Communications Rights

Legislation alert: Washington State considers community broadband bill

Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband News

Last year, Community Broadband News noted that a bill to expand local authority to invest in publicly owned broadband networks would return to the Washington Legislature in 2012. HB 1711 is in Committee and causing a bit of a stir. "A bit of a stir" is good -- such a reaction means it has a chance at passing and giving Washington's residents a greater opportunity to have fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet.

Washington's law presently allows Public Utility Districts to build fiber-optic networks but they cannot offer retail services. They are limited to providing wholesale services only -- working with independent service providers to bring telecom services to the public.

Unfortunately, this approach can be financially debilitating, particularly in rural areas. Building next generation networks in very low density areas is hard enough without being forced to split the revenues with third parties.

Last year, House Bill 2601 created a study to examine telecommunications reform, including the possibilty of municipality and public utility district provisioning. The University of Washington School of Law examined the issues and released a report [pdf] that recognizes the important role public sector investments can play...

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FCC's net neutrality compromise benefits industry at expense of small business, tech innovators and minorities

Reclaim the Media

Public interest advocates continue pushing for a level playing field online

Today, the Federal Communications Commission held a key vote affecting rules of the road for the Internet. Unfortunately, the rules approved today fall short of Chairman Julius Genachowski's rhetoric concerning Internet openness, and stand to benefit large providers like AT&T and Comcast at the expense of end users, small businesses, and technology innovators.

By treating wireless web access differently from wired broadband, the FCC's net neutrality order paves the way for a two-tiered Internet experience, with wireless users faced with predatory pricing tiers and discriminatory filtering. Latinos, rural Americans, blacks and low-income Internet users disproportionately favor wireless connections, and will be disproportionately impacted by the new rules.

Additionally, while the order provides many consumers with a new level of protection from net neutrality abuses by service providers, it lacks a clear, enforceable ban on paid prioritization--a practice which would allow Internet providers to impose discriminatory speed limits on some websites unwilling or unable to pay for special access.

The FCC's decision ignores overwhelming public support for stronger, enforceable net neutrality protections, and commonsense requests for a single set of rules recognizing that there is a single set of rules recognizing that there is one Internet, not two.

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Low-power radio bill down to the wire in Senate

Jennifer Martinez, Politico

A bill that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to give licenses to more noncommercial, localized radio stations is caught in static.

Despite support from both sides of the aisle, including strong backing from Arizona Sen. John McCain, a group of Republican senators have successfully blocked the bill.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso currently has a hold on the measure, which would create a new crop of radio stations — known as low-power FM stations — dedicated to hyperlocal community news, such as information about school boards, city councils and church groups, or spreading music by local artists.

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Communities of color call on FCC to apply network neutrality rules to wireless networks

Media Action Grassroots Network

In comments filed today with the Federal Communications Commission, almost thirty organizations, including Reclaim the Media, members of Latinos for Internet Freedom and the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), called on the agency to apply Network Neutrality rules to all Internet access platforms, including on wireless networks.

People of color are among the fastest growing constituencies in the United States and the most active users of the mobile Internet and many rely exclusively on their cell phones and other mobile devices to get online. Communities of color use their mobile devices as a primary tool for activism, community engagement and democratic participation, from defending the rights of immigrants to registering to vote.

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Telecom firms' donations to minority groups criticized as FCC considers net neutrality rules

Jennifer Martinez, LA Times

Some leading minority advocacy groups long have supported AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp. and other major telecommunications firms in the industry's efforts to win approvals for mergers, get rid of old regulations and avoid new government rules.

And the telecom firms, in turn, have poured millions of dollars of donations and in-kind services, including volunteer help from the carriers' executive suites, into charitable groups in the communities they serve.

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The History and future of hyper-local radio

Christine Dunbar-Hester, The Atlantic

Some day soon, Congress may pass the Local Community Radio Act, a piece of legislation that will allow a couple thousand new low-power FM radio stations to go on the air.

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Seattle's slow progress towards community fiber: an update

Christopher Mitchell, MuniNetworks

If Seattle moves forward on the Community Fiber Network it has been considering, it will be the largest such network in the nation. However, as we recently noted, progress has been slow.

The City's Seattle Jobs Plan proposes a publicly owned fiber network as a smart investment. The report notes that Seattle applied for BTOP stimulus funding from NTIA, but the recent notice of awards suggests that Seattle will not receive any grants or loans. Way back in March, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell published a lengthy post about Seattle's options. Harrell is a pivotal official on this issue and his post suggests he has given it a lot of thought. The post seems geared toward those pushing for a community fiber network. The overall message is that this is a hard decision… which is fine, but the Council seems more ready to wait out the clock than actually make a decision.

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OK Go on net neutrality: A lesson from the music industry

Damien Kulash, Washington Post

On the Internet, when I send my ones and zeros somewhere, they shouldn't have to wait in line behind the ones and zeros of wealthier people or corporations. That's the way the Net was designed, and it's central to a concept called "net neutrality," which ensures that Internet service providers can't pick favorites.

Recently, though, big telecommunications companies have argued that their investment in the Net's infrastructure should allow them more control over how it's used. The concerned nerds of the world are up in arms, and there's been a long, loud public debate, during which the Federal Communications Commission appeared to develop a plan to preserve net neutrality.

The FCC's latest action on the question came partly in response to a federal appeals court ruling in April that appeared to limit the agency's authority over Internet service providers. In May, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski issued a plan to classify the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. In English, that means the agency would be legally recognizing a fact so obvious that I feel silly even typing it: We use the Internet to communicate. With that radical notion established, the FCC would have jurisdiction to protect the public interest on the Net, including enforcing neutrality. Since announcing its intent, though, the FCC hasn't followed through, and the corporations involved are trying to take the reins before the public servants do.

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Glenn Beck’s MLK dream is perverse, but what’s our vision?

Kai Wright, ColorLines

Glenn Beck says it’s “divine providence” that his “Restoring Honor” rally coincides with the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Maybe so. It’s been a little over a year since the beer summit eclipsed the debate over whether health care is a fundamental right, and these past 12 months have brought a steady parade of similar perversions. Beck parodying King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial seems an apt finale.

Beck has spent the past several months needling today’s civil rights leaders with the charge that they screwed up King’s dream. He’s asserted that groups like the NAACP and, most menacingly, ACORN lost their way when they veered into the murky waters of “economic justice” and “social justice.” King’s vision, he has lectured, was about equal rights—about discarding racial markers of any kind so every individual can compete in the true American tradition.

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Humboldt County's general plan should include bold communications advances

Sean McLaughlin, Times-Standard

If local visionaries have their way, Humboldt County's General Plan will include a new Communications Element focusing on fundamental policies to develop local communications infrastructure and services to meet local needs.

In the General Plan, the county could create a policy framework to support local broadband media for the next generation. With clear vision in the plan, future networks will better serve public safety, health, education, civic engagement, economic development and other community purposes.

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