Posts tagged fcc

Nilay Patel considers the end of Network Neutrality at The Verge:

Massive companies like AT&T and Comcast have spent the first two months of 2014 boldly announcing plans to close and control the internet through additional fees, pay-to-play schemes, and sheer brutal size — all while the legal rules designed to protect against these kinds of abuses were struck down in court for basically making too much sense. “Broadband providers represent a threat to internet openness,” concluded Judge David Tatel in Verizon’s case against the FCC’s Open Internet order, adding that the FCC had provided ample evidence of internet companies abusing their market power and had made “a rational connection between the facts found and the choices made.” Verizon argued strenuously, but had offered the court “no persuasive reason to question that judgement.”
Then Tatel cut the FCC off at the knees for making “a rather half-hearted argument” in support of its authority to properly police these threats and vacated the rules protecting the open internet, surprising observers on both sides of the industry and sending new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler into a tailspin of empty promises seemingly designed to disappoint everyone.

Looking for a recommendation to bring Network Neutrality back? Make your voice heard by emailing and calling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Looking for a different perspective? Try GigaOm where Mathew Ingram pulls together a Twitter conversation between Marc Andreessen and assorted journalists about how enforcing Network Neutrality is a lost cause. Instead, Andreessen argues, bandwidth isn’t infinite and the focus should be on the cable monopolies that erode innovation.
Looking for more background? Try the EFF, Why the FCC Can’t Actually Save Network Neutrality; or these posts from the Free Press on the FCC and media policy.
Image: How to Unfuck the Internet, via The Verge. 

Nilay Patel considers the end of Network Neutrality at The Verge:

Massive companies like AT&T and Comcast have spent the first two months of 2014 boldly announcing plans to close and control the internet through additional fees, pay-to-play schemes, and sheer brutal size — all while the legal rules designed to protect against these kinds of abuses were struck down in court for basically making too much sense. “Broadband providers represent a threat to internet openness,” concluded Judge David Tatel in Verizon’s case against the FCC’s Open Internet order, adding that the FCC had provided ample evidence of internet companies abusing their market power and had made “a rational connection between the facts found and the choices made.” Verizon argued strenuously, but had offered the court “no persuasive reason to question that judgement.”

Then Tatel cut the FCC off at the knees for making “a rather half-hearted argument” in support of its authority to properly police these threats and vacated the rules protecting the open internet, surprising observers on both sides of the industry and sending new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler into a tailspin of empty promises seemingly designed to disappoint everyone.

Looking for a recommendation to bring Network Neutrality back? Make your voice heard by emailing and calling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Looking for a different perspective? Try GigaOm where Mathew Ingram pulls together a Twitter conversation between Marc Andreessen and assorted journalists about how enforcing Network Neutrality is a lost cause. Instead, Andreessen argues, bandwidth isn’t infinite and the focus should be on the cable monopolies that erode innovation.

Looking for more background? Try the EFF, Why the FCC Can’t Actually Save Network Neutrality; or these posts from the Free Press on the FCC and media policy.

Image: How to Unfuck the Internet, via The Verge

How The Next FCC Head Will Affect the News

Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, announced recently that he’s stepping down.

The agency focuses on broadband, competition, the spectrum, the media, and public safety and homeland security, and the Columbia Journalism Review looks at how decisions made under the next FCC chief will affect the news:

  • That person will likely decide whether Rupert Murdoch and other big media owners will be allowed to own both newspapers and TV or radio stations in large markets.
  • With more newspapers reducing print schedules and relying solely on digital, the next FCC chair will determine ways to either make broadband more accessible and cheaper or whether to maintain the status quo, with rising prices and a limited number of competitors in the marketplace.
  • The FCC is the only agency with a mandate to make the media more diverse, local, and accountable. A new chief could choose to use its enforcement powers to ensure diversity is reflected in the voices, perspectives, and owners in media.
  • The new chairperson could also determine whether to make political advertising more transparent in TV ads and online.

Read through for explanations of each.

Most of the broadcast industry is opposing the new transparency regulations. This is understandable as a reflexive impulse, but it’s still disappointing. Broadcast news organizations depend on, and consistently call for, robust open-record regimes for the institutions they cover; it seems hypocritical for broadcasters to oppose applying the same principle to themselves. The stations’ public “political file” contains vital information about the American political system, since so much of the money in politics goes toward the purchase of broadcast advertising, and the sponsorship information can help make viewers aware that some of what they are seeing and hearing on the air, especially in the realm of health news, is being paid for by highly interested parties.

It won’t impose a crushing burden on the stations if they have to put information they already have online, and it will greatly enhance the public’s knowledge if it becomes possible to see online the kind of information the regulations affect. We strongly urge the FCC to implement the proposed regulations.

Excerpt of a letter from the deans of 12 American Journalism schools to the FCC in support of the commission’s purposed requirement that television stations put information online about political ad buys for local, state and federal elections.

Background, Part 01: Local and national broadcasters are required to keep files about who is buying political advertising from them. These paper files are available to anyone who cares to go down to their local station and ask for a copy. With this thing called the Internet out there, the FCC thinks it a good idea that stations put these records online. Broadcasters disagree.

Background, Part 02: American airwaves — like its parks — are part of the public commons. The US government gives private companies free licenses to broadcast on these airwaves with the understanding that broadcasters would fulfill certain public service requirements.

Background, Part 03: Disclosure advocates argue that transparently providing information about who’s purchasing political advertising, and providing it in an easily accessible manner — ie, online — is part of that public service requirement.

Background, Part 04: It is estimated that local and national broadcasters will make $3 billion selling political ads this year.

Background, Part 05: Broadcasters such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, along with companies that own local stations, are fighting the regulation, claiming that it places an undue economic burden on their operations. Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner estimates that it could cost the industry $15 million to scan past documents, and each station somewhere north of $120,000 per year to update and maintain the online files. The National Association of Broadcasters says local stations would have “to hire approximately eight more sales personnel on at least a seasonal basis to handle the increased workload.”

Background, Part 06: Writing at the Columbia Journalism Review, Steve Waldman believes these estimates don’t pass the smell test. Not only is there this neat thing called the Internet through which the data can be published, but there are nifty contraptions called document scanners that can process up to 60 pages a minute. “So even if a station has several thousand pages to scan,” he writes, “it would require one person a few hours, not eight people full time for several months.”

Background, Part 07: When in doubt, claim you’re fighting communism. As many have pointed out, Jerald Fritz, senior vice president of Allbritton Communications, which owns six local ABC affiliates as well as Politico, claims that putting the files online “would ultimately lead to a Soviet-style standardization of the way advertising should be sold as determined by the government.”

Foreground: In the meantime, with files locked away in cabinets but available to anyone willing to pound the pavement, ProPublica has begun working with students at Northwestern’s Medill Journalism School to gather information from five local stations in Chicago. They intend to expand the program as the campaign season continues, and crowdsource the effort among the greater public.

News Organizations That Lobby Against Their Own Reporters’ Interests

jcstearns:

I love this headline because, while the issue at the heart of this article is media transparency, in fact it calls attention to a much longer tension in journalism. For decades, media executives have held sway on critical media policy debates in Washington, DC, through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts. Often the positions the media execs take run counter to the benefit of the journalists who work for them and the communities they serve. However, as this article notes, this maybe one of the most absurd and hypocritical examples in recent memory. 

onaissues:

“The battle playing out over a new government transparency proposal has taken a turn that should concern journalists. Many of the nation’s major news organizations are now aggressively opposing a proposal to disclose more information about political advertising—acting directly against the interests of their own reporters and calling into question the companies’ commitment to journalistic values.”

Steve Walderman discusses the irony of media organizations opposing the proposed FCC rule that would force TV stations to make campaign ad data available online. Read the full article on CJR

Read previous posts on ONA Issues about the proposed FCC rule here and here

FJP: Apropos of our previous post on who makes money off of campaign spending. Election year political advertising is a gold mine for media organizations.

How to Watch Presidential Campaign Ads

A few days ago, Susan King, dean of UNC Chapel Hill’s Journalism School, called for transparency in political ads, a request that has been on the table before, as Steven Waldman broke down back in December.

In late 2011 and early 2012, the Iowa caucus cycle produced 24/7 campaign ads, and some reports indicate that local television broadcasters in the state earned $18 million in campaign advertising. I believe that it is in the interest of the community and the larger political audience to know exactly what a station has earned in an election campaign cycle and to know who purchased those ads. Transparency is the issue here. (via TV News Check)

FJP:  Let’s look a little closer at the who question.

This is the first presidential election in which Americans will be inundated with television advertisements aired by Super Political Action Committees. Often negative, these ads frequently mislead voters, provide little or no information, are often inaccurate and reveal the media’s unclean hands when it comes to undermining democracy, observers warn. And it’s about to get worse. The involvement of Super PACs in the 2012 Republican primary contest has skyrocketed with a 1,600 percent increase in interest-group sponsored ads aired as compared to 2008. (via Poynter)

Though super PACs cannot legally coordinate with a candidate’s campaign, past connections to a candidate are likely. But they are big players and as reported by Reuters, they will make broadcasters a lot of money. For more information, see the Free Press’s recent report, Citizens Inundated, in which Timothy Karr writes,

Short of stopping the DVR and freeze-framing the faint disclaimer line at the end of the commercials, there is very little to help consumers differentiate Super PAC ads from those sponsored by candidates.

FJP: On that note, see these tips on how to watch Super PAC ads:

  • Look for the faint type at the end of the commercial to ID the Super PAC.
  • Look up the Super PAC online to see which candidate or cause it is connected to by going to Web sites such as opensecrets.org. Run by the Center tor Responsive Politics, the site lists the organizations, candidate the group supports or opposes, how much money the group has raised and spent, as well as its political viewpoint.
  • Pay close attention to claims made in ads, then check with fact-checking websites. Remember Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? John Kerry’s armed services career was redefined, for some, when the organization alleged that his Purple Hearts were earned fraudulently.
  • Look at the production values. Are faces darkened? Is the background music ominous? If you minimize those emotion-grabbing elements, what is the ad’s message?
  • Ask yourself whether the ad is positive in support of a candidate or negative in opposition to a candidate. Super PAC ads can be either, in fact the groups can say anything they want, but their ads are usually negative and characterized as “attack ads,” though it is difficult to determine who is attacking. (via Poynter)

Mapping Where Your Phone Won’t Work
The FCC created an interactive map highlighting areas in the United States that lack 3G mobile access. 
The regions are eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support, a $300 million fund that carriers can apply for to bring wireless broadband to neglected areas. 
Via the FCC:

This map shows the areas preliminarily identified as potentially eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support. These areas are US Census blocks that lack 3G or better mobile coverage at the centroid of the block according to October 2011 American Roamer data and contain road miles in any of nine road categories. Counties that contain any of these blocks are shaded light gray, and as you zoom in and mouse over these counties you will see more information on the potentially eligible blocks, including population, road miles (S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories only), and the name and number of the CMA in which the blocks are located. Further zooming in allows you to see the US Census tracts that contain these blocks.

Image: Screenshot of the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase 1 Potentially Eligible Areas interactive map. Click through to explore.
H/T: GigaOm.

Mapping Where Your Phone Won’t Work

The FCC created an interactive map highlighting areas in the United States that lack 3G mobile access. 

The regions are eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support, a $300 million fund that carriers can apply for to bring wireless broadband to neglected areas. 

Via the FCC:

This map shows the areas preliminarily identified as potentially eligible for Mobility Fund Phase 1 support. These areas are US Census blocks that lack 3G or better mobile coverage at the centroid of the block according to October 2011 American Roamer data and contain road miles in any of nine road categories. Counties that contain any of these blocks are shaded light gray, and as you zoom in and mouse over these counties you will see more information on the potentially eligible blocks, including population, road miles (S1100, S1200, and S1400 categories only), and the name and number of the CMA in which the blocks are located. Further zooming in allows you to see the US Census tracts that contain these blocks.

Image: Screenshot of the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase 1 Potentially Eligible Areas interactive map. Click through to explore.

H/T: GigaOm.

This week, the free and open Internet millions of Americans have come to depend on is under attack.

In a procedural move, Senate Republicans are trying to overturn the rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put in place late last year to help protect net neutrality — the simple idea that all content and applications on the Internet should be treated the same, regardless of who owns the content or the website. The House already pushed through this dangerous legislation, which would effectively turn control of the Internet over to a handful of very powerful corporations.

I sincerely hope the Senate doesn’t follow suit, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure this terrible legislation never reaches the President’s desk.

While millions of Americans have become familiar with the concept of net neutrality, it’s important that we’re all on the same page. Net neutrality isn’t a government takeover of the Internet, as many of my Republican colleagues have alleged. It isn’t even a change from what we have now. Net neutrality has been in place since the very beginning of the Internet.

We don’t have a content crisis; we don’t have a news crisis; we have an accountability reporting crisis.
Steven Waldman, Senior Advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, and author of a recent FCC report on media in the digital age. Boston Herald, FCC official: Investigative journalism on life support.

Local News: Journalism's Forgotten Love Child

George Washington University professor Matthew Hindman authored a report for the FCC’s quadrennial review of broadcast ownership regulations.

His findings, crudely put: No one really goes to local news sources. 

The big picture is that there is little evidence in this data that the Internet has expanded the number of local news outlets. And while the Internet adds only a pittance of new sources of local news, the surprisingly small audience for local news traffic helps explain the financial straits local news organizations now face.

According to the report, average per capita monthly page views is an anemic 11.4 while monthly time on site barely tops nine minutes.

What say you, Patch and your estimated $120 million invested in local news this year?

The report can be downloaded here (PDF). Nikki Usher analyses the findings at Nieman Lab.

Bloomberg: Comcast is already violating conditions of NBCU merger

Bloomberg has accused Comcast of using its power over its new cable properties to banish Bloomberg’s news channel to the uninhabited “neighborhoods” on the TV dial.

Via Ars Technica:

Bloomberg argues that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, has exiled its financial news television network to cable-dial Siberia, far away from the “existing news neighborhoods” where it groups major news channels like MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News.

Bloomberg’s dispute with Comcast goes to the heart of objections raised by critics of the NBC Universal deal, who had argued that Comcast could use its market power to favor its own channels to the disadvantage of rival programming, in this case Bloomberg TV.

For its part, Comcast says it “does not, and since the transaction has not, ‘neighborhooded’ channels on our systems.” The cable giant argues that the FCC’s “neighborhooding” requirement would only apply if Comcast-NBCU actually did neighborhood news or business news channels in the future, but since it does not at present, the FCC’s order approving the merger “does not support Bloomberg TV’s request.”

Thus, the outcome of this squabble will likely center on whether the FCC determines that Comcast does, in fact, neighborhood its channels or not.

Bloomberg’s complaint centers on a specific condition the FCC applied to the merger, which required that “if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business news channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system’s lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood.”

In Washington DC for example, Comcast carries CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC on channels 35-39. Bloomberg TV, by contrast, is way down the dial ot channel 103, next to C-Span 2 and C-Span 3.

Next to C-Span? Siberia indeed.

FCC Chair vows to strike Fairness Doctrine

pantslessprogressive:

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said he will strike the Fairness Doctrine, a rule that requires broadcasters to present opposing views of controversial issues.

In a letter to the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wrote that the 1949 rule “holds the potential to chill free speech adn the free flow of ideas.”

Genachowski’s letter was disclosed Wednesday by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who said in a news release that he has asked the FCC chairman for details on when the rule would be scrapped.

Republican lawmakers have pushed the FCC to remove the rule, saying it is outdated and among policies that tie the hands of television broadcasters.

The rule had been challenged in courts in 1989 and hasn’t been enforced by the FCC since then. [read more]

Learn more about the Fairness Doctrine:

Wiki

A Brief History | TIME

How We Lost it, and Why We Need it Back | Common Dreams

Beyond the Fairness Doctrine | Reason

A smartphone generates 24 times the mobile data traffic of a conventional wireless phone, and the explosively popular iPad and similar tablet devices can generate traffic comparable to or even greater than a smartphone…

…In just the first five-to-seven weeks of 2015, AT&T expects to carry all of the mobile traffic volume it carried during 2010.

Athima Chansanchai, MSNBC, iPhone, iPad maxed out AT&T network.

In ATT’s Filing with the FCC regarding its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile the company basically admits it’s pursuing the deal because it can’t handle currently network demands.

Some advocacy groups oppose the deal, saying it will lead to a monopoly.

How Do You Spell Revolving Door?

Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell was named head of the leading cable TV trade association.

Via LA Times:

Powell will become president and chief executive officer of the National Cable and Telecommunications Assn., taking on the role of “the cable industry’s leading advocate, spokesman, and representative in its relationship with the U.S. Congress, the administration, the FCC, and other federal agencies,” the group said Tuesday in a news release

…He left the FCC in 2005 after more than seven years as a commissioner, including a controversial four-year tenure as chairman. Powell led an aggressive crackdown on over-the-air obscenities while at the same time pushing to scale back the government’s role in the telecommunications industry. He championed a loosening of media ownership rules that was later struck down by the courts.

Takeaway, Part I: The more things stay the same, the more things stay the same.

Takeaway, Part II: If Network Neutrality is your thing you have a deep insider you’ll be battling against.

The Future of Online Video?

GigaOm’s Josh Levy outlines the promise and difficulty Web video is having in the American media landscape.

While writing about how Roku, a set-top box that lets you stream Web video to your television, added Al Jazeera English so that users could watch the Egyptian protests, cable providers are fighting against consumer ability to cut the cord.

Roku’s move was a thrilling taste of what online TV might look like if big cable loses its grip on channels and viewers. Imagine if more channels, sick of waiting in virtual holding pens to be allowed to join cable lineups, instead just joined up with Roku or one of its competitors. And then imagine if viewers followed these channels off the cable reservation, cut their cords and relied solely on little Internet boxes for their TV content.

It would be a shiny future for online video. Except the cable giants won’t stand for it, and are using all their power to stop it: The cords that pipe in your cable TV also deliver the Internet, and big cable is all too eager to exploit that fact, threatening to throttle or block content they don’t like or that competes with them.

Independent online video efforts are running into problems left and right, and the cable giants are trying to stymie them for as long as possible while they test out their “TV Everywhere” offerings — which is their attempt at rolling out online video services without allowing subscribers to “cut the cord.” Thanks to loopholes in a recent FCC decision, there are a number of ways Comcast and friends could degrade or throttle Netflix, Hulu and other channels offered by Roku.

It’s true that with more innovations like Roku’s addition of Al-Jazeera English, the future of online video could be bright. But if big cable succeeds in squashing competition and stifling innovation, it could also get really, really dark.