The May 2010 meeting of Public Policy Communicators NYC focused on what’s going on in communications policy – specifically looking at public access to information and the forces attempting to assert control – and why communications professionals should be involved in the debate. Vincent Stehle Levaquin 750, , a consultant to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former Program Director for Nonprofit Sector Support at the Surdna Foundation, led off and moderated our discussion. Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr, levaquin 500 mg cost, also presented information on what his organization is doing on these issues. We had many colleagues in the room who are focused on these issues who contributed important information, much of which is captured here in these notes.
“Community Access to Information,” and why it matters.
Stehle began by saying that the communications landscape – how people get information and how people who create content and spread ideas – is changing dramatically and are deeply affected by policies that are taking shape in Washington. Further, as communications professionals, we need to know what’s going on to inform our practice and to be active participants in ensuring that communities do indeed have maximal open access to information, levaquin 750. Buy levaquin 500 mg, He noted that this PPC-NYC session is a great follow-on to the previous day’s “Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action” at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy brought together a broad range of leaders from a wide spectrum of political perspectives. Its report, he said, provides a particularly good overview of the larger issues involved and had extensive policy recommendations in the following areas:
- Maximizing the availability of relevant and credible information
- Enhancing the information capacity of individuals
- Promoting public engagement
The report strongly supports the development of policies in the digital and media spheres that promote inclusion, buy levaquin without prescription. It also makes the link between increased public access to broadband internet service and improved democratic functioning. Stehle said that the Knight Commission report lays out the issues extraordinarily well, but that we need to move forward and establish policies that make its concepts real. Levaquin 750, “Media companies have not and will not provide open access naturally, we have to hold their feet to the fire. Levaquin 500mg uses, Regulation is necessary,” he said.
He cited examples he also wrote about in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy piece in which Sprint threatened to block the Catholic Relief Service from contacting its supporters about relief efforts in Haiti and Verizon blocked content from NARAL to its supporters in an attempt to placate a larger block of anti-abortion customer base. “Sprint tried to get in the middle of the message,” he said. Part of the problem is that telecom companies’ policies on how they decide what information they may block or slow are mostly opaque – they are also in many cases outdated, levaquin 750 mg uses, unevenly applied, nonexistent or simply hidden from public view. “In trying to protect our free speech rights as nonprofit organizations with a clear interest in open public dialogue, we need open systems. Levaquin 250 mg, To have meaningful rights, citizens need access to broadband.”
“The funny thing,” Stehle said, “is that it seems that the script is not being written by George Orwell, but more like by Larry David, levaquin 750 mg dosage. The abuses are so outrageous, telecoms and media companies are bumbling, clumsy and ham-handed in a way that would be humorous if the implications weren’t so frightening, levaquin 750. Stronger FCC intervention is needed.”
Tim Karr then talked about Free Press’s “Inside/Outside” strategy. They aim to translate the many “expert” voices that have been active on these issues into voices from average people who are deeply affected by communications policies. This is all to counter the special interests on the others side, Levetiracetam 1000 mg, which are exerting very strong voices and taking hold of the debate. Those special interests on the other side are very similar in profit motive and tactics to those who have hijacked the global warming/”cap & trade” discussion.
He said that the previous day’s summit at the Newseum had deeply explored “the future of journalism and the great challenges being faced by investigative/public media” as well as “open access” issues. Levaquin 750, One good indication of how nonprofits are waking up to the implications of media policy is the fact that 450 nonprofit organizations signed a letter to the FCC as a result of an outreach initiative of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) in conjunction with Free Press, Open Internet Coalition “Save the Internet” letter supporting strong FCC action to “stop internet blocking and censorship once and for all.”
Individuals can sign on to the “Save the Internet” letter here.
“The fight for open access is at a critical juncture,” Karr said. The FCC is thinking critically about these issues and there is a lot of activity taking place in Washington, DC. At the same time, vociferous folks like anti-government, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity and Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union have come together with their own sign-on campaign that is deeply deceptive and largely funded by the major telecoms. They are trying to frame the very necessary and reasonable FCC attempts to bring clarity, openness and transparency to internet policies and basic rules of the road as a “government takeover of the internet” and have started a petition at www.nointernettakeover.com.
“Follow the money behind the people who are against net neutrality – all roads lead to the telecom and cable companies, levaquin 500 mg sinus infection,” Karr said. “Telecoms control 96% of internet access. And they are doing all they can to hold onto as much power over internet access as possible, which was made painfully clear in a recently leaked strategy document.” (discussed in a media story here.)
The corporate-funded activists working against FCC regulation are gearing up and massing their forces, so bringing real voices of nonprofits and small business who are greatly effected by telecoms limiting open access is extremely important. Levaquin 250, Stehle then asked Jennifer Toomey, the Ford Foundation Program Officer charged with advancing media rights and access to talk a bit about the foundation’s efforts and what she sees as the critical issues.
She said the one thing she disagreed with in the opening statements on this subject was that the issues involved are complex. That’s not so, she asserted. It just needs to be explained simply in terms that average people can understand. For one thing, “net neutrality” does not resonate with people, levaquin 500 mg iv, we need a new term. And we need more organizations doing work like Free Press that explain things plainly and the implications for normal people, levaquin 750.
Toomey talked briefly about the early years of the telephone industry, when government set out basic rules for companies in the industry that encouraged competition but ensured user privacy and forced competing companies to share lines to maximize resource utilization. Levaquin 750 mg uses, Those early telephone rules did not squelch profits, in fact they ensured competition and helped the industry to profit while making clear what rights users had to free access and freedom of speech on the lines. Similar rules need to be laid out for the telecom industry today on access to the internet. The current regulations do not provide any kind of the protections for the internet that those regulations back in the day did for telephone line usage.
She talked about the Comcast/BitTorrent case (in which Free Press was part of the complaint) where Comcast basically said that BitTorrent users were taking up too much broadband space (“in competition with Grandma’s e-birthday card”!) and that they should be able to limit BitTorrent users’ access. It was presented as Comcast’s right to use its resources for the greater good of more of its customers, but the fact is that the BitTorrent service is a potential long-term competitor to Comcast’s other profit center: entertainment distribution. Comcast’s limitation of BitTorrent users was patently self-serving. Still, Comcast won in court, levofloxacin 750, which was a major setback for open access. Now the FCC is essentially trying to re-regulate the internet to bring back full open access. She said that if you left it up to a company like AT&T back when Google was being developed, you wouldn’t have that innovation. Levaquin 750, A giant company like that would have stifled it and tried to control it. That’s what’s happening now with Comcast on the BitTorrent case. Levaquin 250, One of the conversation participants who works on these issues noted that the Comcast ruling and other related developments are setting up the content of the internet to be controlled by giant telecom companies just the way they control cable TV, and if we don’t want our internet to become the same vast intellectual wasteland that cable TV is, we all (every nonprofit and small business has an interest in this) need to stand up and work for full open access.
Vince Stehle said that he wanted to praise Ford Foundation for investing $50 million to ensure open access. Ford Foundation’s president Luis Urbinas has a opinion piece, originally published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, levaquin 500 mg iv, detailing the foundation’s commitment and imploring Foundations of all kinds to promote internet access here. Toomey said that she hopes the Ford Foundation will be “one of the biggest cheerleaders for openness and net neutrality because it undergirds all the work we do.”
The discussion leaders then opened it up to the full group and an exceptionally open and fruitful discussion bloomed.
One participant noted that he had attended the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) annual conference and found that there was an extraordinarily strong presence there of groups working to get conservatives to rally around the anti-net-neutrality position. They are trying to get the “government takeover of the internet” message to become a central anti-government tenant of the Right’s platform.
Another participant said she was sort of confused/curious about the political lines being drawn on this issue. It seems, she said, that the people who care about issues on the Right have just as much to lose when corporations are in control of information dissemination as those on the Left. This is true, it was noted, but because of the libertarian, anti-government regulation bent of the right, there is a strong chance that the “keep your government hands off my internet” message might prevail on the Right (even though the government essentially created the internet!)
We then discussed the use of China and Iran as metaphors. These countries are broadly understood to be the most active and pervasive internet censors, and some open access proponents have likened the actions and opaqueness of the telecoms to those countries. But disconcertingly, the “not government takeover of the internet” forces are likening potential FCC action to bring more policy clarity and greater openness to the actions taking by those nefarious nations, levaquin 750. Buy levaquin 500 mg, One participant said that it is interesting that Apple, once considered the great rebel against corporate mind-control and groupthink has now become a major arbiter of media consumption. It not only makes moralistic decisions about what content it will allow on its App Store, but also self-serving choices aimed at freezing out competitors to its own products.
Another participant asked if, buy cheap levofloxacin, given the available “white space” on the internet and the fact that other countries are creating their own internets, is it possible to create “a new internet” outside of the telecoms that has full and unfettered open access. Karr said that is highly unlikely considering the current construction and reach of the current internet. Levaquin 750, Stehle said that video on the internet is the area that telecoms are first going after to limit access and that nonprofit organizations should be especially concerned about. Levaquin 750 mg lawsuit, Telecoms will (and do) say that video takes up a great deal of bandwidth and that they must make choices about limiting access. But nonprofits should be in the forefront of those saying that open access to distribute video should not be compromised and corporate interests should not be allowed to dominate the transmission of video through the Internet.
Another participant said that he came away from this year’s Open Video Conference feeling much more encouraged about technology developments that will improve open access. He noted that there will be a follow-up to that conference in October.
A PPC member asked what are artists and other content developer doing to ensure open access. It was noted that some large content companies are working for open access, but many are deeply enmeshed or part of the telecoms and other media conglomerates that are seeking to control access, cost of levaquin 500 mg. The content providers are terrified of losing revenue from piracy and see the telecoms as tightening the portal through which information flows, which helps them keep control of their revenue streams. But many artists and small business are concerned and making their voices heard, levaquin 750.
There is an important documentary on this topic, “Copyright Criminals” that is going to be screened as part of the Philanthropy New York film series at the Paley Center on May 21. All Communications Network members are invited to attend. More information is available here. Levaquin 150 mg, As the discussion flowed, a major focus was on how best to frame the “open access / net neutrality” issues in ways that would resonate most strongly with the general public and potentially activate the nonprofits and small business that have so much to loose if telecoms exert even more control. One person noted that a good argument goes something like, “Do we really want the same kind of corportate interests that brought you the Wall Street meltdown and the oil spill fiasco in the Gulf to be controlling the content you get to see on the internet?”
Another participant added that many of the nonprofits she works with are trying to improve conditions in the developing world and a message that might resonate there is that on things like women’s issues open access to information – like free access to reproductive health information and voting rights information – can literally save lives. “It isn’t about the freedom to buy whatever pants you want over the internet, it’s about open access to information dissemination that deeply effects people’s freedom and quality of life.”
It was noted that Free Press has lots of materials to help people talk about these issues in ways that resonate with different audiences. Other organization doing great work in this area are the Alliance for Community Media and NTEN, the nonprofit technology network. Also, Personal Democracy Forum is holding a conference on this topic on June 3-4, 2010 in New York City on this topic and Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media is convening a group on a related topic titled “Funder Conversation: Media Grantmaking ─ The State and Future of the Field” taking place in New York on June 9 and 10, 2010. Levaquin 750, Finally, one participant noted that there is a book coming out titled “FTW. Net Neutrality For The Win: How Entertainment and the Science of Influence Can Save Your Internet.” More information on the book here.
As always, we ended the session by distributing a short survey on possible topics for future meetings. We’ll have more information on that soon.
We again live-tweeted the session from our official Twitter account: @PPCNYC. It worked out really well. Several people were following along from remote locations and re-tweeting key points from the presentation as well as points made by participants.
Thanks again to Vince Stehle for being a great discussion leader, to Tim Karr and Jennifer Toomey for their important ideas and to all the great thinkers who came and made the discussion so thought-provoking and informative.
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