Corporate Power/Consolidation

Wireless carriers openly considering charging per service

Nilay Patel, Engadget

A marketing slide showing a mobile Internet user reviewing a menu of fees--one charge for Facebook, another for YouTube, etc.--is no joke; it comes from a webinar put on by two companies that count Verizon, AT&T and Vodafone as clients, and it describes a system that identifies customer internet activity and charges a different rate for using Facebook than watching YouTube, while allowing access to Vodafone services for free. Yes, that's basically the nightmare scenario for net neutrality advocates. The two companies behind the slide are Allot Communications and Openet, which sell subscriber-management tools to carriers around the world -- tools that Allot's director of marketing says can scan even encrypted packets to determine what service customers are using and charge accordingly.

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At Sam Zell's Tribune, tales of a bankrupt culture

David Carr, New York Times

In January 2008, soon after the venerable Tribune Company was sold for $8.2 billion, Randy Michaels, a new top executive, ran into several other senior colleagues at the InterContinental Hotel next to the Tribune Tower in Chicago.

Mr. Michaels, a former radio executive and disc jockey, had been handpicked by Sam Zell, a billionaire who was the new controlling shareholder, to run much of the media company’s vast collection of properties, including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, WGN America and The Chicago Cubs.

After Mr. Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, “watch this,” and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.

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What does News Corp want in return for that $ million?

John Cook, The Upshot

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. raised eyebrows last week with a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association that the New York Times described as "bold" and "one of the biggest [contributions] ever given by a media organization." Critics saw the gift, which came through News Corp.'s News America subsidiary, as evidence of an alignment between Murdoch's political and corporate interests and the conservative editorial bent of Fox News Channel.

But corporate political donations — especially coming from someone as skillful at currying favor among the powerful as Murdoch — are more than mere expressions of ideological preference. They are attempts to advance the economic interests of the donor corporation. As News Corp. spokesman Jack Horner explained to the Times, the company made the donation because "organizations like the R.G.A., which have a pro-business agenda, support our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."

So what, precisely, are those priorities?

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Google-Verizon net neutrality pact riddled with loopholes

Matt Lasar, Ars Technica

Even before Google and Verizon published their sweeping new Internet proposals for Congress, the net neutrality troops were out in force against the alliance.

"DON'T BE EVIL," proclaimed the Monday morning banner headline announcing the delivery of a petition signed by 300,000 people urging the search engine giant to back away from its alliance with Verizon.

"Google has always presented itself as a different kind of corporate entity," warned Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org. "The fact that they are involved in a deal that would kill Internet freedom directly contradicts this image. We hope that Google will reconsider before they are seen as just another giant corporation out to make a buck regardless of the consequence."

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Consumer advocates protest Google-Verizon net neutrality statement

Byron Acohido, Technology Live

Howls of protest are pouring in from consumer advocacy groups over Google's latest stance on Net Neutrality. The search giant earlier today teamed up with Verizon on a joint policy statement that left room for Internet providers to charge Web sites premium fees for some services.

The two companies called for "a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition."

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For iPhone users, getting out of jail is free

Dev-Team Blog

Fantastic news today from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). After a lot of hard work and mountains of paperwork, jailbreaking your iPhone is now explicitly a permitted fair use under the DMCA!

The first of EFF’s three successful requests clarifies the legality of cell phone “jailbreaking” — software modifications that liberate iPhones and other handsets to run applications from sources other than those approved by the phone maker.

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Media democracy advocates disappointed in FCC decision to defend discredited media ownership rule

Free Press

The Federal Communications Commission filed a brief today with a U.S. appeals court defending the agency s 2007 decision under former Chairman Kevin Martin to weaken the Newspaper-Broadcast Cross-Ownership (NBCO) Rule.

The Martin NBCO Rule, which was adopted as part of the FCC s 2006 media ownership review, is marred by procedural irregularities, ambiguous provisions and loopholes -- all of which run counter to the rule s purpose: to protect local communities from media monopolies and to increase diversity in the marketplace of ideas. The watered-down rule allows media outlets to merge based on promises that the FCC cannot monitor or enforce.

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Big media and the FCC roadshow: controlling the message online and off

Brandy Doyle, Huffington Post

The FCC is coming to Silicon Valley. The famously old-school agency will make an unlikely visit to the high tech mecca, asking if "legacy media" (radio, television, and newspapers) even matter in the Internet age. More specifically, the FCC will ask an expert panel whether we still need the media ownership rules designed to protect democracy by preventing media monopolies and consolidation.

Gathering at Stanford University on Friday, May 21, media execs will claim that in the age of blogging and Twitter, we have millions of news sources to choose from. In this utopia of media diversity, everyone is a journalist and every point of view can be heard. According to big media, if the FCC wants to help out, they should forget about local ownership limits and just finish the job of deregulation.

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Rep. Waters announces support for Comcast-NBC merger hearings

Office of Rep. Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced today that 23 additional Members of Congress signed on to her letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, urging the FCC to hold public hearings on the merger of the Comcast Corporation with NBC Universal (NBC). The original letter, sent last week, was signed by Congresswoman Waters and 45 of her colleagues. It included a series of questions about diversity, distribution, cable rates, labor relations and advertising for Comcast and NBC to answer.

The additional signatures, sent to the FCC in an addendum letter today, further reflect the geographically, ideologically and racially diverse group of Members of Congress who all recognize that a merger of this size Comcast is the largest provider of internet and cable in the country will affect virtually every American and therefore deserves thorough scrutiny through a public hearings process.

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Telecoms' secret plan to attack net neutrality

Lee Fang, Think Progress

Net neutrality, a guiding principle for preserving a free and fair Internet, means that Internet service providers are not allowed to discriminate based on content for its customers. However, telecommunications firms — like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others — are firmly against net neutrality because they would like to increase their profits by deciding which websites customers can see, and at what speed. The telecom industry has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into a lobby campaign against net neutrality. As the FCC now takes up net neutrality rule making, the industry is pushing an “outside approach” of hiring front groups and astroturf operatives.

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