On the Idea of Amateur-Hosted Internet Publishing

All the recent emphasis on development of the Internet through commercialization, while it largely has its merit, overlooks the benefits of non-commercial purposes. It ignores the fact that the Internet itself was invented in a non-commercial, government research environment. This is the historical legacy of the Internet.

All the recent emphasis on development of the Internet through competing, broadband delivery systems: Data-over-Cable, DSL, Fiber-to-the-Curb, focuses on access to the consumer. It ignores the ability of the consumer to also produce content.

I believe any initiative favoring Universal Access to Broadband electronic services cannot apply to a cleanly separated producer-consumer relationship, because that model should not be perpetuated on the Internet, which is a technically " flat", point-to-point communication system.

The Internet is large enough to easily develop a " critical mass" of interested participants in any collaborative project. For this reason the potential power of Amateur Internet Publishing should be recognized and supported.

I would like to quote from the Code of Federal Regulations:

[Title 47, Volume 5, Parts 80 to end]
[Revised as of October 1, 1997]
From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access
[CITE: 47CFR97]

[Page 674-710]
                       TITLE 47--TELECOMMUNICATION

                      Subpart A--General Provisions

Sec. 97.1  Basis and purpose.

    The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an 
amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the 
following principles:
    (a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service 
to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, 
particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
    (b) Continuation and extension of the amateur's proven ability to 
contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
    (c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through 
rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and 
technical phases of the art.
    (d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio 
service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
    (e) Continuation and extension of the amateur's unique ability to 
enhance international goodwill.

To me, the experience as WebMaster of my site, http://www.mathart.com, (1994-1996) had many similarities to what I imagine of the early days of amateur radio.

I believe I was contributing to the advancement of the art of the Internet -- as validated by the invitation I received to present a paper on my work at the bi-annual conference of the Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts (ISEA) in 1996.

I believe Webmasters are skilled technicians who bear strong resemblance to certain types of radio operators. Internet operators serve their community in time of emergency, as I recall during the Northridge Earthquake of 1994. I know that Internet operators and Webmasters routinely foster International goodwill.

The airwaves are a publicly-held resource. The FCC has permanently allocated a portion of this resource specifically and exclusively for Amateur Radio.

Municipal wiring is a resource having right-of-way over private lands via public easement. The FCC also has provided for public access to this resource.

City governments have regulatory authority over local cable television system franchises.

"Under Section 611 of the Communications Act, local franchising authorities may require cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational or governmental (PEG) use."
I believe such public access provisions are in principle applicable to the Internet and other new broadband services delivered by wire as well.

Whereas I recognize from experience that Internet-based businesses are difficult to start -- and certainly no additional burden should be placed upon Internet-based businesses -- some provisions should be made for promoting the creation of unique Internet-based content which could not be created through commercial means.

With the number of total computers on-line in the millions, critical mass can be achieved which amplifies effort in a coordinated collaboration. Such a model is hitherto unknown and unlike traditional business models.

I believe that, while a proposal for Universal Access to Broadband should be based upon fiscal responsibility and sound business principles, it should also strive to give the benefit to our community that Amateur Internet operators can provide.