Why You Can't Get Your iPhone

I'm on break, but I want to highlight this editorial from the LA Times on a coming spectrum auction that is the next stage of the net neutrality fight.  Here's the deal.  Right now, dropped calls, high hidden charges, bad phones, poor and costly wireless internet and roaming costs are all symptoms of a wireless monopoly held by a few big cell phone companies.  Essentially they don't care about you moving to another competitor with better service because you really just can't.

Verizon and AT&T run a digital plantation where they don't let phones and features on their network they can't control. It's a permission system - if you want to use your phone on a Verizon network, you have to get permission.  It's a lot like cable operators, and if it's not theirs they don't want it.  This is why wireless service is expensive, why it sucks with dropped calls and why you can do things in Europe and Japan like pay for sodas with your phone but you can't do them here.  It's also why roaming charges are so high.  There's effectively a wireless monopoly, which means that you can only get an iPhone if you use AT&T wireless.  And if you are a non-profit that wants to let people text you money at a rally and have it go on that person's phone bill, Verizon and AT&T will happily grab half the cash meant for you and take 180 days to get you the balance.  So, at say, Obama's 20,000 person rallies, there are high barriers to having supporters get involved at the rally since everything the campaign wants to do has to be approved either directly or indirectly by Verizon or AT&T.  This is true at every single music concert or public event in the country.  An entire mobile economy is going unused here because of this predatory corruption, though in the rest of the world the mobile economy is racing ahead.

Here's why this could soon change.  The FCC is about to auction off a whole lot of really nice spectrum that could completely blow the lid off this system.  It's possible that if the FCC is fair, we could get a wireless broadband wholesaler, which would simply rent their network to whoever wants it for whatever purpose they want it.  You'd be able to plug your phone into your computer and get broadband.  Cell phone and broadband service would be instantly cheap and universal, getting around redlining that denies broadband to poor and rural areas.  There would be fewer dropped calls.  Roaming charges would drop dramatically.  You could pay for things with your phone (or any mobile device you can invent).  You could use any phone for any network, and download ringtones easily.  And the big national telcos would actually have to compete with all of this.

Silicon Valley is buzzing about the potential here, as are media reform groups (and smaller wireless companies).  This is all part of the move to take back public airwaves from the people that give Imus-types privileged positions in public discourse.  This is genuinely revolutionary stuff, and the FCC is going to rule on it soon.  Hopefully we can get Ed Markey and John Dingell to hold hearings and force Chairman Martin to open up the spectrum.  

There are real allies here, just as there were in the net neutrality fight.  In fact you can consider this part of the net neutrality fight, part of protecting and expanding the digital commons.  And because of the anti-redlining and cost reduction components, there is a much larger coalition that could be formed here.  Every non-profit in the country has an interest in open access.  And so does every cell phone user who had a dropped call, or who wants wireless broadband for low cost.

After all, these are the public airwaves, our airwaves.  However much he doesn't like it, they don't belong to Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg.

UPDATE: In related news, Verizon is patenting the internet.

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DNC/RIAA: WTF?

Via Boing Boing:

Today, Jenni Engestrom was named "Deputy CEO for Public Affairs," for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Denver -- but she is better known as the Director of Communications for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
...
The liberal blogosophere is united on many fronts -- not just disliking US foreign policy. We also hate the RIAA -- for suing our friends, for lobbying for laws that suspend due process rights of the accused (the RIAA's favorite law, the DMCA, was used by Diebold to suppress information about failures in its voting machines), and for demanding the right to "pretext" (commit wire fraud) in order to catch "pirates."

Worse still, the RIAA are part of the initiative to corrupt net neutrality, imposing centralized controls on the transmission of information across the network.

It has been Engestrom's job to sell these initiatives to the American public.

WTF?

Boing Boing has some action items, including contacting DNC funders and staffers.

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Can Someone Start an Enemies List Already?

Shoot me in the face.  Seriously.

Three years ago, it took a nasty, industrial-strength assault by Karl Rove & Co. to oust Democratic leader Tom Daschle from his Senate seat. But if Republicans thought they had seen the last of the resilient South Dakotan, they were wrong. He's back, this time behind the scenes, as a sort of secret sauce in the surging presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.

Daschle spent 30 years on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide, House member, senator and ultimately Democratic Senate leader. Now he is providing newcomer Obama with valuable endorsements, staff, fundraising lists and brotherly advice. "He brings an unrivaled mix of policy knowledge and political expertise," said Steven Hildebrand, an Obama senior campaign advisor. He ought to know: a fellow South Dakotan, he ran Daschle's last Senate campaign.

...

Interestingly - tellingly - it was Obama who reached out to Daschle. In 2004, Obama was cruising to an easy victory in the Illinois Senate race, and had a lot of unused cash on hand. He gave a lot of it - some $85,000, according to Hildebrand - to Daschle, who was under White House siege in South Dakota. Even before he was sworn in, Obama knew who he wanted for his chief of staff: Rouse. Ironically, Daschle advised Rouse, a veteran with 30 years service on the Hill, to leave the Congress and take a lucrative lobbying position. But Obama sold Rouse, and in the process began the task of wooing Rouse's boss.

In between advising his staffers to become lobbyists themselves, Tom Daschle works at a high profile law firm that was on the other side of the net neutrality fight (and has on its current client list a whole lot of lovely banks, defense contractors, aerospace, national business coalitions, credit card issuers etc).  And here's his profile at the firm.

Senator Tom Daschle is Special Policy Advisor in Alston & Bird's Washington, D.C. office and is a member of the Legislative and Public Policy Group. As a non-attorney, Senator Daschle focuses his services on advising the firm's clients on issues related to all aspects of public policy with a particular emphasis on issues related to financial services, health care, energy, telecommunications and taxes. In addition, he advises on trade and international matters.

This is the guy Howard Fineman says has 'no enemies' in the party, which should tell you something about what insiders think.  And let's be clear, the Obama/Daschle people were the sources for this story, so it's what they think too.

I'm going to take a break.  Wrong week to stop sniffing glue and all (h/t Atrios).

UPDATE: Oh no. Here's another update - the blogger I linked to updated their post to say that Obama was at a general press conference not on a Fox News show.

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Detoxifying and Reclaiming the Public Airwaves

Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are both making the point that the person of Don Imus is not particularly important, and that him being dropped from MSNBC is not enough.  This is an issue that cuts to the structure of our media corporations.  Digby is pointing out that it's largely a group of boomer white guys, Democrats and media insiders both, talking about how Imus is a good guy. This is media elitism at its worst.  

Imus is a misogynist, an antisemite, and a racist.  That's been obvious for some time.  If James Carville, Paul Begala, David Gregory, Jonathan Alter, Mike Barnacle, Tom Oliphant, and Howard Fineman think this makes him a good guy or fit to use the public airwaves, well I guess that's their business to think that.  But it makes them poor stewards of the airwaves.  And the ownership structure isn't any better. I just watched the simpering President of NBC News, Steve Capus, talk on MSNBC about how much of a fan he is of Don Imus, and how hard a call this was.  It's pretty obvious that these people who are in charge of and inhabit our public airwaves just do not get it.  They are not going to be responsible because they do not think they did anything wrong.  But their era of dominance is over, and it's our job as activists to end the media regime that makes men like this rich.  For if this is the route to riches, I can guarantee you that there are hundreds of aspiring media personalities training to be the next Imus.

Where do we come into this picture?  Well, Imus and these other simpering idiots are getting rich on our backs.  As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps pointed out, we give these media and telecom oligarchs $500 billion in public spectrum.  Why should they act responsibly when we subsidize them like this?  If our culture says that Imus shouldn't be racist, public policy decisions that grant huge subsidies to the people that employ him say otherwise.  The problem is Carville, Oliphant, Begala, etc are the beneficiaries of an immoral system that allows cultural gatekeepers like Imus immense power.  So let's not be surprised when they defend it.

In the next few weeks we will have the opportunity to really go after these media structures on a public policy level.  We've already done it once with some success, by defending net neutrality last cycle.  And with the FCC considering how to auction off an immense amount of high quality spectrum that could be used to build an entirely new wireless broadband national network accessible to everyone, there is an opportunity to dismantle these subsidies.  The internet shows what is possible when a diverse and open media system takes power from top-downers like Don Imus, James Carville, etc.  Bringing this system to everyone, everywhere, and building a new media model on top of it is the way to fix the Imus problem, permanently.  It's time to end the redlining that is so obvious all over TV and that is written into the very landscape of modern America.

They are our airwaves.  Let's reclaim them.

Update: I'm watching MSNBC, and seriously, what is wrong with these boomer freaks? Joe Scarborough keeps talking about how Hip Hop needs to be held accountable for this. Phil Griffin, NBC News Sr. Vice President, says that it was how people inside NBC felt was the most important factor in the decision and not the advertiser drop-out. Steve Adubato, an analyst at MSNBC, is bragging about how wonderful NBC is for axing Imus. (I should add that John Ridley, the only black guest, is calling these people on this bullshit, saying 'The money's gone!' Ridley followed up with the fact that NBC is essentially saying 'I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment'.

Oh God, now Bill Maher is calling Imus a 'swaggering mustang' and talking about how sad it is to see someone like this broken. Maher is continuing, 'Of course he shouldn't be fired, his punishment should be that he loses black listeners.' Apparently in Maher's world the only people offended by racism and misogyny are black people. What is with these boomer white idiots? Freaks, all of them. We really new people in charge of our public airwaves, this corporate welfare has created a bunch of weirdos dominating our media discourse.

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CWA's Laura Unger Responds

My post about Big Telecom screwing CWA and everyone else attracted Laura Unger, a blog-savvy local union President of CWA.  Here's what she had to say.

I am a telephone worker.  I have been a technician for AT&T since 1979.  I am also a Local President of a CWA Local that has gone from 2600 members to 260 members in the last 20 years.  I find your article incredibly insulting.  I have been at every Shareholders' meeting for the last 20 years speaking out against CEO pay, from the old AT&T Long Lines to my first meeting with Ed Whitacre.   Every day we fight the company, and every contract we struggle for our jobs and our benefits.  I don't know how good a job the  CWA spokesperson in Maryland did in his presentation in Maryland, but for someone to say we have good jobs and benefits is NOT sucking up to the company.  It is a real description of the situation of working Americans  -we are divided between the small numbers who have Unions and have decent wages and benefits and the great numbers who do not.  To say that we want the technology needs of this country to be met by workers who are decently paid and that these jobs should grow should be everyone's goal.  Not to point this out is like saying Walmart is good because it provides cheap prices for working Americans who shop and ignore all the evil it does to its workforce and workers around the world.  

Those forces who see net neutrality as the ONLY issue are the ones who are betraying their progressive roots.  The absolute key need right now is for public policy to create the conditions for a massive build out of very high speed internet access that touches every home in America.  Do you think if we built out that kind of network ( like Japan with 100 Mbp)s to every American, which is 10 or 15 times the speed we have now, that anyone would care if a small portion of that bandwidth was set aside for video or private network services.   How else is this going to get paid for?  Let's not be naïve.  Where is the investment going to come from to build out what we really need in this country?   We fought a major campaign in New England to keep Verizon from trying to abandon rural areas.  Where were the net neutrality folks in that battle?  Do the rural areas that have dial up and the inner cities with no access care if YouTube and Google (who make billions) are a millisecond slower (which they would not be if we had really high speed build out anyway)?  That said, if you read our position paper at http://www.speedmatters.org it has clear point on public disclosure, open, unrestricted Internet access, "anti-trust" protection and more.

Your choice of two options is phony - it is not between the evil telecom empire and the progressive movement.   The SPEED MATTERS campaign is consistently reaching out to communities, libraries, rural areas and addressing the key issue of how we are going to get all people affordable access.   Talk about being a good coalition partner - let's see the Net Neutrality folks spend even a small amount of their energy on fighting for affordable, high speed access for all.  I follow the net neutrality blogs and I don't see it at all.

The basic argument we're putting forward about net neutrality is that the telecoms cannot be trusted, because when they do get tax breaks to build out high speed access they tend to steal the money and not build the network (the headline of this Reuters article is 'AT&T says won't need fiber-to-the-home network').  The economics of bandwidth are such that scarcity is actually more profitable than building out fat pipes to everyone, which is incidentally why government has a big role to play here.  The basic argument Unger is putting out is that the telecoms need to make more money than they already are or they cannot afford to build out a 100MB network.

I'm going to let rest of her point marinate for a day or so, but I wanted to lay out our basic differences.  It's useful for all of us to know how CWA thinks about the matter.  I'd actually be curious for CWA members to respond in the comments, as I know there are some that read this blog.

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