Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/28/07

Titans battle for control of cable TV in Florida
by Josh Hafenbrack
Sun-Sentinel (FL)

>   Seeking to add Florida to a wave of states moving toward more competitive cable markets, the state Senate on Friday passed legislation (HB 529) to do away with the regulatory framework that has governed cable TV in Florida for decades.  Just before the 30-3 vote, Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, called it a “particularly brutal fight between the telecom people.”  “This is one of the best consumer bills we will pass this session,” he said .

With the Senate and House having approved variations of the same legislation, differences must be resolved before the session ends Friday. The bill then would go to Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he’d sign it if he concludes it’s a good deal for consumers.   —>,0,1276495.story?coll=sfla-news-florida

A Free Internet Splits Labor
by Matt Stoller

With the announcement that the US has fallen to 14th in broadband penetration in the world, and that India is going to offer free broadband access to all residents by 2009, it’s time to get our house in order.  The reason we don’t have an effective path towards a universal open internet, and why net neutrality is not in Speaker Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda, is at least part because of the strategic choices of the Communications Workers of America.  The more I delve into their politics, the less sense it makes, because CWA has a campaign that sounds like it’s exactly what we want:

This is ostensibly a campaign pushing for universal broadband and an open internet.  What’s bizarre here is that CWA is pretty viciously opposed to net neutrality.  They argue that Google, Amazon, and all of us are getting a free ride on infrastructure paid for by Verizon, AT&T, and the like.  This is not true, and it’s causing political problems.  If India is planning to provide universal broadband for free, and America is fourteenth in the world in broadband access, we have a serious problem with our telecommunications infrastructure that has nothing to do with  And on a local level, when the rubber hits the road, the union is inconsistent on the issue of access, great in some states and terrible in others.  Perhaps CWA’s schizophrenia on openness comes from longstanding bitterness between them and the consumer movement.  I’m not sure, but that’s what I was told.  I really hate these old fights that all of us had nothing to do with.

Anyway, this is coming up because last week, I blogged about CWA President Larry Cohen’s strategic weakness in fighting against net neutrality.  After a few prodding emails, he had Debbie Goldman of their Speed Matters campaign get back to me with an email I’ve published below.  She’s very polite and civil in the letter, and it’s hard to disagree with what she wrote.  The gist of it is that CWA believes strongly in an open internet and works against Verizon’s viciously anti-labor and anti-consumer behavior; Verizon’s Seidenberg is in fact the target for the AFL-CIO’s shareholder activism campaign.

And this is true in certain areas.  In New York State, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is putting forward a very important bill, Assembly Bill 3980, that establishes net neutrality and goes far in establishing universal access.  The bill is supported by CWA, media reform groups, and is opposed by Time Warner, Cablevision, and Verizon.  Those are the right enemies to have, because those are the groups that want to redline, which means servicing only wealthy customers, and the groups that want to cut out PEG (educational) programming.  This is a great fight because it can bridge the divide between most of the progressive movement on one side and CWA on the other in terms of net neutrality.

Hopefully New York can be a bridge, where we work with CWA on universal build-out and they work with us on net neutrality.  Still, based on what I’ve seen and Goldman’s letter, my read on CWA is that there’s a bit of incoherence within the institution.  If you read Goldman’s letter, you’ll notice that she didn’t mention net neutrality even though that was the focus of the post.  And while CWA is always pointing to their Speed Matters campaign, which ostensibly seeks to have states publish statistics on broadband penetration and an open internet that doesn’t discriminate against content, it’s not clear that the organization is fully aligned with the campaign.  For instance, in Maryland, CWA representatives lied to legislators to defeat a bill that would have required publication of broadband penetration and had as a non-binding legislative finding net neutrality.  The net neutrality language had no legal authority behind it, but that didn’t stop CWA representatives from going after it anyway with the idea that it would put good paying jobs at risk.  This was not true.  And as Art Brodsky wrote, “CWA’s witnesses somehow didn’t get around to testifying that they endorsed the part of the bill calling for reporting of broadband deployment.”  —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, net neutrality, PEG access TV, public access television, redlining, video franchising

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