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On the way to work, I listen to podcasts on my trusty 3G 20GB iPod. One of the more interesting ones I’ve subscribed to is the Gilmore Gang.

I’ve had to catch up on some of my Gillmore Gang listening, and unfortunately I missed the September 2, 2005 podcast titled “Municipal Gang.” This weeks gang consisted of Chris Nolan of Politics from Left to Right and eWeek.com and the usuals folks: Dan Farber, Dana Gardner, Doc Searls, and Mike Vizard.

The topic discussed was, as you probably have guessed by now, municipal wifi. If you don’t know by now, it’s a topic that Public Knowledge is very interested in—see our “Spread Wifi” page.

The discussion was pre-telecommunications draft, but the gang came to the issue from a fresh start. They really seem to understand the problems with the “free market,” calling it a market made up of two incumbent monopolies. They also understand how broadband over Wifi can level the market—by providing consumers and businesses another way to generate new content, communicate, and do business.

They asked a number of good questions, perhaps most importantly, how do we make things happen politically. They were more concerned about Presidential platforms (which is still a ways out), but I bet if this podcast discussion was had after the telecom draft, it would have focussed on how to sway legislators to do the “right thing.”

So how do we get this ball moving in the “right direction?” I think as a reader of this blog, your best bet is to start at the local level. We need to be telling people about the benefits of Wifi. Spread that information to your friends, blog it, maybe even write an op-ed in your local newspaper. Get your Mayor or city council interested in it— by explaining muni-wifi's benefits and low costs.

Maybe municipally funded Wifi isn’t the answer for your town, but having the debate is important.

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In case you haven’t read the news lately, The House Energy and Commerce Committee has put out its first draft of the upcoming telecommunications re-write. Here is a preliminary run-down on this generally pro-consumer bill:

  • Ensuring an Open Internet: The draft bill ensures that consumers can reach the web sites of their choice, run applications, and attach the devices they want to use. It also includes an exception permitting network operators to manage their networks and provide their own video applications. It’s unclear whether this exception could swallow the rule at the moment, so it could stand some tightening up.

  • Municipal Broadband: The draft bill preempts state law as far as muni-broadband goes. State law, under this new scheme, can’t block municipalities from providing broadband networks, as long as those cities refrain from favoring themselves over other users of the rights-of-way. This is handled similarly to the McCain-Lautenberg bill and certainly goes hand-in-hand with Public Knowledge’s promotion of Muni-Wifi.

  • Consumer Protections: The draft bill directs the FCC to setup national consumer protection standards for VOIP, Broadband Internet Transmission, and Broadband Video Service providers. These protections are to cover late fees, early termination fees, purchase and/or lease of subscriber equipment, privacy notifications, spam, indecency, disability access, etc.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the bill, but it looks promising. Especially since the draft bill tends to support PK’s "Principles for an Open Broadband Future."

Have any questions or comments about the bill? Please post them below.

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Blog

No Spending for Flag

September 20, 2005 Blog Posts, Broadcast Flag, Policy Blog

When we last mentioned the broadcast flag…you’ll remember that PK along with the EFF asked you to call into Senate Appropriators to make sure they didn’t do anything with the broadcast flag behind closed doors. Specifically, we were concerned that the Senate Appropriations Committee would authorize the FCC to instate the broadcast flag scheme. That bill, the CJS Appropriations bill H.R. 2862 (a bill that sets out spending for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State) passed the Committee and headed to the Senate floor for amendments and final passage.

At the end of last week, a number of amendments were made to H.R. 2862. On the floor, there’s no real telling what might happen. There’s very little process and occasionally, “non-germaine” amendments (read: unrelated amendments that really have no business being included on a bill) get attached.

Well, the bill passed the Senate on Thursday, but it has taken some time to find out exactly what the amendments actually said. After having gone through the bill and amendments, we can say that we’ve all dodged another bullet and the CJS Appropriations Bill is Broadcast Flag free!

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Blog

Getting real about the Grokster case

February 8, 2005 News, News & Analysis, P2P

Over the next few months, the Supreme Court and--likely--Congress will resume a debate over rules that could determine whether consumers will continue to enjoy the benefits of many of the gadgets CNET covers.

The debate is specifically about what kind of legal liability--if any--technology manufacturers, financiers, Internet service providers, journalists and others should have if their actions "induce" another to commit copyright infringement.

By: Gigi Sohn, CNET News.com
Link

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For Immediate Release

Background: The Senate late in its weekend session passed by unanimous consent S 3021, a shorter version of the omnibus copyright legislation (HR 2391) that had been introduced earlier in the session.

Statement of Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge:

Consumers won a major victory when the Senate passed legislation removing the most egregious elements of the omnibus copyright bill that had previously been under consideration. We strongly support the version of the Family Movie Act, included in the bill, which gives families more control over how they watch movies and television, preserving the right to skip over commercials. The bill will benefit consumers, both in their entertainment choices now, and from the innovation in technology that will result in coming years.

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While enforcing the Copyright Act and preventing copyright infringement are worthy goals, Representative Berman's Peer-to-Peer Self-Help bill goes too far. Rep. Berman's bill gives the content industry great latitude to engage in harmful behavior that could affect lawful consumer activities, as well as unlawful behavior.

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