MSNBC and Heartland Institute: two great tastes that go great together?

If you’re MSNBC, who do you get to provide the anti-FCC net neutrality position for fairness and balance?

As usual, while there’s a kerfuffle over major issues I’m down here in the weeds wondering at peculiarities. For instance, with net neutrality being a significant chunk of the current 24/7 news cycle fodder thanks to the FCC’s recent decision, I could focus on the pros and cons of net neutrality, so-called or otherwise, but I’m honestly a bit torn. For the moment, I’m content to wait and see what the wonks have to say about the full 300+ pages of the FCC measure when it’s eventually released. There’s cause for caution when advocates for net neutrality are holding their noses over this latest development. Continue reading

Internet & Telecom

Net neutrality? It’s not complicated, AT&T

AT&T’s new toll-free data plan is a great idea. For AT&T. Everyone else, not so much.

It’s been a bit since I’ve written about net neutrality (really, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything), but it seemed right to bring the topic up again with regards to AT&T’s new toll-free data proposal:

“AT&T Inc., the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, announced Monday that it’s setting up a “1-800” service for wireless data. Websites that pay for the service will be toll-free for AT&T’s wireless customers, meaning the traffic won’t count against a surfer’s monthly allotment of data.

It’s the first major cellphone company to create a comprehensive service for sponsored wireless access in the U.S. The move is likely to face considerable opposition from public-interest groups that fear the service could discourage consumers from exploring new sites that can’t afford to pay communications carriers for traffic.” Continue reading

FCC: Move to digital hasn't improved local news reporting

From the “The Feds Are The Last To Know Department”:

The Federal Communications Commission released a study today reporting that an “explosion of online news sources in recent years has not produced a corresponding increase in reporting, particularly quality local reporting …” The study, titled “Information Needs of Communities” takes a broad but somewhat shallow look at the media landscape. It reads as more of a history of how modern media arrived at its current state than as a clear, practical recipe for change.

The study — which looks at the local reporting performance of all media, not just that of newspapers — was undertaken by senior FCC adviser Steven Waldman, a former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. According to his study:

In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.

Well, duh. Continue reading

Free Press' mediaFail site a bad idea from a good organization

Read a news story you didn’t like? See a news story you think really sucked? See any news product you believe represents a failure of the American news media (no matter what your standards are and whether they’re valid)?

Well, get your dander up and head on over to mediaFail and vote against that mediocrity. There, the site says, you can “Expose the Worst of American Media. Find It. Post It. Fail It.”

This site, a project of the highly respected media reform group Free Press, allows irritated readers and viewers to log in, post a link, give the story a failing grade and, lo, let the nasty comments flow.

Free Press bills this site as a route to a better media system. I disagree. Vehemently.
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Obama U-turn on net neutrality? Let's hope so…

A few days ago FCC Chair Julius Genachowski suggested that the administration was seriously considering abandoning the president’s uncompromising pledge to enforce net neutrality. Some suggested at the time that the comments had the vague odor of trial balloon about them. If so, the president found out, quickly and unequivocally, what folks thought. Some reasoned, some entreated, while others of us nard-stomped for all we were worth.

If, in fact, Obama was using Genachowski to test the waters, the conclusion had to be that it’s full of alligators. So today, it looks like the administration might complete the 360:

FCC to Overhaul Regulation of Internet Lines Continue reading

Obama caving on net neutrality? We can no longer believe a word he says, can we?

During the campaign then-candidate Barack Obama kept reminding us that “politics is the art of the possible.” We were encouraged to understand “possible” in the same context as “Hope®” and “Change We Can Believe In™.” That is, the Obama presidency was to usher in a new age where the old business as usual politics of the Beltway wouldn’t be tolerated. “Yes We Can©,” he insisted, summoning the disaffected masses into an arena of engagement where the entrenched forces of corporatism and corruption could be, would be, overthrown.

That was the promise. That was the dream.

The reality of the Obama administration has been a smidge less kumbayah than many might have hoped, though. The health care “debate” was as nasty and dishonest as anything the Republic has seen since … well, honestly I can’t quite think what the applicable touchpoint might be here. Civil rights? The Summer of 1968? The entirety of the Reagan years? Blowjobgate? Heck, I don’t know. Suffice it to say that from one end of the process to the other, if a government or corporate official’s lips were moving, somebody was being played. Continue reading

How long can volunteers sustain community blogs?

Over the past nearly four years, nearly 2,600 posts have appeared on Scholars & Rogues, almost all researched and written by the 15 folks whose names appear on our writers’ bio page. S&R writers have devoted thousands of hours to the task of filling this space.

These are skilled people with diverse interests and even more diverse points of view. Three are college professors. Also writing for S&R have been or are an Hispanic activist from Texas; a foreign affairs writer who specializes in nuclear deproliferation issues and civilian casualties resulting from armed conflict; a gay staff cartoonist; a management consultant specializing in organizational behavior whose clients include 20 percent of the Fortune 500; an ex-pat South African economist; three experts in popular culture; a former director of the Berkeley Stage Company and statistical demographer for the U.S. Census Bureau; a professional stage actor; two stay-at-moms; a photographer; and occasional guest columnists.

However, we all share one trait: We are volunteers. We don’t get paid. We have other lives, other responsibilities, other people dependent on us to make a living. As business models go, ours sucks. Modest ad income and passing the hat means S&R remains a labor of love. But can love be a sustaining force for the online medium in the absence of profit?
Continue reading

Who's gonna run the government? Tell us, please. Now.

Yo, Barack! Hey, John! I know you’ve been busy, cruising around the country, giving those same ol’ stump speeches over and over again. (Doncha get tired of that? We sure do.)

Park for a minute and tell us something. After you’re elected president, what are you gonna do with those buffoons running the Minerals Management Service that collects each year oil and gas royalties of $10 billion from oil companies? The Interior Department’s inspector general says top officials there have been involved in “financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct.

And while you’re at it, what about Nancy Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission? You plan to let her keep on defending “trips she took that were paid for by the industries that her agency regulates“? You gonna let her keep on telling Congress that her agency does not need a larger budget to police the the industries that produce the nation’s consumer goods?
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The big story with the least MSM coverage? (Guess again.)

by Brad Jacobson

What critical news story received less overall mainstream media coverage than Dennis Kucinich’s introduction of 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush? What same news, with immense impact on our First Amendment rights, got even shorter shrift than last week’s Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report confirming that the Bush administration “led the nation to war on false premises”?

Give up?

Here’s a hint: Fox News, if inadvertently and riddled with falsehoods, devoted more attention to this story than almost any other news outlet.

The answer? The National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR).

You know, where all those “fascists” and “loons,” who “live in an alternative universe,” come together to revivify freedom of the press even though “about 50% of the liberals say [the media] is unbiased.” (Please click on that link to see video of Bill O’Reilly, “journalist” Juan Williams – who officially forfeits any remaining semblance of journalistic credibility – and “political analyst” Mary Katherine Ham discuss the conference; it’s a cartoonish example of what inspired the media reform movement to begin with.) Continue reading

Don't let the future be compressed–fight for a free Internet

By Martin Bosworth

Last week AT&T exec Jim Cicconi did his part to spread FUD by claiming that the Internet will reach the limits of its capacity by 2010, bolstering this doomsday notion with absurd claims that three households could conceivably consume as much bandwidth as the entire existing Internet, or that the entirety of existing networks built today came from private-sector innovation, a claim I’m sure everyone from Vint Cerf to Al Gore can dispute. 😉 Continue reading

OK Go says Net Neutrality good for music

Tim Karr has an important read for music lovers up at HuffPo. In it, he covers OK Go’s descent into Washington to promote the importance of Net Neutrality to independent musicians.

The band’s success is a testament to an open Internet. OK Go was propelled to national fame via the popularity of their YouTube videos. One, a treadmill dance along to the song “Here It Goes Again,” has been viewed more than 31 million times.

“If people wonder whether the music industry will benefit from Net Neutrality they can look no further than us,” said OK Go’s lead singer and guitarist Damian Kulash in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“There really is some consensus here that Net Neutrality is good for music and good for musicians… I’m here to ask you today to preserve Net Neutrality and the openness of the Internet. I believe it’s critical to the future of music.”

These days, when it seems like the deck is as thoroughly stacked against legitimate artists as it has ever been, it’s a little scary to imagine what happens if we take away one of the few tools left to bands trying to promote themselves. Continue reading

Comcast blocks public from FCC hearing

By Martin Bosworth

If you haven’t already heard about it, Comcast doesn’t just block subscribers from using BitTorrent, it also blocks the public from even complaining about it in public:

Comcast’s spokespersons admitted it paid people to do the same for a hearing on the company’s actions regarding its interference with peer-to-peer file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. The placeholders not only held spots in line, but also crowded into the hearing itself, preventing more than 100 attendees — many of whom had come to speak against Comcast — from getting inside. Continue reading

Comcast to customers: We control the horizontal, the vertical, and your Internets…but we can't admit it

By Martin Bosworth

The Save The Internet coalition alerted me to Comcast’s quietly rolling out new terms of service that codify what has been common knowledge for some time–that the company does, indeed, interfere with traffic on its network, and reserves the right to do so, any time it wishes.

Of course, the company hasn’t actually come out and said it so plainly, any more than they’ll admit they cancel customer accounts for hitting undisclosed bandwith caps. Instead, as Mike Masnick notes, they’re using “weasel language” that implies their intent without being so precise as to be caught. Continue reading

Shadow war: AT&T versus Verizon for control of American communications

By Martin Bosworth

Right now the Senate is embroiled in debate over whether or not to grant the major telecom companies (chiefly AT&T and Verizon) retroactive immunity for their participation in the NSA’s illegal surveillance program, in addition to legitimizing vast new surveillance powers over Americans with almost no oversight. You already know my feelings about that, so I won’t belabor the point.

On this issue, as with many others (such as their opposition to net neutrality), the two giants of the telecom industry have been largely buddy-buddy. Both of them stand to lose millions in damages from lawsuits brought against them for their actions, before even getting into the bad publicity the case has already caused. It’s easy to forget that these two companies are (at least in a technical sense) competitors, and don’t always pursue the same goals in the same way.

Case in point: Continue reading

Why I am for Obama: It's more than just the man, it's the movement


By Martin Bosworth

What’s the difference between a skeptic and a cynic?

A skeptic is someone who, when told something, doesn’t immediately believe it to be true and looks deeper into the issue before making their decision.

A cynic is someone who, when told something, automatically assumes it to be false, and doesn’t bother looking any further, because it’s just got to be bullshit.

It’s essential, especially in these times of fear and paranoia, that we maintain a healthy skepticism about what we are told. Continue reading

Internet freedom means net neutrality, not "pay-as-you-go" broadband

By Martin Bosworth

Last week the news broke (via a leaked memo found by Broadband Reports) that Time Warner Cable was instituting a “tiered pricing” structure for broadband, where heavy bandwith users would have to pay more, rather than the customary “all you can eat” model of supposedly unlimited usage for a flat price. My article covers the issue in more detail, but the gist is that while tiered pricing structures are better than being kicked off your service for violating invisible bandwith caps, it’s still no substitute for building out new networks with more capacity.

This leads me to the excellent paper authored by Sascha Meinrath on how the concept of net neutrality needs to be incorporated and expanded into a larger vision of Internet freedom. Continue reading

All your Internets are belong to ATT & the NSA

By Martin Bosworth

Two seemingly coincidental bits of news crossed my desk yesterday morning. First, the Wall Street Journal contains excerpts of an interview with Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell in which he outlines a vast new initiative to police Internet traffic “for abuse.”

Meanwhile, AT&T announced that it plans to extend its initiative to examine packets of information on its network for illegally traded content, becoming, in effect, the Internet’s traffic cop.

Let’s see…the world’s largest telecom company states it’s in negotiations with major entertainment conglomerate to police the Internet on their behalf, on the same day the DNI announces the government wants more eyes on Internet traffic?

Mike McConnell is an old friend to the major telecom companies, having most recently stumped on their behalf to grant them retroactive immunity from prosecution in the NSA’s illegal surveillance program. He’s also a big fan of privatizing national security functions, favoring everything from outsourcing background checks to enlisting credit bureaus to handle the work of verifying identities. I find it not at all unfeasible that even as AT&T is offering its services to Big Content, Big Government is waiting expectantly in the visitors’ room for its turn at the till.

There are no coincidences.

FCC investigates Comcast…and Congress investigates the FCC

By Martin Bosworth

It’s one of those moments of fearful symmetry only a tiger could love. Barely a day after FCC chair Kevin Martin announced that his agency would be investigating Comcast for blocking access to BitTorrent, the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced that they are launching an investigation into the FCC for some of the shady business that’s been transpiring under Martin’s aegis. (Formal letter here.) Continue reading

CNet quizzes presidential candidates on technology

By Martin Bosworth

With the war in Iraq, the faltering economy, and health care dominating the issues front for the candidates, it’s no wonder technology issues have largely been back-burnered in the mainstream political debate. But that doesn’t make them any less relevant or important–or less requiring of coverage.

CNet’s Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache sent 10 technology-oriented questions to the candidates, discussing net neutrality, Internet taxation, REAL ID, wiretapping, and other issues, and CNet has published the answers as part of their Technology Voter’s Guide. After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at who answered (and who didn’t), and what they said. Continue reading