since 2004

Archive for the ‘information policy’ Category

D.C. Court Delivers Bad News for Net Neutrality

In law, net neutrality, open access on April 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

According to the DC Circuit Court, it’s OK for Comcast to block, slow down or otherwise obstruct access to content like YouTube and music sites. This is very bad news for users. Given that telecom corporations have already restricted user access to certain sites, it is not hard to imagine the cascade of censorship corps will now feel emboldened to pursue — for profit and/or political reasons.

Urge the FCC to Continue Fighting for Users’ Rights.
Act Now at SavetheInternet.org.

Read more:

U.S. Court Curbs FCC Authority on Web Traffic
New York Times, by Edward Wyatt

“The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dealt a sharp blow to the efforts of the Federal Communications Commission to set the rules of the road for the Internet, ruling that the agency lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks. The decision specifically concerned the efforts of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, to slow down customers’ access to a service called BitTorrent, which is used to exchange large video files, most often pirated copies of movies. But Tuesday’s court ruling has far larger implications than just the Comcast case. The ruling would allow Comcast and other Internet service providers to restrict consumers’ ability to access certain kinds of Internet content, such as video sites like Hulu.com or Google’s YouTube service, or charge certain heavy users of their networks more money for access. Google, Microsoft and other big producers of Web content have argued that such controls or pricing policies would thwart innovation and customer choice. Consumer advocates said the ruling, one of several that have challenged the FCC’s regulatory reach, could also undermine all of the FCC’s efforts to regulate Internet service providers and establish its authority over the Internet, including its recently released national broadband plan.” >FULL ARTICLE

Read the decision (US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit)

Additional Coverage (gathered by Benton Foundation):

Court Backs Comcast Over FCC on ‘Net Neutrality’ (WSJ)

FCC’s Net neutrality plans in turmoil (USAToday)

US internet reform plan hit by court ruling (Financial Times)

Google, Skype Set Back as Ruling Puts Web in ‘No-Man’s Land’ (Bloomberg)

Key Takeaways for Libraries from FCC National Broadband Plan

In broadband, community partnerships, information policy, library funding, open access, telecommunications reform on March 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts (here and here), the FCC’s National Broadband Plan came out this week. The 360-page document is a worthwhile read. Below are some key takeaways related to libraries and our constituents.

The FCC writes, “If this plan succeeds, every American community will have affordable access to far better broadband performance than they enjoy today. To do so, the plan makes recommendations about reforming the E-rate and the Rural Health Care support programs. Second, non-profit and public institutions should be able to find efficient alternatives for greater connectivity through aggregated efforts. … Schools, libraries and health care facilities must all have the connectivity they need to achieve their purposes” (See Chapter 2, Goal 4).

Of particular note is the reminder that, “Over half (51%) of African Americans and 43% of Hispanics who use the Internet do so at a public library.”[1] The three primary issues inhibiting equitable Internet access are affordability, digital literacy and relevance. All three of these issues impact library services. And as more and more basic social services move online, libraries must continue to address the literacy gaps and whittle away at the perception (by 19% of people surveyed) that the Internet’s merely a “waste of time.”

To this end, the plan calls for capacity-building among community partners stating, “…public computing centers provide more than just free access to the Internet. They provide supportive environments for reluctant and new users to begin to explore the Internet, become comfortable using it and develop the skills needed to find, utilize and create content.[2] Patrons of these centers overwhelmingly express the value of the personnel who staff them and can offer one-on-one help, training or guidance”[3] New LSTA grants and training programs for library personnel are key components of the plan.

The plan also calls for the creation of a “Digital Literacy Corps” to support programs that close the digital knowledge divide. Chicago Public Library’s CyberNavigators program is one successful example. Libraries across the country should harness this opportunity to shape new local programs and promote existing models. The plan asks Congress to increase funding for IMLS, which, if accomplished, will open incredible avenues for community partnerships, literacy programs and equipment upgrades.

Other highlights include recommendations to ensure greater affordability and speed, increase competition and consumer protections, restructure the E-Rate program, expand rural broadband access, and improve public safety and communications access for people with disabilities. The FCC found that, “An important and cross-cutting issue is accessibility for people with disabilities. Some 39% of all non-adopters have a disability, much higher than the 24% of overall survey respondents who have a disability.”[4] Major barriers include the lack of accessible websites, software, equipment and the connection speed needed to use crucial adaptive tools like VoIP. As any librarian will tell you, many people with disabilities only have access to basic adaptive equipment at their libraries. The plan concludes, “The federal government must promote innovative and affordable solutions to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to communications services and that they do not bear disproportionate costs to obtain that access.”

The Broadband Plan was shaped by input from all corners of the U.S.; yet, it was a broad grassroots effort that assured rural and Indigenous communities, people of color, low-income residents and small businesses were heard. These groups collected stories from digital “haves and have-nots,” met with FCC Commissioners, hosted teach-ins, and garnered media attention to educate the public.

There are a number of outstanding issues and next steps to ensure this plan is implemented. Libraries should not miss the opportunity to partner with these community-based groups and localize our policy advocacy work. Our local communities will be better served for it. One step in this direction: yesterday the California Library Association’s (CLA) Intellectual Freedom Committee signed the grassroots Digital Inclusion Pledge. Representing 3,000 members in California, CLA joined dozens of other state and local groups. I encourage other local libraries and associations to do so as well.
NOTES:

[1] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 77, Jon P. Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption: Comparative Trends in Adoption, Acceptance and Use, Jt. Ctr. for Pol. & Econ. Stud. 3 (2010) (Gant et al., National Minority Broadband Adoption).

[2] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 89, American Library Association Comments in re NBP PN #16, filed Dec. 2, 2009, at 3.

[3] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 90, Dharma Dailey et al., Broadband Adoption at 27–28.

[4] See National Broadband Plan, Chapter 9: FN 10, Horrigan, Broadband Adoption and Use in America at 24, 7.

Community and Advocacy Groups Respond to Broadband Plan

In broadband, information policy, media justice, telecommunications reform on March 17, 2010 at 6:51 am

Following up my post yesterday summarizing National Broadband news, here are two more excellent commentaries on the FCC’s new plan:

Community Groups Applaud Broadband Plan…But Say There’s Still a Ways to Go
Center for Media Justice

A Man. A Plan. A Problem. The Internet
Free Press

Information Round-up: FCC’s Broadband Plan Released Today

In broadband, information access, information policy, telecommunications reform, Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

Today, the Federal Communications Commission released its plan for national broadband expansion. The plan, titled Connecting America, was mandated by the 2009 Recovery Act.

But, what does it all mean? Consumer rights groups have pressed for more regulation to assure accessible and affordable Internet for all, while large broadcasters oppose FCC interference in opening the market to more competition and regulation. There’s been a lot of David vs. Goliath metaphors out there, but one thing everyone agrees on is that the national plan is one thing and its implementation is another. (And, yes, digital and information literacy is yet another, as the Washington Post reminded us today).

Since many of us only know a cursory amount about broadband, below are links to background, news and analysis about the plan.

BACKGROUND

What is Broadband?
Federal Communications Commission

Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan
Federal Communications Commission

NEWS

FCC Plan Urges Faster, Wider Broadband Internet Access (video)
Consumers cite “cost and digital literacy” as main obstacles; FCC: “this plan is a win-win”
PBS News Hour

FCC National Broadband Plan: What It Means for You
Chloe Albanesius, PC Magazine

Broadband Plan Faces Hurdles
Amy Schatz, Wall Street Journal

FCC Broadband Plan Wins General Praise
Grant Gross, Computer World

ANALYSIS

Standing Ovation for National Broadband Plan
Center for Creative Voices in Media

Statement of the Media Access Project in Reaction to FCC National Broadband Plan
Media Access Project

NAB Statement on National Broadband Plan
National Association of Broadcasters

National Day of Action for Affordable, Open Internet: What Librarians Can Do

In activism, broadband, community partnerships, information access, library profession, media justice, net neutrality, open access on February 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

On Monday February 15, a national coalition of grassroots groups will lead a National Day of Action calling on legislators to defend an affordable and open Internet.

As a community committed to information access and equity, librarians have an important role to play on these issues. While our professional associations advocate for open Internet access on Capitol Hill, there is a great deal individual librarians can do in our own communities.

Tomorrow, members of the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) will conduct delegation visits with congressional reps across the country, host community forums and hold local press conferences to highlight the need for universal broadband and Net Neutrality.

Here are a few things librarians can do to support the National Day of Action on Monday:

  • Get your library or organization to join the hundreds of groups who have signed the “Digital Inclusion Pledge” calling on the FCC and Congress to define broadband as a universal service, and create rules that protect an open and non-discriminatory Internet. Available in English and Spanish.
  • On Monday, February 15th, call your Congressperson. Let them know that “you support MAG-Net’s call for an affordable and open Internet.” You can do this as an individual, or speak on behalf of your library. Though major media corporations have promised not to block content, their questionable practices have already come under scrutiny by federal regulators and advocates. Comcast has arbitrarily blocked file-sharing traffic across its network and penalized users with slower speeds. Similarly, Verizon blocked a text-messaging campaign over its network. We can’t simply trust that these ISPs will do the right thing – we need rules to protect our communities, and our Internet. Read more background here.
  • Attend one of the community events near you in Philadelphia, San Antonio, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and Whitesburg, KY, where organizers are hosting a “Digital Quilting Bee!” Download PDF with details.
  • If you’re not in or near a city where an action is taking place, participate virtually. Join the conversation on Twitter (@mediaaction, @mediajustice) or on MAG-Net’s Facebook group page.

Right now, we have an opportunity to build coalitions with hundreds of community-based groups working to advance public information access. Like librarians, these grassroots groups are knowledgeable about the information barriers faced by their local communities and savvy advocates when it comes to information policy making. We are natural allies if we break through the silos librarians often fall into within our institutions.

Want to know more about open Internet, Net Neutrality and the need for universal broadband?

Why small businesses need open Internet

Why musicians need open Internet

Why open Internet is a civil rights issue

Open Internet is Crucial for Equity, Opportunity, Innovation

In information access, media justice, net neutrality, open access, racial justice on January 15, 2010 at 7:13 am

I definitely recommend reading this important brief filed by a broad coalition of racial justice and information freedom groups, including my organizational alma mater. Background:

January 15, 2010 – In an historic day for the Federal Communications Commission and the Internet, the Media Action Grassroots Network, ColorofChange.org, Presente.org, Applied Research Center, Afro-Netizen, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native Public Media and Rural Broadband Policy Group submitted a range of grassroots stories and comments from urban, rural and struggling sub-urban communities in response to the Commission’s notice of proposed rule making “In the Matter of Preserving the Open Internet and Broadband Industry Practices.”

The groups’ comments speak to the urgent need for an open and free Internet for low to no income, rural, Native American, African American and Latino communities.

“Like telephones, the Internet is increasingly an essential part of everyone’s daily lives,” says Malkia Cyril, Executive Director of Center for Media Justice, which coordinates the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAGNet). “Ensuring strong rules to keep the Internet free and open for communities in the midst of a widening digital divide is fundamental to a vibrant and representative democracy, and cultural and human rights.”

The groups say without strong “Net Neutrality” rules to keep content on the Internet accessible to all, communities most in need may end up “virtually redlined” from of the innovation and opportunity that springs from a free and open Internet.

“In a democratic society, every idea must have a chance to flourish and all people should be able to access legal content equally and without fear of foul play,” says Amalia Deloney, MAGNet coordinator. “People use [the Internet] to find jobs, access health services, obtain education resources, advocate for representation, increase connection, and its an important tool to build strong and healthy communities in low-income neighborhoods of color.”

The groups’ comments can be found online here.

Network Neutrality, Universal Broadband & Racial Justice

In broadband, information access, information policy, net neutrality, racial justice on January 5, 2010 at 8:01 am

By the Center for Media Justice.

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality ensures that Internet users can access any website, service, or application of their choice without interference or discrimination by the Internet Service Provider (“ISP”). This means that once a consumer buys an Internet service connection, he or she can choose to access any lawful content without fear that the ISP will block or impair access to it. Net Neutrality prevents ISPs from censoring content for any reason or giving preferential treatment to any specific website, service, or application based merely on its content, message, or ownership. This non-discrimination concept has been the guiding principle for the Internet since its inception, and at one time was the law.

Why is Net Neutrality a civil rights issue?

The Internet has the potential to increase equity in media access and political participation for historically marginalized communities. Due to high barriers to entry in television, radio, and cable, traditional media outlets have not included enough diverse voices, or provided content that is significant and relevant to underrepresented groups. With lower barriers to entry, the Internet can create a platform where these groups can speak for themselves and on behalf of their communities, to wider audiences. Neutral networks grant equal opportunity to every idea and can help ensure that communities of color do not experience the same lack of representation they have in other media platforms.

How does Net Neutrality help communities of color?

  • Net Neutrality is community-based and people-centered policy.

Neutral networks lead to more empowered communities. Rather than focus on corporate service providers, Internet policy should address the human impact: the opportunity for all people—regardless of their digital skills, or geographic and socio-economic situation—to create, access, and share information useful for their own life plans. Net Neutrality is rooted in fairness, equality, and freedom, and can support the creation of digitally empowered communities of color.

  • Net Neutrality can help drive adoption and innovation.

Studies suggest that home adoption rates for broadband Internet service are low among communities of color. However, the accessibility and availability of more relevant content could help underscore the importance of the Internet. Net Neutrality will ensure that the Internet remains a platform for innovation, equality, connection, and community, and as a result a valued space for economic growth and democratic engagement in communities of color.

  • Net Neutrality can help close the digital divide.

When fairness is the rule, ISPs invest more. Publicly available data indicates that investment by the telephone companies was actually higher and rose substantially during the time when ISPs were subject to Net Neutrality– like regulations stemming from the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Moreover, decisions on investment and deployment are not dictated simply by Net Neutrality regulations, but depend on factors such as demand and supply, costs, competition, and overall confidence in the economy.

What is Universal Broadband?

Universal Broadband refers to the effort to define broadband as a Title II service, which would extend several FCC public interest obligations to broadband and make broadband service eligible for Universal Service Fund (USF) support. Universal Service is a concept established in 1934 to make rapid, efficient, nation- and worldwide wire and radio communication available to all people in the United States at reasonable rates, without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. If the FCC declares broadband a Universal Service in the National Broadband Plan, it could:

  • Promote the availability of quality broadband services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates, and increase access to quality broadband services throughout the nation—specifically to unserved and underserved communities.
  • Open broadband up to full USF support and expand available resources, creating subsidies to consumers that alleviate pressure on their monthly bills and subsidies for companies seeking to build out networks to unserved and underserved areas.
  • Require broadband to have neutral networks that are operated in an open and nondiscriminatory manner and provide reasonably symmetric service (this means that both download and upload capacity would be protected), treating consumers as active speakers, rather than passive listeners.

Why is Universal Broadband a civil rights issue?

The nearly 70-year commitment of Congress and the FCC to Universal Service has helped to deliver essential telecommunications services and connect rural areas, the poor, schools, libraries, and communities of color to jobs, education, services, and health care. It made the telephone an indispensable communication tool, and increased the value of the public network to all users. However, serious inequities still exist. Defining broadband as a public infrastructure and Universal Service will address these inequities, help foster economic growth and democratic engagement in the poorest communities, and increase their quality of life in immeasurable ways. Broadband access and deployment to poor communities, communities of color, and rural communities is essential to the public health and public safety of our nation.

How does defining broadband as a Universal Service help communities of color?

  • Broadband is a critical piece of national infrastructure, we must protect it.

As we move into the 21st century, all people—and especially communities of color—need an affordable, accessible and well-distributed national Internet backbone. As the numbers of people of color using the Internet, and its relevance in their lives, grows, it is imperative that this critical national infrastructure not be left to the whims of the market.

  • Universal Broadband helps build empowered, engaged, connected communities.

Though the numbers of people of color online are growing, a significant digital divide still exists. As a Universal Service, broadband access and deployment to poor communities, communities of color, and rural communities will improve educational and health outcomes, support local business, and increase democratic participation and good governance. Universal Broadband can expand our ability to build community, remain culturally connected, and advocate for change.

  • Universal Broadband will increase racial justice and economic equity.

Universal Broadband will help to close the digital—and the democracy—divide, and reduce existing economic and racial gaps. Government, business, and organizations have a responsibility to champion universal accessibility, challenge anti-competitive behavior, and address unmet community needs through increasing the access, quality, and relevance of broadband services.

Grassroots groups speak up for Net Neutrality

In media justice, net neutrality, racial justice, racism on October 29, 2009 at 11:45 am

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Network Neutrality policies that would preserve the open Internet on all wired and wireless networks. While the battle is far from over, this was a positive step forward for grassroots groups who partnered with the Media and Democracy Coalition to collect signatures in support of network neutrality from 40 grassroots groups representing communities of color, low-income communities, and other historically marginalized communities from across the U.S.

Read the coalition’s letter.

Excerpt:

…It is well documented that people of color and low-income individuals are among the least-connected segments of the U.S. population. In 2009, 46% of African Americans had broadband at home, and only 35% of households with incomes $20,000 and under had access, compared to the national average of 63% of adult Americans. That means millions of African Americans and low income individuals fail to get jobs that their connected neighbors get; their children struggle more to complete their homework; and their voices are not heard as loudly in important civic debates.  The very real divides between race and class in U.S. society continue to be perpetuated on the Internet.

[snip]…We are also steadfast in our support for efforts at the FCC that would prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating content on the Internet.  These network neutrality rules are needed for people of color and low income individuals to be creators of Internet content that is relevant to their communities, not just consumers of content that is profitable for big cable and phone companies.

Civil Lib Groups Endorse H.R. 3845, American Lib Assoc. Issues Action Alert

In activism, information policy, intellectual freedom on October 29, 2009 at 11:18 am

A coalition of 20 civil liberties organizations, including the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), released a letter today endorsing the USA Patriot Amendments Act (H.R. 3845) and pointing out the failures of the Senate’s PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act (S. 1692). As their names suggest, the Amendments Act proposes reforms to the expiring sections of the USAPA, while the Extension Act pretty much extends the USAPA provisions with very few promising changes. The next review will be in 2013.

CDT compiled this very helpful chart that compares the two bills to the current law. Check out the difference on gag orders (p. 2 and 4) and on Section 215 orders that would capture personal info from a library or bookseller (p. 3). Also note that H.R. 3845 places limits on roving wiretaps, and proposes the “lone wolf” provision be allowed to expire.

Today, the American Library Association (ALA) endorsed the ACLU’s call to action and expressed its support for the House reform bills as well. The ALA alert includes background info and talking points.

H.R. 3845 and 3846 will be “marked up” next Wednesday, Nov. 4. That means now’s the time to contact your reps. Yes, especially if you want to push this debate even further around issues of immigrant rights and profiling. Remember it was during the Senate mark-up period earlier this month that Sens. Feinstein and Leahy abandoned their commitment to curb dragnets against individuals, communities and human rights orgs. Some California Reps., like Dem. Jane Harman, are already supporting this legislation. Can’t hurt to remind her.

What else can you do? Write letters to the editor. Get FISA Right posted some templates to get you started.

View full Center for Democracy & Technology post.

House Judiciary Session Scheduled

In activism, information policy, privacy, public policy on October 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

The House Judiciary Committee is expected for a classified hearing on Patriot Act issues and proposed surveillance reforms on Thursday October 29 at 2:30pm EST. There are several ways to stay up-to-date and participate in the public discussion. But, most importantly, contact your state reps right now and consider writing an editorial in your local papers.

1. Contact your representatives now using the new action forum posted by the ACLU. The action text, thankfully, draws attention to some of the oversights in the current reform legislation, calling on representatives to continue pushing for stronger public protections and repeal of expanded FBI powers. In particular we need to continue demanding changes to Section 505 as well as the slippery definition of “material support” which leaves social justice and human rights organizations vulnerable to targeting and criminal prosecution. Add your own two cents now.

2.Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. I haven’t done a Nexis search to confirm this, but Get FISA Right posted on Tuesday that media coverage of the surveillance reform bills H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 has been slim to nonexistent. Here they provide Letter to the Editor templates you can use to raise these issues in your local papers.

3. Participate in today’s live discussion at the Patriot Act Action Hub.

Read more:

From today’s Huffington Post: Sen. Wyden warns Congress to abandon hasty fear-based policymaking.

From Irregular Times: A round up of information on the reform legislation being considered, H.R. 3845 and 3846.

See also, my prior posts on the California Library Association’s Patriot Act resolution (make your own!) and the need for deeper coalition building on these issues (includes more recommended resources).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.