My Thoughts Exactly

Net Neutrality Nearer? Maybe

Some promising noises out of the FCC and Congress lately–even from President Obama– about preserving Net Neutrality. However, the Telco & other retrograde forces out there have lots of money, lobbyists, and influence. Free Press’s “Save the Internet” campaign has some good things going on, including an astonishing $100,000 matching contribution fundraiser sponsored by an anonymous donor. Chip in what you can. And contact your congresspeople today.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Credit where it's Due

With the Comcast ruling by the FCC, lots of well-earned congratulations are going ’round. Free Press is getting its props, and Larry Lessig is congratulating Kevin Martin.

But hey, we have our own local hero right here on Wetmachine.

So please join me in three cheers for Harold Feld!

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The FCC Releases the Comcast Complaint Order Part I — Why This Is A Huge Win.

The FCC just released the text of the Order adopted on August 1 finding for Free Press on the Comcast Complaint and Declaratory ruling and denying Vuze’s Petition for Rulemaking. You can get the pdf here.

Larry Lessig pretty much says it all with his letter commending the FCC on its decision. For myself, I see this as another in a series of important wins, building on previous wins. Read it, particularly the footnotes, and you will find reference to the C Block openness conditions, the Adelphia Transaction Order, and every other baby step along the road that proved absolutely critical to getting us this far.

And, just as with those victories, we did not imagine for one moment that we had finished our task or that we had solved our problems. The danger to an open internet that remains a platform “as diverse as human thought” in the face of broadband providers trying to convert it into a combination shopping mall, movieplex and theme park continues. But we prevented Comcast from creating an “industry standard” around blocking or degrading peer-2-peer applications and put every ISP on notice that they will need to make real disclosure of their “network management practices” when those practices block or degrade subscriber choices. That the market would not respond on its own — at least not in a positive way — is evidenced by the fact that Comcast, despite all the negative publicity, promises to change, etc., is still targeting bittorrent. To the contrary, had we not acted, I do not doubt that other broadband ISPs would, over time, have adopted this and similar techniques, and without notifying their subscribers in any meaningful way.

We have also created another positive precedent for the day when a future FCC or Congress will adopt rules that provide the level of protection we need to maintain an open and competitive internet. This FCC opinion establishes the jurisdictional basis for any future rulemaking and, while declining to adopt rules now, explicitly states that the FCC retains the jurisdiction to create rules in the future — noting that the Carterfone network attachment rules began as an adjudication and ultimately culminated in Part 68 of the Commission’s rules. Despite a raft of theories (conspiracy or otherwise) to the contrary, this Order does not weaken our efforts to get general rules or get legislation passed. To the contrary, by recognizing that rules protecting the openness of the Internet further the important interests of the First Amendment (Par. 43 n. 203), this Order strengthens our ability to get rules or legislation in the future.

While it leaves certain critical questions — such as whether a third party can pay a broadband access provider for “premium” treatment regardless of user preferences — unresolved, it does so in a way that leaves us free to come back without any bad precedent or presumption. Copps and Adelstein can continue to press for adoption of a fifth principle on non-discrimination without fear that voting for this Order somehow put them in a box.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C, Back in the N-C-M-R!

Once again, I am coming to live from the National Conference on Media Reform, the whatever the word is for “held every 18 months” conference on media reform by Free Press. Already our the socialist-radical-gay-lesbian-transexual-Wiccans are laying down deep mojo to cause Senator McCain to unexpectedly dance the charleston at the high point of the Republican convention, followed by a full lip-lock with Rush Limbaugh.

But until then, the talk here is of media reform. Well, that and the #@!%! rain and other weather that has screwed up too many flights trying to get here, like mine. Which is why the report on the pre-conference is extremely short. By the time I got here, it was mostly over.

I did get to see some of my favorite folks in the movement however, and give an enormous “Thank You” to Bob McChesney for his incredible work in founding Free Press and devoting five years to creating the organization he believed needed to come into existence.

More tomorrow.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

For the Clueless Among Us: Why Comcast Paying Folks to Attend FCC Hearing Is Wrong.

I can’t believe I actually need to explain this.

Suppose Comcast made the following offer: If you vote “yes” on a ballot initiative we like (and agree to take a pocket recording device into the voting booth with you so we can have proof), we will pay you $50.

Most of us would not only say that this is wrong, we would have no problem understanding why that’s a crime. We would not be persuaded by Comcast defending itself by saying “well, Free Press and other organizations have campaigned in support of the bill and are calling people to ask them to go out and vote — they even provide free rides to people likely to vote for the initiative. That’s just like paying people directly to vote the way we want.” In general, we recognize a difference between organizing ad trying to persuade people to vote the way you want and actually paying people for their vote (and wanting a receipt).

Which brings us to Comcast’s exercise in seat packing at Monday’s FCC Hearing in Boston.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Reacts To FCC Probe By Changing Fine Print

Well, it appears that Comcast has learned a valuable lesson from our complaint about blocking BitTorrent and subsequent FCC investigation. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the lesson appears to be “make our policies more explicitly outrageous.”

My thanks to Marvin Amouri at Free Press for this excellent analysis of Comcast’s new terms of service. As Marvin notes, Comcast released this puppy quietly on its website, taking advantage of the pre-existing fine print to alter terms unilaterally. (Question for Comcast, if I don’t like the new terms, can I cancel without tirggering an early termination fee?)

Marvin really says everything that needs to be said on his excellent post, so I shall limit myself with simply rolling my eyes and wondering when we will have a Congress and an FCC genuinely interested in promoting broadband adoption and competition rather than providing cover for lazy duopolists squeezing locked in customers unwilling to invest in network upgrades. Oh yeah, I forgot. According to this Administration, we already solved the broadband problem.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Criag Aaron and I show up on Uprising Radio

You can listen to Free PRess’ Craig Aaron and yr hmbl obdnt on this weekly wrap up at Uprisingradio.org. We talk about the 700 MHz auction (what else), postal rates, the save internet radio campaign, and the media mergers on the horizon.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Free Press Rescue Internet Radio Campaign and Paper Magazines

My friends at Free Press have put together a campaign to fight the threat to internet radio. you can find out how to take action at their website here.

Meanwhile, going from newest technology to oldest, Free Press co-founder and media scholar/activist Bob McChesney has sounded the alarm on an increase in postal rates that will hit small magazines much harder than big ones. The deadline for comments in this proceeding is April 23.

The Internet is wonderful, but does not eliminate our need for independent magazines and other “old tech” news and diversity of views. So while I hope that folks will sign the internet radio petition, I really want to urge everyone to sign on to the postal rates campaign as well.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

NCMR Day 2: I collapse into an exhausted stupor

First, I must report that Jen Howard, one of the amazing folks at Free Press (formerly one of my colleagues at MAP) was a touch disappointed in my review of the party Thursday night, which she planned. She also informs me that the company that handled the drinks had said that non-alcoholic drinks were free and they were definitely NOT, supposed to charge me $2 for a bottle of water. So I will conclude that Free Press (and Jen) are amazing at everything, including planning parties, and just got ripped off.

And so they proved on Friday Night. Or so I am told. It being Shabbos, I retreated to my room. Alas, I therefore missed the further inspirational remarks of Commissioners Copps and Adelstein. However, I urge all those benighted souls who, like me, missed it, to check them out in the video archive.

I do urge everyone to pay particular attention to Copps’ proposed New America Media Contract. I will have more analysis of this when the brain cells start workng again.

O.K., here is how Harold spent his day. It is a rather disjointed, personal approach that skipped most of the main events with the real news makers. Which is why I don’t call myself a “citizen journalist” (but more on that below).

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

More Funding For CUWiN=Good News For Open Source Mesh Networking

As regular readers probably know, I’m a huge fan of the Champaign Urbana Wireless Network (CUWiN) and its co-founder and project coordinator Sascha Meinrath. I was therefore ecstatic to hear that CUWiN
received a grant from the National Science Foundation for $500,000.

I have pushed for support for CUWiN for years as one of the great hopes for open source mesh networking using unlicensed spectrum. To unpack that a little from geek speak, it means using non-proprietary code to create nodes that use unlicensed spectrum to form a network by speaking to each other rather than sending a signal point-to-point from a central “hub” (“hub-and-spoke”). You can find a good illustration of the difference between mesh and hub-and-spoke (and good general introduction to community wireless) on this Free Press page.

CUWiN has spent years developing useful open source software and other tools designed to make wireless networks cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to implement in multiple communities and environments. CUWiN software and methods have created networks in Ghanna, the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Champaign and Urbana, and the San Diego Tribal Digital Village in San Diego County. Their software is freely available and downloadable fromtheir website.
People who care about creating ubiquitous and affordable wireless broadband around the world should be throwing money at CUWiN hand over fist. Sadly, as with so many good and desperately needed projects, CUWiN has lived starved for funds and hand to mouth.

The NSF grant gives CUWiN much needed money to continue and expand its good work. I’m also hopeful that “money follows money” as they say in the grant world. With this level of support from NSF, I hope CUWiN finds it easier to open doors at other foundations and grant sources.

I reprint the CUWiN press release about the grant below.

Stay tuned . . .

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