Right now, the proprietary view holds absolute power. This is partly because open source is not organized. In fact, many with an open source view see what they’re doing as merely "good business" and firmly reject its political implications.
At the Freedom2Connect Conference in Silver Spring this reticence was on prominent display. The technical experts who supported the open source view hoped that "competition" — maybe from WiFi and WiMax — might suffice to get them the network neutrality they sought. In fact, most wound up rejecting the network neutrality language being debated as part of the Barton Telecom bill.
Thus, it was a shock for them to wake up this week and find that the Movement had taken off without them. The issue of network neutrality had hit the mass media, without them. And, except for a few exceptions of right-wing grassroots organizations that have become dependent on e-mail, the activism here was coming entirely from the Left.
This means the proposal will go down. Anything with a Democratic label is going down this year.
But it also gives Democrats — especially Netroots Democrats — another issue (as though they need one) that can win even some business support.
And that’s the point. Open source, as a political wedge, is useful in siphoning business support from the GOP.
That’s because all forms of open source — open source software, open spectrum, and network neutrality — make sound business sense. More and more businesses are endorsing them. Sun Microsystems is merely the latest. But all companies that have succeeded on the backs of the Internet — Google, Amazon, eBay — are in the same boat. So is Intel, which has hitched its future to unlicensed wireless. None of these companies wants to be partisan in any way, but they are going to find (like it or not) that they are being steadily pushed into the Democratic camp.
That’s because their business opponents, seeing themselves increasingly hemmed-in, have essentially turned to Washington for relief. And Republicans, seeing big campaign cash as the only way to prevent a Democratic sweep, are ready to give them whatever they want. Right now, for instance, an even-stupider DMCA bill is in the works. Republicans may decide to sell all the abandoned TV spectrum to the highest bidders, and give none of it to unlicensed use. And of course U.S. trade policy is all for enforcing Microsoft copyrights.
New Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’ (above) most recent blog entry is titled The Brazilian Effect. It’s all about the opportunities open source has for Brazil, how Sun’s business strategy endorses those changes, and about the threats to it from a proprietary world:
Click over to see what he wrote:
But the rollout of digital TV, and the internet itself, is threatened
in Brazil by licensing authorities and patent holders, who are holding
Brazil, and every other developing nation, hostage to royalty claims
and licensing fees. Claiming that open source software isn’t safe (it
is, we indemnify our open source customers just like we did when our
software was closed source), or that the foundation technologies will
obligate Brazil to pay extraordinary royalties for each citizen or
citizen access (not true, either).
Those threats are simple – patent holders (who have names very
familiar in the IT world) and licensing authorities (sponsored by the
same companies) are impeding the rollout of the network to developing
nations. We were there to present an alternative, as we’re doing across
the world. Presenting those alternatives to drive progress,
transparency, and ultimately demand for what we build.
These are political statements. They oppose U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Yes, they are written in the context of Sun’s own business strategy, and its plans for future business growth. But they are political nonetheless.
Open source companies, competitive wireless companies, and Internet companies all represent tremendous targets of opportunity for a new Democratic Majority. They are absolutely right on the business trends, politicians are fighting those trends, and American competitiveness depends on matching our policies to economic reality.
This is the business support that will push Democrats over the top, and these are the issues that will do it as well.