Once public and private spaces are distinguished from each other they can begin to play complementary roles in urban life; a well-organized city needs both. 32 And so it is in cyberspace. At the very least, this means that some part of our emerging electronic habitat should be set aside for public uses-just as city planners have traditionally designated land for public squares, parks, and civic institutions. Public pressure for this grew in the 1990s as the importance of cyberspace became increasingly clear. In 1994, for example, Senator Inouye of Hawaii introduced to the US Senate a bill that would reserve 20 percent of all new telecommunication capacity for free, public uses (noncommercial educational and informational services and civic discourse) and would provide funding for those uses. 33
But urban public space is not merely un-private-what's left over when everyone walls off their private domains. A space is genuinely public, as Kevin Lynch once pointed out, only to the extent that it really is openly accessible and welcoming to members of the community that it serves. 34 It must also allow users considerable freedom of assembly and action. And there must be some kind of public control of its use and its transformation over time. The same goes for public cyberspace, so creators and maintainers of public, semipublic, and pseudopublic parts of the online world-like the makers of city squares, public parks, office building lobbies, shopping mall atriums, and Disneyland Main Streets-must consider who gets in and who gets excluded, what can and cannot be done there, whose norms are enforced, and who exerts control. These questions, like the complementary ones of privacy and encryption, have become the foci of crucial policy debates.
The Internet and commercial online services like America Online and Compuserve have to date provided only semipublic cyberspace at best, since they are widely but not universally accessible; you have to belong to a subscribing organization or have to pay to get in. This begs the question of how truly public cyberspace-the equivalent, say, of the Piazza San Marco in Venice-might be constructed. The community networks that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s-Santa Monica Public Electronic Network, Blacksburg Electronic Village, Telluride InfoZone, Smart Valley, and Cambridge Civic Network, for examplesought answers by trying to make network access openly available to entire communities in the same way that city hall and the local public parks traditionally have been. 35
Many of these community networks are structured as so-called free-nets, in which a "city" metaphor is explicitly used to structure information access: you go to the appropriate "building" to find the information or services that you want. Thus the "welcome" screen of the Cleveland Free-Net (one of the oldest and largest, with more than 35,000 registered users and over 10,000 log-ins per day) presents the following quotidian directory:
1. The Administration Building2. The Post Office3. Public Square4. The Courthouse and Government Center5. The Arts Building6. Science and Technology Center7. The Medical Arts Building8. The Schoolhouse (Academy One)9. The Community Center and Recreation Area10. The Business and Industrial Park11. The Library12. University Circle13. The Teleport14. The Communications Center15. NPTN/USA Today Headline News
On the free-net model, then, the new, virtual city becomes a kind of electronic shadow of the existing physical one. In many (though not all) cases, a citizen can choose between going to an actual public building or to the corresponding virtual one.