Masthead CMC Magazine / April 1, 1996
 A Map for the Civic-Minded, by Don Langham

Blowing Away the Smokescreen of the Free Market

The premise at the heart of Civilizing Cyberspace is that technology is a social construct that serves the values of the people who design and implement it. This premise places Miller at odds with the dominant conservative ideology which holds that free market competition with minimal government involvement will produce a communication infrastructure that efficiently serves the public welfare, not just the corporate welfare. Miller writes that "government noninvolvement has become a smoke screen behind which policy deal-making occurs without full public participation or scrutiny" (p. 377). Without such scrutiny, Miller contends, the odds are good that cable television companies, telephone companies, long distance carriers, and other market players will use free market competition to establish themselves as owners of both the conduit and content of the nation's communication infrastructure, thereby maximizing their profit-making potential and minimizing the NII's true potential as a communication medium. "[I]t is vital," Miller writes,

"that public policy require the NII transmission systems of the future to act as common carriers, which will be open to all on a nondiscriminatory basis. Common carriers make their money by finding ways to increase traffic going in both directions; common carriers have a vested interest in promoting the most widespread, full-function, interactive, and open-ended use of the transmission system. In contrast, firms that control both the carrier and the content--as in the cable TV system--ultimately make the majority of their profits from selling products to -- consumers." (p. 232)

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