Communications Rights

The Future of the Internet is in Lafayette, Louisiana

Ellen Perlman,

What if you could hold a video conference from your home? What if your doctor could send your MRI electronically to another of your doctors who needs it? What if you could upload a video of your child's soccer game and send it to grandma in seconds?

These are questions that Lafayette, Louisiana, officials have pondered.

And soon, we may all be looking to Lafayette for the future of the Internet.

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Discovery Institute hack claims no need for national broadband strategy

Karl Bode, DSLReports

Telephony Online un-skeptically points to a new report (pdf) by a new think tank named Entropy Economics, which magically assumes the organic growth in bandwidth capacity means we don't need a national broadband policy. Because available consumer bandwidth reached 717 terabits per second at the end of 2008 (or a per-capita average of 2.4 megabits per second), we've apparently cured all of our broadband problems.

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Venezuelan National Assembly discusses limits to concentration of media ownership

James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis

CARACAS -- In a presentation before the National Assembly on Thursday, Venezuelan Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello proposed reforms to the Telecommunications Law that would limit the concentration of private radio and television ownership and bring more cable providers under the jurisdiction of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) and the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television.

"You can be certain that we will democratize the radio-electric spectrum and bring an end to large media estates in radio and television," said Cabello, comparing Venezuela's media magnates to Venezuela's elite class of large landowners.

According to Cabello, 27 families control more than 32% of the radio and television waves, with as many as 48 stations grouped under a single owner.

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Is ICANN accountable to the global public interest?

Robin Gross, IP Justice

Everyone is a Noncommercial User of the Internet

The Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) is the home to noncommercial users in ICANN's GNSO policy development process.  NCUC represents 109 members from more than 40 countries, and includes large organizations, small nonprofits and individuals committed to developing Internet policy that protects the rights of noncommercial users.  NCUC is concerned with a broad range of issues including human rights such as freedom of expression and privacy protections, educational needs such as those of libraries or academic institutions, and concerns from community and religious organizations, consumer rights groups, and other noncommercial interests related to Internet governance.  (All noncommercial organizations and individuals are invited to join NCUC).

In today's world, everyone is a noncommercial user of the Internet at one point or another of their day.  This noncommercial interest, is an important interest which we all share, regardless of what we do for a living or the fact that we also use the Internet for commercial purposes.  We are also noncommercial users and want our ability and right to use the Internet for noncommercial purposes to be protected in ICANN policy negotiations.  This objective is in everyone's interest, so it should be respected throughout ICANN's policy development process and governance structures.

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SoundExchange "settlement" offers lower royalty option for micro-webcasters

David Oxenford, Broadcast Law Blog

[RTM note: this article was originally published on 28 March 2009. We repost it here in response to questions about the recent settlement between SoundExchange and "pure-play" webcasters, which establishes a $25,000 minimum payment for webcasters. The microcaster settlement described below provides lower rates for very small web stations - $600 per year for the smallest stations with no recordkeeping, or a $2000 a year minimum for stations with a larger listenership but revenues less than $50,000.]

With all the recent discussion of the NAB-SoundExchange settlement and the recent Court of Appeals argument on Copyright Royalty Board decision on Internet Radio royalties, we have not summarized the "settlement" that SoundExchange agreed to with a few very small webcasters. That agreement would essentially extend through 2015 the terms that SoundExchange unilaterally offered to small webcasters in 2007, and make these terms a "statutory" rate that would be binding on all copyright holders.

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Publicly owned broadband is the right idea

Christopher Mitchell, Charleston Gazette

Just as railroads and highways were the essential infrastructure for development in the 19th and 20th centuries, broadband networks will be essential for 21st-century competitive economies. Small cities and even isolated, rural communities that have strong educational systems and human talent will be able to compete in the new global information economy.

West Virginia's beautiful mountains and valleys, coupled with low density make most of the state an unattractive investment for private phone and cable companies. Fortunately, no community has to be left behind, each can seize the future with smart public investments.

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Calling home - and losing minutes

Kristopher Rios, Gotham Gazette

Brooklyn resident Kathy McArdle started using prepaid calling cards a few years ago as an affordable way to keep in touch with her partner in Jamaica. "Neither of us have a landline, I can't afford two phones, and I'm never home to use a home phone," explains McArdle who is constantly on the move between work and taking her son to and from school.

Consumers like McArdle have made calling cards a multibillion dollar industry. Despite that, many have repeated problems with the cards.

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Community broadband and digital justice for Seattle

Seattle Digital Justice Campaign

A recent study found that the US has fallen to 20th place internationally in household broadband use. Many suburban and rural communities have limited or no access to affordable, high-speed Internet. Even in tech-savvy US cities (including Seattle), local residents pay too much for too little speed and bandwidth, our consumer "choice" for broadband services limited to choosing between the phone company and the cable company.

Thanks to broadband stimulus funds in the Recovery Act passed this spring, rural and urban communities across the US will soon be able to expand local community access to affordable, high-speed Internet. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shift our tech infrastructure into high gear—benefiting our democracy, our culture, our economy, our healthcare, our public safety, our educational system and our environment.

Seattle may soon move forward with plans to connect the city's neighborhoods with high-speed broadband. If you're in the Seattle area, come to a meeting on Community Broadband and Digital Justice for Seattle, 6pm Mon, Jul 13 at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, to learn about the details--and help articulating our technology needs for the next generation! Special guest: Seattle Chief Information Officer Bill Schrier; hosted by Reclaim the Media and the NW Media Action Grassroots Network.

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Chinese net users protest, stop effort to impose "Great Firewall"

Antoaneta Bezlova, Inter Press Service

Beijing’s last minute climb-down on its latest Internet-censorship effort this week highlights the possibility that Chinese communist mandarins’ main challenge in the future lies not in quelling political dissent, but reigning in its tech-savvy educated elite.

July 1 was meant to be the day when every personal computer sold in mainland China would have come equipped with government-endorsed internet filtering software known as "Green Dam Youth Escort", ostensibly to block pornographic and violent content.

Instead, the day was marked with a very public display of civil defiance. In a country where even small gatherings are perceived as a threat to social stability, more than 1,000 people amassed in one of Beijing’s art districts to declare boycott on Internet.

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Free Minds Free People promotes youth education for liberation

Melissa Forbis, Facing South

"There is no more apt theme for this conference at this fear-driven moment in political history."

With those words, journalist and scholar Charles E. Cobb Jr. kicked off his keynote address Friday to the national Free Minds Free People Conference in Houston, which took place at the city's convention center from June 25 to 28. The gathering drew a diverse crowd of about 400 U.S. teachers, high school and college students, researchers, parents, and community-based activists/educators build a movement developing and promoting education for liberation by engaging youth of color and low-income youth in the fight for social justice.

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