Jun 29, 2006

The Cycle Perspective

Yesterday the ole inbox filled up with emails regarding the telecom markup process - some good news flowed about Low power FM stations and some bad about net neutrality. I've followed this process and debate nearly as closely as I've followed DCist's Deluge 06 coverage. It's not sexy (it has nearly sucked dry my will to continue reading emails), but it's got teeth (the big boys are about to ruin the internet for artists just as they ruined radio for them).

Your FM dial is supposed to belong to you, the public. When the FCC allowed that dial to become deregulated, a small number of corporations took control of most licensed stations and created a bottleneck. Since 1996 it's become increasingly difficult for artists to gain any airplay at all because the stations play what their major label cohorts pay them to play (essentially - it's a bit more complex than this, but I'm blanketing it).

Now, the internet may take this same path. From Tim Karr:
The legislation that passed through committee today has toothless provisions on net neutrality, and instead opens the way for companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to charge consumers and small businesses new and discriminatory fees on top of those they already charge for Internet access.

And then CEA's Gary Shapiro said this simple sentence:
“We have to stop measuring creativity by the financial interests of ten companies.”

And then, then I started to think that I always get frustrated at the point in these debates when economic principles arise. I don't know much about economic trends and theories, I just know that I love music and art and the internet is a pretty great bank at which to make deposits and withdrawals of these things.

I also know that the age old process for accepting new technology to increase our access to being exposed to diverse forms of culture has ALWAYS been stifled by narrow-minded content owners. I'm only 30, but I'm already weary of this game. It reminds me of this passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,
Well, pretty soon the old man was up and around again, and then he went for Judge Thatcher in the courts to make him give up that money, and he went for me, too, for not stopping school. He catched me a couple of times and thrashed me, but I went to school just the same, and dodged him or outrun him most of the time. I didn't want to go to school much before, but I reckoned I'd go now to spite pap. That law trial was a slow business - appeared like they warn't ever going to get started on it; so every now and then I'd borrow two or three dollars off of the judge for him, to keep from getting a cowhiding. Every time he got money he got drunk; and ever time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just suited - this kind of thing was right in his line.
Maybe because of my bleary eyes I decided yesterday afternoon that the sky isn't falling.

I know the sky isn't falling because art and music and culture will always thrive with new technologies and will always be ahead of their economic curves. I don't mean to say preserving net neutrality isn't worth a try, it's absolutely essential that we keep reminding policymakers and technologists and corporate content owners to choose the fair path. I also know that no matter what happens, artists will figure it out. They're full of ingenuity that way.

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