Archive for activism

New York City Council Resolution 712: Net Neutrality

On Monday, April 30, the City Council Committee on Technology in Government held a hearing on Resolution 712, “Establishing Strong Network Neutrality Principles In Order To Protect The Internet.”

The Resolution calls on the US Congress to “codify strong network neutrality principles in order to ensure that the Internet will continue to foster innovation, increase competition, and spur economic growth as well as making the Internet faster and more affordable for all.”

In my testimony, I encouraged the Committee to extend its support for net neutrality to Internet service over cell phone. You can listen here:

 [odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/11062783/view%5D

or read it here.

Audio of the entire hearing can be found on the People's Production House site. The great thing about my testimony is that the two people I cited – Tim Wu and Cameron Craig – were there to speak for themselves.

I got to the City Council chambers a little before 1:00pm and the previous hearing was still going on. It was a joint meeting of the Committees on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Alcoholism, Drug Abuse and Disability Services and the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services regarding the Discharge Plan for Mentally Ill Inmates.

It was a sizable crowd, very engaged, and largely people of color and the people most directly impacted by the hearing topic, including testimony delivered by advocates from people with mental illnesses incarcerated on Riker's Island who are receiving inadequate treatment. By contrast, testimony at the net neutrality hearing was delivered primarily by experts to a small, white audience.

The testimony of Cameron Craig from the New York City AIDS Housing Network is the clear exception: [odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/11274863/view]

At PPH, we're trying to bring the people who have the most at stake in discussions about the future of the Internet – those who currently have little or no access – to the fore at these hearings.

Overall, I think the pro-net neutrality forces delivered a very forceful package: Tim Wu from the regulatory angle, Professor Schulzrinne and others on the technical side, and Tim Karr blasting the telecom oligopoly, plus Cameron and me and also Yossef Heskiel of the NonProfit HelpDesk emphasizing the very real impact the issue has on New Yorkers.

But if we are going to solve the fundamental problem of the Internet – its inequities based on race, class, and gender – we need to build a base within the communities currently excluded from the Internet that is nonetheless savvy enough to shape the infrastructure of the future.

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New Threat to Small Publications

If you thought things were bad for small publications, Time Warner is working with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to raise postal rates for small publications.

The PRC is supposed to be an independent agency, but earlier this year they rejected a postal rate increase plan offered by the U.S. Postal Service. Instead they opted to implement a complicated plan submitted by media giant Time Warner, according to Free Press.

As Robert McChesney explains, “Under the plan, smaller periodicals will be hit with a much larger increase than the big magazines, as much as 30 percent. Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent.”

The IPA used to be the engine of response to these challenges. Fortunately, Free Press has picked up that slack:

For individuals: Send a Letter to Congress and the Postal Service

For publications: Sign the Letter to the Postal Board of Governors

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New Venue for March 30 Broadband Advisory Committee hearing

The New York City Broadband Advisory Committee that we discussed in the New York’s Wireless Future panel is holding its first public hearing in the Bronx on Friday, March 30.

There has been a change in venue: The March 30th public hearing will now be held in the Gould Memorial Library Auditorium on the campus of Bronx Community College, University Ave. at W. 181st Street, from 10 am to Noon. (Get directions.)

The room holds something like 500 people. They’re expecting at least 200. Council Member Gale Brewer’s office (she’s the prime mover behind the BAC) is distributing a flyer, available as a pdf download. They’ve also set up a blog.

In order to promote awareness of the Committee and the hearing and to spark imagination of what that future could look like, Wakeup Call is producing a series on municipal broadband. Listen to me preview the series on this past Monday’s show.

That radio appearance finally motivated me to start up a podcast, which will include the entire series as well as the hearing. You can subscribe to the podcast here. And you can find the audio files in the sidebar of the blog.
Here is the list of BAC members, the first of which were appointed by the City Council while the second batch was appointed by the Mayor.

Council appointees:

  • David Birdsell, Dean, Baruch College Graduate School of Public Affairs, City University of New York
  • Neil Pariser, Senior Vice President, South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO)
  • Andrew Rasiej, Founder of Personal Democracy Forum and MOUSE
  • Jose Rodriguez, President and Founder, Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN)
  • Elisabeth Stock, President and Co-Founder, Computers for Youth (CFY)
  • Nicholas Thompson, Senior Editor, WIRED Magazine
  • David Wicks, Founding Partner, Alwyn Group, Former Cablevision executive

Mayoral appointees:

  • Mitchel Ahlbaum, General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner for Telecommunications Services, New York City Department of Information Technologies and Telecommunications (DoITT)
  • Shaun M. Belle, President and CEO, Mount Hope Housing Company
  • Thomas Dunne, Vice President of Public Affairs, Policy and Communications, Verizon New York
  • Avi Duvdevani, Chief Information Officer / Deputy General Manager, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
  • John J. Gilbert III, Executive Vice President / Chief Operating Officer, Rudin Management Company
  • Wendy Lader, Vice President Telecommunications Policy, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC)
  • Howard Szarfarc, President, Time Warner Cable of New York and New Jersey
  • Anthony Townsend, Research Director, Institute for the Future

I’ll have more commentary on the makeup of the BAC in the near future, but it’s obviously a mixed bag with a lot of people heavily invested in the status quo. That doesn’t mean we should boycott it, but it does mean that we have to be clear that it cannot be the final arbiter of our communications future.

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Jobs, jobs, and more media activism jobs

People’s Production House is hiring. And we’re not the only ones.

The PPH position is for a community organizer working on our Digital Expansion Initiative. We’ll be working together, though I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus. The goal of the project is to work with PPH’s community partners to define and campaign for meaningful broadband access in New York City.

Here’s the job description:

PPH is hiring a community organizer to spearhead a citywide campaign on a key media policy issue. The organizer will plan the campaign, reach out to community partners, develop materials, and educate partner organizations and their members. You will work closely with our Media Policy Director [that's me!], taking the research and studies produced by PPH and working them into the campaign and helping translate the needs and desires of our community partners into policy demands. No prior knowledge of media policy issues is required, but a distinct willingness to learn them is critical! We are looking for an awesome and experienced community organizer who can appreciate how important media policy issues are for low-income communities and communities of color, and can help us build momentum around media issues in New York City. We expect the world to be a different place as a result of your work here.

If you’re interested, send a cover letter stating why you want the job and what connection you see between media and community organizing, along with a resume to jobs@peoplesproductionhouse.org.

More than 15 other job announcements below…

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Democratizing the Beltway talk shows

In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ‘em your own questions.

The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.

Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.

Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.

A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.

If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.

Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.

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Free The Flyers Lives… in Harrisburg for a rare FCC hearing

The FCC is holding a hearing in Harrisburg, PA, tomorrow, February 23, for a rare public hearing, certainly the only one in our area. It will be held at 9:00 am at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts at 222 Market Street in Harrisburg. More details from StopBigMedia.com.

I got an email saying Media Tank, my former employer, is organizing a free bus to the hearing leaving at 6am from 30th Street Station. There’s no hint of it on their website, but if you want to reserve a spot, call Bryan at 215-563-1100.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be there since I have to be up in NYC on Saturday for the Grassroots Media Conference. But I could not pass up a chance to make a little Free The Flyers hay, so I prepared some brief written comments, available after the jump.

I also hit up the F2F list, now numbering around 300 irate Philly sports fans. I’m not sure what our best options for relief are at this point, but that’s not a group I’d want to get on the wrong side of.

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Plugging the NYC GMC

Thanks to the wonderful people at the New York City Grassroots Media Coalition, I get to moderate a really amazing panel at the NYC Grassroots Media Conference on February 24:

New York’s Wireless Future

New wireless technology provides an efficient and affordable way to deploy new broadband infrastructure. You can use it to turn your local park into a hotspot or to give affordable access to all of your neighbors. Across the country, local governments are considering whether to build – or to let corporations build – wireless networks that cover an entire city. New York City is just beginning this process. This is the best chance in a generation, if not a century, to come together as a community to decide what we want and need from our communications infrastructure. This panel will bring you up to speed on the discussion.

The people on this panel are:

Michael Lewis, founder of Wireless Harlem Initiative, a New York based non-profit, which is advocating to bring affordable wireless broadband to Harlem in order to close the digital divide;

Laura Forlano, a Board Member of NYCwireless, a community wireless group in New York, and a Ph.D. candidate in Communications at Columbia University researching the socio-economic implications of the use of mobile and wireless technology;

and Bruce Lai, the Chief of Staff to Council Member Gale A. Brewer, the Chair of the Committee on Technology in Government at the New York City Council.

This builds on the panel I moderated at the National Conference for Media Reform on “Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure,” obviously with a very local twist.
You can get a more full understanding of why I think this is so important by reading the statement from The Ethos Group: “Thoughtful Infrastructure as a Platform for Media Reform.”

One key is that “convergence” – the term used to describe the transition from a diverse array of communication media (phone calls, email, music, television, film) to a common, digital medium – means we can use a public dialogue on wi-fi as a point of departure for a comprehensive reimagining of our entire system of communication.

The point of the “New York’s Wireless Future” panel is primarily to pass information from experts to anyone who’s interested in the topic. People’s Production House plans to follow up with another event, which will be more of a town hall session where everyone will be invited to share their needs and desires for a potential public wireless network in New York City.

I’m on a different panel at the GMC called “Dead Trees: Small Magazines and Newspapers in the Digital Age” organized by Chris Anderson. The title says it all. Another important piece of that larger discussion and I’m honored to have been invited into it. (More details on this one to follow.)

If the promise of plenty of yapping from yours truly doesn’t do it for you, pre-registering for the NYC GMC saves you $10. So go ahead and do it now, or sign up to volunteer. See you there.

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