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What’s The Hangup Toolkit

December 13, 2013
The largest telephone companies in the U.S. recently announced they are upgrading the technology that delivers phone service. But they also want to leave behind many of the rules that protect consumers. The U.S. telephone system is a universal communications system that keeps families connected, acts as a lifeline in times of crisis, and is […]
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Verizon’s post-hurricane Sandy Voice Link experiment should be the cautionary tale that spurs the FCC into action, not the blueprint for carriers to follow should a similar situation arise in the future.


Today, Public Knowledge, along with 18 other public interest groups, asked the FCC to affirmatively create post-disaster communications policy. PK believes that all Americans should have access to basic telephone services, regardless of location. Since the invention of the telephone, federal regulations have protected and promoted that access, as well as competition in the communications industry.

Unless the FCC establishes appropriate responses for situations in which infrastructure is damaged and carriers do not wish to rebuild, policy makers will continue to improvise, carriers will continue to evade their regulatory obligations, and consumers will continue to be harmed.

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This white paper was released on July 25th by PKThinks, producing forward-thinking papers that examine cutting-edge legal issues. The authors are Senior Staff Attorney Jodie Griffin and Senior Vice President Harold Feld, both of whom work extensively on issues of broadband access, competition, and fairness. This paper is also available as a PDF and for […]
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By misreading the law, the FCC took away your ability to buy alternative set-top boxes like Tivo and Smart TVs. We think that’s wrong. 


Congress recognized customers should not have to rely on their cable companies for a set-top box as early as 1996.  When they passed the updated Telecommunications Act that year they included Section 629, which required the FCC to make sure consumers would have a choice of video devices, just like they can pick what kind of TV to buy, or what model of wireless handset to use.  

Just like your ISP doesn’t make its subscribers use only Macs, or only PCs, your cable company shouldn’t make subscribers use the set-top box it provides.

To implement the law, the FCC and industry created the CableCARD system. Because of CableCARD, you can buy a set-top box at a retail store and plug it into your cable system.  The device will still work even if you switch your provider from Comcast to DirectTV later on. This facilitates competition in the subscription TV market by making it easier for people to switch providers.  And bringing non-affiliated companies into the set-top box market leads to improvements like the ability to record TV programs.

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The way to lower prices for consumers and create a competitive video marketplace is to embrace online video as the future.


One of our Senior Staff Attorneys John Bergmayer testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet on Tuesday. His testimony described why the online video marketplace could lower high cable bills for consumers, while still allowing service providers the opportunity to obtain adequate profits. Representatives from the cable, broadcast, and satellite industries also came to detail their problems with the video market. One theme that rang throughout the hearing was the negative impact sports blackouts and drawn out retransmission disputes have on the public.

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Recently, the FCC has received hundreds of letters from prisoners across the country asking Chairman Genachowski for action on the Wright petition, which calls on the agency to provide a solution for exorbitant prison phone rates. These letters are result of the Prison Phone Justice Campaign where campaign partner Prison Legal News ran an ad in their newspaper, asking incarcerated individuals to share their personal experiences.

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Given the uproar surrounding the PROTECT IP Act and SOPA, it would be easy to think that all meaningful copyright and intellectual property policy is made here in Washington, D.C. Certainly, as PK’s Art Brodsky has pointed out, it is important to stay focused on Congress, because they have shown with the PIRATE Act, the Pro-IP Act, and COICA, the content industry will be back on Capitol Hill to ask for more protection.

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Background:  AT&T late yesterday filed a document in response to the FCC’s request for more information on job creation as a result of the company’s takeover of T-Mobile.

 

The following is attributed to Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge:

 “Once again, AT&T is hiding important information behind the veil of secrecy.  The company is spending millions of dollars on TV ads claiming that its takeover of T-Mobile will create 96,000 jobs, but it can’t be bothered to tell the public how those jobs will be created.

“Instead, it continues to file more information under confidentiality restrictions that do nothing to answer the question how AT&T will reverse its trend of cutting 10,000 jobs per year if the takeover goes through.

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In January, 2012, both PIPA and SOPA were shelved. Read about how your work to fight these bills paid off! To stay updated on issues like this, sign up for our email list on the right → H.R. 3261, The “Stop Online Piracy Act”, or #SOPA would have allowed the government to “suspend operation of, […]
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Dorothy and Toto aren’t in Kansas anymore; and if by “Kansas” you mean “the public domain,” you may be right.

Earlier this month, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals drastically hemmed in the scope of the public domain by restricting the use of materials related to copyrighted works. The decision in Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. v. X One X Productions wades deep into the muck to make some truly unsettling assertions about the public domain, popular characters, and the scope of copyright. 

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