The article is quite lengthy, but important for those who wish to understand the history behind the concepts which inform today's issues about private ownership of even vital public interests. And the internet is vital.
Communication is more than an ordinary market. Indeed, it is properly not a market at all. It is more like air or water—a form of public wealth, a commons. When Aristotle said that human beings were “social animals,” he might just as well have said that we are communicative animals. We know that the human brain coevolved with language (a social characteristic).63 The development of social relations and democratic forms, as well as science, culture, etc., are all communicative. The rise of the Internet as a form of free communication, seemingly without limits, thus raises the prospect of vast new realms of human sociability and enhanced democratic possibilities. Yet, rather than a means of expanding human sociability, the Internet is being turned into the opposite: a new means of alienationThe authors argue the following:
...that there was—and remains—extraordinary democratic and revolutionary promise in this communication revolution. But technologies do not ride roughshod over history, regardless of their immense powers. They are developed in a social, political, and economic context. And this has strongly conditioned the course and shape of the communication revolution.Of course, the context they are referring to is the development of capitalism with its dynamic of private pursuit of wealth and the commodification of everything for this purpose. They conclude their essay with this critically important point:
People in the United States and worldwide must redouble their efforts to [insure public access to the Internet]. The outcome is far from certain, and the issues are still very much in play. A global network of resistance is both necessary and feasible. Indeed, in view of the nature of the Internet and the stakes involved, it seems fair to say that these issues will only become more encompassing in coming years. How this battle plays out will go a long way toward determining our future as social animals. [My emphasis]