While Cox Communications can make rate decisions in a private conference room several states away, Lafayette conducts its business in an open forum, as it should. While Cox can make repeated and periodic requests for documents under the Public Records Law, it is not subject to a corresponding obligation – a “show me your plans, but don’t dare ask to see mine” mentality. Louisiana law limits the ability of a governmental enterprise to advertise, but nothing prevents the incumbent providers from spending millions of dollars in advertising campaigns. An important focal point of the legal challenges involved the right or ability of Lafayette to pledge assets of the utilities system as security for the bonds, something that the private corporations do all of the time without the slightest scrutiny. To be sure, the “playing field is not level,” but it is the government which is disadvantaged, not the private companies.
The Urge to Create
A recent Wired article reminded me of the first time a friend tipped me off to the then-new Red vs. Blue videos (beware salty language, adult themes). At the time, I found it hilarious and didn't give a thought to it ever being called "The Future of TV."
Now called "machinima," it has exploded among video game enthusiasts and reminds me of just how much people like to create their own content. The big cable and telephone companies want us to believe that our upstream connections should be much slower than our downstream, encouraging us to consume content rather than creating it.
It did not take long after giving people video games that they wanted to create their own levels and share them. Even before there was a place to easily host video, people were writing scripts to turn a video game into a sitcom and sharing it. From the Wired article:
“It’s part of a larger cultural shift in gaming,” Jones says. “This generation doesn’t watch television in the same way. They want to create. We’re giving them something that television isn’t.”
The Machinima videos have collectively surpassed 2.5 billion views. That is a lot of consumption, but it wouldn't have been possible without a mechanism for some creative folks to easily share their new idea.
We need robust connections in both downstream and upstream to make the most of the Internet. The only reason to limit the upstream is to enforce consumer behavior, which diminishes us all.