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Broadcast Flag Action Alert

October 6, 2005 Blog Posts , Broadcast Flag , Policy Blog

In case you haven’t noticed, PK posted an action alert on the broadcast flag. You might be asking yourself, “Self, what new legislation has been introduced on the broadcast flag to warrant me calling my legislator to tell him or her about the broadcast flag?”

Good question! You’re right, there hasn’t been a bill introduced with the broadcast flag on it. Yet. And that’s what it’s really about. We work in Washington, DC. Part of our job is keeping our ear to the ground and looking for the writing on the wall.

Well, we heard what was going on a few months ago in the Appropriations Committee, alerted you, and you called in droves. And guess what? The broadcast flag didn’t make it onto a spending bill. Nice job!

The reasons for some of the pre-emptive action alerts are manyfold. Here are just a few reasons:

  • To educate legislators on the specific issue.

  • To let them know that there may be other angles to this issue, and that the issue is potentially controversial.

  • To make them aware that a part of their constituency cares enough to write them a letter.

As for the current broadcast flag status, the current potential vehicle is the DTV transition bill. In the Senate, we’ve heard that there will be two bills: A spectrum / budget oriented one (less controversial) and a policy oriented one (more controversial). The policy DTV bill will probably contain issues like DTV converter box subsidy language, broadcast flag language, HD-radio protection, etc.

Apparently MPAA and RIAA have teamed up. They are rumored to be pushing their “flags” together, and wanting broad FCC authority for both. By broad, we mean something broader than “The FCC has the authority to reinstate the broadcast flag.”

So, that’s the low-down and why we ask you to contact your legislators.

Again, you can find a link to the broadcast flag action here.

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Concerning HD-radio protection

October 6, 2005 Blog Posts , DRM , Policy Blog

What’s HD-radio protection? Well, that’s the other part of the rumors that we’re hearing. A while ago, the RIAA asked the FCC to have a proceeding on protecting the new high definition digital radio format, soon to be rolled out. This new format not only sends higher-quality sound, but also sends metadata, or song info, for what’s currently playing on the radio. The RIAA is claiming that consumers will buy these HD-radio receivers, connect them to their computers, using the metadata set them up to record complete albums of artists, and then send these “high quality recordings” onto the Internet. This boils down to: “If you don’t cripple this new technology, people will use it to infringe.”

I will ignore the argument made that instead of allowing consumers to record off the radio, they want to have a “buy button” on every radio.

Of course, there are lots of holes that can be poked into the RIAA’s theory:

  • When was the last time you heard a radio station actually play multiple tracks of an artist’s album? It just doesn’t happen.

  • There is currently more variety of music traded over the Internet than the legitimate online music services can even legally license. If someone was already planning to infringe by recording off the radio and sharing the songs on the Internet, why would anyone bother to pay the money to setup this elaborate recording system, when they could likely find and download it over the Internet?

The FCC essentially told the RIAA, “no.” So they’ve gone to Congress to tell the FCC to do it.

What is “it?” Good question. One of the latest RIAA draft language requires broadcasters to ” encrypt the transmission of copyrighted material” and make sure that devices are compliant. Think of any potential problems with that? Under the DMCA, is encryption an access or copy control? What if I want to record a talk radio program and save it to my iPod? What if there’s a news story that I want to send to friend? Fair uses with digital radio are probably out the window—not because the technology disallows it, but because the law does.

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On the Way to Work with the Municipal Gang

September 21, 2005 Blog Posts , Municipal Wi-Fi , Policy Blog

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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New Telecom Act Draft: Part 1

September 20, 2005 Blog Posts , Municipal Wi-Fi , Network Neutrality , Policy Blog

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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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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