AT&T pouts following White House comments on net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

AT&T doesn't like the idea of new regulations mandating unfettered access to the Internet, and recent comments from the Obama administration that connected the issue to censorship in China have really gotten under its skin.

The telecom giant responded forcefully this week to remarks by White House deputy chief technology officer Andrew McLaughlin, who said that free speech and network neutrality are "intrinsically linked." Net neutrality rules are being crafted by federal regulators that would restrict Internet service providers such as AT&T from blocking or prioritizing content on the Web.

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Obama tech deputy: Free speech is net-neutrality foreign policy

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

When President Obama told university students in Shanghai last week that he’s a “big supporter of non-censorship,” it took 27 minutes for one major Chinese portal to delete that part of his speech. After two-and-a-half hours, almost all portals in the nation took out the comments from news coverage.

Despite what appeared to be the Chinese government’s clampdown on the controversial issue of online censorship, an explosive exchange about Obama’s support for “open Internet use” surfaced on blogs and on Twitter.

“That is the optimistic part of the story,” said Andrew McLaughlin, the nation’s deputy technology officer, recounting the event.

In a telecom law conference last Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln law school, McLaughlin and Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, talked about how an open Internet, or so-called net neutrality, underlies free speech on the Web. Without it, censorship can occur.

“If it bothers you that the China government does it, it should bother you when your cable company does it,” McLaughlin said.

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Net neutrality is a must

Joshua Breitbart, Haitian Times

For many of us, the diversity and abundance of information on the Internet has become part of our daily lives. We assume that we will always be able to view the websites of our choosing and even upload our own photos and videos onto the Internet. However, as teachers of radio journalism, we can't take net neutrality – the principle that prohibits discrimination of content and applications on the Internet – for granted. Our organization, People's Production House, includes lessons on net neutrality as part of our year-long courses in public schools because without it, our students could soon be making entertaining and informative radio pieces without the ability to share them online.

With last week's introduction of Resolution 712, the New York City Council has taken up this important issue. While we don't hear much about it in the news, the current debate over net neutrality will determine the future of how we communicate. Two companies alone – Verizon and AT&T – have spent over $20 million on federal lobbying this year trying to thwart The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, a bill in Congress that would enshrine net neutrality in law. Resolution 712, if the Council passes it, would endorse this bill.

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TechSoup wants to stretch broadband dollars

Kim Hart, The Hill

Marnie Webb flew to Washington from San Francisco to spend this past week to try to make connections in the broadband community.

As co-CEO of TechSoup, a non-profit that helps other organizations use technology more effectively, she's interested in helping the Commerce Department make broadband stimulus grants go farther. And she is interested in partnering with other groups, like the Sunlight Foundation, in goals of getting underserved populations into the civil discourse happening online. She also wants to share broadband adoption techniques she's learned with the the Federal Communications Commission for its national broadband plan.

But Webb admits she is naive to the ways of Washington. As she meets with non-governmental organizations and agency officials, she has to stress that she is not looking for financial help. TechSoup did not apply for any money in the first round of stimulus grants. She's thought of talking to the staff of her district's representative, who happens to be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but she knows she'll have a hard time getting an audience.

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Will Seattle get a broadband 'public option?'

Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media

Community activist Mike McGinn rode a wave of grassroots organizing energy to victory in Seattle's Mayoral race this month. The new mayor-elect's vision for affordable city-wide fiber broadband was not only a core concern for his campaign, but one of his clearest disagreements with challenger Joe Mallahan. Now that the campaign is won, what's the road ahead for McGinn's vision?

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Net neutrality red herrings and how to combat them

Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

Rep. Ed Markey had a conference call with bloggers last Friday to talk about his legislation which would "establish overarching national broadband policy and ensures an open and consumer oriented Internet," or codify net neutrality.

In addition:

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Right-wing misinformation: Net neutrality may be the next "death panels"

Think Progress

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to move forward with regulations to preserve the open architecture of the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to make our current system’s “net neutrality” official by ensuring that broadband providers “cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications” and are “transparent about their network management practices.” That same day, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation to block the FCC, inexplicably arguing that preserving net neutrality would be a “government takeover of the Internet.”

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Obama tech adviser Susan Crawford plans departure

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

White House technology policy adviser, Susan Crawford will leave her position in January to return to the University of Michigan Law School where she is a tenured professor, according to the Obama administration.

Crawford, known as a proponent of controversial net neutrality rules, has been on temporary leave from the university to serve in the White House. That sabbatical, which began two months after she received tenure at the University of Michigan, will end in January.

“Susan has done an outstanding job coordinating technology policy at the National Economic Council where her expertise on issues from intellectual property to the Internet has been invaluable," said a White House spokesman. "We understand that she needs to return to her responsibilities in Ann Arbor, but we will miss having her wise counsel in the White House.”

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FCC moves toward net neutrality

Tony Bradley, PC World

The FCC convened this morning and voted to move forward with formalizing net neutrality guidelines. The vote was unanimous, including Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, and initiates the process of debating the proposed rules before any net neutrality policy is actually implemented.

The FCC has already imposed net neutrality principles in past decisions such as banning broadband Internet provider Comcast from throttling peer-to-peer networking traffic. Without a formally sanctioned set of rules though, such decisions could be seen as arbitrary or capricious.

When FCC chairman Julius Genachowski first announced his intention to pursue formalizing net neutrality, it did not take long to see that there are distinctly partisan battle lines involved. Of course, in Washington DC today there are distinctly partisan battle lines involved in where to eat lunch or what color the sky is, so I suppose that should come as no surprise. Still, it was a little shocking that within hours of Genachowski's statement regarding net neutrality GOP lawmakers had already filed an amendment (later retracted) to prohibit the FCC from pursuing it.

In the weeks between Genachowski's initial statement and today's vote the lobbying pressure and the rhetoric in the media have been relatively constant from net neutrality opponents. This week AT&T was accused of astroturfing-- creating a fake grassroots movement-- by encouraging employees to voice their concerns on the FCC web site using their own personal email addresses.

Proponents of net neutrality were not as vocal until more recently. A coalition of 30 tech-focused venture capitalists, under the banner of the Open Internet Coalition, sent an open letter to Genachowski just yesterday urging support for net neutrality rules.

Verizon didn't completely defect, but it did break ranks with other broadband and wireless providers when it issued a joint statement with Google expressing agreed upon common ground for governing net neutrality. Perhaps it's a reflection of the new partnership forged between Verizon and Google to develop Android-based mobile handsets like the upcoming Droid.

Just yesterday the Canadian government ruled on its version of net neutrality. Canada upheld the right of providers to ‘manage' the traffic on their networks, but within certain guidelines. It also stipulated that traffic throttling should be a measure of last resort.

I maintain that net neutrality rules are essential. Comcast talked about how the Internet has thrived without net neutrality, while tacitly admitting that it is only because of the threat of net neutrality that it has played by the rules. AT&T reversed its position on allowing VoIP over its wireless network and pointed to that decision as evidence that the industry can police itself, while not-so-subtly demonstrating that the new policy was a direct attempt to influence the net neutrality debate.


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Nation's CTO reaffirms commitment to net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Aneesh Chopra, the nation's chief technology officer, reaffirmed the White House's commitment to net neutrality amid increased criticism from lawmakers that the rules could hurt investment in Internet networks.

"At a 100,000-foot view, we are committed to the notion that there should be essentially a level playing field for entrepreneurs and big firms to ride our nation’s infrastucture to compete with those applications that we think will deliver value," Chopra said in an interview on C-SPAN's Communicators program taped Friday. The show will air Saturday evening at 6 p.m.

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