Re-tooling RTM and expanding media justice in the Northwest

Dear RTM allies and supporters: On the heels of some important organizing successes and economic challenges, Reclaim the Media is restructuring a bit in order to make sure we can continue to lead the Northwest in the continuing struggle for fair media and an open Internet. We hope that we can count on your support, and we ask you to consider becoming a sustaining member of RTM today.

This year so far, Reclaim the Media members and community partners came out strong for digital justice and media democracy, making strong impacts in Seattle and nationwide. Reflecting on our momentum as we head into the fall, it's time for us to re-imagine what's now possible in the struggle for more responsible media; to refocus on next steps towards universal, affordable broadband; and to recommit ourselves to the struggle for a real communications democracy.

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McGinn: Seattle remains committed to citywide municipal fiber

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says that his office is still committed to his campaign promise to build a fiber broadband network covering the entire city. He addressed the topic during a Q&A this week at The Stranger's Questionland:

We’ve put together an interdepartmental team to look at the issue and figure out what a high-level business plan for an advanced network might look like. The city has built and maintains a high speed, optic broadband network connecting schools, government facilities, and community institutions. The interdepartmental team’s business plan will guide the effort to expand broadband to businesses and homes. The plan will be completed in early 2011. Once the plan is finalized, the city will explore funding options and next steps.

McGinn's answer echoes the inclusion of broadband infrastructure as a component of the Seattle Jobs Plan recently released by the Office of Economic Development. This is encouraging news, at a time when the city is struggling financially and other major infrastructure projects (viaduct, bridge, waterfront) are demanding public attention and money.

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City of Edmonds moving ahead with municipal broadband plans. What's Seattle doing?

Good news from our neighbor to the north, Edmonds, WA:

Edmonds Council votes to pursue customers for its broadband business

The Edmonds City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night to support efforts to pursue customers for the city’s 24 strands of fiber optic cable, which so far have been largely unused by anyone other than the city itself [...] Efforts so far to market [the city's] broadband have been stymied by a poor economy and a year-long delay while the city successfully went to court to secure the right to sell broadband services to private entities. [...]

While the city has spent $492,000 to activate the broadband network, it is saving approximately $97,000 annually because it doesn’t have to purchase fiber optic services, and is expected to recoup its investment by 2015.

Full article in MyEdmondsNews here, with useful background here.

This is great news for folks in Edmonds, who by and large already enjoy better Internet connectivity than most people in Seattle, with fiber broadband offered by Frontier (formerly Verizon); now there will be a locally, municipally owned alternative. The resulting competition should benefit customers in pricing and service.

Meanwhile, Seattle's broadband future remains mired in inertia, despite the city's technology office having a remarkably clear vision for pursuing a municipal fiber system of our own, and despite Mayor McGinn campaigning on the issue.

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Twitter coverage of last week's FCC Internet hearing

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NW media justice and social justice organizations head to Detroit

For the next week, Detroit will be the epicenter for two major gatherings for progressive and social justice organizing: the twelfth Allied Media Conference and the second U.S. Social Forum. Washington State and the Northwest will be well-represented, with large delegations from urban and rural social justice organizations, labor unions, student groups and others. Reclaim the Media will be there with a delegation of Seattle-area activists and organizers from our Northwest MAG-Net coalition, including representatives from Reel Grrls, KBCS, Communities Against Rape and Abuse, Hidmo, Youth Media Institute, the Community Alliance for Global Justice and others. Follow the action on Twitter: #amc2010, #nwussf, #mediajustice.

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Reichert reverses position on net neutrality

Today, over 170 House Republicans sent FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a letter urging the Commmission not to proceed with plans to protect an open Internet by reclassifying broadband as a "telecommunications service" rather than as a radically deregulated "information service." All three Washington State GOP representatives signed the letter, including Congressman Dave Reichert, who previously voted in support of net neutrality rules, saying that the Internet "should be an equal place" for people and companies. Reichert has apparently reversed his earlier opinion, and now stands with GOP leadership in support of open Internet opponents (and Reichert donors) AT&T, and Comcast.

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Community radio inches closer to reality

In cities and towns in every US state, community radio advocates are (figuratively) holding their breath as the Local Community Radio Act inches slowly towards passage in the Senate. The bill, which will allow a dramatic expansion of the Low Power FM (LPFM) community radio service, was approved by the House of Representatives last fall. Under the dedicated leadership of Senator Maria Cantwell, the Senate Commerce Committee has also passed the bill, leaving a final Senate vote as the final hurdle to clear.

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From the CD to DC: taking Seattle's broadband concerns to Congress

After last month's FCC Open Internet community meetings in Seattle, Reclaim the Media and other members of the Seattle Digital Justice Coalition have been working overtime to ensure that community concerns about the future of the Internet reach the ears of our elected officials in the nation's capital.

Within days of FCC Chairman Genachowski's announcement that the FCC would reassert its authority to police net neutrality and online privacy abuses, RTM met with the offices of Sen. Maria Cantwell, Rep. Jay Inslee, and Rep. Dave Reichert, in order to share what we heard from the folks from Seattle, Olympia, Bellingham and Mt.Vernon who attended our April 27 community meeting on protecting a fair and open Internet.

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RTM joins Hispanic Media Coalition to urge official review of media hate speech

This week, the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed comments (pdf) in the FCC's proceeding on the Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in the Digital Age. Joined by 32 national and regional organizations from throughout the country, the comments ask the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to examine hate speech in media.

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Understanding the FCC's broadband debate

Harold Feld from Public Knowledge provides a great summary of the FCC's proposed broadband reclassification, the positives and negatives from a public interest perspective, and the likely fight that likes ahead.

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