cj#713.8> DEMOCRACY AND CYBERSPACE – conclusion


Richard Moore


                     DEMOCRACY AND CYBERSPACE

                Copyright 1997 by Richard K. Moore

[part 8]

Democracy & Cyberspace: strategic recommendations
Pursuant to the goal of improving the quality of our democracies, it
seems to me, upon consideration, that the only effective strategy is
an old-fashioned one: grass-roots political organizing, creation of
broad coalition movements, formulation of common political agendas,
and the energetic support of sound candidates - with the objective of
re-balancing the elite-people see-saw.

In order to restore balance, national sovereignty must be re-instated
over economic and social policies, returning to democracy its
potency.  Coercively and deceptively imposed debut burdens must be
forgiven, and corporations must be effectively encouraged by
regulation to be good citizens just as people are so encouraged by
laws.  Laissez-faire deregulation is just a another name for
lawlessness - and gang rule is the inevitable structural outcome, as
history - unreconstructed - conclusively demonstrates.

If popular ascendency can be achieved in this way, then there are all
kinds of improvements that could _then_ be made to our electoral
systems, and increased direct voting _might_ be one of them.

Such a popular resurgence would of course be an incredibly formidable
undertaking, but can we honestly expect significant societal
improvement by any other means?  In the meantime, novel proposals for
system-level changes, even the best-intentioned, will only be
implemented after being re-formulated by the current establishment -
to our peril.

Pursuant to the goal of preventing the kind of commercialized
cyberspace that has been described above, my recommendation remains
the same: broad-based popular political activism.  The only way
favorable policies can be expected regarding communications, mass
media, excessive corporate influence - or anything else for that
matter - is for better candidates and parties to be put in power in
the context of a sound progressive agenda.

Nonetheless, permit me to offer some specific strategic
recommendations regarding media and telecommunications policy.  The
worst aspects of commercialized cyberspace, according to my analysis,
arise from monopoly concentration.  The indicated policy strategy
would be to focus on preventing monopolization - both the horizontal
and vertical variety.

To be sure there are the issues of copyright, censorship, and others,
but I believe those are, relatively speaking, already well understood
- the problem is simply to gain some influence over them.  The
monopoly issue however deserves a few more words.

Preventing horizontal monopolies is a matter of insuring that
competition exists in each market, and setting limits on the number
of markets a single operator can enter.  Accomplishing this is not
rocket science and has been done successfully before.  In fact,
recent "reforms", in the case of the U.S., have largely amounted to
undoing not-that-bad regulation.

Alternatively, one could specifically sanction horizontal monopolies
(as with the classic U.S RBOC's or pre-privatization BT), but
implement regulation that insures sound operation, and same-price-
to-all ("common carrier") operation.

Preventing vertical monopolies is a matter of defining "layers" of
service, and preventing cross-ownership across layers.  If content
owners (media companies), for example, are not allowed to own
transport facilities, and transport must be marketed on a same-
price-to-all basis, then there would be considerable hope of
preserving open discourse in cyberspace.  Independent operators (eg,
ISP's) could then afford (and be permitted) to interconnect to the
network and offer affordable services to "the rest of us", as with
Internet today.

I hope these considerations are found to be useful.


Posted by Richard K. Moore - •••@••.••• - PO Box 26   Wexford, Ireland
         http://www.iol.ie/~rkmoore/cyberjournal            (USA Citizen)
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