Time for FCC to reclassify broadband to ensure Internet remains a democratic medium

Tim Karr, Seattle Times

TO be or not to be? That is the question weighing heavily on the Federal Communications Commission officials who visit Seattle this week for a public workshop on the future of the Internet and their agency's role in it.

There will be much to discuss. Earlier this month, a federal court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to protect users' unfettered access to the most important communications medium of the 21st century.

The ruling caught the FCC in a regulatory limbo. The agency is now trying to sort out its authority to stop companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from "managing" the Web in ways that undermine the openness that has made it so user-friendly.

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Philadelphia newspapers sold to lenders

Christopher K. Hepp and Harold Brubaker , Phladelphia Inquirer

Brian P. Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Newspapers L.L.C., announced Wednesday afternoon that the company that owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and has been sold to its senior lenders.

The $139 million deal includes a $39.2 million in debt and $69 million in cash equity, plus the value of the company's real estate, estimated at $30 million for the purposes of the bankruptcy auction.

"Brian Tierney was extremely gracious in defeat. He pledged his support for a smooth transition. The senior lenders were very grateful," said Ben Logan, a lawyer for the committee of unsecured creditors.

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Civil rights groups tell the FCC: social justice requires an open Internet

Media Action Grassroots Network et al.

This week, Reclaim the Media's national coalition, the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) joined with dozens of civil rights organizations across the country, in urging the Federal Communications Commission to preserve open Internet policies and reassert its authority to protect consumer and citizen rights online.

Read more for a summary and complete text of the comments filed this week. National organizations joining the comments include the Applied Research Center, Color of Change, Presente, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Mational Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native Public Media and the Rural Broadband Coalition. Washington State organizations supporting MAG-Net's digital justice call for open Internet rules include Reclaim the Media, the ACLU of Washington, the Seattle Minority Executive Directors Coalition, One America, KBCS, the Youth Media Institute, WashPIRG, Washington Bus, Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine, Common Language Project, Ozya, Reel Grrls, Hollow Earth Radio, Sustainable Ballard, NOW Seattle, Community Alliance & Peacemaking Project, Community Alliance for Global Justice, Langston Hughes Film Festival, and Newground Social Investment.

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Protect consumers by preserving Internet freedom

Jay Inslee, Seattle Times

The Internet, arguably the fastest world-changing invention since the Gutenberg printing press, has become the core of our social and business lives. However, the openness and freedom that lie at the heart of the Internet's success is under threat.

A recent federal court ruling determined that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have the authority to regulate Internet service providers to prevent them from restricting access to the Internet. Put simply, service providers would have the power to control the pipes that deliver content to consumers and with it the ability to play favorites or discriminate against bits of data.

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Qwest to merge with CenturyLink

Karl Bode, Broadband DSL Reports

It looks like Qwest has finally found their suitor. CenturyLink and Qwest announced this morning that CenturyLink will acquire Qwest in a tax-free, stock-for-stock transaction worth about $10.5 billion. The deal also includes CenturyLink taking on $11.8 billion in Qwest debt -- which Qwest had been busily trying to reduce for several years now in order to attract a buyer. The new, larger CenturyLink will offer service in 37 states, and the new combined business will serve approximately 5 million broadband customers, 17 million access lines, 1,415,000 video subscribers and 850,000 wireless consumers.

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Academics call for US to adopt EU Internet access regs - fine with us!

Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by 5 academics urging the FCC to adopt European Union (EU)-style transparency regulation rather than so-called “heavy-handed” net neutrality regulation that would ensure that US telephone and cable companies providing Internet access don’t pick winners and losers. In an argument we hear often from those companies, the academics suggest that so long as a consumer knows what its Internet access provider is doing, the customer can simply change providers if he or she doesn’t like it.

What the authors conveniently fail to mention is that competition is robust in many EU countries because of regulatory policies that require an Internet access provider to share its facilities with competitors. The Berkman Center at Harvard Law School pointed this out in its comprehensive, but largely ignored (by the FCC) report that looked at broadband deployment and adoption around the world. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are among the EU countries cited in the report that have adopted “open access” policies.

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Hulu rolling out monthly subscriptions

Dawn Chmielewski, LA Times

Hulu, the popular online site for watching television shows, plans to begin testing a subscription service as soon as May 24, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

Under the proposal, Hulu would continue to provide for free the five most recent episodes of shows like Fox's "Glee," "ABC's "Lost" or NBC's "Saturday Night Live." But viewers who want to see additional episodes would pay $9.95 a month to access a more comprehensive selection, called Hulu Plus, these people said.

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The FCC and the Internet

New York Times

Editorial: With the Internet fast becoming the most important communications channel, it is untenable for the United States not to have a regulator to ensure nondiscriminatory access, guarantee interconnectivity among rival networks and protect consumers from potential abuse.

Yet that’s exactly where the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left us all when it said this month that the Federal Communications Commission didn’t have the authority to regulate the Internet — and specifically, could not force the cable giant Comcast to stop blocking peer-to-peer sites.

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Police seize photos from student newspaper in Virginia

Jordan Fifer, , Roanoke Times

ROANOKE, VA - At least half a dozen police officers and the Rockingham County commonwealth's attorney raided the offices of James Madison University's student newspaper Friday, confiscating hundreds of photos of an off-campus riot last weekend, the paper's editor said.

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For now, there's little to do about a bad Internet provider

Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post

If your Internet provider jerks you around and slows you down, what are you going to do about it?

Fourteen years ago, the answer was easy: Fire the company and switch to one of dozens of other firms selling dial-up access. Seven years ago, you could choose from a healthy variety of digital-subscriber-line services, thanks in part to "line sharing" rules that forced incumbent carriers to open their infrastructure to competitors.

But over the past few years, your options have shriveled to just one or two companies selling the fastest access.

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