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