Legislation and Regulation

FCC asks court to leave cross-ownership decision hanging

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The FCC has asked the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to hold off making a decision on the many challenges to the FCC's media ownership rules until it has had a chance to conduct its Quadrennial Review next year.

The FCC is required to review its ownership rules every four years to determine whether they are still "necessary in the public interest".

As a result of the last review in 2006, the FCC, under then-chairman Kevin Martin, loosened the ban on newspaper-broadcast crossownership, but took no further action, saying no further action was in the public interest. Foes of any further deregulation opposed any loosening of the ban as too much deregulation, while those looking for the FCC to scrap the ban or loosening multiple station ownership limits in a single market complained it was insufficiently deregulatory.

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What is 'reasonable network management?'

Mike Weisman, Klopt

There has been a great deal of concern about language in the recent FCC call for rule making on network neutrality. The FCC notice is intended to developed a definition of net neutrality along the lines proposed in the rule making. The concern is directed at language that would permit network operators (I always use the words network operators because these rules would apply to Internet and non-Internet networks) to conduct ‘reasonable network management. This Ars Technica article makes one glaring error; there is nothing about ‘tiering‘ that violates net neutrality, but it is a bad idea for a lot of other reasons.

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FCC chairman: universal broadband access will boost economy

John Lyons, Arkansas News

Extending broadband Internet access to all Americans is “the great infrastructure challenge of our time,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said today.

Genachowski made the remarks during a noon talk at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock. Earlier in the day, he and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., participated in two panel discussions on broadband access at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“Broadband is to us what railroads, electricity, highways and telephones were to previous generations: A platform for commerce, a platform for economic competitiveness, for helping address major national challenges like education and health care, for connecting people with each other,” Genachowski said at the Clinton School.

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AT&T pouts following White House comments on net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

AT&T doesn't like the idea of new regulations mandating unfettered access to the Internet, and recent comments from the Obama administration that connected the issue to censorship in China have really gotten under its skin.

The telecom giant responded forcefully this week to remarks by White House deputy chief technology officer Andrew McLaughlin, who said that free speech and network neutrality are "intrinsically linked." Net neutrality rules are being crafted by federal regulators that would restrict Internet service providers such as AT&T from blocking or prioritizing content on the Web.

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Congress should pass the Local Community Radio Act

Seattle Times

Congress should not waste any time when it returns from its Thanksgiving recess on a bill that would allow for local radio programming to flourish. There is no good reason not to pass the Local Community Radio Act before year end.

The bill, which was passed by the House Commerce Committee on Oct. 15 and the Senate Commerce Committee last week, would clear the way for low-power FM (LPFM) stations to fill the dead air between commercial stations on the radio dial.

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Obama tech deputy: Free speech is net-neutrality foreign policy

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

When President Obama told university students in Shanghai last week that he’s a “big supporter of non-censorship,” it took 27 minutes for one major Chinese portal to delete that part of his speech. After two-and-a-half hours, almost all portals in the nation took out the comments from news coverage.

Despite what appeared to be the Chinese government’s clampdown on the controversial issue of online censorship, an explosive exchange about Obama’s support for “open Internet use” surfaced on blogs and on Twitter.

“That is the optimistic part of the story,” said Andrew McLaughlin, the nation’s deputy technology officer, recounting the event.

In a telecom law conference last Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln law school, McLaughlin and Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, talked about how an open Internet, or so-called net neutrality, underlies free speech on the Web. Without it, censorship can occur.

“If it bothers you that the China government does it, it should bother you when your cable company does it,” McLaughlin said.

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Net neutrality red herrings and how to combat them

Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

Rep. Ed Markey had a conference call with bloggers last Friday to talk about his legislation which would "establish overarching national broadband policy and ensures an open and consumer oriented Internet," or codify net neutrality.

In addition:

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Groups to FCC: no 'special favor’ allowing Hollywood to control consumer TV

Public Knowledge

Thirteen public interest groups today said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should not respond to the “whims of industry” and grant the motion picture lobby the ability to control how consumers use their television sets and set-top boxes. As many as 20 million TV sets could be affected. Groups signing the letter include Public Knowledge, Reclaim the Media, Media Alliance and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to the letter, the Commission’s Media Bureau is poised to grant a waiver requested by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for what is called “selectable output control” that would shut down the types of devices consumers could plug into their TV sets. The MPAA has asked for a special waiver to existing FCC rules so that it can offer movies to consumers, while shutting down the output ports at the back of set-top devices through which equipment like TiVo or Sling Boxes can be connected.

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Obama trade negotiators collude with big business on copyright treaty

Kathy Gill, WiredPen

Back in March, Declan McCullagh reported that the Obama Administration cloaked its draft section of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) under “national security” wrappers — for the general public. At the same time, the document had supposedly already made the rounds of “corporate lobbyists in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.”

Today, someone has leaked information about the U.S.-authored draft chapter on internet “counterfeiting” — a document scheduled for discussion among participating nations in South Korea on Wednesday.

According to PC World, under the treaty Internet Service Providers would become liable for copyright infringement. This is like saying that the telephone company is liable if criminals (or terrorists!) use the company’s assets to plot a crime. How absurd. But don’t be lulled into thinking that absurd means “won’t happen.”

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Copps calls for FCC to stem the tide of media consolidation, address journalism crisis

Federal Communications Commission

From remarks of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps as the Commission launched its 4-year review of the media ownership rules: "There are many important issues pending before the FCC. In long-term importance, none exceeds—and I don’t think any matches—-the future of our media environment. If we can’t fix what’s broken, if we can’t rejuvenate broadcast journalism, reopen shuttered newsrooms, put the brakes on mind-numbing monoprogramming, stop the dumbing-down of our civic dialogue and take advantage of the great potential of local broadcasting, then maybe those who want that spectrum back have the better of the argument. Time will tell.

Except we don’t have time. These issues have been pending before this Commission since I got here and we have done almost nothing to stem the tide of media consolidation and lax government oversight. The consolidation was momentarily slowed by the current economic downturn—itself largely the result of the kind of policies in finance and other businesses that I’ve been complaining about in media for years. But consolidation is coming back, and once the economic indices start heading north, you’ll see media properties galore—-all pining for those elusive 'economies of scale' whose chase doomed so many companies over the past few years..."

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