Legislation alert: Washington State considers community broadband bill

Christopher Mitchell, Community Broadband News

Last year, Community Broadband News noted that a bill to expand local authority to invest in publicly owned broadband networks would return to the Washington Legislature in 2012. HB 1711 is in Committee and causing a bit of a stir. "A bit of a stir" is good -- such a reaction means it has a chance at passing and giving Washington's residents a greater opportunity to have fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet.

Washington's law presently allows Public Utility Districts to build fiber-optic networks but they cannot offer retail services. They are limited to providing wholesale services only -- working with independent service providers to bring telecom services to the public.

Unfortunately, this approach can be financially debilitating, particularly in rural areas. Building next generation networks in very low density areas is hard enough without being forced to split the revenues with third parties.

Last year, House Bill 2601 created a study to examine telecommunications reform, including the possibilty of municipality and public utility district provisioning. The University of Washington School of Law examined the issues and released a report [pdf] that recognizes the important role public sector investments can play...

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Victory! 3rd Circuit Court overrules FCC on media consolidation

The efforts of public interest advocates across the country were vindicated on July 7 when the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the FCC's controversial 2007 decision to allow media companies to control both newspapers and broadcast stations in the same communities.

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people had spoken out in favor of protecting independent journalism by banning excessive corporate consolidation. In Seattle, over 1100 people spoke out passionately against the FCC's proposal to weaken regulations at Reclaim the Media's standing-room only hearing on the issue. The new court ruling vindicates those efforts and sends the FCC an important message about their obligations to consider grassroots public opinion.

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How community access television is meeting the information needs of communities: Beyond the Future (of Media), and Back to the Knight (Commission)

Rob McCausland, How Community Access Television Is Meeting the Information Needs of Communities: Beyond the Future (of Media), and Back to the Knight (Commission)

Beyond the FCC's Future of Media inquiry, the focus of my earlier posts, I'd like to go back to last year’s Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy and its original question: What are the information needs of communities in a digital age?

In a section titled "Envisioning and Measuring Success and Failure," the Knight Commission Report says:

In a perfect world, citizens could reliably measure their information needs and gauge their satisfaction.Read more.

House votes to overturn FCC net neutrality rules

Diane Bartz, Reuters

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to overturn proposed rules that bar Internet service providers from blocking legal content but give some discretion to ration access for bandwidth hogs.

The vote -- which was spearheaded by Republican lawmakers determined to undo a range of Obama administration initiatives -- would block funds to implement rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission in December.

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Congress debates FCC's net neutrality rules

Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

House Republicans attacked new "net neutrality" rules for broadband Internet lines in a contentious hearing Wednesday and criticized Democratic Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for adopting them.

Republicans are targeting the new Internet rules, which would bar Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic and services, as one of many new regulations, including for health care and the environment, which they say are unnecessary and overly burdensome on industry.

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Cantwell, Franken introduce legislation to protect net neutrality

Office of Senator Maria Cantwell

Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011 to ensure the broadband Internet continues to serve as a source of innovation, free speech, and job growth. Though Cantwell believes that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) acted within its authority to issue its own net neutrality rules last December, she stated at the time that they were not strong enough to ensure the Internet remains a source of innovation and economic growth. U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is an original cosponsor of the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act.

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Wireless carriers openly considering charging per service

Nilay Patel, Engadget

A marketing slide showing a mobile Internet user reviewing a menu of fees--one charge for Facebook, another for YouTube, etc.--is no joke; it comes from a webinar put on by two companies that count Verizon, AT&T and Vodafone as clients, and it describes a system that identifies customer internet activity and charges a different rate for using Facebook than watching YouTube, while allowing access to Vodafone services for free. Yes, that's basically the nightmare scenario for net neutrality advocates. The two companies behind the slide are Allot Communications and Openet, which sell subscriber-management tools to carriers around the world -- tools that Allot's director of marketing says can scan even encrypted packets to determine what service customers are using and charge accordingly.

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Inslee: FCC Internet ruling falls short

office of Rep. Jay Inslee

On Dec. 21, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) issued this statement following the release of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) adoption of the Open Internet Order.

Today's rulemaking from the FCC seeks to preserve the open internet, and protect the foundation that has built industries, fostered marketplaces, and created jobs. I commend the FCC for moving forward on this important policy and ensuring basic consumer protections.

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FCC's net neutrality compromise benefits industry at expense of small business, tech innovators and minorities

Reclaim the Media

Public interest advocates continue pushing for a level playing field online

Today, the Federal Communications Commission held a key vote affecting rules of the road for the Internet. Unfortunately, the rules approved today fall short of Chairman Julius Genachowski's rhetoric concerning Internet openness, and stand to benefit large providers like AT&T and Comcast at the expense of end users, small businesses, and technology innovators.

By treating wireless web access differently from wired broadband, the FCC's net neutrality order paves the way for a two-tiered Internet experience, with wireless users faced with predatory pricing tiers and discriminatory filtering. Latinos, rural Americans, blacks and low-income Internet users disproportionately favor wireless connections, and will be disproportionately impacted by the new rules.

Additionally, while the order provides many consumers with a new level of protection from net neutrality abuses by service providers, it lacks a clear, enforceable ban on paid prioritization--a practice which would allow Internet providers to impose discriminatory speed limits on some websites unwilling or unable to pay for special access.

The FCC's decision ignores overwhelming public support for stronger, enforceable net neutrality protections, and commonsense requests for a single set of rules recognizing that there is a single set of rules recognizing that there is one Internet, not two.

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Broadband prices dropping around the world, but not US

Matthew Lasar, Ars Technica

A new study suggests that the United States could do better when it comes to home ISP prices. The Technology Policy Institute's latest survey of the global high speed Internet market finds that US residential broadband subscription rates have "remained fairly stable" over the last three years, rising by just two percent.

That's good, of course, since they didn't go way up. But residential broadband prices have fallen in most other countries, the paper notes—in some instances by as much as 40 percent.

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NAB using dishonest tactics to hold back community radio bill

Paul Riismandel, Radio Survivor

The National Association of Broadcasters has never been a friend to low-power community radio. Back in 2000, when the FCC first created the service, the NAB did everything it could to try and keep it from becoming a reality. While the broadcast lobby failed to stop it outright, the NAB did succeed in getting Congress to significantly curtail LPFM with a last-minute attachment to an omnibus budget bill passed in December of that year. One of the weapons the NAB used was a bogus CD that purported to demonstrate harmful interference caused by low-power stations, that was later disproved by an independent report ordered by Congress.

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Public access channels remain a major source for local TV programming

Alliance for Community Media

The Alliance for Community Media, in partnership with The Buske Group, recently completed an online survey regarding first-run, locally produced programming on public, educational and governmental (“PEG”) cable access channels. More than 200 PEG Access Centers participated in the survey, with responses from 37 states and the District of Columbia. Key findings indicate that PEG Access facilities are very often the leading provider of local, original programming in communities across the United States.

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The Money and media election complex

Robert McChesney and John Nichols, The Nation

Like the wizard telling the people of Oz to "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," Karl Rove used media appearances at the close of the 2010 midterm campaign to dismiss President Obama's complaints that Republican consultants, led by the former White House political czar, were distorting Senate and House races across the country with a flood of money—hundreds of millions of dollars—from multinational corporations and billionaire conservatives into Senate and House races. "Obama looks weirdly disconnected—and slightly obsessive—when he talks so much about the Chamber of Commerce, Ed Gillespie and me," Rove mused. "The president has already wasted one-quarter of the campaign's final four weeks on this sideshow."

The "sideshow" from which Rove sought to distract attention was, in fact, the most important story of the most expensive midterm election in American history: the radical transformation of our politics by a money-and-media election complex that is now more definitional than any candidate or party—and that poses every bit as much of a threat to democracy as the military-industrial complex about which Dwight Eisenhower warned us a half-century ago. This is not the next chapter in the old money-and-politics debate. This is the redefinition of politics by a pair of new and equally important factors—the freeing of corporations to spend any amount on electioneering and the collapse of substantive print and broadcast reporting on campaigns. In combination they have created a "new normal," in which consultants dealing in dollar amounts unprecedented in American history use "independent" expenditures to tip the balance of elections in favor of their clients. Unchecked by even rudimentary campaign finance regulation, unchallenged by a journalism sufficient to identify and expose abuses of the electoral process and abetted by commercial broadcasters that this year pocketed $3 billion in political ad revenues, the money-and-media election complex was a nearly unbeatable force in 2010.

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SCAN-TV shutting down, future of Seattle public access TV unclear

Todd Bishop, TechFlash

Seattle Community Access Network, the independent non-profit group that has operated the city’s public access TV station for more than a decade, says it will cease operations at the end of the year -- without a transition period -- rather than bid for a new contract under the 85 percent funding cut proposed by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

The group, known as SCAN-TV, announced the news today -- saying it tried to negotiate a 6-month transition period with the city but couldn’t reach “workable terms.” Executive director Dian Ferguson said in a news release that it "does not appear that anyone with the authority to restore funding is listening."

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Low-power radio bill down to the wire in Senate

Jennifer Martinez, Politico

A bill that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to give licenses to more noncommercial, localized radio stations is caught in static.

Despite support from both sides of the aisle, including strong backing from Arizona Sen. John McCain, a group of Republican senators have successfully blocked the bill.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso currently has a hold on the measure, which would create a new crop of radio stations — known as low-power FM stations — dedicated to hyperlocal community news, such as information about school boards, city councils and church groups, or spreading music by local artists.

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Jennifer Pozner on reality TV: Reality Bites Back

Anne Kingston, Maclean's

a conversation with Jennifer Pozner on the fakeness of reality shows, how ‘the dumb bimbo’ is cast, and why actresses are shrinking

Jennifer Pozner is the director of Women In Media & News in New York City, and the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.

Q: Why do you say it’s “bulls–t” that viewer demand has created the deluge of reality TV?

A:Michael Hirschorn, the brain trust behind VH1’s Flavor of Love and Flavor of Love: Charm School and basically the guy who is responsible for bringing the modern minstrel show to television, has said in an interview that – this is the quote, “If women don’t want those shows they wouldn’t get made,” That’s what I call bulls–t, because what reality producers and what the entertainment press sells us is this notion that we, the public, have just demanded via massive ratings that they give us this bottom-feeder low-quality reality TV fare, and this is just a big lie. It’s true that some reality shows—American Idol, The Bachelor—have gotten high ratings, but many others languish with paltry ratings and they get to stay [on air] because these shows are really cheap to produce. It can cost about 50 per cent less—sometimes even 75 per cent less—to make a reality show than to make a quality scripted program.

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Paths to preserving an open Internet

Sen. Tom Udall, Politico

It is beyond cliché to note how important the Internet is in modern life. The Internet has transformed not only the telecommunications landscape but also our economy and society.

Over the years, the Net has morphed from a complicated medium for scientists and computer engineers into a network for telecommuting to school or the office, a marketplace for e-commerce and a place to connect with friends via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

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Tides CEO to Fox News advertisers: you may have blood on your hands

Media Matters

In a letter released today, Tides CEO and founder Drummond Pike called on advertisers to stop supporting Fox News.

Pike wrote that Byron Williams -- the alleged gunman who, according to police, said he planned to murder employees of Tides and the ACLU -- relied heavily on conspiracy theories advanced on Glenn Beck's show:

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Seattle public access funding threatened in Mayor's budget

Sonia Krishman, Seattle Times

Seattle's public access TV channel SCAN could go dark under Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed budget. It's no secret the city of Seattle faces a $67 million budget hole. So funding public-access TV channel SCAN to the tune of $650,000 a year, begs some reconsideration, said spokesman Mark Matassa.

There are arguments on both sides. Public-access advocates say pulling the plug will spell the death of the local voice. The channel caters to a spectrum of political views. Plus, they say, they fear a programming void for immigrants, especially the Somali and Ethiopian communities, who rely on public access for news and events in their native languages.

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Communities of color call on FCC to apply network neutrality rules to wireless networks

Media Action Grassroots Network

In comments filed today with the Federal Communications Commission, almost thirty organizations, including Reclaim the Media, members of Latinos for Internet Freedom and the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net), called on the agency to apply Network Neutrality rules to all Internet access platforms, including on wireless networks.

People of color are among the fastest growing constituencies in the United States and the most active users of the mobile Internet and many rely exclusively on their cell phones and other mobile devices to get online. Communities of color use their mobile devices as a primary tool for activism, community engagement and democratic participation, from defending the rights of immigrants to registering to vote.

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