Legislation and Regulation

Shield law compromise would protect independent journalists and bloggers

Charlie Savage, New York Times/The Caucus

The Obama administration and key Democrats have reached a tentative agreement on a proposed law to provide greater protections to reporters against being fined or imprisoned if they refuse to identify confidential sources.

Under the proposed agreement, a so-called media shield law would allow federal judges to quash subpoenas against reporters if they determine that the public interest in the news outweighed the government’s need to uncover the leaker – including, in some circumstances, disclosures of classified national security information.

The proposal would also extend coverage to unpaid bloggers engaged in gathering and disseminating news information.

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Right-wing misinformation: Net neutrality may be the next "death panels"

Think Progress

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to move forward with regulations to preserve the open architecture of the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to make our current system’s “net neutrality” official by ensuring that broadband providers “cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications” and are “transparent about their network management practices.” That same day, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation to block the FCC, inexplicably arguing that preserving net neutrality would be a “government takeover of the Internet.”

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Zogby Poll Falsely States: ‘FCC to Force Good White People’ Out for ‘African-Americans and Gays’

Chattahbox

Conservative right-wing author Brad O’Leary, who heads PM Direct Marketing and is promoting his new book, “Shut Up America–The End of Free Speech,” co-authored a poll with Zogby, filled with misleading questions and false statements that could have been written by Glenn Beck. Not surprisingly, O’Leary is a frequent guest on Fox News programs.

The not only misleading, but also race-baiting and bigoted Zogby/O’Leary Poll, claims that the results show that, “President Obama’s Attacks on Free Speech Opposed by Most Americans,” as announced in a mass email sent out by O’Leary. How convenient for O’Leary’s book sales.

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Obama tech adviser Susan Crawford plans departure

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

White House technology policy adviser, Susan Crawford will leave her position in January to return to the University of Michigan Law School where she is a tenured professor, according to the Obama administration.

Crawford, known as a proponent of controversial net neutrality rules, has been on temporary leave from the university to serve in the White House. That sabbatical, which began two months after she received tenure at the University of Michigan, will end in January.

“Susan has done an outstanding job coordinating technology policy at the National Economic Council where her expertise on issues from intellectual property to the Internet has been invaluable," said a White House spokesman. "We understand that she needs to return to her responsibilities in Ann Arbor, but we will miss having her wise counsel in the White House.”

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FCC moves toward net neutrality

Tony Bradley, PC World

The FCC convened this morning and voted to move forward with formalizing net neutrality guidelines. The vote was unanimous, including Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, and initiates the process of debating the proposed rules before any net neutrality policy is actually implemented.

The FCC has already imposed net neutrality principles in past decisions such as banning broadband Internet provider Comcast from throttling peer-to-peer networking traffic. Without a formally sanctioned set of rules though, such decisions could be seen as arbitrary or capricious.

When FCC chairman Julius Genachowski first announced his intention to pursue formalizing net neutrality, it did not take long to see that there are distinctly partisan battle lines involved. Of course, in Washington DC today there are distinctly partisan battle lines involved in where to eat lunch or what color the sky is, so I suppose that should come as no surprise. Still, it was a little shocking that within hours of Genachowski's statement regarding net neutrality GOP lawmakers had already filed an amendment (later retracted) to prohibit the FCC from pursuing it.

In the weeks between Genachowski's initial statement and today's vote the lobbying pressure and the rhetoric in the media have been relatively constant from net neutrality opponents. This week AT&T was accused of astroturfing-- creating a fake grassroots movement-- by encouraging employees to voice their concerns on the FCC web site using their own personal email addresses.

Proponents of net neutrality were not as vocal until more recently. A coalition of 30 tech-focused venture capitalists, under the banner of the Open Internet Coalition, sent an open letter to Genachowski just yesterday urging support for net neutrality rules.

Verizon didn't completely defect, but it did break ranks with other broadband and wireless providers when it issued a joint statement with Google expressing agreed upon common ground for governing net neutrality. Perhaps it's a reflection of the new partnership forged between Verizon and Google to develop Android-based mobile handsets like the upcoming Droid.

Just yesterday the Canadian government ruled on its version of net neutrality. Canada upheld the right of providers to ‘manage' the traffic on their networks, but within certain guidelines. It also stipulated that traffic throttling should be a measure of last resort.

I maintain that net neutrality rules are essential. Comcast talked about how the Internet has thrived without net neutrality, while tacitly admitting that it is only because of the threat of net neutrality that it has played by the rules. AT&T reversed its position on allowing VoIP over its wireless network and pointed to that decision as evidence that the industry can police itself, while not-so-subtly demonstrating that the new policy was a direct attempt to influence the net neutrality debate.

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Nation's CTO reaffirms commitment to net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Aneesh Chopra, the nation's chief technology officer, reaffirmed the White House's commitment to net neutrality amid increased criticism from lawmakers that the rules could hurt investment in Internet networks.

"At a 100,000-foot view, we are committed to the notion that there should be essentially a level playing field for entrepreneurs and big firms to ride our nation’s infrastucture to compete with those applications that we think will deliver value," Chopra said in an interview on C-SPAN's Communicators program taped Friday. The show will air Saturday evening at 6 p.m.

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Will the birthplace of democracy kill freedom on the Internet?

Hannah Miller, Media and Democracy Coalition

This is almost impossible to believe - but it's actually true.

About a month ago, the Obama administration announced its intent to write policy that would protect, by law, the freedom that has allowed the Internet to grow and flourish.

It's no joke that such protection is needed. Repression of the Internet by the corporations that control it has already started.

Last month, Apple told a healthcare reform group that they wouldn't carry a healthcare reform app on their AT&T network for 30 million iPhones because it was "politically charged"...

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Civil rights groups must support Net Neutrality

Garlin Gilchrist, SuperSpade

Civil rights are fundamentally about protecting fairness, equality, and freedom for all people. Net neutrality is about protecting fairness, equality and freedom for all online data. From a values perspective, these two concepts are functionally equivalent.

Unfortunately, these shared values are not convincing enough for some civil rights organizations. The Broadband Opportunity Coalition (which, ironically, has no website) consists of the National Urban League, the Asian American Justice Center, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Council of La Raza, and other groups that argue for fairness and equality every day.

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House Committee unanimously backs community radio bill

Prometheus Radio Project

With a unanimous voice vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Local Community Radio Act this morning. By repealing restrictions that drastically limit channels available to low power FM (LPFM) stations, the Act will allow hundreds of community groups nationwide to access the public airwaves.

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Baldwin introduces legislation to protect Community Access TV

Alliance for Community Media

The Alliance for Community Media applauds Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin for introducing the Community Access Preservation (CAP) Act of 2009 (PDF) to address the challenges faced by public, education, and government (PEG) TV channels and community access television stations.

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