Tales of the Sausage Factory

Bill Moyers to Do Special on Net Neutrality

Wed., October 18, 9 p.m. on PBS. You can watch the promo clip here.

Stay tuned….

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Hearings and Home Court Advantage?

The FCC has now announced the schedule for the first of six public hearings on media ownership to take place outside of Washington DC. According to the official announcement, the FCC will hold two separate hearings in the Los Angeles area next Tuesday, October 3. One at USC from 1:30- 4:30 p.m. and the other at El Segundo High School in El Segundo from 6:30-10:30 p.m.

Of possible interest is the fact that the Mayor of El Segundo, Kelly McDowell, is the brother of Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. As Commissioner McDowell remarked at his confirmation hearing last spring:

> “My oldest brother, Kelly McDowell, is the mayor of El Segundo, California. And if you’ve ever flown
> into Los Angeles Airport, you’ve flown into my brother’s town.“

It certainly makes sense for McDowell to want to have a hearing in his brother’s home town, and for Martin to acquiesce. For one thing, it will certainly raise the visibility of the hearing for El Segundo residents and local press. It makes getting a community location and local coordination easier. Heck, if my brother were mayor somewhere, I’d want to have a hearing in his town. And, as Robert McDowell observed, it’s close to the airport. Given that the Commissioners will be on red-eye flights going home, that has to be convenient.

On the other hand, it raises obvious concerns about giving pro-consolidation folks a ”home court“ advantage. As Mayor, Kelly McDowell is uniquely positioned to encourage witnesses who will support the current FCC’s policy of relaxing ownership rules while subtly discouraging attendance by folks who might challenge accepted FCC positions.

This puts the pressure on Martin to ensure not merely impartiality, but the appearance of impartiality. After the recent reports that — prior to Martin becoming chair — the FCC suppresed studies demonstrating the negative impacts of media consolidation, public trust for the FCC as an institution interested in an impartial investigation and analysis of the facts is at an all-time low.

Martin has already taken a good first step in neutralizing any accusation of bias. The FCC will have a hearing at the USC in Los Angeles before going out to El Segundo. This same location recently hosted a media ownership event sponsored by media activists and attended by FCC Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, neutralizing any ”home court advantage“ for indusry on at least the first hearing.

But the FCC has yet to announce how it will assign seats or provide ”open microphone“ opportunities at either hearing. Nor has the FCC yet announced its witness lists. A highly suspicious audience will look carefully to see if the ”local leader“ pool is stacked with pro-consolidation witnesses, while local leaders, local business folks and residents opposed to consolidation don’t make the list. It is essential to any appearance of fairness that the FCC announce procedures for getting seats and signing up for speaking opportunities well in advance, and adopt procedures that give as many people as possible a chance to speak.

Martin has repeatedly proven himself a man who plays hardball, but an honest game of hardball. He has demonstrated sophisticated political skills while navigating highly controversial issues. Unlike his predecessor Michael Powell, Kevin Martin has proven time and again that he recognizes the value of meeting with people with whom he disagrees, and actually listening to what they have to say.

But real public hearings that foster genuine public input provide challenges for even the most skilled. That’s why Republicans in this administration have assidulously avoided them, preferring ”town meetings“ filled with supporters and lackeys. The media ownership hearings provide an opportunity for Kevin Martin to show his commitment to real openness — if he can resist the urge to use a ”home court” advanatge.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Brilliant Indictment of Bush and His Proxies from MSNBC

See Keith Oberman give a passionate, well spoken condemnation of the efforts by Bush, the folks at Fox News, and the rest of the Republican “noise machine” to rewrite history. Ten minutes long, but well worth it. Click here.

Would that we could find such willingness to challenge the powers that be on broadcast networks.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Day With the Reps, or Today I Am A Wonk.

Every profession has its little milestones. As a confirmed Washington policy wonk, I’ve always wanted to testify before Congress (in a situation where I did not have to take the Fifth). Well, TODAY I AM A WONK. (Actually, it was Thursday, September 21.) I testified at the House hearing on ICANN. You can read some of the (very light) news coverage here, and my official testimony here (executive summary here), and you can listen to an audio of the hearing by going here and clicking on the relevant link.

For my personal observations and comments, see below….

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My Thoughts Exactly

Kosmic Karma Waves & update

I keep a kind of random, desultory diary on a place called HuSi, “Hulver’s Site”. This is where I put more personal stuff and things I deem “not in keeping with the spirit of Wetmachine”, however nebulously defined that concept may be.

Recently I posted a diary entry on Husi, a reminiscence from nearly thirty years ago, that includes some of my own kosmik karmik philosophy. Or if not philosophy, at least data points. The story, which is true, is mildly pornographic, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, don’t click the link. Anyway I like it, so maybe you will too.

In the “update” department, I hope to soon undertake a few improvements to this site. I’ll post a few more chapters from “The Pains,” and I’ll make it easier to find, read, and order my books. There will be better, and easier to find, information about each of the primary wetmachiners, (me, Harold, Howard and Gary) and perhaps some more “Web 2.0” style goodness. If you have any suggestions or requests, please pass them on, either in the comments or in mail to “mail” at this website.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Network Neutrality In Last Throes! Nationally Franchised Bells to Be Greeted As Liberators!

The signs of increasing desperation in the war of words over the Stevens Bill reached a new low. As reported by Matt Stoller Stevens has released the results of this push poll purporting to show that the majority of voters are interested in cable, not network neutrality, and would prefer to get the Bell video franchising bill passed without net neutrality provisions attached.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Update: I may owe Powell an apology

As I said last night, the refusal to look at new evidence is what makes the difference between religious conviction and mere operating bias. More recent stories now quote the only FCC source to go on the record (as opposed to unnamed sources) as saying the suppression of the report was ordered by “a senior official,” rather than definitively going up to Powell. Powell denies he ever saw the report or ordered it destroyed.

All the more reason for Martin to conduct an investigation and get this matter resolved. Because I’ve read the study and run it past an economist and, as far as he and I can determine, it is sound methodologically and valuable in the debate on ownership. It should have been published when it came out. If there is a “senior official” at the FCC who ordered it destroyed who is still there, that “senior official” needs to get removed from the process.

So I will start with an apology to Powell for rushing to judgment. It is entirely possible that some “senior official,” entirely unknown to Michael Powell, killed the report to avoid giving Powell news he thought Powell would not want to see. I will add that I wish I lived in a world where my first thought was not “that is just so typical of this administration.” And no, it’s not Powell’s fault that after admant denials that the administration was spying on Americans, it turned out they were, and after adamant denials that the administration did not keep prisoners in secret prisons in Europe, we did, etc. But Powell deserves to have his chance to reply and deserves an investigation at the FCC to resolve the matter once and for all.

Stay tuned.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

FCC Spikes Report Undermining Deregulation

Author’s note. I have significantly reedited this story in light of the fact that Michael Powell denies seeing the report or ordering it purged and that the only source on record states only that the order came from “a senior FCC official.” It is entirely possible that Powell never saw the study, and that someone much lower down the chain took action on his or her own. But this is why we need a thorough investigation.

“Unfortunately, many have turned this critically important policy debate into a political one, substituting personal ideology and opinion for the facts. If we are to craft responsible media policy for the 21st century, everyone involved in this debate must set aside the rhetoric, put the public interest before political interest and focus on ‘just the facts.’”

So wrote Michael Powell in an Op Ed in USA Today in January 2003. Powell was talking about the FCC proceeding to review its media ownership rules. He believed the facts would prove that deregulating the mass media would not harm local news. If anything, I expect Powell believed it would improve it. Doesn’t deregulation make everything better?

But according to this story by the Associated Press, The FCC conducted a study on the impact of deregulation of the media on local news, only to suppress it when it proved deregulation significantly hurts local news.

I do not believe Kevin Martin knew this report even existed before Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) sprung it on him yesterday. But I do think Martin has an obligation to investigate and make the results of the investigation known. If the FCC did suppress the report, then it needs to take steps to ensure that such things will not happen again. Because, while Powell was wrong about the impact of deregulation, he was right about one thing: “Only the facts will enable us to craft broadcast-ownership restrictions that ensure a diverse and vibrant media marketplace for the 21st century.”

A bit of back story below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

I'm Speaking Tomorrow (9/13/06) On the Hill

We’ve been down a few days for technical problems. Sorry and welcome back.

Tomorrow (9/13/06), I’ll be speaking at an event sponsored by Americans for a Secure Internet on what to do about ICANN, the Internet Governance Forum and upcomming meeting in Athens, and what’s wrong with making the rest of the world dance “the macarena” or lose their ccTLD. (Although you can get more recent information from the Internet Governance Project, or ICANNWATCH, or Susan Crawford’s bog but none of them reference the macarena!)

The event is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the House Rayburn Building B-340. I append the information from the flyer below. Here are a few links to my other ICANN blog entries:
Tiering, It’s Not Just for Telcos Anymore
My Take on WSIS and DNS
The Verisign Lawsuit: More Than Just Sitefinder
If ICANN Regulated Cars (real old)
______________________________________________________
AMERICAN FOR A SECURE INTERNET

Buffet Lunch and Panel Discussion

Does the U.N. Want to Govern the Internet?

Hosted by Americans for a Secure Internet

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

12:30-2 PM

Rayburn B-340

Last November, the Congress passed a Joint Resolution affirming that the current structure of Internet management—with U.S. oversight—was working well and should be maintained without interference from the United Nations.

But the UN is not so easily dissuaded. They’re meeting in Athens at the end of October to plan an array of new initiatives that could clash with ICANN’s management of the Internet.

Join Americans for a Secure Internet for a lunch buffet and panel discussion on Wednesday, September 13, to learn how changes to current Internet governance could compromise the integrity of its infrastructure, and the continued growth of eCommerce.

Topics include:

* The U.N.’s IGF and its plan for a prolonged campaign to gain control of the Internet and remove America from its dominant position
* How the IGF’s proposals create real barriers to eCommerce by turning the Internet over to a collection of foreign governments, including those that practice massive censorship like China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia
* How the Internet needs a “manager” and not a “governor”—and the difference between the two
* The current ICANN arrangement and how it allows for distributed control of the Internet
* The threat to technical development and improvement of the Internet by trapping its management inside a multitude of new agencies and programs

Get to know these issues that will be discussed at the IGF meeting and the potential effects. All Congressional staff involved in technology and eCommerce issues should attend.

Panelists include:

Ambassador David Gross
Ambassador, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
U.S. Department of State

Harold Feld
Senior Vice President
Media Access Project

Brian Cute
Vice President, Government Relations
VeriSign

Steve DelBianco (moderator)
Executive Director
NetChoice

RSVP
If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Melissa Moskal at mailto:mmoskal@actonline.org or 202.420.7484.

About ASI
Americans for a Secure Internet is a coalition of trade associations, public policy think tanks, businesses and individuals who share a deep concern about the future of Internet security. Visit www.protectingthenet.org for more information.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

What the FAA?

How the heck did the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) get into regulating the wireless industry (both licensed and unlicensed)? The FAA has proposed requiring pretty much any wireless service with an antenna to fill out a form for every antenna and antenna change. Right now, only services with big antennas (like broadcasters) near airports fill out FAA paperwork.

As the FCC gently points out in its own filing, the FAA does not seem to understand just how much this would increase paperwork for the industry — and for the FAA to process. Given that the FAA does not seem to have any reason to think that these antennas will cause rampant interference and bring planes out of the sky, maybe the FAA wants to rethink this?

Other industry groups, such as the National Association of Broadcasters, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, and various professionals have all stopped by to politely sugest to the FAA that, perhaps, the FAA HAS LOST ITS BLEEDIN’ MIND AND DOES NOT KNOW WHAT THE HECK IT IS TALKNG ABOUT.

What’s interesting for me is that this is yet another demonstration of how the various components of the Bush administration just don’t seem to ever speak to each other. During Katrina, the FCC outshone just about every other federal agency in the competence department. But as the FCC’s Katrina Report (and testimony from my friends in the wireless community who came down to help in the crisis) shows, there were huge problems getting the other government agencies to respect FCC authorized damage control teams and FCC licensed services. Meanwhile, we have the Patent and Trademark Office negotiating a major overhaul of broadcaster rights at a WIPO treaty, with apparently no involvement from the FCC or any other potentially impacted agency. The Chair of the Federal Trade Commission has announced it will set up its own task force on net neutrality — again without any apparent involvement of the FCC.

And that’s just the stuff in my own little corner of the world. Look around Washington these days and you see little effort by the Bush administration to require any kind of cooperation among the various agencies. We get overlap, paralysis and turf wars galore. But we don’t seem to be getting much done.

It’s not all bad, of course. Traditional relationships, like between the FCC and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) appear to be working just fine. But something is seriously wrong when the FAA just decides to issue a notice about all antenna structures in the United States, and apparently does not even think about picking up the phone first and calling someone at the FCC and saying “Hi there, we’re thinking of doing a rulemaking on stuff that impacts industries you closely regulate; can we get together and chat first so we don’t horribly embarass ourselves?”

Stay tuned . . . . .

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