A win for an open Internet: Genachowski lays out new plan to protect broadband rights

Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his intention to reassert the FCC's authority to protect broadband consumers' rights, including net neutrality. The Chairman's full statement is here (pdf).

The move comes two weeks after a federal appeals court decision (Comcast vs.FCC) undermined the legal basis under which the FCC had sought to prevent Internet companies from blocking access to websites; and one week after a room full of folks in Seattle resoundingly told FCC that net neutrality oversight was needed to preserve an open Internet.

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Free online tools can be used to win political campaigns: Sol Villarreal

“I was a field organizer for Obama up in Ohio for the general election and more recently I was the volunteer coordinator for the McGinn campaign for Mayor. To me, net neutrality really has to do with access to information and access to the ability to organize information. In Kentucky they made me the volunteer coordinator for out of state volunteers. Basically, using a Google spreadsheet we organized close to 1,500 volunteers to come to Kentucky from all parts of the country and knock on doors. I realized the power of these completely free online organizing tools and the deeper into the campaign I got the more I realized that this was a political force being run by college students and 20-somethings on laptops using free online tools and sharing information tools. It really stuck with me. The ability of people to organize themselves and how that affects their ability to access power. That to me is what net neutrality means.”

-- Sol Villarreal, Community Engagement Coordinator, Office of the Mayor, City of Seattle, comments to the FCC on preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle 27 April 2010

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Open internet is crucial for the survival of alternative media: Jerome Edge

"I just wanted to stress, from my standpoint as a community broadcaster, why I feel things like free and open internet and independent sources of communication, be it community radio, are incredibly important... What would happen is that you’d have members of our community that would come out and pour their hearts out about how upset they were about [Glenn Beck receiving the key to Mount Vernon, WA]. How they pleaded and begged with the Mayor of Mount Vernon not to go through with this. But do you think these mainstream media outlets showed this information? They didn’t. Unfortunately, what happened in this mainstream media circus is that our community was painted in a light that 95% of the people who live there don’t really agree with. At the station, we heard from people all around the world that wanted to know what’s going on, what’re you guys thinking, in Mount Vernon and due to those really smart people who found us through internet searches.... The people who took the time to look through and see those alternative sources of information were able to be enlightened and informed about what was really up with what we call home.”

--Jerome Edge, host and producer of Massive Mix Session on KSVR in Mt. Vernon, WA, speaking to the FCC about preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle 27 April 2010

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We build game-changing communities with Open Internet: Rahwa Habte

"My sister and I own and operate a small business in Seattle’s Central District. The area that our restaurant's located in is relatively low-income and relatively high pockets of refugees and immigrants surround the area. I use the internet in every single aspect of what I do. I’m able to be creative and find ways around a lot of challenges that I face. The way that we are changing our community is through art and through music. We’ve become very well known, through the internet, locally and nationally - even internationally. We’ve been able to connect with artists and organizers all over the United States and other countries. It’s very important that we have an open and free way to do that - freedom of exchange of art and ideas through the internet. We’ve built lasting relationships and we’ve changed lots of young people’s lives. We’ve changed the game in Seattle by accessing the internet.”

-- Rahwa Habte, owner of Hidmo Eritrean Restaurant in Seattle, comments to the FCC on preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle 27 April 2010

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An open Internet is vital for community organizing: Joe Mirabella

"I volunteered for the Approve Ref. 71 campaign, which approved domestic partnerships in Washington State. We used social media, Facebook and Twitter extensively, to communicate with families and communities about our campaign-—unfettered access to these technologies was essential to this effort. I cannot imagine how he would have communicated if there had been a tiered system of who could get access to Facebook or other sites by paying a premium. We need to continue open access. This is very important for the LGBT community and every group fighting for access."

-- Joe Mirabella, blogger and community organizer, speaking to the FCC on preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle, 27 April 2010.

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Local communities need an open Internet: Dennis Lane

"We are rapidly approaching a second dark age. The first was brought about in the 14th century when monasteries sequestered information. Internet companies are now doing the same. As communities, we need to have our voices. A voiceless community can become a violent one, when people feel they're not being heard. As a former bar owner, I know! As it stand now in most places, the industry is coming together with only a couple of broadband players--not enough diversity. We need community broadcasting, we need policies that encourage new last mile entities at the local level. With such policies, we will see innovation increasing, and local communications. We know that the big guys will always have their share of the marketplace. But without diversity, innovation will be wasted. There will remain a lot of hopelessness within local communities. So don't put us on that path."

-- Dennis Lane, Whatcom Community Television, speaking to the FCC on preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle, 27 April 2010.

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Young people need a fair and open Internet: Nickey Robare

"Reel Grrls is a Seattle nonprofit that teaches video production to girls. A few years ago there was an FCC media ownership hearing in Seattle, attended by a ton of people, including many Reel Grrls participants; in fact, one produced an award-winning film about the issue . This time around, many girls couldn’t make it to these open Internet events. Several were interested but busy. One girl, however, said that she had been to the ownership hearing a few years ago, and that nothing had changed as a result—so why
bother? That girl is 17 years old and she’s already that cynical. That’s not okay. So that’s my challenge to the FCC: make this change."

-- Nickey Robare, Reel Grrls, speaking to the FCC on preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle 27 April 2010

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Low-income and homeless people need an open Internet: Jennifer Brandon

"I've been watching digital divide issues as they relate to extremely low income and homeless people, who are not protected by USF. Our company is trying to get basic voice service to these populations. We've all been hearing a lot about net neutrality. My comments are simple: the FCC has the opportunity to reclassify broadband Internet as a Title II telecommunications service, not an information service. The FCC should boldly take that move. There is broad support for that happening – and it will be extremely difficult to get done what we are talking about if that doesn't occur. In this community you have support for that. It’s extremely difficult to purchase services that no one else will provide, and if these basic regulations didn’t exist, it would be impossible."

--Jennifer Brandon, Executive Director, Community Voicemail National, speaking to the FCC about preserving a fair and open Internet, Seattle 27 April 2010

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People with disabilities need a fair and open Internet: Cat Sullivan

"I'm a former Americorps volunteer IT person, working at the STAR Center for people with disabilities. We are very aware of the digital divide, which is worsening as high-speed access is becoming a necessity. Low income access is nearly impossible; young people are required to send homework over the Internet, people with disabilities need special equipment for online access, whicih can be very expensive. Seattle has free 56k wireless access in some areas, though it's not enough—slow and often busy.

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Seattle's verdict: we need strong protections for an open Internet

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Seattle FCC Open Internet events this week. About 80 people attended Reclaim the Media's community forum with FCC staff on Tuesday evening, and about 70 took part in the Wednesday morning workshop at the Federal Building. Soon we'll have a summary of the events, as well as some photos from Tuesday.

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