...that cost makes the whole ecosystem viable. Yes, the free software community/ecosystem would exist regardless, but it would not be running nearly as much of the world's IT infrastructure, as is the case now.
The exact relationship between cost and the internet is yet to be worked out. I hope some brilliant economist does some research into what effects zero-cost distribution and copying have had on the software industry. My entire argument rests on the assumption that this drives cost downward, and this downward price pressure makes the open source ecosystem viable. This is usually the point at which I begin to argue with staunch open source proponents, who insist that a core community drives open source. My opinion is that they are trying to assert that the tail wags the dog.