Communications Rights

The Internet is not just a privilege--it's a necessity

Bryan Mercer, Media Mobilizing Project

The Internet as a Universal Service, the Conservative and Corporate Backlash, and the Struggle Over How We Communicate.

For the past month the most important telecommunications platform of our time, the Internet, has gone without any form of regulation or government oversight. This situation didn't cause some downward spiral collapsing email and leading to tolls for visiting pages across the web - thank goodness. But, after the ruling in the Comcast Bit Torrent case an opening was presented for Broadband Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to brush off government authority. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn't have the authority to impose regulation on ISPs. If this situation sticks ISPs have clearly stated what they intend to do - charge whatever they like for any content they like, while limiting traffic for those who don't pay high premiums.

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Washington UTC may penalize Qwest for consumer protection violations

via the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission:

Qwest faces stiff fines for repeatedly disobeying state rules

State regulatory staff today recommended $69,000 in penalties against Qwest, saying the phone company repeatedly violated numerous consumer protection regulations in 2009.

Staff members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recommended the fine, alleging that Qwest failed to comply with UTC rules designed to protect telephone customers in Washington. A commission administrative law judge will review the matter and decide whether to impose penalties.

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Broadband change we can believe in--or deja vu all over again?

Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media

UPDATE: Your phone calls and emails to the FCC appear to have had an effect: Chairman Genachowski reportedly plans to announce Thursday morning a new strategy for asserting authority to protect broadband consumer rights. Stay tuned!

Ever get that feeling, like it's deja vu all over again?

When the FCC held a public hearing on media consolidation in Seattle two years ago, over 1100 people turned out to deliver a clear message: don't let big media get any bigger. But just days afterwards, then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin informed the readers of the New York Times that he planned to go ahead with plans to dismantle more of the rules protecting media diversity.

Now, days after Seattle urged the FCC to affirm its authority to protect broadband users from corporate content-blocking, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski appears to be backtracking from his stated support for strong net neutrality rules. Read more for details and take action!

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FCC must reassert broadband authority, say social justice organizations

Reclaim the Media

SEATTLE - On April 27, a national coalition of social justice and media advocacy organizations delivered to the Federal Communications Commission an open letter urging chairman Julius Genachowski to act quickly to reassert the agency's authority to regulate broadband in the public interest. The letter comes in the wake of a federal appeals court decision which dealt a blow to that authority, and at a time when the FCC is in the midst of a broad range of policymaking activities focused on improving and broadening the Internet experience for millions of Americans.

The letter, signed by thirty-four national and regional organizations affiliated or allied with the Media Action Grassroots Network, points out that persistent digital divides continue to threaten the economic and political well being of communities of color, and that these communities have particular need for protection against telecommunications providers who have historically been unwilling to prioritize equal service for all communities, despite a deregulated economic environment and often massive profits.

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Venezuela’s Young Communication Guerrillas

Supriyo Chatterjee, ZNet

On April 12, 2002, the Venezuelan media were gloating how a day earlier they had removed the troublesome Hugo Chavez from power. Theirs was not an empty boast. The private television channels and newspapers’ sustained campaign against the President had paid off in what some have called the world’s first media coup. The media did not just spin a yarn; they planned and, together with the military high command and the Catholic hierarchy, executed the coup. Eight years on, somewhat chastened but not reformed, they are having to face up to a different media landscape.

The overwhelming majority of the Venezuelan television, radio stations and newspapers is in private hands and as implacably hostile to the Bolivarian movement as ever. Their daily dose of psy-ops influences a significant part of the middle classes and, as the government supporters say, damages society’s mental health. Yet the state has avoided a head-on conflict with the old media establishment. Instead, the Bolivarian movement is creating its own media outlets and its sustained critique of the mainstream news is beginning to reach the communities.

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Protect the open Internet!

Color of Change

The Internet has made amazing things possible, like freeing the Jena 6, electing President Obama, even creating ColorOfChange. None of it could have happened without an "open" Internet: one where Internet service providers are not allowed to interfere with what is seen and by whom.

Now, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon — the most powerful broadband providers — are trying to fundamentally change the way the Internet works. They're seeking to make even bigger profits by acting as gatekeepers over what you see and do online. If they succeed, the Internet would be more like radio and television: a few major corporations would control which voices are heard most easily, and it would be much harder for grassroots groups, individuals, and small businesses to compete with large corporations and well-funded special interests.

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FCC to hold open Internet hearing in Seattle, April 28

Reclaim the Media

The Federal Communications Commission has announced a public hearing in Seattle to discuss open internet issues. The workshop, entitled "Approaches to Preserving the Open Internet," is currently scheduled to take place at 9:30am April 28 at the Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. According to the FCC, the hearing is intended to examine "how the Internet’s openness can best be preserved, including by examining historical and ongoing efforts to protect Internet openness in the United States and other countries, and by discussing the key technological, economic, and legal considerations relevant to the need for and substance of the Commission’s proposed open Internet policies."

Mark your calendars for April 28. Stay tuned to Reclaim the Media for further information, and get involved with local organizing to protect net neutrality, preserve civil rights online, and promote universal access to affordable broadband!

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Protecting Internet freedom will close the digital divide. Period. End of story.

Garlin Gilchrist II, Save the Internet

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took questions via YouTube about the recently-released National Broadband Plan (NBP). One question posed to the chairman was about whether the plan would close the digital divide and be beneficial to low-income communities and people of color anxious to get online.

Chairman Genachowski’s response (video) was absolutely right that this plan, along with the FCC's other efforts to promote universal broadband Internet access and protect Internet freedom, will benefit everyone, especially those excluded from today's market.

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Community groups applaud broadband plan, but stress that there's a ways to go for closing the digital divide

Media Action Grassroots Network

Across the country, more than 100 organizations of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) applaud the Federal Communications Commission for the release of a national Broadband Plan they say takes first steps in closing a digital divide that has widened the economic and education gap between those who have and those who don’t. "The goal of extending universal access to broadband is an excellent future forward goal," said Rinku Sen of the Applied Research Center. "But any policy intended to drive broadband adoption in communities of color and migrant communities must produce a clear roadmap to ensure that the speed and access goals recommended are a floor, not a ceiling--and that people don’t become digital haves and have nots based on their zip code or their race."

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Case closed: why most of US lacks 100Mbps net connections

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

Excitement about the approach of the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan, due March 17, is inspiring ever more dramatic calls for greater high-speed Internet connectivity in the United States. This month, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski declared that the agency wants 260 million Americans hooked up to 100 Mbps broadband by 2020. Not to be outdone, the Media and Democracy Coalition says that by that same year consumer access to "world-class networks" should equal the present rate of telephone adoption (90%+).

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