Legislation and Regulation

NTIA awards four states grants for national broadband map

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

Broadband stimulus money watchers and recovery plan tea leaf readers are cheering news of the first winners of the Department of Commerce's grants program for broadband mapping projects. They're pleased that the recipients are independent state agencies rather than groups affiliated with the telco/cable-backed non-profit Connected Nation. "We hope that trend continues," Connected's outspoken critic Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge told us. Other observers think that it will.

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Very hot and cold on net neutrality

Craig Settles, Daily Yonder

Net neutrality has become a contentious issue within the media, among pundits and in Congress, generating an edginess on par with healthcare reform discussions. But what does this debate mean to Smalltown, USA, and rural America?

On the face of it, net neutrality is a fairly simple issue, but beneath the surface complex potential benefits and competing interests are churning up a lot of turbulence. In particular, incumbents – the large telecom and cable companies such as AT&T and Comcast, with existing Internet access services – are not happy.

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House GOP leadership complains to Obama about net neutrailty

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

House Republican leaders complained Friday to President Obama that net neutrality rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission could deter investment in broadband networks and hurt the economy.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House Republican whip, wrote in a letter to the president that the FCC, led by chairman Julius Genachowski, should focus on its congressional mandate to come up with a plan to bring high-speed Internet access to all U.S. homes instead of net neutrality rules. The net neutrality rules would be a separate proceeding from the national broadband plan that is due to Congress in Feb. 2010.

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Senators announce bill to repeal telecom immunity

Office of Senator Chris Dodd

Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced today that they will introduce the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act, which eliminates retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.

“I believe we best defend America when we also defend its founding principles,” said Dodd. “We make our nation safer when we eliminate the false choice between liberty and security. But by granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have participated in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the Congress violated the protection of our citizen’s privacy and due process right and we must not allow that to stand.”

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FCC still looking for broadband ideas

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is still looking for ideas on how to bring broadband to all corners of the U.S. and to increase subscriber numbers, said the director of the agency's broadband project.

The FCC is about midway through a year-long effort to create a national broadband plan, and Blair Levin, executive director of the FCC's omnibus broadband initiative, said Tuesday he hopes he hasn't heard all the good ideas yet. "There's a lot of capacity for us to hear your good ideas," Levin said during a broadband policy discussion hosted by the Media and Democracy Coalition and OneWebDay.

The U.S. Congress, in legislation passed early this year, required the FCC to create a national broadband plan, with a goal of providing universal broadband. Getting to universal broadband in the U.S. will take a coordinated effort by many groups, Levin said.

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Public interest groups urge lawmakers to craft a public-centered broadband plan

Reclaim the Media/WashPIRG

In Seattle, public interest groups Reclaim the Media and WashPIRG are releasing a new report, A Public Interest Internet Agenda, a guide for policymakers creating strategies to connect more urban and rural households to affordable, high-speed broadband Internet.
The report was prepared by member groups of the national Media and Democracy Coalition, including Reclaim the Media.

The report should provide immediate guidance to the Federal Communications Commission, which has been given a deadline of February 2010 for preparing a national broadband strategy. The FCC’s new Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has called for “a process that will be open, transparent and will allow public participation in ways that are unparalleled," and the FCC has begun to schedule public hearings to guide its work.

"The US has fallen behind in universal Internet access, in affordability and in speed, thanks to years of hands-off public policy," said Reclaim the Media executive director Jonathan Lawson. "We need a concerted national effort to get back on track, and policymakers specifically need to hear from the unserved and underserved sectors of our community, not just the telecommunications carriers who have let us fall so far behind. The community-generated recommendations in this report bring balance back to the discussion."

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FCC chair commits to net neutrality

Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

Good news for all American consumers who use the Internet: in a speech today at the Brookings Institution, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski made a strong commitment to preserving Net Neutrality in the face of increased efforts by providers block services and applications, saying "If we wait too long to preserve a free and open Internet, it will be too late." He continued:

We’ve already seen some clear examples of deviations from the Internet’s historic openness. We have witnessed certain broadband providers unilaterally block access to VoIP applications (phone calls delivered over data networks) and implement technical measures that degrade the performance of peer-to-peer software distributing lawful content. We have even seen at least one service provider deny users access to political content. And as many members of the Internet community and key Congressional leaders have noted, there are compelling reasons to be concerned about the future of openness.

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Verizon, AT&T: Net neutrality not OK for wireless

Marguerite Reardon, CNet

The wireless industry is gearing up to fight new Net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission is formulating to keep the Internet open. On Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., outlining plans to turn the agency's principles for open Internet access into official regulation. In addition to making sure that network operators cannot prevent users from accessing lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, or attaching unharmful devices to the network, Genachowski wants to add two more rules.

The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management. The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement.

Broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications have opposed regulation or new laws that would dictate how they could run their networks. Up until this point, the Internet has been free of any regulation. And these companies would like to keep it that way.

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FCC to propose Net Neutrality rules

Brad Reed, Network World

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski will propose a new network neutrality rule during a speech at the Brookings Institute on Monday, the Washington Post reports.

Anonymous sources have told the Post that Genachowski won’t offer too many details about the proposed rule and will likely only propose “an additional guideline for networks to be clear that they can’t discriminate, or act as gatekeepers, of Web content.”

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FCC Commissioners unanimously support expanding Low Power FM

Prometheus Radio Project

In the first Congressional oversight hearing since the three new FCC Commissioners took office, all five Commissioners endorsed the Local Community Radio Act HR 1147/ S592, unanimously reaffirming the FCC s continued support for the bipartisan bill which would expand low-power FM radio across the country.

FCC Chairman Genachowski and Commissioners Baker and Clyburn expressed support for the Local Community Radio Act in a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Introduced by Rep. Mike Doyle (PA-14) and Rep. Lee Terry (NE-2) in February, the bill would repeal a 2003 law that restricts Low Power FM radio (LPFM) radio to rural areas.

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