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Welcoming Wheeler – Help libraries remain beacons of 21st century learning

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

My prepared comments from the Voices for Internet Freedom Town Hall with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. I will post edited video here when it’s ready. In the meantime, you can watch the livestream here. I learned so much from all of the amazing speakers. Thanks to Center for Media Justice and Free Press for organizing this important conversation. Hopefully it’s the first of many with the commissioners.

Voices for Internet Freedom LogoJanuary 9, 2014 (Oakland, CA) Greetings Commissioner Wheeler. I’m here tonight as a public librarian, and I’m proud to say Oakland Public Library — like most libraries — is a beloved hub for digital learning, e-government, media participation and creation.

I’m also here because – despite great strides – more than 60% of libraries in California lack the bandwidth to meet public demand each day.[1] Including Oakland, where we’re years away from achieving ConnectED’s minimum goal of 100Mbps and light-years from seeing 1Gbps. (As of 2012, only 17% of California libraries had connections above 10-30Mbps).

Libraries and schools are the heartbeat of truly connected communities, but technologically too many rely on a virtual defibrillator to reboot each day and keep going.

Just today — Governor Brown released his budget proposing millions for high-speed Internet. It’s a step in the right direction but we need your support.

If I had more time, I’d tell you in-depth stories about the day I arrived to 50 people waiting outside for computers. Section 8 applications had opened. Entirely online.

Or the day I helped a mother, recently laid off, look for trucking jobs. She had 20 years of experience but every job listing posed a new challenge in technical know-how.

Or… I’d talk about the students who wait patiently for computers afterschool only to have the connection lag. How many hours have they spent watching the page load?

We all know what happens at rush hour. When you cram hundreds of drivers onto a single lane highway. You get a traffic jam. The FCC can help us widen the lanes.

As Chair, you can help libraries remain beacons of 21st century learning by:

  • Raising the e-Rate funding cap.
  • Streamlining the process while ensuring that funds go where they are needed most (based on community poverty levels and cost of service).
  • Reducing barriers to deployment.
  • And protecting an open Internet through Net Neutrality — so youth like Obasi Davis (who opened tonight’s event with a poem) can remain media creators, not just media consumers.

Libraries still provide the only reliable Internet access for more than half our patrons. Don’t let us flatline.

We look forward to working with you, Commissioner Wheeler. Thank you for your time.

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

H. Resolutions Bring PATRIOT Reforms Back Into Focus

In intellectual freedom, privacy, public policy, Uncategorized on October 23, 2009 at 7:05 am

Tuesday, the House Representatives proposed new legislation to keep the focus on needed changes/repeals to the USA PATRIOT Act by the end of 2009. Track the Patriot Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845) and the FISA Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3846) on GovTrack, also includes the full text of the bills and list of cosponsors.

These bills were introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Additional analysis of the Senate Judiciary PATRIOT Act extension bill were covered in a prior post, and numerous background sources on the law (treatises, advocacy orgs, articles) are covered in my USAPA 2009 Resource Guide.

Feinstein, Judiciary Say We Deserve Even Fewer Rights

In intellectual freedom, privacy, public policy, Uncategorized on October 9, 2009 at 5:23 am

Unfortunate news. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary voted to extend expiring PATRIOT Act sections for another four years. The vote was 11-8 with California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as expected, among the majority in favor of prolonging the FBI’s expanded powers. I have it on good authority that Feinstein does not want to be “hounded by librarians.” This is second-hand, but let’s consider that a compliment!

The issue is now on to the Senate floor, making public and organizational pressure even more important. Let’s increase the hounding!

Judiciary Panel Approves Patriot Act Sections

New York Times, The Caucus, by Charlie Savage

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation to reauthorize three sections of the so-called Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year, after largely rejecting a series of proposed changes to surveillance laws sought by civil liberties and privacy advocates.

By a vote of 11 to 8, the committee sent the legislation on to the Senate floor. The bill would extend provisions that expanded the power of the F.B.I. to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mails in the course of counterterrorism investigations. [continue reading]

Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reforms

Electronic Frontier Foundation, Deeplinks

…the Committee this morning voted to accept seven Republican amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act to remove the few civil liberties protections left in the bill after it was already watered down at last Thursday’s Committee meeting. Surprisingly and disappointingly, most of those amendments were recommended to their Republican sponsors by the Obama Administration. [read full article]

Leahy, Feinstein About-Face on Civil Liberties

In intellectual freedom, privacy, public policy, Uncategorized on October 7, 2009 at 7:13 am

Update: “Lawmakers Cave to FBI in Patriot Act Debate” in Wired.com.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced last-minute changes (.pdf) that would strip away some of the privacy protections Leahy had espoused just the week before. The Vermont Democrat said his own, original proposal of last week could jeopardize ongoing terror investigations.

… The Leahy-Feinstein amendment, which is likely to be adopted by the committee and sent to the full Senate next week, does not require the government show a connection between the items sought under a Section 215 warrant and a suspected terrorist or spy.

Read the full article.

The PATRIOT Act in 2009: A Resource Guide

In privacy, public policy, subject guides, Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 11:35 am

Since the passage of the original PATRIOT Act in 2001 and its revision in 2006, much national debate has centered on the legislation’s threat to privacy, intellectual freedom, and implicit sanction of pervasive racial profiling. As important sections of the PATRIOT Act are scheduled to sunset in December 2009, there is renewed opportunity to challenge unjust government spying on our communities. This guide offers resources to help civic and community leaders find both background and up-to-date information on the reauthorization debate.

What’s included in the guide:

HISTORY & BACKGROUND

  • The PATRIOT Act Itself
  • Treatises on the Law
  • Helpful Articles
  • Oversight & Watchdog Reports
  • Prior Cases

STAYING CURRENT

  • Pending Bills to Reform
  • Outstanding Cases
  • Useful Websites for Staying Current

Download the 2009 Patriot Act Resource Guide (PDF)
Last updated September 18, 2009 by A. Sonnie

Expanding the Definition of ‘Justice’ in the PATRIOT Act Debates

In community organizing, intellectual freedom, library profession, media justice, public policy, racial justice, Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. In the coming months the national debate about the PATRIOT Act will heat up once again. Three controversial sections of the Act are scheduled to sunset December 31, 2009. These are Sections 215 and 206 along with the “lone wolf” provision of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (Sec. 6001). The reauthorization process also presents new opportunities to address FBI rampant use of National Security Letters.*

Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) has already proposed legislation (HR 1467, Safe and Secure America Act) to extend certain sections, as they are currently written, with no reauthorization period for 10 years. Just last Thursday, Sens. Russ Feingold (WI) and Richard Durbin (IL) announced the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act proposing new reforms to both the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Yet, still, the Obama Administration supports reauthorizing the Act without any added safeguards.

In 2009, the whole of the progressive community must take coordinated action to reverse the PATRIOT Act and reinvigorate public conversation. The debate is currently framed by those who favor extending these controversial sections versus those who seek greater judicial and congressional oversight and more narrowly tailored spying. Given this context, progressive activists and librarians may decide to support civil liberties advocates, such as the ACLU and the American Library Association, in achieving the safeguards proposed by the JUSTICE Act. But, we must do so mindfully while considering the limits of those reforms.

Much of the current debate relies on constitutional arguments about the First and Fourth Amendments. This makes sense in the courts where the judiciary is only obligated to consider interpretations of the Bill of Rights. But this is not the standard on which we should base our mobilizing. More is at stake than free speech and privacy. As librarian Emily Drabinski wrote during the last reauthorization period:

“There are … fundamental limits to a strategy of resistance that is essentially reactive and narrow in focus. While librarians respond quickly and effectively to challenges posed by the Patriot Act, we have little in the way of sustained resistance to systemic forces that undermine information equity and access in less visible but more fundamental ways” (2006).

This means, fundamentally, we must address the fact that the PATRIOT Act was born in the context of neoliberalism. Its foundation was laid long before September 11, 2001. So, as we consider a shared platform for public education, grassroots actions and Washington lobbying efforts, activists and progressive librarians should frame our concerns and solutions within the frameworks of human rights and global justice. This requires some deeper vision and deeper collaboration than we have attempted.

To start, a global justice vision of intellectual freedom has at its heart a practice of active solidarity with the communities (both domestic and international) most impacted by the War on Terror, including immigrants to the U.S. regardless of their citizenship status. Our demands must include an end to racial profiling and directly challenge attacks on dissent and political speech — such attacks were recently embodied by “homegrown terrorism” legislation (H.R.1955, S.1959, 110th), which passed the House by a vote of 404–6. The bill never became law, but we can expect to see similar legislation again.

A global justice vision of intellectual freedom draws connections between privacy erosion, the growing prison system, preemptive wars and the repression of global social movements. It has at its core a commitment to the abolition of torture, indefinite detainment, secret wiretaps and other forms of government surveillance. It means overturning the PATRIOT Act, not simply reforming it. We must not lend truth to the idea that safety and human rights are at odds.

Further, the library profession, in particular, needs to achieve broader coalition than we have in the past. Section 215 (dubbed “the library provision”) is a threat to more than just library patron privacy. While the library community mobilized quickly to challenge Section 215 and succeeded in winning important changes during the last reauthorization, the revisions do not go far enough. Warrants issued under Section 215 remain a danger to community organizing groups, charities, service providers, international aid organizations and, especially, groups working with communities of color and immigrants. Section 215’s expiration provides a critical opportunity for libraries to work in coalition with other impacted groups.

What do I propose? By joining with public interest, human rights, media reform, racial justice and grassroots global justice groups, the library community might help bring these policies into greater focus. At least one example in the right direction includes the joint proposals made by contributors to the document Liberty and Security: Recommendations for the Next Administration and Congress. Their collaborative effort to address broad information policy issues is an example to follow. I hope to post more community-based examples to this blog as the reauthorization debate gains momentum.

The 111th Congress will make a number of important decisions over the new few months. The level of heat in those debates should be determined by the strength and coordination of our local-to-national organizing. With December 31 just around the corner, it’s time to light the match.

*NOTE: According to DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, the FBI issued 192,499 National Security Letter requests between 2003-2006 alone. All but 3 of these NSL recipients are unknown because PATRIOT Act § 505 stipulates nondisclosure, or a gag order. We do know that San Francisco’s Internet Archive (IA) received one of these NSLs. The FBI ordered IA to turn over transactional records including the name, address, email headers, length of service, and activity logs for specific users. IA fought the request and gag in court. Details came to light in mid-2008. We should not miss the opportunity to build on the momentum of well-publicized NSL abuse.

Recommended Reading and References

Drabinski, E. (2006, Winter). Librarians and the Patriot Act. Radical Teacher. Retrieved from, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JVP/is_77/ai_n27098778/

Gorham-Oscilowski, U., & Jaeger, P. T. (2008). National Security Letters, the USA PATRIOT Act, and the Constitution: The tensions between national security and civil rights. Government Information Quarterly, 25(4), 625-644.

Mart, S. N. (2008, March 12). The chains of the Constitution and legal process in the library: A post-Patriot Reauthorization Act assessment. [Unpublished working paper]. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from Social Science Research Network at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1105448. UPDATED VERSION AVAILABLE: 33 OKLA. CITY U. L. REV. 435 (2008).

Office of the Inspector General. (2007a, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of National Security Letters. [NSL Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703b/final.pdf.

Office of the Inspector General. (2007b, March). A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Section 215 Orders for Business Records. [Section 215 Audit Report]. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 28, 2008, from http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0703a/final.pdf

Eric Holder Supports Warrantless Wiretaps, Defends PATRIOT Act

In governance, information policy, intellectual freedom, privacy, Uncategorized on January 16, 2009 at 9:46 am

In yesterday’s hearing, attorney general nominee Eric Holder made it clear he intends to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and reiterated his support for FISA’s Protect American Act, which permits warrantless wiretapping.

Under Eric Holder, ‘War on Terror’ Would Still Define the DOJ

Alternet, By Liliana Segura, January 16, 2009

Excerpt: …Holder’s responses to the question of warrantless wiretapping gave even less to be optimistic about. “There are certain things that a president has the constitutional right that the legislative branch cannot impinge upon,” Mr. Holder said, stressing that wiretapping had proven to be a critical intelligence tool. Like Obama, he said he supported the immunity provisions for telecoms as provided for by the Protect America Act of 2007….

Coincidentally, Eric Holder’s confirmation hearing came on the same day that a federal intelligence court released an unprecedented ruling — made last August — that validated the Protect America Act. As Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times: “the decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has the power to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping that may involve Americans.”