Communications Rights

Broadband access gap remains large

eSchool News

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

“There’s lots of talk about digital literacy. That’s something that should be built into the curriculum,” said Charles Benton, chairman and CEO of the Benton Foundation.

“The three R’s alone are not sufficient for today’s needs. We’ve got to be using today’s tools. It’s an old point, but we’ve got to keep beating that drum until we get the funding.”

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FCC sets goal for 100 million to have at least 100-megabit broadband by 2020

Mark Hachmann, PC Magazine

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission set an aggressive goal of delivering 100-Mbit/s broadband service to 100 million Americans by the year 2020, the same day that a U.S. Department of Commerce study found that a significant portion of U.S. consumers were still not online.

Chairman Julius Genachowski, speaking to the NARUC conference in Washington D.C., said that the agency was finalizing a national broadband plan that the FCC began working on last year. He warned that the U.S. risked falling behind other countries, both in wired and wireless broadband availability and speed.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce, working off U.S. Census data, found that "too many Americans still rely on slow, narrowband Internet access or do not use the Internet at all," according to Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant Secretary for Communciations and Information at the Commerce Department.

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Open Internet groups declare national day of action

James Temple, San Francisco Chronicle

Against the backdrop of the net neutrality debate and the developing National Broadband Plan, community groups across the country have declared Monday a "National Day of Action for Affordable, Open Internet."

Under the Feb. 15 initiative spearheaded by the Media Action Grassroots Network, advocates will visit members of Congress and sponsor discussions and "teach-ins" on the topics.

Open Internet advocates argue the Web should be an unfettered platform where users can reach all legal content and services in the manner of their choosing, without any influence or interference by their Internet access provider. The groups are calling on the Federal Communications Commission to pass a more stringent set of regulations to ensure this.

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A New civil rights mandate: champion open networks to close the digital divide

Malkia Cyril, Huffington Post

There's a reason why the more than 100 organizations of the Media Action Grassroots Network are taking action on February 15th, 2010.

As the Federal Communications Commission moves to quickly finalize a National Broadband Plan that many hope will ensure Internet access for all and create opportunity for innovation and economic security, community groups from around the country are hosting delegation visits, direct actions, and community events to ask the same question I am. Namely, why are Telecom companies and their beltway allies asking poor communities and communities of color to choose between fair representation and access to high speed Internet networks? Why can't we have both?

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Close the broadband gap? Phone and cable giants just say 'no'

Tim Karr, Save the Internet

When it comes to getting everyone connected to an open, affordable and fast Internet, the big phone and cable companies seem to have a motto: "Just Say No."

When the Obama administration called for a stimulus plan that included billions in grants to reach parts of the country that were struggling to get connected, the companies said "no" -- refusing to apply for money to close the broadband gap.

When Congress made open Internet conditions a part of the broadband buildout, they said "no" -- filing objections in a push to block efforts to give these communities unfettered access.

And now that the first grants are being made available to applicants, companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T are trying to stop funds from reaching groups that have plans to connect Americans stuck on the wrong side of the divide.

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Independent media feel the 'heat on the street' in Vancouver

Dave Zirin, National Public Radio

As Canadian officials react to increasing public opposition to cost overruns and local impacts of the Vancouver Olympics, the independent media seems to be paying the price. Just as Democracy Now's Amy Goodman was held in November for trying to cross the border for reasons that had nothing to do with the Olympic Games, Martin Macias, an independent media reporter from Chicago, was detained and held for seven hours by Canada Border Services agents before being put on a plane and sent to Seattle. Macias, who is 20 years old, is a media reform activist with community radio station Radio Arte where he serves as the host/producer of First Voice, a radio news zine. Macias described a chilling scene of detention and expulsion. "I was asked the same questions for three and a half hours in a small room. They told me I had no right to a lawyer. I went from frustrated and angry to scared. I didn't know what the laws were or how the laws had been changed for the Olympics...why the crackdown?"

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Obama "a big believer in net neutrality"

Tim Karr, Save the Internet

The power of the open Internet was on full display Monday as President Obama responded to questions from the public in a followup to last week's State of the Union address. Appropriately, one questioner asked about the president's support for the open Internet itself. Watch the President's answer in this clip.

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Why are some civil rights groups and leaders on the wrong side of net neutrality?

James Rucker, The Seminal/FireDogLake

It’s said that politics creates strange bedfellows. I was reminded how true this can be when I traveled to D.C. in recent weeks to figure out why several advocacy groups and legislators with histories of advocating for minority interests are lining up with big telecom companies in opposition to the FCC’s efforts to pass “Net Neutrality” rules.

Net Neutrality is the principle that prevents Internet Service Providers from controlling what kind of content or applications you can access online. It sounds wonky, but for Black and other communities, an open Internet offers a transformative opportunity to truly control our own voice and image, while reaching the largest number of people possible. This dynamic is one major reason why Barack Obama was elected president and why organizations like ColorOfChange.org exist.

So I was troubled to learn that several Congressional Black Caucus members were among 72 Democrats to write the FCC last fall questioning the need for Net Neutrality rules. I was further troubled that a number of our nation’s leading civil rights groups had also taken positions questioning or against Net Neutrality, using arguments that were in step with those of the big phone and cable companies like AT&T and Comcast, which are determined to water down any new FCC rules.

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Communications rights under attack in South Korea

Reclaim the Media

Communications rights and freedom of expression are under attack in South Korea, as Lee Myung-bak's New Right government takes disturbing steps to shut down independent media, and to defund media, arts, and cultural organizations across the country. The latest blow is an attack on the internationally-respected public media center MediAct, which has played a key part in the democratization of Korea's media system, trained thousands of people in media production, and developed many successful media policy proposals to open up Korea's mediascape to diverse voices. Recognized as an international leader in the communications rights movement, MediAct cofounder Myoung-Joon Kim (shown) is one of Reclaim the Media's Media Heroes.

Please take action now to express international support for MediAct. Join the Facebook group for updates, and click below to read more.

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Venezuela applies media social responsibility laws to cable channels

James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis

On Thursday, Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) released a list of cable television companies that will be subject to the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, marking an expansion of the law’s jurisdiction over television broadcasters.

The law, known by the acronym RESORTE, establishes standards for child and adult programming, prohibits inflammatory content such as incitement riot or assassinate the president, places limits on commercial advertising, and requires stations to broadcast important government announcements.

When the law was passed in 2004, it applied only to companies holding public broadcasting concessions. Last July, CONATEL announced that cable broadcasters would undergo review and be subject to the law if 70% of their content and overall operations could be considered “national,” meaning Venezuelan.

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