Brian Knappenberger, who made the Internet's Own Boy Aaron Swartz documentary, has made an excellent, vital short film about network neutrality (or cable company fuckery).
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Cable lobbyist-turned-FCC-Chairman Tom Wheeler can promise to override state laws prohibiting publicly owned ISPs, but it doesn't matter if all the big cities are locked into ten-year franchise agreements with cable and phone companies. As an Electronic Frontier Foundation editorial points out, US mayors can and should take steps to make municipal broadband a reality, putting competitive pressure on America's foot-dragging, worst-of-breed ISPs. Many cities are sitting on a gold-mine of "dark fiber" that can be lit up to provide blazing-fast connections, and even in places where state law prohibits municipal Internet service, there are loopholes, like the one that Chattanooga, TN used to light up a gigabit network that's 100 times faster than most Americans can get.
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Robbo sez, "Cable lobbyists are trying to get Congress Critters to sign off on a letter from the industry exhorting FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to NOT reclassify broadband Internet as a Title II common carrier service. It is, of course, complete horseshit and now (even after all the public outcry over Wheeler's patronizing positioning over his own proposed rules) the weasels of the
National Cable and Telecommunications Association are looking to
get their Congressional lackeys to block any reasonable response to
the public will.
"It's a shame members of Congress don't read more than their bank
balance - if they'd read anything from Susan Crawford they'd know
the rational recourse would be for the FCC to declare the net a
common carrier. But with Wheeler at the helm and with the NCTA
dicks priming the pump from the shadows we're likely to see further
douche maneuvering on the Hill."
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Susan Crawford (previously) is America's best commentator on network policy and network neutrality. In this interview with Ezra Klein, she makes the case for treating Internet access as a utility -- not necessarily a right, but something that markets do a bad job of supplying on their own. She describes how regulatory failures have made America into a global Internet laggard, with enormous damage to the nation's competitiveness and potential, and provides a compelling argument for locating the market for service in who gets to light up your fiber, not who gets to own it. Drawing on parallels to the national highway system and the electrification project, Crawford describes a way forward for America where the Internet is finally viewed as "an input into absolutely everything we do," and not merely as a glorified video-on-demand service.
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Last month, I wrote about the announcement of the $25 Firefox OS smartphone, aimed at developing world users who have never owned a smartphone and can't afford a high-end mobile device. An editorial by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry describes how such a device could find an audience of billions, and spur a new ecosystem of developing world developers who make software that's geared not just to the Firefox OS platform, but also to the unique needs of people in the developing world.
The vision of Firefox OS is a contrast to the Zuckerberg plan to supply "Internet" to poor people in the form of an ad-subsidized, all-surveilling walled garden. As Susan Crawford says, "That's not the Internet -- that’s being fodder for someone else's ad-targeting business. That's entrenching and amplifying existing inequalities and contributing to poverty of imagination -- a crucial limitation on human life."
Asking whether the Internet is good or bad for freedom misses the point. It's clear that network technologies have the power to track and control their users, and the power to free and enrich them. The right question to ask is: "How do we get an Internet that does more for freedom?"
Firefox OS sounds like part of the answer.
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One year ago today
Susan Crawford should run the FCC!: She has just published an OpEd in the New York Times which could easily be titled 'If I were Chairwoman of the FCC' and she published a book called Captive Audience which details the way various incumbent broadband related companies have gamed the political process and behaved unfairly in protecting their turf.
Five years ago today
Rick Lieder's fantastic backyard bird photos -- new book: Rick Lieder, the talented sf/f artist whose backyard nature photographs have stunned me for years, has released a new book of photos of small birds on the wing, shot in his own backyard in south Michigan.
Ten years ago today
Ian McDonald's Kling Klang Klatch: Ian McDonald's stone-brilliant 1992 graphic novel, Kling Klang Klatch (illustrated by David Lyttleton) is an improbable mashup of Tom Waits, hard boiled detectives and teddy bears.
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In John Wooley's hilarious 30-minute mockumentary The Internet Must Go, he plays a marketing shill hired by the big cable operators and phone companies to convince Americans to accept corrupt, non-neutral Internet connections where your ability to reach sites and services online is based on whether your ISP has a deal with the company offering it.
Wooley's playing a Colbert-esque useful idiot, and he never breaks character as he interviews Susan Crawford, Al Franken, John Hodgman, Tim Wu, Larry Lessig, and many others, giving them the chance to play out the arguments for a neutral, fair Internet. The climax is a visit to North Carolina, where the big telcos have successfully gotten legislation passed banning municipalities from offering high-speed Internet, even in towns where the cable and phone companies have no plans to offer high-speed connections.
The trailer is above, the whole movie is below, but do visit the movie's site for action links and more interviews.
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Susan Crawford is an eminent telcoms scholar, former government official (who resigned because of corruption in telcoms policy) and the author, recently, of an important book on telcoms corruption and net neutrality called Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. This book has scared the pants off of big telcos.
Their anti-Net-Neutrality front groups like NetCompetition, Broadband For America, and Media Freedom have been smearing Crawford and her book since it was published, and now, at least 31 people have posted highly similar one-star reviews of her book to Amazon, quoting talking points from these organizations. Most of these reviewers are not in Amazon's "real name" program, and the ones that are work for big telcos and the think-tanks they fund. Mike Masnick investigated the reviews in detail and it's pretty clear that nearly all the five-star reviews are from legit, named, disinterested parties (albeit with a few people who have a dog in the fight, like activists and scholars, and a couple more who say they are trying to balance out the one-star smears); meanwhile, nearly all the one-star reviews are from shills or telco people.
America has some of the worst Internet infrastructure in the developed world, and it's getting worse year by year. It's thanks to the crooked phone companies and their corrupt pals in Congress, the state houses, and the regulators. These titans have the country by its nervous system, and they're so afraid of criticism that they engage in petty, corrupt astroturfing to attack books that call them out. Read the rest
Team Telecom is a group of lawyers from the FBI, DoJ, DHS, and DoD who were empowered to enter any US network operations center of companies like Global Crossing on 30 minutes' notice, allowing them to secretly audit and intervene in the maintenance of the Internet's biggest backbones. The employees who dealt with the team were required to be US citizens, sworn to secrecy, and unable to discuss what they did, sometimes even with their own employers.
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The security agreement for Global Crossing, whose fiber-optic network connected 27 nations and four continents, required the company to have a “Network Operations Center” on U.S. soil that could be visited by government officials with 30 minutes of warning. Surveillance requests, meanwhile, had to be handled by U.S. citizens screened by the government and sworn to secrecy — in many cases prohibiting information from being shared even with the company’s executives and directors.
“Our telecommunications companies have no real independence in standing up to the requests of government or in revealing data,” said Susan Crawford, a Yeshiva University law professor and former Obama White House official. “This is yet another example where that’s the case.”
The full extent of the National Security Agency’s access to fiber-optic cables remains classified. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement saying that legally authorized data collection “has been one of our most important tools for the protection of the nation’s — and our allies’ — security. Our use of these authorities has been properly classified to maximize the potential for effective collection against foreign terrorists and other adversaries...”
...Lipman, a partner with Bingham McCutchen, based in Washington, said the talks with Team Telecom typically involve little give and take.
Denver is about to become the epicenter of awesome, when the National Conference for Media Reform comes to town bringing 2,500 coders, journalists, media makers, artists and comedians together to hack the future of tech, media and democracy.
• What other event brings together 3D printers and wearable computers with policy debates about CISPA and slam poetry?
• Where else can you see Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches and Evangeline Lilly from Lost hanging out with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Former White House Tech Advisor Susan Crawford?
• Why in the world would the heads of Upworthy, NARAL, Common Cause and ColorofChange.org be going to Denver?
• What if you could see Brian Stelter of the New York Times talking with Jezebel.com founder Anna Holmes about digital media?
• What if you learned how to code from Catherine Bracy of Code for America and Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code?
The fight for civil liberties, for Internet Freedom, for digital rights is coming to Denver, April 5-7 -- are you?
More links: Latino Tech and Media Activism
at the conference, and the Arts, Comedy and Music events
taking place there. Read the rest
Andrew Rasiej sez, "If you're disappointed in the speed, quality, and cost of broadband service in the US you should learn about Susan Crawford who is the greatest US expert on the state of broadband and how the Federal Communications Commission has failed to properly regulate and spur competition or innovation in the marketplace. She has just published an OpEd in the New York Times which could easily be titled 'If I were Chairwoman of the FCC' and she published a book called Captive Audience which details the way various incumbent broadband related companies have gamed the political process and behaved unfairly in protecting their turf. Those who would like to see her actually named should sign this White House petition and send the same to their friends and colleagues. She is like the Elizabeth Warren of telecom and would fundamentally change the status quo."
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To get there, the federal government needs to pursue three goals. First, it must remove barriers to investment in local fiber networks. Republican and Democratic mayors around the country are rightly jealous of the new, Google-built fiber network in Kansas City, Mo., which is luring start-ups from across the country. And yet in nearly 20 states, laws sponsored by incumbent network operators have raised barriers for cities wanting to foster competitive networks.
In response, Congress must act to restore local communities’ right to self-determination by pre-empting these unfair and anticompetitive state laws. We must also create infrastructure banks that provide long-term, low-interest financing to support the initial costs of building these networks.
Susan Crawford in Bloomberg on why the FCC should find BART in the wrong
: "As far as anyone knows, no government agency in the U.S. had cut off general-purpose communications before BART took this step. The question before the FCC is whether BART’s action violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which prohibits discontinuing or impairing service without due process." (via @jswatz) Read the rest
After Sarkozy's "EG8" conference last week -- an event that brought together government leaders and Internet execs to legitimize an effort to censor and surveil the net -- a group of civil society people and activists threw an impromptu press-conference to explain what Sarko and company missed by treating the net as simply an engine for big business.
And so, yesterday, in Paris, civil society threw together an impromptu press conference, featuring Harvard's Larry Lessig, La Quadrature du Net's Jérémie Zimmermann, CUNY's Jeff Jarvis, former ICANN board member/former White House advisor Susan Crawford, Reporters Without Borders' Jean-François Julliard, and Harvard's Yochai Benkler. The spirt of the event was captured by Lessig. Business is important, the professor argued. But there are more than the interests of just business at stake when it comes to the future of the global network.
At E-G8, Civil Society Groups Restake Their Claim on the 'Net
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Kevin sez, "The Students for Free Culture Conference 2011 is a gathering of student activists, intellectuals, artists, hackers, and generally interested people to discuss the latest issues in the free cultural world, with a focus on student involvement and participation.
The conference will take place in New York City from February 19-20. It will feature keynotes from the creators of Diaspora, Brazilian professor and activist Pablo Ortellado, and professor and former Obama Administration advisor Susan Crawford, as well as panels on remix culture, open education, and fashion and copyright. The second day is an unconference where anyone is invited to pose a panel, discussion, gathering, or hack session. Registration is pay-what-you-want, and travel funding is available by request. See the complete conference schedule
for more detail."
Students for Free Culture 2011 Conference: Saturday in NYC
Google Book Search and privacy for students - Boing Boing
Free Culture New York documentary - Boing Boing
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The Open Video Conference in New York City is a two-day powwow for open web geeks, independent filmmakers, and everyone else.
This year's OVC takes place October 1-2 2010. With 60+ sessions on open source, HTML5, and participatory culture, the conference is bigger and better than before. Keynote speakers include Susan Crawford, a former Obama advisor and advocate for net neutrality; Damian Kulash, the outspoken lead of the rock band OK Go; and the Yes Men, the culture jamming activists who impersonate business executives.
OVC is about open video technology, but also grapples with larger questions. With so much free stuff out there, how are artists going to get paid? Who knows what you watch? Smart people from EFF, Creative Commons, the Harvard Berkman Center, Burning Man, Google, and Mozilla weigh in.
Boing Boing readers get a discount--register with promo code BOING20 and get your badge for only $60 bucks!
Open Video Conference 2010
(Disclosure: I am proud to serve as a volunteer director of the nonprofit Participatory Culture Foundation, which puts on the Open Video Conference)
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