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The Physical Layer

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(The) central question is whether there will, or will not, be a core common 
infrastructure that is governed as a commons and therefore available to 
anyone who wishes to participate in the networked information environment 
outside of the market-based, proprietary framework.
Benkler, 2006, p. 23

The Physical Layer concerns the actual infrastructure that comprises the network. It is the layer over which data is transmitted, and is predominantly hardware-based.

This layer is comprised of both the devices used in the production and communication of information and the channels used in its transmission. The notion of user freedom in the networked environment centres around the fact that general-purpose computers can be used for whatever their owners want them to be used for, unlike special purpose terminals that display more limited functionality (Benkler, ibid).

The physical layer is not fundamentally based around openness. Like each of these layers, there is a blend of ownership and openness, with the tilt towards openness being a fundamental characteristic of the Internet rather than with the proprietary information or communications networks that largely preceded it. This layer is the least open of the four in our model, as the wires and cables connecting networks are mostly owned by private sector organisations, the airwaves of the wireless spectrum regulated by governments, and devices at the end of network nodes mostly owned by private individuals or organisations.

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Openness at the Physical Layer

Following are ten recommendations for maintaining openness at the Physical Layer, including for policymakers, network engineers, device manufacturers, technology companies, and others operating at an infrastructural level:

  1. Require ISPs to comply with the needs of 'common carriage' (Meinrath & Pickard, 2008)
  2. Maintain 'end-to-end' design principle of network architecture (Meinrath & Pickard, 2008, Kapur, 2005)
  3. Allow greater access to unlicensed radio spectrum bands (Lessig, 2001)
  4. Set aside significant bands of the radio spectrum as a commons, at each spectrum level (Lessig, 2001)
  5. Set aside state funding for basic network infrastructure, such as 'dark fiber' (Lessig, 2001)
  6. Enable current spectrum holders to sell their leaseholds (Lessig, 2001)
  7. Resolve 'last mile' bottlenecks by running fibre to wireless broadcasting stations for beaming Internet service to users (Lessig, 2001)
  8. Reconfigure the Internet's 'experimentalist architecture' to reflect its now mainstream status (Zittrain, 2008)
  9. Take a 'technology neutral' approach to enabling new technologies to connect with the Internet, as long as they adhere to core standards and protocols Kapur, 2005)
  10. Execute the implementation of free public ICT access points for all (Fuchs, 2008)
  11. …?
  12. …?
  13. …?
  14. …?
  15. …?

What else could be done to keep the Physical Layer open?

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physical_layer.txt · Last modified: 2018/02/16 12:46 (external edit)