Community Media: Selected Clippings – 10/10/07

AT&T to push for franchise rights again
by Dave Flessner and Jason M. Reynolds
Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)

Phone giant AT&T plans to mount a second legislative attempt in January to gain statewide franchising authority to add video services across Tennessee, an executive said today. “This bill is about competition,” said Gregg Morton, AT&T’s Tennessee president. AT&T Corp. last year unsuccessfully lobbied the Tennessee Legislature for statewide franchising authority so the company wouldn’t have to seek franchises from each of Tennessee’s local governments. The cable industry and local governments fought the move last year. —>

Blunt Works to Expand Rural Access to Current Technology, Opportunities
Governor Creates Rural High-Speed Internet Access Task Force with Executive Order
Branson Agent (MO)

Gov. Matt Blunt today signed an executive order creating a new Rural High-Speed Internet Access Task Force that will identify opportunities to increase access to technology across the state. The governor signed the executive order at a telecommunications symposium held on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia. —>

Free speech could lead to online disconnect
Los Angeles Times
by David Lazarus

If you’re displeased with the way a company treats you, you’re free to air your feelings in public, right? Not necessarily if you receive high-speed Internet access from AT&T Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc. Buried deep within both companies’ voluminous service contracts is language that says your Net access can be terminated for any behavior that AT&T or Verizon believes might harm its “name or reputation,” or even the reputation of its business partners.

The language came to light the other day after AT&T sent notices to thousands of customers revising their service contracts as part of the company’s merger last year with BellSouth. It follows an incident last month in which Verizon Wireless blocked an abortion-rights group from sending text messages over the company’s network, deeming the messages too controversial. The company subsequently backtracked from the decision. —>,1,3069013.column?coll=la-headlines-pe-business&ctrack=1&cset=true

AT&T Tells Us They’re Revising TOS
In response to criticism of potential silencing of criticism…
by Karl

Last week there was quite a scuff-up over language contained in both Verizon and AT&T’s terms of service hinting that they could cancel your service if you “damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.” AT&T’s Brad Mays contacted us to say the company will be reworking their TOS completely:

“I wanted to give you a quick update on the terms of service language you posted on last week. We are revising the terms of service to clarify our intent, and the language in question will be revised to reflect AT&T’s respect for our customers’ right to express opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. We will also make clear that we do not terminate service because a customer expresses their opinion about AT&T.”

Mays says he’ll give us a heads-up on a revised statement as soon as it’s available. AT&T insisted that the language was crafted primarily to tackle criminal efforts, not to silence customer criticism — but the fact remains that consumer rights continue to be eroded by fuzzy lawyerspeak in service TOS. —>

Time running out on Bush’s FCC
Media policy continues to be ignored
by Brian Lowry

“Presidential election could alter shape of Tribune-Times Mirror Deal,” read a New York Times headline in early 2000, which anticipated that a George W. Bush victory would lead to the repeal or relaxation of media cross-ownership rules.

Fast-forward 7 ½ years, and although those Times Mirror assets are set to change hands again — with Sam Zell’s agreement to take control of beleaguered Tribune Co. — in terms of efforts to amend or clarify the regulatory thicket, the accomplishments under now-President Bush stand at a big fat zero as his second term winds down.

Indeed, taking inventory of the Bush administration’s failings, among the less ostentatious but nonetheless noteworthy is the lack of progress in defining media policy — an especially glaring oversight during a period that has witnessed the most rapid and significant technological change in telecommunications’ history.

“If you had asked me a couple of years ago … I would have thought we would have gotten a lot further,” acknowledged Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of the nonprofit Media Access Project, which successfully used the courts to scuttle the Federal Communications Commission’s last stab at revising the ownership guidelines — under the imperious reign of then-chairman Michael Powell — in 2004.

The realization time is running out apparently hasn’t been lost on the FCC’s current chair, the ambitious Kevin Martin, who sources say is eager to expedite another attempt to update the rules, perhaps by year’s end. After a series of public hearings, the deadline for a final volley of comments has been set for Nov. 1. An FCC spokeswoman said there is nothing new to announce about the commission’s timetable.

Yet with just over a year to go before the next presidential election, there’s good cause for skepticism whether such an undertaking can bear fruit, fueling the likelihood that debate will only grow more shrill and unproductive amid campaign-year rhetoric. —>

The Qwest for Cable
by gwon
Qwest is ripping the City of Portland off . . (OR)

Qwest Corporation is currently operating their telecommunications business in the City of Portland, without paying any fees to the City. And this has been going on since 2001. Tomorrow, October 10, 2007, Qwest Corporation goes before the Portland City Council to obtain a franchise agreement to operate cable communications within our city.

This would be a disaster to our town, as Qwest is currently in litigation with the City of Portland. While in litigation, The City of Portland does not retain recourse against the plaintiff to revoke the Temporary Revocable Permit they currently operate under. Or enforce any stipulations of a franchise agreement. Essentially, if Qwest never pays a dime to the City of Portland for the Cable franchise, but continues to appeal their telecommunications lawsuit, there is nothing the City can do.

In March 2002, Qwest owed the City of Portland $4.2 million dollars in unpaid franchise fees. Qwest was ordered to pay this amount to the City. Quest appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court, and on September 16, 2006, was again ordered to pay up! I shudder to think what the amount would be now. As of yet, Qwest has yet to pay these fees, and has re-filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit. —>

[ Qwest’s proposed video franchise ]


Morsella channels Italy on TV
by Virginia Rohan (NJ)

When Tony Morsella first ventured into cable television, it was a brave, wild, wide-open new frontier. At the time, several decades ago, Morsella owned a North Bergen auto repair shop, and it was there that he fielded a life-altering curveball. “This gentleman called me from North Bergen Cable, which was probably not even two or three years old at the time,” says Morsella, in an accent indicative of his native Italy. “He told me they owned two Italian cars, Fiats, and these company cars needed repairs, but they didn’t have any money to repair them, so if I would do that, he’d give me advertising for the repair shop.”

Morsella agreed to the arrangement, but says with a chuckle, “The repairs were so much that I was on the air all day long with the commercials, and he didn’t know what else to do.” In 30 years of producing “Mondo Italiano,” Tony Morsella has amassed so much footage, and so many great memories, he is hard-pressed to name favorites. After much coaxing, he cites a few highlights — as well as the reason he avoided the hot Italian-American, Jersey-based television show that had everyone else buzzing. Tony’s list: —>

Group Demands Transparency from Brazil When Granting Radio and TV Licenses
Brazzil Magazine

A coalition of civil society organizations and social movements, including London-based human rights organization Article 19, launched a campaign demanding transparency and participation in the attribution of public licenses for the exploitation of broadcasting services in Brazil.

“The basic information Brazilians can find in relation to public services is simply not available when it comes to broadcasting services. The government must put an end to this situation. Transparency is urgently needed to guarantee that Brazilians can take part in the construction of a broadcasting service that is truly plural and diverse and which respects people’s freedom of expression,” said Agnès Callamard, Executive Director of Article 19. —>

Joburg’s broadband plans speed up
The City is ready to roll out 11 trial broadband networks in the run up to a citywide service that will bring Jozi several steps closer to being a fully fledged digital city.
by Emily Visser (South Africa)

Digital cities and municipal broadband networks were the order of the day at the BMI-T Digital Cities Forum. Taking place at Gallagher Estate, Midrand on 4 and 5 October, more than 200 delegates heard presentations on the way forward for digital cities and the challenges around rolling out municipal broadband networks. The conference came at the right time: Johannesburg is ready to roll-out the first of its 11 trial broadband networks, the first steps on the path towards becoming a digital city. —>

MGP alum George White sees watchdog-muckracking in Africa
Media Giraffe Project

Media Giraffe Project 2006 alum George White – assistant director and editor at the UCLA-based Center for Communications and Community spent three weeks in Ghana and Benin exploring ways to help support journalism institutions and community media in West Africa.

Among others, White met with the following: Alfred Opubor of the West African Newsmedia and Development agency (WANAD), Kwawme Karikari, director of the Media Foundation for West Africa and Alex and Wilna Quarmyne, founders and co-directors of the Ghana Community Radio Network. White hopes to encourage and assist an emerging watchdog-muckraking movement in African media. He expects to work on press freedom issues and coverage matters relating to human rights with the Media Foundation for West Africa. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, FCC, municipal broadband, PEG access TV, public access television, rural broadband, U-Verse, video franchising

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