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Here is current news & events regarding public access & other free speech stuff.

My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. (1900 - 1965), Speech in Detroit, 7 Oct. 1952

Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it.
Malcolm X (1925 - 1965), "Malcolm X Speaks", 1965


AT&T can’t seem to get its story straight on Net Neutrality. For years, company spokespeople had claimed that the issue was a "solution in search of a problem."

Over the last week, they’ve unwittingly defined the problem and it is … AT&T.

As recently as 2008, Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s top lobbyist, painted threats to an open Internet as a non-issue, and certainly notsomething requiring intervention by the Federal Communications Commission.

"I think people agree why the Internet is successful," Cicconi said at the time, adding that threats to openness were largely imaginary. "I don't think government can anticipate these kinds of technical problems. Right now, I think Net Neutrality is a solution in search of a problem."

Fast forward to September 2010, and Cicconi has become a poster child for the problems he once denied.

Getting 'Prioritization' Wrong

Last week one of his deputies, Robert Quinn, filed a letter with the FCC claiming that the company’s plans for implementing "paid prioritization"– or privileging delivery of certain Internet content for a price – would not undermine an open Internet.

AT&T even went so far as to attack Free Press for, in their words, being dogmatic in disputing this claim. By way of evidence, AT&T wrote the FCC that prioritization is in keeping with the Internet’s fundamental openness – supported by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the international body that develops and promotes Internet standards.

But soon after AT&T made this claim, the IETF's chairman disputed it. "This characterization of the IETF standard and the use of the term 'paid prioritization' by AT&T is misleading," IETF Chairman Russ Housley told the National Journal.

And Housely is not alone. Leading technologists at the Open Technology Initiative and Center for Democracy & Technology(along with a slew of technology beat reporters) have labeled AT&T efforts to justify prioritization “misguided” and “misleading.”

Mixing Up Its Message

From past statements, it seems that even AT&T disagrees with itself.

Way back in 2009, Cicconi said that Internet “discrimination that impacts consumers negatively is something unreasonable." Helater complained:

[Net Neutrality] is an important reality check for government: You’re pushed to achieve a Utopian end people have dreamed up, but that’s not how government works. Government works to solve problems … and nobody has made a convincing case that there is a problem here that needs the government to step in.

So what’s really happening here?

AT&T wants to slow down most Internet traffic so it can charge a few deep-pocketed companies for priority access. That is certainly something the IETF never envisioned and does not endorse, because it goes against the openness that has been central to the Internet’s success.

AT&T calls this scheme paid prioritization. But their misleading definition of it is just another way to wiggle out of the non-discrimination principles that have powered the Internet for decades.

Think about it. Cicconi has long claimed that Net Neutrality threats don’t exist and therefore don't require government intervention. Now AT&T seeks to demolish Net Neutrality, but it has to downplay paid prioritization to square the circle.

In other words, instead of calling Net Neutrality “a solution in search of a problem,” now they’re saying: “Problem? What problem?”

Doing the Right Thing

This campaign of disinformation shows that network operators will say anything to get what they want – even if it includes misleading regulators about crucial Internet policy.

On Wednesday, Free Press joined with several other public interest groups to demand that AT&T lobbyists retract inaccurate statementsmade to the FCC about paid prioritization.

History should be AT&T’s guide.

For two years, the company operated under Net Neutrality rules as a condition of its merger with Bell South. Under that agreement, AT&T said that it would not "provide or sell to Internet content, application, or service providers ... any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet ... based on its source, ownership or destination."

Under these conditions, the company increased investment in new networks and grossed profits in the tens of billions of dollars – without prioritization.

So, Net Neutrality has never been a problem for AT&T. But AT&T is now a problem for Net Neutrality.

And that's precisely why the FCC needs to intervene.


No More Public Access in Columbia Heights, Minnesota





?? Within thirty (30) days of the effective date of the renewal franchise, Comcast of

Minnesota, Inc. (“Comcast”) will provide the City of Columbia Heights, Minnesota

(the “City”) with a capital grant in the amount of $194,842.00 that can be used to

purchase new video equipment, for institutional network construction or for other

permitted capital purposes. Comcast will recover this grant, plus 4.5% interest, via a

line item on subscriber bills over the term of the franchise.

?? Comcast will provide all cabling and other electronics, equipment, software and other

materials necessary to transport all public, educational and governmental (“PEG”)

access signals from their origination points at City Hall, the public library and the

high school to the appropriate subscriber network channel (e.g., Channel 15).

?? Comcast will reserve and dedicate four (4) downstream channels on the cable system

for PEG access use. This is the number requested by the City based on current usage

and availability of programming. One of these channels will immediately be loaned

to Comcast for commercial use but can be reclaimed by the City. Two of the

remaining channels will be utilized by the City (for government and library

programming). I.S.D. #13 will retain its channel for educational use. Additional PEG

channels can be procured if the standards set forth in Minn. Stat. § 238.084 are met.

?? Due to lack of demand, the City will not initially have a public access channel or

dedicated studio for use by the community. However, the City can reclaim the

loaned PEG channel for public access use or re-designate one of the other PEG

channels for that purpose. It may also possible for citizens to use the studio at the

high school to produce programming for carriage on any future public access


?? Comcast is responsible for ensuring that PEG channels are at the same or better level

of technical quality and reliability as commercial channels carried on the cable


?? Comcast agrees to waive any right it has to recover from the City or subscribers any

uncollected PEG costs from the current franchise.

?? Comcast will continue to carry regional channel 6 in accordance with state law.

Bill of Rights Institute

State Policy Tracker - Keeping tabs on media and telecommunications legislation across the country.

With Congress unable to reach an agreement on sweeping changes to the nation’s communications laws, the debate is shifting to the states. Laws being crafted now — under intense pressure from media industry lobbyists — will profoundly impact the future of the Internet, cable TV and local media. Issues like Net Neutrality, bridging the digital divide and public access TV are at stake.

Contact Your State Representatives and urge them to support media policies that serve the public interest.

Now is the time for the public to get involved to make sure this legislation is written with the public interest in mind. 

The Free Press State Policy Tracker  - Keeping tabs on media and telecommunications legislation across the county.  Find out what is happening in your state.  Be an activist.