Quotes about Cyberspace
The big effect which I still haven't mentioned and the one
that worries me most is what the corporate world is telling us
they have in mind. And what they are telling us they have in
mind is taking the whole thing over and using it as a technique
of domination and control.
- Noam Chomsky
Cyberspace is eroding [national] borders, at least in terms
of jurisdiction. In fact, nation and state are often irrelevant
in the formation and conduct of online communities.
Intellectual properties flow freely across the Net, knowing no
borders. What's more, all this is happening at a time when
intellectual properties represent a greater and greater portion
of both human industry and the global economy.
- Vince Giuliano, NY Times, 5/6/97
In its current form, the Internet clearly does expand the
ability of people with minimal resources to originate
communication as well as to receive it. In this sense, the Web
is the best rejoinder to A.J. Liebling's old complaint that
"freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one." More
generally, the new era of digital communications has the
potential to end the old scarcity of bandwidth in the radio
spectrum that limited the number of broadcast channels. But
there are also powerful forces favoring concentrated power in
the new era of communications, and it would be a mistake just
to rely on technology and the marketplace to curb abuses of
- Paul Starr,
The American Prospect, July-August 1997
Unfortunately, cyberspace is shaping up to be more like
Cyberbia than Cyberkeley. That's because the consensus among
on-line boosters...is that all cyberspace should be privately
owned and operated. While their fears of government abuse or
inefficient centralization may be legitimate, presenting the
choice as one between totalitarian control and a total absence
of publicly owned space is misleading. These extreme
alternatives prevent us from moving toward something like
Cyberkeley -- a model of cyberspace that is mostly private, but
which preserves part of this new domain as a public trust, a
common space dedicated to citizens' speech. Without this
hybrid vision, it is unlikely that we will realize the
democratic possibilities of this new technology.
- Andrew L. Shapiro, The Nation, July 3, 1995
The Internet is a global communications medium.
Decentralized, flexible, and anti-monopolistic, it is
particularly suitable to the promotion of pluralism, freedom of
expression and access to public information.
- Center for Democratic Technology
The 1996 Telecommunications Act was intended by Congress to
promote competition, lower prices and give consumers a greater
range of choice in telecommunications service. Thus far, just
the opposite seems to have happened. Major telecommunications
firms are fighting the requirements of the law, both at the
Federal Communications Commission, and more recently in federal
At the same time, mergers and acquisitions among
telecommunications entities have increased steadily. Two of
the seven Regional Bell companies have already merged,
Microsoft Inc. has purchased a significant proportion of a
cable operator, long-distance carriers have sought mergers with
local telephone companies, and television and radio broadcast
networks have purchased more stations, expanding their networks
at the expense of local programming and local voices. We do
not believe this is what Congress intended.
- Alliance for Community Media,
from a letter to Congressional committees
Taking into account the money spent by the NAB [National
Association of Broadcasters], the major networks, and their
owners, the broadcast industry invested at least $10.7 million
in lobbying during just the first six months of 1996.
- Common Cause Report, WIRED, August 1997
In the 20's there was a battle. Radio was coming along,
everyone knew it wasn't a marketable product like shoes. It's
gonna be regulated and the question was, who was gonna get hold
of it? Well, there were groups, (church groups, labor unions
were extremely weak and split then, and some student groups)...
who tried to organise to get radio to become a kind of a public
interest phenomenon; but they were just totally smashed. I mean
it was completely commercialized.
- Noam Chomsky
The reality is that wealth can be translated into
information power, and that the apathy of the people is
allowing private wealth to control public information. We are
very, very close to private tyranny.
... As information becomes a substitute for time, for
space, for capital, and for labor, it is the ability to control
information and exploit information, that grants the power to
protect the status quo or make change.
- Robert David Steele, President, Open Source Solutions
To communications companies, then, the act has been a big
success. The U.S. commercial media system is currently
dominated by a few conglomerates -- Disney, the News
Corporation, G.E., cable giant T.C.I., Universal, Sony, Time
Warner and Viacom -- with annual media sales ranging from $7
billion to $23 billion. These giants are often major players in
broadcast TV, cable TV, film production, music production, book
publishing, magazine publishing, theme parks and retail
operations. The system has a second tier of another fifteen or
so companies, like Gannett, Cox Communications, Dow Jones, The
New York Times Co. and Newhouse's Advance Communications, with
annual sales ranging from $1 billion to $5 billion.
That the 1996 Telecommunications Act's most immediate effect
was to sanctify this concentrated corporate control is not
surprising; its true mission never had anything to do with
increasing competition or empowering consumers. Among other
things, it was about getting the issue of fundamental
communications policy-making off the Congressional and public
agenda and safely installed in the hands of the F.C.C. and
other administrative agencies, where special interests duke it
out for the best possible deals with minimal or nonexistent
public involvement. It was also about having a statute that
rejected the notion that there was a public interest in
communication that the market could not satisfy. The only
debate concerned whether the cable companies, the broadcasters,
the Baby Bells or the long-distance carriers would get the most
breaks. A few crumbs were tossed to "special interest" groups
like schools and hospitals, but only when they didn't interfere
with the pro-business thrust of the legislation.
- Robert W. McChesney, The Nation Digital Edition,
author of Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy
The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose,
That steals the common from the goose.
- - Anon, 18th cent., on the enclosures.