Items tagged "Blog Posts"


Net Neutrality Not A Sure Thing

November 29, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

(Note: A version of this story appeared at

It's getting down to the end of this Congressional session, and any number of commentators are bemoaning the fact that telecom legislation has been stuffed, in large part, due to the opposition of those favoring Net Neutrality.

That's fine. The bills that were up for consideration this year had some good things, but tremendous flaws as well, and shouldn't have been considered in a hurry. At the same time, though, we shouldn't rush to any conclusions about how the issue will play out next year, when the Democrats take over Congress. Some people are saying the Bell companies won't want to pursue telecom legislation because they will work through the states to get what they want. Others are saying that Net Neutrality, the idea that telephone and cable companies can't make special deals to favor transmission of some content over other content, will have a great chance next year with the Democrats in charge.

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Agenda for the Movie Mogul Summit: What Consumer Rights?

November 20, 2006 Blog Posts , Fair Use

It's not too soon to start planning for the big Hollywood lobbying fun-fest scheduled for Feb. 6 here in Washington. So far, most of the big names will be there. The guest list includes Paramount Chairman Brad Grey; NewsCorp President Peter Chernin; Sony Pictures Chairman Michael Lynton; Warner Brothers Chairman Barry Meyer; and Universal Studios President Ron Meyer.

That's quite a crowd. I think we can imagine what the agenda for this august gathering will be – the threats to our most precious industry from that crowd of evil-doers also known as… consumers.

If I were setting up this meeting, I'd structure it like a summit meeting, which it is. There should be some discussion of relevant issues, and then a joint communiqué issued at the end.

The questions could revolve around something like this: A consumer wants to watch a DVD on a DVD player, a laptop and an iPod. Question: How many copies of the DVD does the consumer need to buy? Our answer is: One. The movie industry's answer? We think it's three, based on a recent lawsuit the industry brought.

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Metro Goes Wi-Fi

November 15, 2006 Blog Posts , Municipal Wi-Fi

One of the great frustrations of riding on our Washington Metro subway system is that the cellular reception is so spotty. And don't even think of bringing out your laptop to check mail.

But now it looks as if Metro is going to move into the 21st century. On Nov. 7, the transit agency issued a Request for Proposals to build a wireless system throughout the Metro system. The system would cover the station platforms and entries, underground pathways, tunnels, stairs, escalators and elevators.

The complete system would carry cellular voice and data, broadband data, WiFi and WiMax signals for Metro's passengers, and also be used for internal Metro communications and as well for a public safety system for first responders.

The wording of the RFP is a bit confusing. Metro said the system will provide "the Authority (Metro) and its ridership a publicly accessible Wireless Internet Service Provider system that utilizes WiFi and/or WiMax."

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The Series of Tubes Seen from Different Ends

November 9, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

The Internet is about diversity, and in the last couple of days, I've been from one end of the Net to the other. In the beginning of the week, I was part of a program for an association of small, rural telephone companies. At the end of the week, I was at a conference to explore the meaning of Web 2.0, the shorthand for an Internet made richer by content created by users, which in turn makes other content and products more valuable.

In Phoenix, the Western Telecommunications Association (WTA) held its "Bootcamp" conference on the basic issues that need to be addressed by the rural telephone companies. Their world is a traditional, regulated telecom world. It is built around the subsidies known as the Universal Service Fund (USF), the system by which telephone companies with lower costs, generally in urban areas, help to cover the costs for companies in rural areas with higher costs to serve customers.

The WTA perceives a threat to its USF support, and has started a campaign called "Keep America Connected," to persuade lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not only of the value of their service, but to keep the support flowing. They are afraid that the universal service "reforms" talked about in Congress and the FCC will hurt, rather than help them. They are acutely aware that some rural Republicans, like Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), are their worst enemies on USF issues.

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A Proxy Vote for Net Neutrality

November 3, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission today (Nov. 3) put off again a decision on the mammoth AT&T takeover of BellSouth. There were, of course, no public explanations. But they Commission did take up the issue of broadband over power lines (BPL), and in doing so FCC Commissioner Michael Copps and Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein gave us what appears to be an inside look at the deliberations into Net Neutrality.

The official action the Commission took was to classify BPL as an "information service." This is the same regulatory pit into which the FCC cast cable modem service and telephone-company DSL. Instead of having the consumer protections of the Communications Act, we are left instead with a nebulous set of promises under the generic overall authority of the FCC – the so-called Title I services.

Copps and Adelstein grudgingly consented to the regulatory classification. But they made it clear, Copps particularly, that the FCC was going into uncharted territory that had continued grave implications for consumers.

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FCC Power Line Action Could Spur Net Neutrality

November 2, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

Tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to put the finishing touches on its policy to encourage the electronic power industry to emerge as a competitor to the existing broadband duopoly.

While there are undoubtedly a number of privately owned electric utilities which will look at the broadband-over-power line (BPL) technology, it's the public sector that might get the biggest boost from the Commission's action. We expect that Net Neutrality could also be part of the discussions.

Around the country, those duopolists have been busy over the past couple of years persuading state legislatures to prohibit local jurisdictions from offering their own services, putting onerous conditions on them or, as in the case of Lafayette, La., taking the jurisdiction to court for attempting to build its own system.

Clearly, building a new fiber infrastructure is quite an undertaking. Some jurisdictions are doing it, either alone or in conjunction with others. In Utah, the Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) brought together 14 cities to build their own fiber infrastructure. Their project, though, operates as a wholesaler, selling access to other service providers. Think of it as a jurisdiction building roads or, come to think of it, a super highway.

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PK Endorses Strong Net Neutrality in AT&T Merger

October 26, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

Things should start getting intense at the FCC next week, as Chairman Kevin Martin has set Nov. 3 as the date for a decision on the $80 billion AT&T takeover of BellSouth.

At issue are the conditions under which the merger will be approved. AT&T, in a last-minute plea to get the deal done, submitted a letter to the FCC on Oct. 13, proposing some conditions. One of those was to abide by the weak Net Neutrality "principles" of the FCC.

PK was pleased to join with the It's Our Net coalition in filing comments asking for something stronger. We fully agree with the proposal in the comments that the Commission should establish an enforceable principle in the merger agreement that requires the newer, larger AT&T to commit to treating in a nondiscriminatory manner all Internet traffic carried by its broadband network. Such a condition in this proceeding will go a long way to establishing Net Neutrality as the foundation for a larger broadband policy.

The Net Neutrality conditions suggested by the Commission for the merger are totally inadequate. As Public Knowledge has consistently maintained, the essence of Net Neutrality is non-discrimination. The Commission should insist on binding non-discrimination language as a condition of this $80 billion merger, and as a policy to be followed generally.

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Dissenting from Chairman Kennard’s Statement on Net Neutrality

October 23, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

As the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the Clinton Administration, Bill Kennard tried to do the right thing on a number of issues in the face of daunting odds.

That's why it was tremendously disappointing to see him on the pages of the New York Times taking a swipe at Net Neutrality. He joins Mike McCurry as perhaps the most prominent of the Clinton Democrats to side with the big telephone and cable companies in their campaign to control the Internet.

In his column, Kennard tried to make the overall point that access to broadband is essential to the country, which is a fine point to make, but that the debate over Net Neutrality is taking attention away from the deployment issue, which is not a fine point to make. Kennard, who is now with the Carlyle Group, complained that Congress didn't act to bridge the digital divide "in large part because of the polarizing net neutrality debate." He then suggested: "Policymakers should rise above the net neutrality debate and focus on what America truly requires from the Internet: getting affordable broadband access to those who need it."

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Now On Sale — One Telephone Merger

October 16, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

After one false start, the Federal Communications Commission this morning issued for public comment the conditions that AT&T proposed for the $80 billion takeover of BellSouth.

For the record, the Commission had to do the exercise twice because for whatever reason, the first document posted on the Commission's Web site didn't have the Net Neutrality paragraph included. To be fair, the document didn't gain anything by having the Net Neutrality language. The conditions offered by the proposed new national duopoloy are relatively feeble, and were agreed to when SBC gobbled up AT&T a year ago. The new combined company will abide by the four non-enforceable "principles" of Net Neutrality set out by the Commission, but only for a limited period of time.

What's not there is any language barring discrimination against any other application or service provider. What's not there is any language that makes the promise worth anything. You can see for yourself here. Comments are due at the FCC on Oct. 24, with Nov. 3 the scheduled date for a decision.

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Moyers on Net Neutrality

October 10, 2006 Blog Posts , Network Neutrality

Bill Moyers has a 90-minute documentary on Net Neutrality that will air over Public Broadcasting Service stations on Wednesday evening, Oct. 18. Check your local listings for time.

Here's a link to the show, called "The Net @ Risk." Watch the preview, and you can get a feel for the show.

Moyers and his staff held an online chat this afternoon to talk about the show. The first hour will be a look at the struggles over the issue at the federal and state levels. The last half-hour will focus on how low-power radio stations kept information flowing in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina at a time when commercial stations were shut down.

Moyers said in the chat that while there's a great deal of public support for an open Internet, large campaign contributions have prevented Congress from acting, much as such contributions have contributed on a variety of other issues. Moyers noted that over time, each new medium has been promised to enlighten the public and further the goals of democracy, whether the medium was radio, TV or cable. Today, however, those are all controlled "by commercial and corporate interests." He warned that, "If past is prelude, we shouldn't be sanguine about the Internet because large economic interests can move the agenda to benefit their interest and purposes."

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