Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/22/07

Ohio Lawmakers Urged to Oppose AT&T-Backed Bill
SB 117 Puts Future of Broadband and Public Access Channels at Risk
Common Dreams

COLUMBUS – Consumer groups and local public access stations are urging Ohio state legislators to oppose Senate Bill 117 — legislation that would eliminate longstanding consumer protections and local oversight of cable TV providers. The bill, which already passed the state Senate, will be considered by a key House committee tomorrow, May 23.

“AT&T lobbyists are pushing hard for this bill because it was written to benefit them — at the expense of the rest of us,” said Catherine Turcer, legislative director of Ohio Citizen Action. “SB 117 would allow giant phone companies to make more money by gutting consumer protections and dodging local community access requirements.”   —>

A legislative measure would end most regulation of new wired video service
by Charles N. Wheeler III
Illinois Issues Online
May ’07

“When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.”  – African proverb

In the legislative battle now under way between two heavyweight industries — the telephone companies and the cable television providers — what’s at risk of getting trampled is the public interest.   —>

Battle Intense on Flawed Cable Franchise Change
by Joe Powell
Cup of Joe Powell (TN)

Once again today, state legislatures take up the issue of some very unwise changes to how cable franchises are provided and regulated. It’s been the single most dollar-gulping lobby effort this year in state government, with current spending at just over $4 million. (And that’s just the amount as of April of this year.)   —>

Franchise Battles Persist
by Linda Haugstad
Multichannel News

Battles to reform video franchising rules in several states remain pitched, with strategies ranging from statesmanlike negotiations between all stakeholders to the distribution of plastic pigs on the steps of the Tennessee Capitol.  Tennessee is the site of the most vocal battle. TV4US, an advocacy group which includes AT&T, has kept an especially high profile there.  TV4US has been branded an “Astroturf” group by cable interests, who argue its affiliation with AT&T ruins its claim to be a grass-roots citizens group.   —>

Justice In The Affairs Of Another
by Bunnie Riedel
Telecommunications Consulting

I have this nosey neighbor. She loves to make commentary on everything and everybody in the neighborhood. It’s kind of sad because if she really could see herself she wouldn’t be so quick to point out the flaws of others. I think she does it in order to deflect attention away from her shortcomings. Kind of like the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a letter sent to Wisconsin lawmakers (and lawmakers in other states considering state-wide video franchising) Assistant US Attorney General Thomas Barnett expressed the views of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. According to Barnett, the Antitrust Division applauds the efforts of two Wisconsin lawmakers to ensure that the local franchising system “benefits consumers by allowing additional video-service providers to enter the market.” He said recent state-wide franchising efforts in other states have already yielded significant consumer benefits.

Oh really? And those benefits would be?   —>

Charlie’s Consumer Credibility Disappearing
by Bill Newton
Florida Consumer Viewpoint

Governor Charlie Crist is losing credibility as a consumer advocate because of recent bill signings. Most notably, the statewide cable franchising bill was opposed by every consumer group in the state and national consumer groups including Consumer Federation of America, Consumer’s Union, ACORN, PIRG, and FreePress.

Charlie evidently relied on the support of AARP and Mike Twomey. AARP is far from a consumer group and the issues AARP and Twomey brought up were addressed by the real consumer groups. The AARP issues really weren’t relevant to the cable argument.

While many people think Twomey is a consumer advocate, I will take the opinion of Dr. Mark Cooper, of the Consumer Federation, any day of the week. Cooper is a Phd from Yale and has an extensive resume on consumer issues including many appearances before Congress, in court, and before regulatory bodies. I would say there is no consumer expert on telecommunications more respected than Dr. Mark Cooper.

AARP’s arguments involved Lifeline and phone rates. Consumer groups argued that Lifeline had no business in a cable bill and should be addressed on its own. Lifeline was in the bill as a “carrot” for AARP so they had a reason to support the bill, even though it was completely unrelated to the rest of the bill. Charlie should not have gone along with this charade.   —>

TV service from AT&T? Not yet in N.C.
Technical glitches delay the phone company’s plan to break the cable industry’s near-monopoly
by John Murawski
Raleigh News & Observer (NC)

For 2 1/2 years, Time Warner Cable has sold telephone service in North Carolina.  But you still can’t get cable TV from the telephone company. AT&T’s state president for North Carolina, Cynthia Marshall, vowed to change that by year’s end, but AT&T has been sidetracked by technical glitches that required upgrades, leading to delays.

Its U-verse television service, available in 18 markets, has signed 20,000 customers — essentially the trial stage for a product potentially targeted at more than 20 million homes . Analysts say AT&T’s Internet-based technology is not ready for prime time.

In an e-mail message provided by AT&T’s public relations department, Marshall said that the company is committed to bringing U-verse to North Carolina. However, she was not available for an interview to elaborate on AT&T’s plans for North Carolina, and the company is not committing to a timetable.   —>

Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Chicago Cable-Modem-Fee Ruling
Broadcast Newsroom (Multichannel News)

The City of Chicago may pursue franchise fees on modem service from its cable providers, according to a recent decision by the Illinois First District Appellate Court.  The decision, issued May 17, said there is nothing in federal law that prevents the city from acting on its franchise agreement. The appellate ruling reversed a lower-court decision granting a dismissal to the city’s cable operators, including Comcast, RCN and WideOpenWest.

The dispute was triggered in 2002, when the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling that provision of high-speed-data access is not a cable service but an interstate information service ( Because most franchise agreements specify that fees be paid on cable service, operators dropped modem revenues from the figures they use when determining gross revenues for franchise-fee calculations.   —>

Video, Education and Open Content
Prelinger Library Blog

Here at the Video, Education and Open Content conference at Columbia, sponsored by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning and Intelligent Television.  Peter Brantley just gave the “what does a library do now” talk.

Beginning with Eric Faden’s fast-spreading viral video A Fair(y) Use Tale, he said that libraries have pursued an offline, passive model: “we have lots of interesting content — please come and use it!” But these days, people make their own media, and librarians are trying to respond, but turning libraries into cafes doesn’t cut it. Peter suggested that the new library is about partnering with scholars and IT people, people who are engaging in the creation of media and making it available for the community and for reuse. It’s networked, not offline. The good news, a point of departure, is that libraries have already preserved a great deal of video. Peter thinks that partnerships are the route by which it will become available.

Peter’s critique seems apt, and I think he’s also describing the situation in which moving image archives now find themselves. As an archivist, though, I’ve always felt that libraries had a lot to teach archives about public access. Libraries (especially public and some research institutions) have done much to keep the traditions of access alive, and I hope archivists will look closely at what libraries do as they try to move towards openness. –RP

Notes from Peter Kaufman’s Intelligent Television Conference
by Isabell Walcott Hilborn

I’m here at the Columbia University Law School at a conference put on by Peter Kaufman’s Intelligent Television, with help from Jeff Ubois: “Video, Education and Open Content: Best Practices — Production, Distribution, Technology and Law”.  It’s going on today and tomorrow.

The conference began with opening remarks from Frank Moretti, department head of Columbia’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.  The challenge is then set for the audience by Cathy Casserly of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:

“The world is changing quickly and dynamically. How are our institutions? We haven’t integrated what we’ve learned from YouTube and MySpace into the classroom in an exciting way. How do we begin to make this more pervasive?

“It’s not just about putting out great content, it’s about discoverability and use. People need to find it, this is a problem that has plagued the field. There are many gems out there, but they are difficult to find. The average teacher doesn’t have time to find this gem. We’ve been working with Google and other search engines to address this.

“CC Learn – Creative Commons Learn – ‘seeks to create a single, standard licensing framework that can encompass all open educational resources (OERs).’ They aim to compile a database of 5-10,000 URLs, we’ll have an OER (Open Educational Resources) search, sorting across multiple categories. If Yahoo or MSN wants to pick it up, we’ll be able to do that across the platforms. Please go in and populate some URLs so we have a full range of content in there!”

[Click to find content; or to license your work using this license. For more information about the Hewlett Open Educational Resources project: A PDF and a blog. Cathy has promised to send me the link to the OER collection when it goes live in a few weeks.  Stay tuned for comments.] —>

The Quest for Democratic Media
Center for American Progress

“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”

This quote from James Madison inspires the title for the new book by Mark Lloyd, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow and telecommunications policy expert. Former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani joined Lloyd at an event at the Center for American Progress last week to discuss his book, Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America…

Lloyd and Tristani remain hopeful about the direction of telecommunications in America. The two went on to talk about some of the positive examples of democratic media in this country.

They discussed the Chicago Access Network, a public access cable station that works actively toward a balance in programming. The station works hard to involve the community in free speech and political engagement. Another example comes from Click TV in Tacoma, WA. Click TV works to reduce the cost of telecommunications services for people in Tacoma. The telecommunications service presents a challenge to the mainstream industry in Tacoma, Seattle, and other cities in Washington state.

Lloyd said, “What we really need in this country is… a competitive alternative to commercial broadcasting” that would be supported by the public and fully financed.   —>,3f8cfc/srt,0/?v=161&pv=164&CID=-1

Internet Access Tax Debate Back on House Table
by Roy Mark

WASHINGTON — With the federal ban on Internet access taxes set to expire on Nov. 17, a longtime simmering feud between the states and Congress is beginning to warm up again.  A U.S. House panel began hearings this afternoon on the fate of the Internet connection tax moratorium. Congress has renewed the ban twice since the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) originally passed in 1998.  “Congress must decide whether to extend the moratorium permanently or temporarily, or simply to let it lapse,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

The current ban is limited to three types of taxes: Internet connections; double taxation of a product or service bought over the Internet; and discriminatory taxes that treat Internet purchases differently from other types of sales. The moratorium covers dial-up, DSL, cable modem and wireless Internet connections.  Nine states, which were taxing Internet connections before 1998, are exempted from the ITFA…

David Quam, the director of federal relations for the National Governors Association (NGA), said governors support a temporary extension of the IFTA as long as the renewal clearly defines what constitutes Internet access. The states fear that as Internet protocol television (IPTV) and Voice over IP (VoIP) continue to grow in popularity, those services might also be considered exempt from taxation.

“NGA believes that the unlimited ability of providers to bundle together content and ‘other services’ into a single, tax-free offering represents a loophole,” Quam said.  Quam added the current language of the ITFA could have the “unintended effect of exempting” otherwise “applicable taxes merely because they are delivered over the Internet.”

The same issue arose in 2004, when Congress last renewed the moratorium. States held up the legislation over concerns that the ITFA definition of access could be interpreted to include VoIP services. The states stood to lose more than $20 billion annually in taxes if VoIP services began to replace traditional telephone service.

Congress responded by exempting VoIP services from the moratorium renewal.  “Much like VoIP in 2004, if a service like IPTV is packaged with Internet access and exempted from applicable taxes, it would create tax disparities for competitors offering similar services and undermine existing state and local revenues,” Quam said.   —>

Newmarket Planning Board adopts new open space plan
Ideas on conservation funding and education
by Peg Warner
Seacoast Online (NH)

The Planning Board this week adopted a new open space plan that outlines more than two dozen steps for education, conservation and planning…  They include installing informational kiosks at several town conservation areas; making use of tools such as Channel 13, the town’s cable access channel, and the town’s Web site to educate the public…   —>

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

Explore posts in the same categories: astroturf, cable vs telco, community media, FCC, IPTV, PEG access TV, public access television, U-Verse, video franchising

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