't change -- what may happen to small-scale "publishers" on the Internet.
If you are a publisher without the business clout and scale to negotiate on an equal basis with the likes of Verizon, AT&T or Comcast, this should concern you, I believe. I'm forwarding his entire message, including his call to action, which the Media Giraffe Project neither endorses endorse nor opposes. To learn more about Bowen's qualifications to speak to this issue see:
Below is his brief essay, received by email earlier today. Is there a flaw in his reasoning?
-- bill densmore / firstname.lastname@example.org
Below by Wally Bowen, Executive Director
Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN)
MAIN-FM 103.5 LP Asheville, N.C.
"Date: Sun, 8 Aug 2010 19:23:45 -0400
"Subject: [ACME Discuss List] The Enclosure of the Internet?
"* Between 1750 and 1860, the British Parliament passed laws collectively known as the Enclosure Acts to transfer almost 7 million acres of public lands (the commons) into private hands.
"Large estates, with the latest agricultural technologies, out-competed and then absorbed smaller farms, creating an abundance of cheap farm and factory labor for the Industrial Revolution.
"Lobbyists advocating these new laws argued that estate-owners' superior capital and technology would yield greater productivity than a commons open to small producers.
"* Between 1928 and 1934, the U.S. Congress passed laws effectively limiting broadcast radio licenses to for-profit corporations, despite the fact that more than 250 community-based, not-for-profit radio stations had been thriving for almost a decade.
"Lobbyists advocating these new laws argued that Wall Street-backed chains' superior capital and technology would extend the benefits of radio to underserved areas faster and more efficiently.
"The nonprofit stations disappeared via license-challenges from the corporate chains.
"* Between 2002 and 2005, the Federal Communications Commission enacted rules to allow a handful of cable and telephone companies to capture more than 95 percent of all broadband Internet access in U.S., forcing thousands of independent ISPs out of business.
"Lobbyists advocating these new rules argued that telecom conglomerates' superior capital and technology would extend the benefits of broadband to underserved areas faster and more efficiently.
"Instead, this handful of cable and telephone companies is poised to complete the enclosure of the online commons we call the Internet.
"To do so, they must force the FCC to reverse-course on a modest set of "open Internet" rules to protect consumers, ensure non-discriminatory treatment of Web content, and promote more competitive broadband markets.
"Without these rules, the cable and telco companies will be free to re-structure the Internet into an online world that looks more like cable TV, where easy-to-reach, high-performance channels deliver the content of Fortune 500 companies, while independent and nonprofit content is relegated to second and third-class channels.
"Once an electronic commons where innovators could launch a start-up and become the next Google, the Internet is about to become the private domain of online oligarchs.
"A few days ago, Google and Verizon gave us a glimpse of this brave new world when the New York Times revealed that the companies were secretly negotiating a deal to ensure favorable treatment of Google's content.
"Over the next six weeks, we have what may be our last chance to prevent the corporate enclosure of the Internet."
"Here's what you can do: the FCC is taking public comment through Aug. 12 at midnight on its plan to restore open Internet rules vacated by the FCC between 2002 and 2005.
"We have put together a special webpage to help you share your comments with the FCC:
"It's also extremely important that you contact your members of Congress -- and the White House -- to let them know your opinion."
The cable and telephone companies are pouring record amounts of money into Congress (more than $27 million as of May 16, according to the New York Times) to pressure the FCC -- and ultimately the White House to back-down.
"Only a strong outpouring of public support can counter this unprecedented lobbying assault on our freedom to communicate and innovate. Please act now to save the Internet."