Features

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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From the blog

Mayor McGinn's community media problem

UPDATE: Community groups urge Seattle City Council to restore funding for public access.

Why does Mike McGinn's office seem to have such a problem with community media? After local blogger/journalist Sakara Remmu (pen name Sable Verity) criticized the Mayor in blog posts, Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith took it upon himself to complain to Remmu's employers at the Tabor 100. Tabor fired her rather than harbor a perceived enemy of the Mayor's office. The episode raised troubling questions about abuse of power and the Mayor's office's respect —or lack thereof —for independent media.

That lack of respect was on full display in the Mayor's proposed budget, released last month, which slashes city funding for community access TV provider SCAN. SCAN trains local video producers and airs their programs on local cable channels. Previously funding SCAN in the neighborhood of $600,000 a year, the Mayor's current proposal would reduce that annual amount to just $100,000—a cut which would essentially strangle the nonprofit out of existence, and leave the city without a local training facility dedicated to helping local producers develop programming for community audiences.

Listen to a report on SCAN from KBCS 91.3FM.

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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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From the blog

Weds, Oct 20: Media, Meet Justice!

Join RTM and the Northwest Media Action Grassroots Network at Hidmo (20th and Jackson, Seattle) on Oct. 20 for an evening of media justice strategizing and discussion: Media? Meet Justice.

Local activists will share lessons learned this summer at the Allied Media Conference and the US Social Forum, including reflecting on intersections between media justice and immigrant rights, food justice, racism and economic oppression, among other issues. Then we'll put on our thinking caps for a strategic conversation about how community media, media justice and social justice groups can work together in the Northwest to strengthen the movement for social change.

Media. meet Justice! A cross-movement media justice strategy discussion Weds, Oct. 20, 6:30-8:30pm, Hidmo (20th and Jackson, Seattle)

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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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Inslee to FCC: Stop stalling on broadband reclassification

On Sept. 30 Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) released this statement regarding the announcement that efforts to craft bipartisan net neutrality legislation in Congress have stalled: "Waiting and deliberation is over, the FCC must now move to reclassify broadband under Title II. Innovators and consumers can no longer wait, hoping, that the internet will remain open and free from discrimination they need certainty. For months I have encouraged the FCC to reinstate the rules of the road that have allowed for the explosion of innovation and economic growth on the internet. Instead, some have pointed to Congress to find a solution. Despite the efforts of Chairman Waxman, it is now clear that Congress will likely not find a bipartisan approach this year that will protect consumers and the online marketplace. The time for FCC action is now. We can't wait any longer."

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Beyond beltway, groups say the FCC must protect broadband

Media Action Grassroots Network

Nationwide, community groups respond to killed Waxman bill, claim FCC authority over broadband is the only sure way to protect consumers

A coalition of 60 community organizations from across the US and leaders representing small businesses, communities of color and America s'poor says while clear rules of the road for high speed broadband Internet are needed, getting those rules from Congress isn't the way.

Coalition spokespeople suggest that the lack of Net Neutrality protection for wireless broadband in the recent Waxman bill was unacceptable, failed to meet equity standards and could have slowed the road to economic prosperity for America's rural, struggling suburban and urban communities of color.

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Seattle's slow progress towards community fiber: an update

Christopher Mitchell, MuniNetworks

If Seattle moves forward on the Community Fiber Network it has been considering, it will be the largest such network in the nation. However, as we recently noted, progress has been slow.

The City's Seattle Jobs Plan proposes a publicly owned fiber network as a smart investment. The report notes that Seattle applied for BTOP stimulus funding from NTIA, but the recent notice of awards suggests that Seattle will not receive any grants or loans. Way back in March, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell published a lengthy post about Seattle's options. Harrell is a pivotal official on this issue and his post suggests he has given it a lot of thought. The post seems geared toward those pushing for a community fiber network. The overall message is that this is a hard decision… which is fine, but the Council seems more ready to wait out the clock than actually make a decision.

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From the blog

McGinn: Seattle remains committed to citywide municipal fiber

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says that his office is still committed to his campaign promise to build a fiber broadband network covering the entire city. He addressed the topic during a Q&A this week at The Stranger's Questionland:

We’ve put together an interdepartmental team to look at the issue and figure out what a high-level business plan for an advanced network might look like. The city has built and maintains a high speed, optic broadband network connecting schools, government facilities, and community institutions. The interdepartmental team’s business plan will guide the effort to expand broadband to businesses and homes. The plan will be completed in early 2011. Once the plan is finalized, the city will explore funding options and next steps.

McGinn's answer echoes the inclusion of broadband infrastructure as a component of the Seattle Jobs Plan recently released by the Office of Economic Development. This is encouraging news, at a time when the city is struggling financially and other major infrastructure projects (viaduct, bridge, waterfront) are demanding public attention and money.

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From the blog

City of Edmonds moving ahead with municipal broadband plans. What's Seattle doing?

Good news from our neighbor to the north, Edmonds, WA:

Edmonds Council votes to pursue customers for its broadband business

The Edmonds City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night to support efforts to pursue customers for the city’s 24 strands of fiber optic cable, which so far have been largely unused by anyone other than the city itself [...] Efforts so far to market [the city's] broadband have been stymied by a poor economy and a year-long delay while the city successfully went to court to secure the right to sell broadband services to private entities. [...]

While the city has spent $492,000 to activate the broadband network, it is saving approximately $97,000 annually because it doesn’t have to purchase fiber optic services, and is expected to recoup its investment by 2015.

Full article in MyEdmondsNews here, with useful background here.

This is great news for folks in Edmonds, who by and large already enjoy better Internet connectivity than most people in Seattle, with fiber broadband offered by Frontier (formerly Verizon); now there will be a locally, municipally owned alternative. The resulting competition should benefit customers in pricing and service.

Meanwhile, Seattle's broadband future remains mired in inertia, despite the city's technology office having a remarkably clear vision for pursuing a municipal fiber system of our own, and despite Mayor McGinn campaigning on the issue.

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