• There are a number of problems with these video franchise bills. I know from having been part of an attempt to defeat the BellSouth (AT&T?) version of this in Louisiana earlier this year. Maybe some of that will come out in later posts.

    But, I'd like to focus on the fundamental concentration of power that lies at the heart of the problem of net neutrality AND with these video franchise bills. The core problem is the vertical ownership of both the network itself AND the services that will be delivered by those networks.

    That is, AT&T, Verizon and the cable companies own the physical networks (wires, routers, switches and hubs) AND want to control the content delivered -- or, at least, a very large part of it.

    The fairly recent history of these companies proves that we will not have neutral networks so long as the ownership of the physical network and the content delivered over the network is allowed to be concentrated.

    Here's how we know this:

    In the late 1990s, after the current Telecommunications Act took effect, the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBCOs) were required to open their networks to competitors. They hated that and, really, provided incapable of doing it. Once a monopolist, apparently, always a monopolist. They engaged in anti-competitive practices to force their upstart competitors off their networks; ultimately, succeeding through a combination of financial, political and regulatory manipulations helped the RBOCs succeed.

    At one point, the Pennsylvania PUC recognized the problem for what it was. Around 1999-2000, the Penn PUC considered forcing the phone company (I think it was BellAtlantic) to separate itself into two companies: one that would own the physicial network and the other that would sell services over the network, just like the other service providers. The separation never happened, but that is where the real issue is.

    The phone companies then wanted to act as both wholesalers (selling access to their networks to other companies) and retailers (selling services to consumers over th networks they owned). But, because the competing service companies were, in fact, competing against their own retail (services) division, they faced a conflict of interest of having to play nice (provide network access) with their competitors (at least, in the service provider sense).

    Today, the phone and cable companies are bigger, their networks are faster, their debt loads are heavier, and they still want to be both wholesalers and retailers. This is the same conflict of interest as existed a decade ago. Instead of network resale, the term now is network neutrality. Once again, though, this conflict will ultimately drive the network owners to discriminate against content/services that they do not own or do not originate.

    That is, Verizon and AT&T have, in their earlier competition against the competitive local exchange carriers almost a decade ago, proven that they cannot be trusted with both ownership of the network AND the ability to operate as a service provider. That is, we know from their prior respective prior histories that they will ultimately discriminate against those content providers who pay for access to their networks (even if those providers pay premium prices) because that's precisely what they did in a similar set of circumstance nearly a decade ago when the financial stakes for them were lower.

    That is, AT&T, Verizon and the cable companies will ultimately not be able to help themselves: their collective monopolistic tendencies, borne in their corporate DNA, will compel them to discriminate against network traffic from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and other content providers because of the network owners' engrained belief that they should own and profit from everything that moves over their networks.

    Yes, they will erect barriers that will stymie the development of new companies and technologies. But, they will also turn on the companies that they initially welcome (albeit at premium prices) to their networks.

    Let's get real. The only way the concept of network neutrality has any chance of being anything more than a meaningless slogan is if we are willing to take the step that the Penn PUC could not bring itself to take: force the phone and cable giants to decide whether they want to be network owners or service providers. They can't be both.

    We will never have networks that operate neutrally to all content providers unless and until we separate ownership of the physical network from the ownership of the content layer. The video franchise bills help tighten that concentration of power and, therefore, work against the concept of network neutrality.

  • on a comment on No Leadership around New Orleans over 7 years ago
    Well, I never thought it was as 'simple' as that. Karen Carter's father, Ken, is a big player in business and political circles. He was an Assessor at one time, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the late 1980s, then moved on to business. Not being a current resident of New Orleans, I can only assume that Ken Carter has been instrumental in opening doors into the white-dominated business community in New Orleans for his daughter which helped get her elected to the state Legislature. I'm not saying she's not a good legislator or not a capable attorney, but having doors opened for you creates an entirely different mindset. The business community viewed Carter as one of their own. On the other hand, Harry Lee played the race card in neighboring (and predominatly white) Jefferson Parish when he focused on Carter's criticism of the incident on the bridge. So, Carter may well have been the 'white candidate' in Orleans Parish, but certainly not in Jefferson Parish.
  • comment on a post No Leadership around New Orleans over 7 years ago
    First, Harry Lee was not the law enforcement officer who stopped people from New Orleans from crossing the GNO Bridge to the West Bank after Katrina. That was Arthur Lawson, who is the chief of police in the town of Gretna. Lee did, however, make an issue of Karen Carter's comments in Spike Lee's (no relation) movie about New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. He has a long history of racially provocative politics. He's also got long standing ties to former Governor Edwin Edwards, as does Jefferson. Don't discount the fact, though, that by helping Jefferson, Lee also helped the prospects of Democratic State Senator Derrick Shepherd (an African American) who ran a close third in the primary. Shepherd endorsed Jefferson in the run-off against Carter because he, too, figures Jefferson will be indicted and the seat will likely become open. Shepherd, like Harry Lee, is a resident of Jefferson Parish. Karen Carter was a well-funded, well-connected, establishment candidate with deep roots in the New Orleans social, civic and political communities. She was not a grassroots candidate. She did not run a "people first" campaign. Jefferson ran like the desperate man that he is. In some ways, his campaign was a typically successful Louisiana campaign run by an incumbent. My point here is that there was always much more to this campaign than was readily apparent from the national perspective, even with a reporter sent in a few weeks in advance to try to parse things for the net roots folks. Tip O'Neil was right. All politics is local, particularly in New Orleans. But, New Orleans' politics are no more and no less convoluted that politics in Chicago or New York or other established urban communities, where the internal dynamics can puzzle even locals. The fact that the rest of us are confused should come as no surprise -- nor should it matter.
  • Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, for one. He's on the Judiciary Committee and will, it appears, head the subcommittee that will set the budget for (among others) the FBI which is investigating him now. TPM Muckraker has some details: http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002 083.php There is another white Democrat in the House who is being investigated. Can't recall his name at this point, but will post it when I do.
  • comment on a post Committee Assignments and Jefferson over 7 years ago
    Uh, what about the white Democrats with ethics problems that have kept their committee positions? As the Congressional Black Caucus asked: Is there a double standard at work here?
  • on a comment on On Impeachment over 7 years ago
    I agree with Justin: investigations are absolutely necessary. And, I believe, those investigations (and the administration's attempts to stonewall them) will actuallly push Congress into an impeachment mode. Did anyone see Republican Senator Charles Grassley on CSPAN this morning on the floor of the Senate explaining why he was opposed to the ending the fillibuster against the appointment of the new FDA head? As he made clear, using charts and graphics and Democrats' own 2006 campaign rhetoric, it is all about the Executive Branch's refusal to admit that there is such a thing as Congressional oversight. So, Bush/Cheney, et al, will focus on stonewalling Democratic attempts to investigate, prompting a Constitutional crisis (at least, bringing it out into the open), and Democrats will be forced to either impeach or admit to a permanent reordering of power among the branches of government established by the Constitution.
  • comment on a post LA-2: The "X" - Levees - Lower 9th Ward over 7 years ago
    While it's always good to see some national attention paid to Congressional races in Louisiana by progressives, as Tim Tagaris noted in one of his first posts, having an outsider parachute in to provide instant analysis on local races can be hazardous. While there is no question that incumbent William Jefferson is ethically compromised, his oppenent Karen Carter is far from pristine. Ms. Carter's father is a long-time New Orleans political operative and businessman whose success has been surrounded by some ethical issues of his own. Today's Times Picayune http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/capital/ind ex.ssf?/base/news-4/1163919390279090.xml &coll=1 raises questions about Ms. Carter's legal work while a sitting member of the Louisiana Legislature. Ms. Carter has made Mr. Jefferson's legal woes the centerpiece of her campaign. That has attracted national attention. But, the facts are that she is no grassroots candidate. She is part of the New Orleans political same political establishment that gave the Second District Congressman Jefferson. My point here is that the Second District race in Louisiana is further proof that choices are often more complex than sometimes appreciated.
  • comment on a post Open Thread over 7 years ago

    My campaign to unseat freshman Republican incumbent Charles Boustany from the traditionally Democratic Seventh District of Louisiana will begin airing radio spots on Tuesday that include a call for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

    This comes after hearing a lot of unsolicited anti-war comments as people from our campaign have circulated around the district. While I have opposed the war from the start, I wasn't sure where the public was on the issue here (we haven't done any internal polling on it and haven't seen any district-specific polling by outside sources either).

    You can hear the War ad here (along with the others that will be included in the rotation):

    There is a big shift taking place on this issue.

    Louisiana, by the way, is not really a red state. It is a blue state that has been given away by the national party since 1996 (the last time a presidential campaign was actually funded here) by its refusal to run national campaigns here following the party conventions in presidential election years.

    That John Kerry could have held onto $15 million in campaign funds after having killed his campaign in Louisiana and other potentially winnable states (like Arkansas) is unforgivable.

    I believe we have a winnable campaign. We are facing a weak incumbent whose election was a wound Democrats inflicted on ourselves in 2004. As we get nearer to the November election, I believe we'll see continued public erosion in support for Republicans who cling to the 'stay the course' mantra (uh, What course?).

    When the dust settles on November 8, I believe Democrats will pick up 50 to 60 seats in the House and this one will be one of those.

    Mike Stagg
    Democratic Candidate for Congress
    Louisiana's Seventh District


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