Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Resistance to the Wired City

For no reason other than this amazes me. Something I came across researching something completely different. From the introductory paragraph of “Resistance to the Wired City” by Harold J. Barnett:
A major innovation in mass communications is in prospect for developed nations. This is the “wired city.” Many television programs plus hundred of voice and data services can be carried to homes on a wire. The cost of transmission is small. The variety of services is large. They include entertainment, education and other public services…….

But it is charged that the wired city is a dangerous innovation. Arguments are made that rural areas would lose their television service entirely and cities their free TV; that wire monopolies would inevitably arise, and that local governments and advertising excesses would reduce and corrupt television service...
The year that was published: 1972! Original monograph from 1970. Chapter 1 of Spatial, Regional and Population Economics. Essays in Honor of Edgar M. Hoover. Gordon and Breach, 1972.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Community Antenna TV (CATV) actually started taking off way back in 1948-52, when the FCC instituted a freeze on new television licenses. And not surprisingly, a lot of the early 1950s systems were in Pennsylvania, where reception down in the valleys was often poor.

1972 was when the FCC lifted the ban on CATV in large cities. I'm guessing that well-anticipated move is what inspired that article.

Incidentally, I personally think it is quite funny to see speculation that cable transmission would "corrupt" AND "reduce" media services. I could see "corrupt," at least if you meant that in a moral sense. But conversely, no force has done more to reduce available electronic media content than the FCC trying to control what people might see.

CATV helped undermine those efforts quite a bit, and then the Internet, with some help from the Supreme Court, shattered them. But as the relevant Supreme Court doctrine evolved, it actually ended up being crucial that it was wires and not radio waves being used for transmission. Silly as it may sound, the Supreme Court has essentially adopted the view that radio waves full of smut passing through your house is an intrusion, but not if you get it through a wire.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 2:01:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

The distinction is contigent on history, but hardly absurb. The airways are a public resource. The wire is a private (or can be private) resource that you must take a positive step to access.

Also, I don't think that is what they meant by "reduce and corrupt television service" in 1972, at least not the whole of it. Signal quality was an issue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 3:43:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

It is interesting that the various technologies advance, but some concepts don't change. I remember being surprised, back when a 14.4k modem was state of the art, that my dad understood the term "bandwidth" when he'd never been on the internet. It took me a minute to realize that they'd probably used the same word since Marconi and that the term worked more literally for radio.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 6:39:00 PM  

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