Tales of the Sausage Factory

The AT&T Merger Saga Continues . . .

No one could mistake last week’s twists and turns in the proposed AT&T/BellSouth merger for the excitement, titilation and hijinks of the Foley Follies. But by the staid standards of telecom policy, last week’s swirl of activity constituted a veritable Telanovella of intrigue and power politics. Duelling Congressional Committees! Kevin Martin pushes for a showdown, but Dems Michael Copps and Jonathon Adelstein hang tough! Martin stages a “strategic withdrawal,” but schedules a new vote for November 3 after he returns from his long-planned trip to Asia. AT&T offers new concessions, kicking off a fresh round of public comment and criticism of the merger. And what will happen to the Notice of Inquiry on network neutrality that Martin offered the Dems as an incentive to approve the merger? Is it still on the table?

I’m all aflutter, I tells ya. For my continued speculation, as well as my thoughts on the proposed AT&T conditions and how you can still make a difference, see below….

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My Thoughts Exactly

Congressman Delahunt on Net Neutrality

I called Bill Delahunt’s office and sent him emails in support of net neutrality.

I received this response by email a few days ago. I’m entering it here for the record, without comment. I may comment on it later, and would be interested in what you think of it (espescially in the case where “you” == Harold Feld).

Dear Friend:

Thank you for your email message in support of net neutrality legislation.
I appreciate the benefit of your views, and wanted to take a moment to
explain my vote of “present” during last week’s consideration of the
Sensenbrenner-Conyers bill in the House Judiciary Committee.

First, I support keeping cyberspace free and open to all. As a member of
the House International Relations Committee, I’ve seen how the Internet has
made it possible to bridge cultural and political differences that exist.
As a father, email made it possible for me to keep in touch with my daughter
while she was working overseas in Spain – and helped me to make sure that
she was safe after the Madrid terrorist bombings.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

This Time, We Spank the Telcos

If anything can warm my sad, cynical heart here in the Sausage Factory, it’s seeing people rise up and reclaiming their power and responsibilities as citizens.
So when I saw the House Judiciary Committee voted 20-13-1 (one voting “present”) to send the the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act to the floor of the House for a vote, a stunning turn around from last month’s Commerce Committee approval of COPE, I get quite giddy about the prospects for legislation that reflects more than just refereeing industry food fights.

Needless to say, the opponents of network neutrality find themselves stammering in amazement and groping for alternative explanations. Surely it must be a turf fight, or an effort to extort more campaign contributions from telcos and cable cos! Surely it must be Google money financing things! Could Moveon.org really make common cause with the Christian Coalition, the Catholic Church and, well, Common Cause? Could the dry bones of democracy again be given flesh? Could the couch potato masses remember their strength and rise again as citizens reborn? Hallelujah!

Well, maybe not quite so dramaticly Biblical (must be working too much with all those religious groups), and we’re not out of the woods yet by a long-shot. But the last few weeks have definitely thrown up roadblocks in the telco victory march through Congress. My analysis, including a Colbert-esque “Tip of the Hat” to Free Press’ Ben Scott for his amazing Senate Commerce Committe testimony and a “Wag of the Finger” to Libertarian Reporter Declan McCullagh for this rather shameful bit of editorializing in the guise of reporting below.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Tales of the Sausage Factory: Congress Giveth, Congress Taketh Away

Good news: The House Commerce Committee had a hearing on the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act, which would undo the more obnoxious provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Bad news: The House Judiciary Committee (which handles intellectual property issues) approved the Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act, a bill to criminalize the use of false information in WHOIS registrations. This wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t required to divulge a boatload of personal information under the “thick” WHOIS requirements in order to register a domain name. Folks who hate getting beaten up by their governments over free speech issues or just hate the way spammers use the WHOIS database often try to defnd themselves by submitting false information.

More on the merits of the bills below. But also of relevance (and what makes the Sausage Factory so much fun) is to note the difference a change in committee makes.

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