Shirky: Customer-owned Networks and ZapMail

Clay Shirky writes about the idea of customer-owned networks. He uses fax machines as an example.

“If the economics of internet connectivity lets the user rather than the network operator capture the residual value of the network, the economics likewise suggest that the user should be the builder and owner of the network infrastructure.

The creation of the fax network was the first time this happened, but it won’t be the last. WiFi hubs and VoIP adapters allow the users to build out the edges of the network without needing to ask the phone companies for either help or permission. Thanks to the move from analog to digital networks, the telephone companies’ most significant competition is now their customers, because if the customer can buy a simple device that makes wireless connectivity or IP phone calls possible, then anything the phone companies offer by way of competition is nothing more than the latest version of ZapMail. “