Political Spectrum Moves Right

Host of The Young Turks Cenk Uygur guest hosting on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show explains how the political spectrum has shifted far to the right in the last 30 years.

 

 

Adelstein Steps Up on Open Access

As we build our new blog, I'm going to keep you updated on the FCC 700 auction on MyDD.  There's some seriously important news out - Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has come out for open access (last week he was pushing for business models for larger national chunks of spectrum).  Telecom wonk extraordinaire Harold Feld is feeling good.

Commissioner Adelstein publicly supported some kind of open access requirement for the 700 MHz auction licenses. Wooo Hoooo! For us policy geeks, it's kind of like the moment when the Millenium Falcon comes out of nowhere and blasts the Imperial tie fighters targeting Luke as he barrels down toward the access port. Not that I had any doubt where Adelstein's heart was, but it's always reassuring to see him commit himself.

The whole model of auctioning off public assets like spectrum is messed up, but that's where we are at this moment in politics.  We use something like 5% of our spectrum efficiently.  Still, this is a good step forward.  We're making progress.

Meanwhile, there's other news on the FCC.  AT&T agreed to offer $10 DSL as a condition of its merger agreement with Bellsouth.  According to the Consumerist, they lied, and are giving consumers the run-around on the deal they legally have to offer.  This is egregious, but it's possible to put some leverage here as Bush is renominating Commissioner Tate for the FCC.  That's a potential leverage point, since Democrats control Congress.

AT&T executives are a bunch of crooks that steal from consumers and block innovation.  Conveniently for them, they are also massive campaign donors and contribute to think tanks and charities all over the country to whitewash their behavior.

Update [2007-6-21 11:56:51 by Matt Stoller]:: Whoa. There's more on Tate here and here. She's tied into industry and wants to use her position on the FCC as a 'bully pulpit' for DRM, which is 'digital rights management', or technology that allows corporations to control how you use the digital tools you own.

There's more...

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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Looking for Info on Worldwide Wireless versus USA Wireless

I'm doing research on various mobile systems, mostly comparing the US versus other countries around the world.  Any links or information you could provide on the wireless capacities of Japan, Korea, Europe, Africa would be really useful?  What can they do that we cannot?  What can we do that they cannot?

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