FC: Ex-PBS and FCC chiefs want $18 billion new agency, WSJ says

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 23:22:29 PDT

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    I'm not sure why this below article is news. The Grossman-Minow duo were 
    highlighted in Gary Chapman's now-discontinued LA Times column on May 5. 
    Chapman reported the pair are eager to launch a new federal bureaucracy, a 
    "Digital Opportunity Investment Trust, a public agency modeled on the 
    National Science Foundation." It'll be paid for with $18 billion in 
    spectrum auctions -- money that could have given every American family 
    perhaps $100-$200 in tax rebates instead.
    Chapman laments that "new developments in online business are creating a 
    heightened sense of urgency because many Web-based companies are starting 
    to explore 'pay-per-view' or subscription-based fees to maximize the value 
    of their intellectual property."
    Well, yes. Advertising is in the toilet, so companies are choosing to sell 
    content as an alternative to going out of business. Salon is a perfect 
    example, and plenty of news articles have described how other formerly-free 
    services are trending toward pay services. This is not a pernicious 
    development; in fact it has advantages. On pay services, we won't see as 
    many ads.
    As for this new federal agency, who needs it? There already are more 
    "public spaces" on the Net than content to fill them -- I daresay Grossman 
    and Minow have never been on Usenet -- and setting up a web server with a 
    large hard drive is hardly expensive. If people really want content online, 
    the market will respond by producing it. We don't have $18 billion federal 
    book, magazine or newspaper projects, but somehow we see splendid writing 
    I talked about this at greater length instead of in midnight-rant form in 
    my testimony last year before the Democracy Online Project:
    Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of PBS, and Newton Minow, former FCC 
    chief, have proposed what they call a Digital Opportunity Investment Trust, 
    which would be a federally chartered agency along the lines of the National 
    Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health. The goal would be 
    public funding of online content, focusing on educational and civic uses of 
    digital technology. The money ($18 billion), which the backers suggest 
    could be taken from spectrum auction revenues, would be used to help build 
    worthwhile places to visit in cyberspace: "You could have a virtual solar 
    system, a 3D model of the human body or a recreation of Mark Twain's 
    America," says Grossman. Minow compares his Digital Promise Project's 
    approach to the 19th-century legislation that created land-grant colleges. 
    "There's an opportunity to do that again," he says. (Wall Street Journal 23 
    Jul 2001)
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