05/04/2006 Meeting Notes

Posted by Erica, 5/4/06 at 7:22:51 PM.

  • CR: Colin Rhinesmith
  • JC: Jason Crow
  • MF: Michael Feldman
  • SN: Shava Nerad
  • GE: Greg Epstein
  • RN: Ron Newman
  • SJ: SJ Klein
  • EG: Erica George
  • BI: Bill Ives
  • Ada: Ada Robinson, Boston neighborhood producers group http://bnpg.org/index.html
  • Mary from HUD
  • RF: Randy Fenstermacher


  • Colin Rhinesmith:
  • ACMEBoston
  • mobilizations are around bills in congress
  • savetheinternet.com
  • coalition is both sides of political spectrum
  • what is net neutrality – it’s about internet freedom
  • “the first amendment of the internet”
  • prevent internet companies from rigging the playing field in favor of high payers
  • ensure all users can access content of their choice
  • the network’s job is to move data, not choose which content or producers or consumers to value more
  • net neutrality is why the net has thrived as it has
  • creating a two tiered internet – a fast lane for some, a dirt road for the rest of us
  • that would look a lot like cable tv- you have to pay more for HBO, etc.
  • do we want that for the internet for the future?
  • tiers – different rares of service, different speeds.
  • telcos would make deals. say, verizon would deal with abc to make it easy for abc video to download but not for say democracy tv or youtube.
  • another example is AOL’s wanting to charge for people who want to send mass emails to their users. This would affect orgs like MoveOn who have lots of subscribers at AOL.
  • MF: but it’s already happening – this is a narrow slice of what it means to be online. there’s already tiering ina ccess providers – dialupo to dsl to cable, different speeds for different prices. should the govt regulate those as well. also the content providers tier. the top porn sites cost more, even. the ny times you subscribe for the top content. what’s the difference here? now that we’re talking about the infrastructure providers in addition to the content and the access providers. why not just let the market sort it out. people will choose a new provider when their provider doesn’t offer the speeds they want?
  • CR: we’re seeing consolidation closer to oligopoly/monopoly thru the market,. fewer companies for the citizen to choose from in picking where to get access from. only a few companies own the network, own the pipes that run to your house that allow you to connect.
  • CR: examples listed at savetheinternet.com
  • SN: if you subscribe to a paper, you know the daily price, and you can either have it delivered or go to a stroe and get it. but if the truckers who deliver papers from the printer to the stores and distribution points decided to discriminate and extort from one paper over another, that would be condiered an unfair practice. if the truckers, say, charged the herald a lot less than the globe. the price of the globe would be unnaturally raised and the globe would suffer.
  • MF: if i decide i don’t like the content coming thru the pipe that leads to me, it’s easy to say, ok, start a competitor, but there’s not way to compete with the existing players like verizon.
  • RN: there’s rumors that it’sm also going to become harder for ppl to get net from non-telco ISPs. new rules. are there these new rules, can you explain?
  • CR: Brand X supreme court ruling. they reclassified broadband service as an information service, rather than traditional telecommunications service model, of universal service, which continued from phones to cable tv. the reclassification of broadband openeed it up for pipe owners to say to earthlink, hey, you use our pipes, so sorry, too bad, we can not allow you at all, or charge you whatever extortionate price we want. this is why IMHO earthlink has moved over to municipal broadband.
  • RN: does this mean my dsl will disappear?
  • CR: it allows broadband providers to choose who to let onto their pipes. “i own the netowkr and i don;’t have to share it” – it;s not a public good anymore.
  • MF: so if i get my internet from RCN, say, what if they decide not to allow me to use VoIP like Skype. Is that going to be legal?
  • CR: yeah… the huge concern is whether this will essentially squash innovation because the barrier to entry into the communications space will be far too high for a new player
  • CR: and it’s in congress right now.
  • Michael Powell, former FCC chair, laid down 4 network neutrality principles. The current FCC chair prefers much watered down principl;es that are very vague and impossible to enforce.
  • JC: the bill that just p[assed the house today includes no effective provisions for network neutrality. The Barton/COPE Act. It leaves it to the FCC to hear individual cases of discrimination on a case by case basis rather than just disallowing discrimination.
  • RF: does this mean that VoIP packets might not be prioritized over email, because they need to arrive faster?
  • CR: net neutrality is about “all bits are equal” not about prioritizing.
  • (EG: I think this is people confusing the issue. )
  • BI: does municipal wifi have anything to do with this?
  • JC: well, the telcos are very opposed to it. it would offer an alternative. they say they want markets but then they want to disallow all competition.
  • SN: usually muni wifi is for low cost low level of service, or free for means-tested low income folks. it’s not a high quality broadband connection that you’d want to give up your home wifi, not if you do something graphically intensive etc. i ran up against a lot of opposition from commercial providers when i ran a freenet, because they argued we were competing with them, and not a real nonprofit because of that, despite that we provided a service to low income folks who otherwise can’t enter the market at all.
  • BN: so that itself is tiered access in a way
  • MF: i fear/envision that there will be a “basic” internet with the bare bones, and that everything else will be premium access
  • RN: right now I pay for bandwidth… that’s sort of tiered, like cable. but it’s still content neutral, just a matter of speed. that’s the key difference.
  • BI: net discrimination would charge the content *providers* not the consumers.
  • (EG:So a consumer can’t choose what to access, it’s up to your provider to have the startup capital to buy the ability *to be accessed*)
  • CR: so now that bill has passed in the house, the next front is the senate.
  • RN: what about state level? could a state enforce a net neutrality rule?
  • JC: well, the telcos are trying this at all levels. they’re trying to franchise locally and are only building out highspeed net to the areas that are paying
  • Ada: this in the end comes down to economics. it’s a digital divide issue. the poor communities don’t have a way to challenge this. minority and poor communities will be left in the dust. increasingly the net is becoming a necessity. it’s not just cable tv for entertainment and news. it’s information that’s now vital to exist. people get their education there, etc. it will have the most impact to those who have least ability to challenge it.
  • MF: like the interstate highways
  • Jason Crow
  • JC: another aspect of this legislation…
  • JC: i want to talk a bit about using blogs to mobilize around all this
  • media policy blog was begun because a bunch of bills were introduced to take away the infrastructure for several public media and net neutrality areas
  • i’m a videographer and filmmaker, make social media, work on empowering people to amke their own media, tell their own stories. we need to remember as bloggers and communicators that our way of life and speech is about tellign stories, and is being threatened.
  • community television stations – when cable tv was first being rolled out, activists were excited about it, and the many channels. but decided we should regulate it, to encourage innovation from communities by public access – to allow public participation & political discussion. idea was that municipalities control their streets. if you want to roll out bandwidth, you do it under the streets that we the people own. to get the right to do that the telco has to go to a municipality and ask for permission. the telcos pay munis, but pass that fee on to subscribers. the munis ask for 5% of gross revenue to use for public interest. Hence, public access tv.
  • jc: 1984 cable act. community use of the pipes. a uniform wy to give munis the power to negotiate with telcos as they rolled out cable service. allowed for munis to demand universal service – if they started only rolling out to the rich communities, afterwards they had to continue and connect the poor ones.
  • these muni fees turned into community media centers. reinvested, from the cable money you pay, back to your own community in form of community media centers, muni networks that the cities can use and own for free, for firefighters & police etc. those provisions are not continued in the new legislation around broadband.
  • 1996 telecom act was a deregulator. idea was to promote competition. idea was to promote new entries into the market. what happened? the big telcos consolidated even more. in 1980, there were 500 cable companies. now there’s what, 5?
  • the 1996 act was supposed to encoruage competition. but isntead the big players ate up their smaller competition.
  • the internet and broadband are the new arena. america is 16th in broadband penetration in the world. we want to catch up. it makes you wonder WHY we are so low. is it becuase of regulation, or because of the *deregulation*?
  • we need the community media. in all this broadband, there needs to be a space for it
  • what if there is tiering. what if we charge content providers? the big players will get the good deals and have the ability to pay costs will be able to pay, but the independent small player will have to pay more and may be shut out because of it
  • we as activists and as members of the community media of blogging need to share this info and organize to get the word out
  • the telcos spend huge amounts of money on lobbying congress
  • our resource is people. if you blog, please put this out there. talk to ppl about what will happen if this goes down.
  • a success story: a community media center was in the middle of a video class when iowa tornado came. they videotaped this disaster. they put it online and were the only people showing local content that affected the town that day. the firefighters reported fires through that public access channel- the community broadband pipe. the police dispatched ionfo about where to get water and shelter. people could tune in and learn what they neded to known in the emergency. if this legislation takes away the local content abilities. in a broadband environment where local providers cna’t afford the fees they needd to be connected, that local access station would have shut down.
  • media reform movement
  • links:
  • freepress.net/defendlocalaccess
  • prometheusradio.org
  • mediaaccess.org
  • acmeboston.org
  • mappingaccess.com – the geogrpahy of community media
  • my favorite: my church has a blog. that;s community media. church using a community resource, providing content to its constituents, not being blocked
  • Coping with COPE: COPE is the house bill.
  • amendments that failed when cope passed the house. the anti-dsicrimination amendment failed. was to prevent discrimination of service based on race/religion/sex/national orgigin. why did people even vote against this?
  • the build-out amendment (anti-redlining) also defeated. a weaker amendment passed but has weaker time commitments for build-out so will be hard to enforce.
  • RN: but could a town do this on its own?
  • CR: it;s unclear.
  • Cr: why have antiredlining propvision, why not simply say, you must build out to everyone. this way it will instead require a locality that feels it’s been redlined to bring an individual case to the FCC rather than it simply being mandated that the telco MUST build out to all areas of a community.
  • CR: this process ia about taking away local control, moving it to a federal level, one size fits all
  • BI: net neutrality is critical, but the message needs to be simplified. it’s too complicated. the damage is so pervasive. to community groups etc. but it goes way beyond that. don’t position the damage as just community groups & nonprofits. think about all of us with blogs for their family pictures, facebook, whatever. use of open access is so pervasive. to industry, innovation, startup. it will put this country at an economic disadvantage.
  • SN: it will create a “publishers’ internet” – if your blog is hosted on a service that pays, your voice gets out there. but if your local provider won;’t pay, nobody sees it
  • JC: and we’ll never know wer’e being discriminated against when it comes
  • JC: nobody will tell you WHY one site is not loading or loading slowly
  • MF: what if comcast decides to let the RNC content come faster than the DNC? Or both RNC and DNC faster than the independent partties. slippery slope.
  • SN: and what about our access to foreign media? those peop,earen’t going to pay these fees. will we be building a US information ghetto just like China?
  • http://democraticmedia.org/jcblog – jeff chessler
  • http://www.savetheinternet.com
  • http://www.netfreedomnow.com
  • http://www.saveaccess.org
  • (and more)
  • RN: are there other nations with models we could look to? finland?
  • Ada: also an issue is the timing. this is being crunched through so fast.
  • jc: the spring legislative cycle is almost over. thank goodness it’s a long long bill cos hopefully it won’t be passed in such little time. but still, it’s passed the house…
  • jc: take action at the links above
  • cr: when we first started this fight we were dreaming that moveon would care. and they now do, a lot. it really is critical, important.
  • jc: the tech companies are still learning how to play the DC game. they are having trouble competing with the telcos in DC in lobbying. i think they ned to put up lobbying dollars and do a lot more marketing. they should be talking this uip on their own websites. this list includes google and amazon and microsoft.
  • SN: “undesirable” content has driven the growth of broadband. there’s veiled discrimination in the telco discussion – a lot of community media that is left wing, culturally marginalized, etc. a lot fo educulture emdia will get squished
  • cr: what good is net neutrality without access to the net? this won;’t just affect thr net. when a telco decides not to come to a certain community, it’s not jsut phone. it’s video, voice and broadband all together. and under this bill enforcement is only AFTER the fact.
  • jc: is the net the ultimate grassroots media that we say it is?
  • will it be int he future?
  • can we preserve its openness?
  • and what does that mean to preserve it?
  • check out http://www.mediapolicyblog.org
  • cr: this is about who owns the networks, and whether we are going to let them discriminate, based on content and based on communities’ income

    Links from Jason Crow:

  • Freepress

  • Prometheus Radio Project
     www.prometheusradio.org : low power FM

  • Media Access Project
     www.mediaaccess.org : Public Interest Telecom Law Firm

  • MediaTank
     www.mediatank.org : Promoting Public Interest in the Media

  • ACME/ACME Boston

  • NATOA: National Association of Telecom Officers & Advisors

  • Mapping Access

  • Alliance for Community National Conference

  • Alliance for Community National Conference

  • Write letters urging Congress to keep the Internet free and open.
  • FreePress

  • Common Cause

  • The Nation


  • MoveOn.org

  • Pulver Media

  • Save Community Television

  • Jeff Chester

  • Timonty Karr


  • Media Policy Blog.org

  • http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/P/htmlP/publicaccess/publicaccess.htm
  • http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/staterow/rowtableexcel.htm
  • http://cctv.org/index.php?SiteAlias=cctv&PageAlias=CMR_Home

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