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Digital DepressionInformation Technology and Economic Crisis$

Dan Schiller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038761

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038761.001.0001

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The Historical Run-Up

The Historical Run-Up

Chapter:
(p.73) Chapter 5 The Historical Run-Up
Source:
Digital Depression
Author(s):

Dan Schiller

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252038761.003.0005

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines recent historical trends to better understand how the massive restructuring of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector sparked a shift into networks in capitalist development. Profound technical and institutional changes in the ICT industry, which lies at the epicenter of an emerging digital capitalism, caused commodity chains that had seemed stable to buckle and recompose. The result was not uniform growth but ragged unevenness: expansionary dynamism alongside devastation. This chapter discusses how communications and information processing became the largest sectoral source of demand for ICTs and whether this major axis of change around computer networks revived the growth prospects of the wider political economy. It also considers a series of developments that radically enlarged the interoperable internet during the late 1980s and 1990s.

Keywords:   information technology, networks, digital capitalism, commodity chains, communications, information processing, computer networks, political economy, internet

Wide-ranging changes in production, finance, and military spending drew impetus from capital’s response to the crisis of the 1970s; across this span, corporate profit strategies were renovated around networks’ ever-increasing capacity for connectivity and dispersed collaboration. “This was not the first time that overproduction and competition engendered efforts by elites to rejuvenate the market system,” I wrote in 1999, “but the pivotal role accorded to information and communications as a solution was unprecedented.”1 A fourth vector of structural transformation may be glimpsed at the epicenter of an emerging digital capitalism: the communications industry.

Violent technical and institutional changes convulsed the communications industry such that commodity chains that had seemed stable buckled and recomposed. The result was not uniform growth, furthermore, but ragged unevenness: expansionary dynamism alongside devastation. Even amid this maelstrom, however, long-entrenched institutional priorities continued to operate and, indeed, to predominate. The existing system was ripped apart and rebuilt—so that it could enlarge and intensify what it had traditionally achieved. To apprehend this complex movement again requires that we begin by revisiting recent historical trends.

By the 1970s the United States possessed the world’s most elaborate consumer communications industry. Its institutional mission was well-defined: (p.74) Communications formed a cornerstone of the market-building processes that, beginning in the late nineteenth century, reoriented U.S. consumption toward production of nationally branded commodities by giant corporations. Two distinct profit strategies underlay successive cycles of media development, from national magazines and telephone service to musical recordings, radio, and television: providing services funded out of advertising sales to businesses and, alternatively, through direct sales or rentals to consumers. The commercial success of these distinct routes to profit also rested on longstanding government largesse, from monopoly copyrights and patents to rights of way and electromagnetic spectrum grants. Less tangible, but likewise essential, was quite a different input: the uncompensated human activity—in fact, the labor2—needed to read books and newspapers, listen to radio and recordings, make telephone calls, and watch films and television shows.

Often a springboard into new territories of profit, in Gary Fields’s term,3 the communications industry’s special role in responding to the crisis of the 1970s was to support and enable the wider “fix” through which capital sought to renew the accumulation process. Popular habits of communication underwent spasmodic changes, in keeping with a period marked by metamorphic policy reversals, technological breakthroughs, investment surges, and transnationalization and business diversification. The companies that had ruled discrete fields—from television to telephone service and from musical recording to news—destabilized, but profit-seeking recolonized an enlarged terrain of communications system development.

This process was neither self-starting nor automatic. Market building in communications was a complex, historical process, playing out not over a month or a year but across decades. Beginning during the late 1960s, the transformation of communications was predicated on a radical and sustained revamp of state policy. Nowhere more than in communications and information, as I underlined in part I, was the process singled out by Vijay Prashad more in evidence—whereby “the U.S. government authorized a major assault on its own economy, to reshape it, to follow the axiom of the German sociologist Werner Sombart, so that ‘from destruction a new spirit of creation arises.’”4

The U.S. government turned communications into a massive and many-sided construction site whose chief architect was capital. Elsewhere I have detailed how a complex process of accelerated commodification came to grip communications, information, and culture.5 Simply put, the state granted to capital a sweeping warrant to enlarge the sphere of commercial, profit-maximizing endeavor, even at the cost of uprooting existing practice and breaking up entrenched commodity chains. Capital became authorized to encroach (p.75) upon nonproprietary or common practices of provision, built and operated using public funds, while the state validated these incursions by strengthening capital’s private property rights in information and culture. David Harvey calls this category of political-economic transformation—which possesses a long-standing historical importance—“accumulation by dispossession.”6 Network infrastructures were overhauled to enable a great widening and deepening of connectivity, not only as a reflex of technological breakthroughs but, again, through policy changes that chewed through this infrastructure’s institutional foundations.

At the outset and into the late 1970s it seemed that a pair of long-established, giant U.S. businesses would spearhead whatever changes might be required to modernize networks. AT&T and IBM possessed near-monopolies in the specialized industries at the center of the vortex: telecommunications and corporate computing. Would they not simply leverage their longstanding power to take over markets for computer communications as they emerged? Many thought they would7—including Brazil, France, and Japan. A top-level French report provided support for policymakers as they tried to repel these two U.S. titans’ incursions in “telematics,”8 or computer communications.

Quite apart from this prospective movement around AT&T and IBM, however, other large companies also were rushing into computer communications markets, both as suppliers and as major network users. Among the former were Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Citicorp, and Sears, each of which bought into networking systems and services.9 Motives were disparate: Citicorp packaged financial services and advanced network access into lucrative bundles. Sears partnered with IBM and CBS in an early commercial videotex venture. Exxon got into sales of office equipment. General Motors, as we saw, purchased EDS and started marketing computer services. GE took over military electronics contractor and broadcast network owner RCA. That none of these ventures fully succeeded was less crucial than, as we will see, that on the corporate user side communications markets continued to widen and diversify.

Fresh product and service markets, as they formed, also shifted the ground. I have covered the industrial aspect of this change in other works; here I foreground its consumer dimensions. Lucrative businesses took shape around sales and rentals of new media—videotapes, CDs, and DVDs—and around the playback systems needed to use them. Commodity chains extended as the labor employed to assemble these devices was mobilized by capital, not only in the United States but also in Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Taiwan.10 Other entrants appeared at the distribution or retail end of existing media businesses, altering the terms of trade. Book publishers, for example, met pressure as they (p.76) faced off against chain booksellers led by Barnes and Noble, as well as Wal-Mart, which marketed a growing share of their product. The music industry enjoyed the same kind of love-hate relation with concentrating sales channels via Tower Records and Wal-Mart, while Ticketmaster emerged as a force in the concert business. Hollywood film and TV program package companies found fresh avenues to the consumer via Blockbuster in video rentals and, again, Wal-Mart for DVDs. Specialized big-box electronics stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City—and, yet again, Wal-Mart—took a commanding role in retailing electronics hardware. Video games erupted onto the scene, served by specialized players and both arcade and packaged software products. Cable and satellite television systems began to supplant free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters in the distribution of programming; and program suppliers built new market “windows” both for ad-supported and premium television networks in news, drama, and sports, as local systems became linked by satellite, to sell monthly access to bundles of both existing and new networks. On behalf of big advertisers, cable networks joined consumer magazines and direct mail as leading agents of audience segmentation and targeting.

Communications market leaders did not sit passively as these changes hurtled through their businesses. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they embarked on massive conglomeration11 and transnationalization.12 With active government support, long-discrete media, from book publishing and film making to television, were united (or at least assembled) into sprawling multimedia corporations. Likewise flouting prior policies, government agencies permitted several non-U.S. companies to swallow substantial U.S. properties in this politically delicate business: Fox and Sony and Seagram and Matsushita and Bertelsmann. Others, notably Atari and Nintendo and Sony, carved out positions in the swelling market for video game consoles and games.13 The U.S. market and the companies that ruled it reciprocally established a fulcrum for stepped-up transnationalization of the communications industry.14

Within each market segment top communications companies, like their peers in other industries, busied themselves with raising barriers to entry by would-be rivals. Nevertheless, as we now know, their continual mergers and other competition-reducing maneuvers did not coalesce in a smooth movement toward oligopoly: the leading units of capital in communications instead were destabilized in the cauldron of digitization. What happened? What accounts for this extraordinary change of state?

Three cumulating factors were responsible. A first push against the existing firmament stemmed from political and regulatory policy changes beginning around 1970: computer communications networks were freed to develop at a distance from the existing centers of market power, while adjacent zones of (p.77) rapid commodification were authorized. A second propelling force carried forward, as growing pools of investment channeled into disproportionately profitable network systems and media and information services.15 A third source of destabilization appeared as the complex system we know as the World Wide Web unexpectedly constituted an increasingly general platform for restructuring communications commodity chains.

In sharp contrast to the conventional wisdom, as I have underlined elsewhere,16 the U.S. government intervened to restrict the domains over which the nation’s monopoly network operator and its dominant computer vendor respectively reigned. Placed on the defensive as a result of this policy were both AT&T and IBM. Facing antitrust pressure, the long-transnational IBM was compelled to accommodate previously negligible independent suppliers of software. (A decade later, the computer giant fatefully compounded its misfortune by contracting out to independent suppliers not only the operating system software but also the microelectronic circuits needed for a quick rollout of what became the market-leading line of personal computers.) On the other side, AT&T, which had been focused on the domestic U.S. market since the 1920s, was forced to cede room to high-tech interlopers by insistent market-opening actions taken by the Executive Branch and by its immediate regulator, the Federal Communications Commission. A protracted Justice Department antitrust suit actually broke up the company in 1982.

Under the watchwords of “deregulation” and “liberalization,” government decision makers opened multifarious opportunities for investment in information-processing equipment and software. Federal regulators and antitrust officials cleared the way for a high-tech networking industry to grow. Public service strictures that had shaped the nation’s core network—accountability and nondiscrimination—were relaxed or observed in the breach. The accumulation function now instead was assigned growing priority. Thronging into the market were specialized suppliers of local-area computer networks, satellites, microwave equipment, voice messaging systems, and related instrumentation.17 An increasing proportion of this network gear was produced by computer companies, rather than by AT&T’s captive unit Western Electric or other telecommunications suppliers; and this equipment was purchased not only by monopsonistic telecom operators but also by noncarrier businesses to build their own “enterprise” networks. These changes moved quickly from the edges to the center of the U.S. domestic market; from there, corporations and state agencies projected them outward to the world.

Dynamic emerging industries bored into the existing firmament of communications. Throughout the final quarter of the twentieth century the personal computer became a pivot of market reorganization and cultural habit. Desktop (p.78) machines were gradually altered to add processing power and storage capacity, to permit portable use, and to assimilate at least some kinds of media content—notably, games. Microsoft and Intel seized a disproportionate share of the profits in this segment, though IBM and several PC-compatible manufacturers (as well as the much smaller Apple) dominated sales of the final product. Prepackaged software from Microsoft—DOS and Word—still left significant applications open to outside software companies such as Lotus.18 The PC established what Zittrain rhapsodized was a “generative” platform for product development: a relatively open and inclusive means for profit-making endeavors.19 Local-area networks sprang up throughout corporate America to make more efficient use of desktop computers.20

As capital investment in networking advanced between the later 1970s and the early 1990s, multifarious projects concentrated an increasingly formidable industry in data communications. However, both nationally and internationally, and in local and wide-area network environments, disparate and typically rival technical approaches proliferated. Beginning in 1976, an influential standard called X.25 was promulgated by European and other government ministries of communications, with the idea that specialized data networks should be developed nationally under central state auspices, and internationally via cooperation by states within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The United States, boasting by far the largest national market for computer networking, adopted a quite different course. Some U.S. companies embraced the state-centric standard X.25 in their own networks; some rolled out proprietary systems (IBM’s was the most important, but there were several); and some corporate and university military contractors based their networks on the initial internet standards developed during the mid-1970s (TCP/IP). “Managers of large computer installations,” observes Janet Abbate, “tended to want protocols that would put control of network performance in their own hands” rather than in the hands of the government ministries looking to limit the scope of such proprietary data networks.21 They found support from the U.S. government. The United States lobbied intensively at the 1988 World Administrative Telegraph and Telephone Conference convened by the ITU and, as Richard Hill explains, the ITU “was greatly influenced by the increasingly strong trend towards privatization, liberalization and convergence of services.”22 For the first time, as the U.S. delegation to the conference preferred, “private operators were explicitly allowed to use leased lines to provide services, including data services.”23 The United States then added momentum behind the internet standard when it opened state-supported internet backbone facilities to commercial use and then fully privatized them during the early 1990s. (p.79) Corporate users thronged to implement “open” internet standards within and among their subsidiary units as they accelerated their attempts to mesh what had been disparate networks.24 (For years thereafter, though, as James Cortada explains, many companies also continued to operate data communications networks apart from the internet.25)

On the supply side, through a fifteen-year merger movement, a pair of large network operators—Verizon and a recreated AT&T—added internet backbone and retail services to their offerings; Sprint, Century Link, T-Mobile, and smaller carriers operated in their shadow. That same process enabled AT&T and Verizon to extend, enlarge, and modernize their transnational networks. On the demand side, they served transnational corporate network users based in banking and manufacturing, retailing, energy, and agribusiness. These users built out more or less extensive data centers and network links, and contracted with the large commercial carriers to integrate their proprietary systems with the carriers’ more encompassing infrastructures.

Meanwhile, in adjacent markets, related vectors of commodification destabilized existing arrangements and again led on to giantism. In the United States, regulators’ change of heart—to favor new modes of television via paid subscription through both cable and then satellite systems—intruded on existing television commodity chains. Free-to-air television remained a protected market, but, like their rivals Comcast and DirecTV, owners of broadcast stations and networks diversified so that television service suppliers could capture not only advertising sales but also subscriber fees. Worldwide, by 2012, more than 800 million subscribers paid for television;26 in the United States, something like 85 percent of television subscribers did so.27 Likewise in the consumer market, America Online, CompuServe, and Prodigy offered non-interconnecting dialup services for online access to email and to proprietary content for which they had contracted with outside vendors. Computer network development was framed, correspondingly, by two influential metaphors: the “information superhighway,” most famously associated with Al Gore from around 1990; and a “five-hundred-channel world,” a term used by cable TV baron John Malone in 1992.28 The two metaphors, rooted in private mobility and commercial television, rooted the emerging services in an engineered finitude, though superhighways and five-hundred-channel systems still promised tantalizing market growth. Few at the time understood that the “walled gardens” run by commercial services like AOL were simply too small to accommodate the grandiose ambitions of emerging internet companies. Even as internet services began to proliferate around them, cable television and commercial online companies believed that they possessed an unmatched purchase.

(p.80) Industry leaders’ self-confidence was ingrained yet understandable. New technology, they believed, would be introduced only to the extent that it complemented their preferred profit strategies, as indeed had been demonstrated in different ways before—around television, color television, compact discs, and videocassettes. Their multimedia conglomerates, they thought, would assimilate profitably whichever technological options they decided on and would discard or marginalize others. Spurred by a fear that it might otherwise be sidelined from participating in a grandly lucrative market, Time-Warner adhered to this logic as late as 2000 and thereby committed what soon proved to be one of the costliest errors in world business history: it allowed itself to be taken over by the highflying AOL, a company whose valuation had been hugely boosted by speculative investment and whose proprietary approach to networking was even then being superannuated.29 But something beyond hubris was also involved: the citadels of the communications industry were not well positioned to foresee how the internet would tear across the mediascape.

What we call “the internet” did not storm the world fully fledged. Considerable momentum had already built up around internal corporate networks using the internet protocol throughout the decade prior to the release of the Web, and specialized networking equipment vendors such as 3Com and Sun enjoyed rapid growth.30 Within a compressed interval, during the late 1980s and 1990s, a series of further developments radically enlarged the interoperable internet: building up under the auspices of the National Science Foundation—and then privatizing—a rapidly growing internet backbone based disproportionately in the United States; abandoning the noncommercial use policy that had enabled the early growth of this internationally interoperable system; inventing the World Wide Web and distributing it as freely available software; institutionalizing the coordination and management of critical internet resources—addresses and network identifiers—not only for the U.S. market but also extraterritorially; and publicly releasing the Mosaic web browser: these were among the vital innovations. Not one of these occurred as an immediate reflex of capital’s self-development; all hinged on nonmarket actors including, most fundamentally, the U.S. government. Even midway through the 1990s, the commercial import of these roiling changes was not easy to specify. But a tremendous cycle of investment and commodification pyramided on them.

Additional research on some of these milestones in internet development, and others, is needed. Matthew Crain31 clarifies the origins of the buildup of Web-based advertiser services in the aftermath of the launch of Netscape’s browser. This was itself a complex phenomenon. It was financed by venture capitalists, hedge funds, and investment banks; abetted by closely coordinated (p.81) bursts of promotion, publicity, and rah-rah journalism; and aided by an emphatically supportive U.S. Executive Branch. Thereby established were conditions sufficient to support another surge of incoming capital, rushing into the enlarging communications market to establish first-mover advantages with which to popularize digital services. As the internet and related new media became a site of investment and market experiment, existing commodity chains began to be rerouted—sometimes wrenchingly. The popping of the internet bubble in 1999–2000 punctuated this movement but did not curtail it. The extraordinary result, shaped by government policy changes for corporate-commercial network development, and reliant on huge pools of capital looking for outlets, was to radically destabilize the communications industry while allowing it to be reconstructed on an enlarged foundation.

The rationality of this process of recomposition should not be overstated. It was tempestuous, contingent, sometimes cannibalistic. Filtering through the day-to-day churn of revisionary projects, however, was capital’s sustained effort to appropriate higher profits. Market relations were freed to subsume other forms of provision, as the for-profit communications system was rebuilt around emergent technological potentials and new and refashioned commodities. Connectivity-enabled products and services shifted from scarcity to surplus across an unprecedented and continually widening range. Web services and applications were able to hopscotch across a growing installed base of desktop personal computers, to and from what, before this, had been separate, specialized networks operated by large organizations: universities, government agencies, and corporations. This unexpected bridging introduced potent and (for existing commercial media) intrusive network effects. Existing nodes of market power were disrupted and had to be recreated in different form.

Legal scholar Tim Wu depicts a recurrent phenomenon, whereby monopoly reasserts its prerogatives: challenges to existing communications lead on to the establishment of a new “master switch.”32 In this and similar portrayals, strategies built on first-mover advantages, network effects, significant patents, control over distribution channels, vertical integration, and, not least, state support, allow a handful of market leaders to consolidate. Research by political scientist Matthew Hindman adds fuel to this argument by way of a distinction between barriers to entry and barriers to participation.33 On the internet, the former are set very low; it is a cheap and simple matter to set up a Web site, and millions have done so. But the ability to organize the experience of the Web itself is a different matter. Month by month, barriers to effective market participation have been raised higher. Microsoft’s multifaceted attempt to keep up with Google, industry analysts estimate, costs it upward of $5 billion a year.34 Apple’s competitive move into (p.82) digital mapping—a single application—reputedly costs it between $500 million and $1 billion annually.35

Only a handful of companies are able to play in this league. A masterful account of the Web as monopoly capital-in-the-making, by my colleague Robert McChesney, pivots on the preclusive and antidemocratic power of five companies.36 Permeating Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, however, are the pressures, the drives, the incentives, the limits, and the conforming tendencies of an environing political economy. I emphasize these, rather than monopoly in itself, as I track below the workings of extended, internet-based communications commodity chains.

Previous analysts have employed a well-known engineering reference model for data communications as a “heuristic,”37 and I adopt this usage in the chapters that follow in order to trace the multiple commodity chains that constitute today’s internet: equipment that is needed to operate and access the system, and which is sold to network operators and to business and residential customers; services that are often “given” to users in order to generate audience tracking data about the behavior and flow of users from Web site to Web site—which they use to sell advertising; and applications and content that are sold or rented to users via direct charges and subscriptions.

Notes:

(1.) Dan Schiller, How to Think about Information (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 36.

(2.) For this insight, Dallas W. Smythe, “Communications: Blindspot of Western Marxism,” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 1, no. 3 (Fall 1977): 1–27. For discussion, Dan Schiller, Theorizing Communication: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

(3.) Gary Fields, Territories of Profit: Communications, Capitalist Development, and the Innovative Enterprises of G. F. Swift and Dell Computer (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).

(4.) Vijay Prashad, The Poorer Nations (New York: Verso, 2012), 52.

(6.) David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 137–82.

(7.) This outcome was problematized by Daniel Bell, “The Social Framework of the Information Society,” chapter 9 in The Computer Age: A Twenty-Year View, ed. Michael L. Dertouzos and Joel Moses (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1979).

(p.270) (8.) Pierre Nora and Alain Minc, The Computerization of Society (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980 [1978]).

(9.) Kevin Robins and Frank Webster, “Information as a Social Relation,” Intermedia 8, no. 4 (July 1980), 30.

(10.) Jefferson Cowie, Capital Moves: RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheap Labor (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999); Mari Castañeda, “The Development of the U.S. Advanced Digital Television System, 1987–1997: The Property Creation of New Media,” PhD diss., University of California, San Diego, 2000.

(11.) Jack Banks, Monopoly Television: MTV’s Quest to Control the Music (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996); William M. Kunz, Culture Conglomerates: Consolidation in the Motion Picture and Television Industries (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

(12.) Edward Herman and Robert McChesney, The Global Media (Aldershot: Edward Elgar, 1997).

(13.) Steven Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Greg de Peuter, Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003).

(16.) Dan Schiller, Telematics and Government (Norwood: Ablex, 1982); Dan Schiller, Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999).

(17.) Ronald A. Cass and John Haring, International Trade in Telecommunications (Washington, D.C. / Cambridge, Mass.: AEI Press / MIT Press, 1998), 91–92, 104.

(18.) Martin Campbell-Kelly, From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003).

(19.) Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (New Haven, Conn.: Yale, 2008), 11–18.

(20.) Urs von Burg, The Triumph of Ethernet: Technological Communities and the Battle for the LAN Standard (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001).

(21.) Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999), 159, 160.

(22.) Richard Hill, The New International Telecommunications Regulations and the Internet: A Commentary and Legislative History (Zurich: Schulthess, 2013), 7.

(23.) Hill, New International Telecommunications, 8; William J. Drake, “WATTC 88: Restructuring the International Telecommunications Regulations,” Telecommunications Policy 12, no. 3 (September 1988): 217–33; Peter Cowhey and Jonathan D. Aronson, “The ITU in Transition,” Telecommunications Policy 15, no. 4 (August 1991): 298–310.

(25.) James W. Cortada, Information and the Modern Corporation (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011).

(26.) “IPTV Broadband Penetration Reaches 15 Percent, Growth Prospects are Patchy,” TeleGeography, CommsUpdate, June 20, 2012.

(27.) U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Video Marketplace: Competition is Evolving, and Government Reporting Should Be Re-Evaluated” (GAO-13–576), June 2013, available at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-576 (accessed January 10, 2014).

(p.271) (28.) L. J. Davis, The Billionaire Shell Game (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 150.

(29.) Dan Schiller, “Internet Feeding Frenzy,” Le Monde diplomatique, February 2000, available at http://mondediplo.com/2000/02/02schiller (accessed January 10, 2014); Robert W. McChesney, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet against Democracy (New York: New Press, 2013), 123–24.

(30.) Between 1983 and 1993, the number of interconnecting computer networks leapt from a mere handful to more than ten thousand. Vinton Cerf, “How the Internet Came to Be,” in The Online User’s Encyclopedia, by Bernard Aboba (Boston: Addison-Wesley, 1993), 5. Also see E. Fleischman, Boeing Computer Services, “A Large Corporate User’s View of IPng,” Internet Engineering Task Force Network Working Group RFC 1687, August 1994; and Abbate, Inventing the Internet.

(31.) Matthew Crain, “The Revolution Will Be Commercialized: Finance, Public Policy, and the Construction of Internet Advertising,” PhD diss., University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2013; Matthew Crain, “Financial Markets and Online Advertising: Reevaluating the Dotcom Investment Bubble,” Information, Communications and Society 17, no. 3 (2014): 371–84. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2013.869615 (accessed January 31, 2014).

(32.) Tim Wu, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (New York: Knopf, 2010).

(33.) Matthew Hindman, The Myth of Digital Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

(34.) Steve Lohr, “Can These Guys Make You ’Bing’?” New York Times, Sunday Business, July 31, 2011.

(35.) Quentin Hardy, “Head to Head over Mobile Maps,” New York Times, June 18, 2012.

(36.) McChesney, Digital Disconnect. For similarly focused (though uncritical) arguments, see John Battelle, “The Internet Big Five By Product Strength,” available at http://battellemedia.com/archives/2012/01/the-internet-big-five-by-product-strength.php (accessed January 10, 2014); and Farhad Manjoo, “The Great Tech War of 2012,” Fast Company, October 17, 2011, available at http://www.fastcompany.com/1784824/great-tech-war-2012.

(37.) Sascha D. Meinrath, James W. Losey, and Victor W. Pickard, “Digital Feudalism: Enclosures and Erasures from Digital Rights Management to the Digital Divide,” CommLaw Conspectus 19, no. 2 (2011): 431. Alternative conceptions of what is called the “Internet ecosystem” are offered in Internet Advertising Bureau, Hamilton Consultants, Inc., with Dr. John Deighton and Dr. John Quelch, authors, “Economic Value of the Advertising-Supported Internet Ecoystem” (Cambridge, Mass.: Hamilton Consultants), June 10, 2009, exhibits 1–1, 1–2, 1–3, pp. 10–11, 13, 14.