Spectrum, Iraq, and the Media Problem

One of the reasons I'm going to focus much energy on the spectrum fight is because the key leverage point for going into Iraq is a media system that allows only the powerful to speak.  Take this account by high priced operative Bob Shrum, of Time columnist Joe Klein's relationship with John Kerry in 2004.  The nexus between high priced media consultants, high priced pundits, and politicians is poison to a democratic system.  And then there are the more overt links between the press and the political class - Jeff Chester points us to this nice episode in Illinois:

Fourteen U.S. lawmakers urged federal regulators to waive media ownership restrictions that would allow Tribune Co. to be taken private in an $8.2-billion deal, according to a letter made available on Monday.

The deal, led by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission as it involves the transfer of broadcast licenses.

Under current media ownership rules, a company cannot own a daily newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market although media companies do under agency waivers.

Tribune has such arrangements in Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Los Angeles and New York and earlier this month asked the agency to waive restrictions that could prevent it from owning television station and newspapers in the same city....

The 14 lawmakers from Illinois, which included Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin and House Rep. Rahm Emanuel as well as Republican House Rep. Dennis Hastert, encouraged the FCC in the letter dated May 18 to act on the applications "expeditiously and to avoid administrative delay."

Sam Zell, the mogul behind the deal, gave $5000 to Rahm Emanuel's PAC in 2005, the Common Values PAC, and to Dick Durbin.  He was also a donor to Bush and now John McCain (as well as Russ Feingold and Tom Delay).

So a media and real estate mogul is calling in political favors to waive cross-ownership requirements to consolidate media properties.  That's a problem.  This weakens our ability to have a diversity of voices speaking out, and it prevents a media check on the powerful.

The internet is our best (and maybe) last hope.  Here's Al Gore:

I truly believe the most important factor is the preservation of the Internet's potential for becoming the new neutral marketplace of ideas that is so needed for the revitalization of American democracy... People are not only fighting for free speech online, but they are also working to keep the Internet a decentralized, ownerless medium of mass communication and commerce.

That's why this spectrum fight is so important.  If we can generate enough pressure on the FCC, we can ensure that the public airwaves can be used for a wireless open network which any citizen can use to create media.  New business models will emerge, a diverse set of voices will use it, and we can revitalize democracy.  How do I know this is possible?  Well I'm doing it, in a care, right now, with nothing more than a laptop.  And you're reading and commenting on it.

Now it's time to route around the damage caused by the George Bush's, Sam Zell's, Verizon's, and Comcast's of the world, and ask the FCC to free the spectrum for public use.

There's more...

FCC: Google Spectrum Fight Fight Fight!!!

There's a big fight a brewin at the FCC.

Boingboing points us to this Forbes piece by internet law expert Tim Wu on wireless broadband and spectrum.  Basically, a huge chunk of incredible spectrum just came free, and it's being put up for auction by the FCC later this year.  This spectrum could be used for a new nation-wide wireless broadband network, a new wireless carrier, and lots and lots of innovation that is only now happening abroad.  Here's Wu:

What's needed to spur innovation is a simple requirement: that any winner of the auction respect a rule that gives consumers the right to attach any safe device (meaning it does no harm) to the wireless network that uses that spectrum. It's called the Cellular Carterfone rule, after a 1968 decision by the FCC in a case brought by a company called Carter Electronics that wanted to attach a shortwave radio to AT&T (nyse: T - news - people )'s network. That decision resulted in the creation of the standard phone jack. Applying the Carterfone rule to the next spectrum auction would ensure that our key fob designer need only look up standard technical specifications and then build and sell his device directly to the consumer. The tiny amounts of bandwidth the fob used would show up on the consumer's wireless bill.

The right to attach is a simple concept, and it has worked powerfully in other markets. For example, in the wired telephone world Carterfone rules are what made it possible to market answering machines, fax machines and the modems that sparked the Internet revolution.

This is going to be a big one.  Moveon just joined in the fight with a strong campaign, and the Save the Internet Coalition is going to weigh in.

Significantly, Google is now chiming in.

Google filed a proposal on Monday with the Federal Communications Commission calling on the agency to let companies allocate radio spectrum using the same kind of real-time auction that the search engine company now uses to sell advertisements....

We have large industry allies who want spectrum sold wholesale to consumers based on 'open access'.  This means anyone can lease spectrum for any reason, which will lead to lots of wireless innovation.  It will also end a key piece of the net neutrality fight, since cheap wireless broadband, though not as fast as wireline, will be a baseline competitive product to DSL and cable.

The deadline for comments at the FCC is May 30, and we're going to fill up their inbox and then some.  This wireless fiasco we have in America can end, soon.

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Closing the Gap with CWA on Net Neutrality

There's a tussle going on that Matt has been illuminating involving the Communications Workers of America's stance on net neutrality. The CWA is an AFL-CIO-affiliated union representing more than 700,000 workers, some at AT&T, NBC, the New York Times, and elsewhere. In a few cases now, CWA has objected to net neutrality provisions. What's frustrating is that in so much that involves telecom and media policy, the goal of some seems to be to obfuscate and fuzzy the picture until most normal people throw up their hands and move on to something else. We hear flatly untrue arguments, like the one about how Google doesn't pay for the enormous bandwidth it uses. We hear said that this is Goliath vs. Goliath, a fight between one giant corporation and another: Verizon's multimillionare CEO Ivan Seidenberg vs. Google's very rich executives "with their own agenda." It's almost as if some involved want us to just worry instead about who's going to win American Idol.

That fuzziness and obfuscation is one of the reasons that telecom build-out projects like ConnectKentucky are so exciting. People like maps, and graphic representations can convey an enormous amount information in a palatable way. Maps tell us, hey, this town has no access to the broadband Internet, or this apartment building only can go online through CableCo X.

But back in the non-color-coded world of telecom policy, we have the Communications Workers of America nuanced arguments as to why they don't support neutrality provisions like the one the California Democratic Party recently attempted to adopt. Alas, there's no real way to figure out what's going on without digging into the technical details of neutrality. This stuff is enough to make your head hurt, seriously. Mine is throbbing a bit now. But something's not clear here, and we need to pin it down. Let's see if we can.

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How the CA Party Killed the Net Neutrality Resolution

bumped - Matt

(cross-posted from Calitics)

And the rest of the resolutions they did not want to have heard...

I learned a lot about the process of how resolutions are dealt with at California Democratic Party Conventions this weekend.  It is not particularly democratic, which is not surprising.  The party leaders decide what has a chance of getting approved and use the process to push off to the side any other proposed resolutions.

Take for instance the net neutrality resolution, which one would think should be heard in front of the Computer and Internet Caucus.  Instead we learned upon arriving at the convention that it has been, along with a bunch of other resolutions, referred to another caucus, thereby eliminating any potential avenue for its viability at this party meeting.  There is no process whereby you can appeal this move by collecting signatures, or any other appeals process.

So how and why did it get referred to the Labor Caucus?

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Net Neutrality and Internet Build-Out

So, what can be done about Net Neutrality, opposition from some Providers and some unions?

The key here is devising a win-win for all involved
Big providers are looking to make money; either just good money, or if possible, great money

To support universal high-speed access, buildout is required
But to support an ever-rising usage of video, even within the current built-out coverage area, will also require investment

over the jump ...

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