Jamming prison cell phones threatens public safety, groups tell Senate

Today, the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on legislation (S. 251) to allow corrections officials to jam cellular transmissions in prisons. Reclaim the Media joined Public Knowledge and seven other public interest groups and consumer organizations, telling the Committee that the legislation would cause more serious problems than it would solve. Read our letter to the committee (pdf).

In a separate letter to Senator Maria Cantwell, RTM is encouraging the committee to look at the related issue of prisoners and detainees' lack of access to affordable phone services. As described in the recent report Criminal Charges: Excessive Prison Phone Rates Take a Toll on Innocent Families, exorbitant long-distance rates and privately negotiated service contracts for prison telephony cut access between prisoners' families and their incarcerated spouses, parents or children. This harms innocent families, and denies prisoners crucial resources for self-evaluation and self-improvement while incarcerated. A Wired Magazine article notes that these high rates are a key motivator for prisoners to smuggle in contraband phones.

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Dueling media conferences! AMC Detroit and ACM Portland

This month the calendar gods wreak havoc with those of us who think that media justice and community media belong together like Bert and Ernie... with the Allied Media Conference taking place in Detroit and the Alliance for Community Media meeting in Portland, both this weekend. Reclaim the Media will use our super media justice powers to be both places at once!

At the AMC in Detroit, I will join Andrea Quijada (New Mexico Media Literacy Project), Steven Renderos (Main Street Project) for a media justice/community organizing panel on How We Used the DTV Transition to Expand the Fight for Media Justice, and What’s Next. That's just one of several panels and workshops organized by members of the Media Action Grassroots Network (complete list here).

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Community broadband on The Conversation

UPDATE: Here's the mp3.

Tune in to KUOW's The Conversation today for a discussion asking, "should Seattle have a city–run broadband network? Tacoma does." Guests will include Seattle Chief Information Officer Bill Schrier and me, hopefully also a representative from Tacoma's CLICK! Network. Segment begins around 12:20.

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Seattle needs affordable public broadband

Reclaim the Media and other Seattle community organizations are spelling out a vision for an affordable, public-owned Internet designed by Seattle for Seattle, built to address poverty, the digital divide, environmental sustainability, the need for civic engagement, education, and many other concerns. The group is calling on the city to commit to building a public-owned, citywide fiber broadband network by 2015, ending Seattle's digital divide and leading the nation into a new era of high-speed broadband.

"Seattle has received national praise for being America's most wired city, but there is nothing approaching equality of access for low-income residents, immigrants, and many others," said Jonathan Lawson, Executive Director of Reclaim the Media. "Low-income households and people of color are about 30 percent less likely than higher income or white folks to have an Internet connection at home in Seattle. The digital divide is still here. It impacts the daily lives of thousands of people, and keeps our communities and our culture from being all they can be."

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Before switch, RTM provides DTV converter boxes to Seattle YWCA residents

On Thursday, June 11th, organizers of Reclaim the Media's Seattle DTV Assistance center partnered with the Seattle YWCA to distribute about 100 donated digital TV converter boxes to YWCA residents who were unable to apply for the government’s $40 coupon program through regular channels.

While apartment dwellers are nominally eligible for the coupons, the YWCA residents ran into trouble when the government's coupon distribution system failed to recognize the YWCA address as a residence.

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RTM hires Americorps CTC Vista position for Digital Media Literacy project

Reclaim the Media has AmeriCorps CTC VISTA opening

UPDATE: Applications now closed. Reclaim the Media has an exciting opportunity for a qualified candidate to help coordinate our Digital Media Literacy project, producing an innovative digital expansion curriculum to be used by community technology centers and media educators in Seattle and nationwide. As part of your year of national service, you'll work with a leading media justice organization to expand and enrich digital access, and help ensure that low-income, immigrant, youth and other underserved communities have full command of current digital media opportunities for civic engagement, creating online content, building social networks, and interacting with community institutions and government.

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Listen Up Northwest program 46: Separation of church and state

Listen Up! Northwest is a collaboratively produced radio magazine featuring stories of communities in action throughout the Northwest. Each broadcast highlights the work of skilled community radio producers and artists from our region, including Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

In Listen Up! Northwest program 46, we look at the separation of church and state with a discussion between an atheist, a Christian pastor, and a practicing Muslim. (Callie Shanafelt, KBCS Bellevue/Seattle).

Music by Northwest artist DJ B-Girl.

* download program 46
* general Listen Up! NW promo

Listen Up! NW is produced by Yuko Kodama at KBCS for Reclaim the Media, and distributed by the Northwest Community Radio Network.

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State Legislature passes broadband bill

Today the Washington State Legislature approved broadband legislation which will help bring new high-speed internet access to residents, businesses, educational institutions, public health and safety services, local governments and community organizations in underserved parts of Washington State. The bill, HB1701 (pdf) was originally sponsored by Reps. Zack Hudgins and Bob Hasegawa, and will depend on federal stimulus funding for much of its impact. Background here and a summary of the bill below.

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DTV assistance providers praise Fred Meyer, call on other retailers to offer no-cost box

On April 17, community groups and DTV Assistance Center providers in Seattle called upon retailers to take the "Socially Responsible Retailer" pledge, by agreeing to offer a $40 "no-cost box" option for local DTV consumers. Only Fred Meyer stores have taken the pledge - Company officials committed that Seattle-area Fred Meyer stores will offer $40 boxes as a special promotion, on at least one occasion before the June 12 transition.

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DTV day of action: it’s time for a socially responsible DTV transition

On Friday April 17th, local community organizations gathered at Seattle Housing Authority's Center Park facility calling for a Socially Responsible DTV Transition; helping community members apply for DTV converter box coupons, answering questions about the upcoming transition, and calling upon local retailers to provide a “no-cost box” option for local consumers. City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Bruce Harrell provided an update on their January letter to local retailers, asking for a no-cost box. To date, few local retailers have answered the community's call for affordable box options.

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