Cable users could lose channels with digital switch

Catherine Welch, All Things Considered

Broadcasters across the country will finally kill their analog television signals on June 12 and broadcast only in digital. For a little more than a year, local television stations have been educating their viewers about the DTV switch. And so have cable companies, which have been flooding mailboxes with fliers assuring subscribers they have no reason to worry.

But that may not be entirely true.

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House votes to extend deadline for webcasting settlement

Andrew Noyes, National Journal

The House on Tuesday passed legislation under suspension of the rules that would allow many months of royalty negotiations between the music and Internet industries continue while delaying full implementation of a controversial rate-setting for webcasters imposed by the Copyright Royalty Board.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., with support from Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., and California Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo. Suspension of the rules requires that legislation clear the House with no amendments and at least a two-thirds majority.

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Net neutrality gains political traction

Seattle Times

The fight to maintain free and open access to the Internet has gained political strength, including a recent boost from President Obama.

Free and open access to the Internet helped the technology grow and thrive. The political fight to maintain robust access for all has picked up strength in Washington, D.C. That is good news for consumers.

The shorthand for the field of battle is net neutrality. Proponents argue that a network provider should not restrict users for reasons against their interests, such as to deny them the right to use certain services because those services are owned by somebody else.

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FCC: Net neutrality important for rural residents

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

The U.S. must preserve an open Internet in order to bring the full benefit of broadband to rural areas of the U.S., a Federal Communications Commission report on rural broadband said.

Without net neutrality protections, broadband users won't see as much innovation as possible on the Internet, said the report, released Wednesday by FCC acting Chairman Michael Copps.

"The ... network effects of ubiquitous broadband will not be realized if consumers are all constrained by careful bundling, packaging, and discriminatory practices that whittle away the end-to-end structure of the public Internet," the report said. "'Openness'" is not just another bromide, but a principle we must tenaciously preserve. The value of open networks is not a novel concept, but the Commission must act to ensure that the genius of the open Internet is not lost."

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Telecoms win dismissal of wiretap suits

Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out more than three dozen lawsuits claiming that the nation’s major telecommunications companies had illegally assisted in the wiretapping without warrants program approved by President George W. Bush after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court in Northern California said that although consumer and privacy groups raised important constitutional issues in their claims, Congress had left no doubt about its “unequivocal intention” when it passed a measure last summer giving immunity to phone carriers in the wiretapping program.

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The FCC's new deal for rural Internet

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

The first thing that stands out as you peruse the Federal Communications Commission's latest report on rural broadband is that it reads like it was actually written by somebody.

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FCC order upheld, could mean more broadband choices

Wendy Davis, Daily Online Examiner

It's no secret that broadband in the U.S. is slower and more expensive than in other countries -- and that's when it's available at all. Some rural residents lack high-speed Internet access altogether, or must purchase satellite service from companies like HughesNet, which was just sued last week for allegedly delivering sub-par speeds.

Even urban residents don't have all that many choices. Many have just two realistic options -- cable modem service or relatively slower DSL service.

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Obama adviser eyes government-built broadband system

David Hatch, Congress Daily

Officials have released an historic government plan to spend tens of billions of dollars constructing a nationwide, state-of-the-art broadband network featuring speeds 100 times faster than today's technology.

The new infrastructure would reach every citizen, delivering affordable connections at taxpayer-subsidized rates, boosting access to education and telemedicine. Proponents promise myriad opportunities for online businesses and enhancements to energy efficiency, media distribution and public safety.

Haven't heard about this yet? That's because the announcement was made last month in Australia.

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ISPs shouldn't stop the next Google from getting out of the garage

Cory Doctorow, The Guardian

If politicians want to effect economic recovery, national competitiveness, good public health and high civic engagement, they have a duty to keep the internet free and open. But politicians around the world seem willing to sacrifice their national interest to keep a few powerful phone and telcoms companies happy.

Take the Telcoms Package now before the EU: among other things, the package paves the way for ISPs and Quangos to block or slow access to websites and services on an arbitrary basis. At the same time, ISPs are instituting and enforcing strict bandwidth limits on their customers, citing shocking statistics about the bandwidth hogs who consume vastly more resources than the average punter.

Between filtering, fiddling connection speeds and capping usage, ISPs are pulling the rug out from under the nations that have sustained them with generous subsidies and regulation.

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Government delays broadband grants

Stacey Higinbotham, GigaOM

One of the federal agencies responsible for administering $4.7 billion in broadband stimulus grants has quietly delayed its plans to approve and distribute money under its program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration late last week issued a statement noting that it will accept grant applications in September and aims to distribute its first grants in December.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey