Legislation and Regulation

Music industry group responds to performance-royalty protest with overblown threat

Eric Ruth, Wilmington News Journal

RTM note: RTM supports the idea of a broadcast performance royalty. With appropriate fee caps for noncommercial broadcasters, it will provide an important revenue stream for performers, and bring US policy in line with international standards. The below-described response from the industry group MusicFirst, however, is indicative of the reason why so many music fans view the entire music industry with mistrust or contempt.

As radio stations go, Mount Pleasant High School's WMPH (Wilmington, Delaware) is full of earnest endeavor, but hardly noticed on a radio dial crowded by its more powerful neighbors.

Not anymore.

This 100-watt flicker of a station has attracted the wrath of the global recording industry for having the temerity to boycott certain performers in response to legislation that would allow record companies to begin charging stations a royalty fee.

Never mind that the monthlong boycott was two years ago, and that on good days WMPH's signal peters out just past Newark. Last week, a recording industry group called the MusicFirst Coalition asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate and "take action against radio stations for abusing their license to use the airwaves."

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Reform groups offer tough questions for FCC nominees

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

At long last the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for two Federal Communication Commission seats, those of proposed Chair Julius Genachowski, and current Republican Robert M. McDowell—he was nominated for another term. And anxious to help out, six media reform groups have sent a letter to committee chair Jay Rockefeller IV (D-WV) with lots of questions "to aid in [the Committee's] examination of the new nominees" for the Commission.

"We hope this will assist you in evaluating their orientation towards the public interest," the document adds.

Very thoughtful—of course, the point of the missive is to move the FCC agenda in their direction. It covers five areas of concern to the advocates, who include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Prometheus Radio Project, the United Church of Christ Office of Communication, the Media Access Project, the Center for Rural Strategies, and Public Knowledge.

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Everyone loves broadband; the real fight is about Internet freedom

Brad Reed, Network World

In some ways, broadband has become the tech industry's equivalent to healthcare and education: everybody agrees that it's a good thing and everybody thinks all Americans should have access to it.

A quick glance over the deadline-beating public comments filed with the FCC this week shows that the vast majority of industry players and consumer advocates think that universal broadband access is a noble goal worth working toward. The Internet Innovation Alliance, for instance, says that the national broadband plan should "enable the government to partner with the private sector to extend broadband service to every corner of the country." AT&T, meanwhile, says that the broadband plan's two goals should be ensuring broadband access and adoption "for 100% of Americans" by 2014. And the Computer & Communications Industry Association says simply that the plan "must ensure that all Americans have access to broadband."

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Net neutrality gains political traction

Seattle Times

The fight to maintain free and open access to the Internet has gained political strength, including a recent boost from President Obama.

Free and open access to the Internet helped the technology grow and thrive. The political fight to maintain robust access for all has picked up strength in Washington, D.C. That is good news for consumers.

The shorthand for the field of battle is net neutrality. Proponents argue that a network provider should not restrict users for reasons against their interests, such as to deny them the right to use certain services because those services are owned by somebody else.

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Appeals court rules in favor of Low-Power FM

Media Access Project

In a significant victory for low power FM radio, the U.S. Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit today affirmed the December 2007 Federal Communications Commission decision to protect LPFM stations against “encroachment” by full power radio stations.

The Commission’s ruling was challenged by the National Association of Broadcasters. Media Access Project represented Prometheus Radio Project as an intervenor in the case.

"MAP strongly applauds the Court of Appeals for upholding the Commission’s public interest authority to protect and promote low power FM," said MAP Vice President Parul P. Desai. "The decision is a critical win for the future of LPFM and the preservation of local, diverse viewpoints in communities throughout the nation," she said.

Read the court's decision.

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FCC: Net neutrality important for rural residents

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

The U.S. must preserve an open Internet in order to bring the full benefit of broadband to rural areas of the U.S., a Federal Communications Commission report on rural broadband said.

Without net neutrality protections, broadband users won't see as much innovation as possible on the Internet, said the report, released Wednesday by FCC acting Chairman Michael Copps.

"The ... network effects of ubiquitous broadband will not be realized if consumers are all constrained by careful bundling, packaging, and discriminatory practices that whittle away the end-to-end structure of the public Internet," the report said. "'Openness'" is not just another bromide, but a principle we must tenaciously preserve. The value of open networks is not a novel concept, but the Commission must act to ensure that the genius of the open Internet is not lost."

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FCC gets more funding for DTV call center

Chloe Albanesius, PC Magazine

Are you ready for the DTV transition?

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday took a final look at the status of the DTV switch, nine days before the June 12 deadline for broadcasters to move from analog to digital signals.

"While I have no doubt that there will be some disruption [on June 12, there are] obvious signs of progress," acting FCC chairman Michael Copps said during the commission's monthly meeting.

Next Friday, 974 of the nearly 2,000 stations throughout the country will switch to digital signals, while six stations plan to do so before June 12. The remaining stations have already made the switch.

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Telecoms win dismissal of wiretap suits

Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

A federal judge on Wednesday threw out more than three dozen lawsuits claiming that the nation’s major telecommunications companies had illegally assisted in the wiretapping without warrants program approved by President George W. Bush after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker of Federal District Court in Northern California said that although consumer and privacy groups raised important constitutional issues in their claims, Congress had left no doubt about its “unequivocal intention” when it passed a measure last summer giving immunity to phone carriers in the wiretapping program.

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Republicans settling on their picks for FCC

John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable

According to sources familiar with the process, Senate Republicans are closer to agreeing on their two picks for FCC commissioner.

They appear to be Meredith Atwell Baker, former acting head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, and a renomination nod for FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. Baker is said to be closer to being announced, though neither is a for sure until the president announces his intention to nominate, followed by a nomination, after which they must get a confirmation hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee and a vote in the full Senate.

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The FCC's new deal for rural Internet

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

The first thing that stands out as you peruse the Federal Communications Commission's latest report on rural broadband is that it reads like it was actually written by somebody.

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