Archive for the ‘70-70’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/10/07

December 11, 2007

Regulators Fight FCC’s 90-Day Shot Clock
Montgomery County Files Appeal
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

Local regulators across the country challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “90-day shot clock,” calling it an abuse of power, and the agency’s latest order clarifying its application of the rule has also been appealed in court.  The FCC released a Second Report and Order on Nov. 6, which detailed what franchising rules in the March 5 First Report and Order should also apply to incumbent cable TV operators.

For instance, the latest order states that the 90-day time frame does not apply to incumbents at the time of refranchising because as a current operator, a company can continue to deliver service even if negotiations run long. Therefore, prolonged talks are not a barrier to the provision of service.

But Montgomery County, MD., on behalf of other challengers of the FCC rules on franchising, appealed the latest order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Dec. 6. The county’s appeal asserts that the most recent order “exceeds the FCC’s statutory authority, is arbitrary and capricious and violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” among other legal claims.

These are similar to the abuse of regulatory discretion claims made in the challenge to the original, March 5, franchising order. That legal challenge is still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District.

Criticism of the FCC’s chairman is widely aired
‘Lone operator’ is said to keep plans from colleagues and manage the agency ineffectively.
by Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times

The Federal Communications Commission’s monthly meetings are scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin, the trains don’t always run on time, and recently they’ve come close to veering off the rails.  On Nov. 27, for instance, the FCC was slated to consider controversial proposals dealing with potential new cable TV regulations and increasing women and minority ownership of broadcast stations. Journalists, lobbyists and spectators waited as the five commissioners on the fractious panel wrangled over the issues eight floors above. When they finally showed up for the public session — nearly 12 hours late — the few spectators remaining had front-row seats for the sniping and accusations that are threatening to become hallmarks of FCC meetings.

Critics usually blame Martin, a soft-spoken Republican known as a political tactician who has accomplished the rare feat of being criticized by all four of his fellow commissioners. He is also facing a congressional inquiry into the FCC’s procedures and allegations of flawed research studies, suppressing data, ignoring public input and holding hearings with minimal notice.

“The FCC appears to be broken,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a hearing last week. Congressional Democrats’ growing frustration with Martin could hinder his agenda. Last week, for example, a Senate committee passed legislation to delay Martin’s planned vote this month on loosening media ownership rules.

In an interview, Martin said he was under fire for trying to force the FCC to deal with controversial topics. “It’s not unusual for there to be tension in trying to work them out.”

FCC employees and people who frequently deal with the agency said tensions were bogging down the panel. Reviews of corporate mergers and sales frequently stretch longer than the six months the agency aims for. Critics have complained that important issues — such as the 2009 transition to digital television and reforming a fund that subsidizes phone and Internet service for low-income and rural residents — are taking a back seat to bickering.  “There’s budding upheaval here if some of these abuses don’t get addressed,” said an FCC official who requested anonymity to avoid irritating Martin.   —>,0,4815390.story?coll=la-home-center

What cable competition bill, poised for passage Tuesday, may mean for consumers
by Brian E. Clark

When the Chibardun Telephone Cooperative considered offering cable television services in Rice Lake six years ago, it backed off the plan because of a city requirement that it serve all of the 9,000-person community within 18 months.  “We couldn’t make that commitment,” said Rick Vergin, CEO of the 70-employee company.  But if the state Assembly approves legislation dubbed the cable competition bill (AB 207) on Tuesday and Gov. Jim Doyle signs it, Vergin says his company will begin offering service early next year to Rice Lake.

Adam Raschka, a spokesman for Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, said he expects the legislation to pass without amendments. Montgomery is the lead proponent of the Assembly bill.  “It’s been discussed at length,” Raschka said of the legislation, which ends existing deals with local governments and cable companies. Those agreements would be replaced by a state-wide franchise costing $2,000 annually.  “We are confident the Assembly will concur with the Senate version,” he said of Tuesday’s planned floor session.

But critics of the legislation remain. Among them: Jim Zellmer, who runs a small real estate software firm in the Madison suburb of Fitchburg. He says the bill is flawed because it lacks consumer protections and fails to require telecommunications companies to lay fiber optic cable to homes and businesses. Zellmer and other critics also say they doubt if it will lead to more competition…

Barry Orton, a UW-Madison professor, said he’s concerned the bill will leave parts of Wisconsin underserved.  “I know they say ‘the market will take care of it,’ but I worry that there will be some poor areas of Milwaukee or south Madison, for example, that will be ‘red-lined,’ with this new law,” he said.

Zellmer, who blogs on telecommunications and other issues at, said he sees “no evidence that the dominant Wisconsin ‘telcos’ have an interest in implementing a modern, widespread fiber network to the home.  “Pervasive fiber benefits everyone – schools, government, residential and business users, but they aren’t going to build it,” argued Zellmer, who owes the predicted telecommunications victory on this legislation to a huge lobbying effort.  “Meanwhile, around the world and in other U.S. communities, fiber installation continues,” he said. “It will take decades for Wisconsin to catch up, once it starts.”

According to author Bruce Kushnick’s book, “$200 Billion Broadband Scandal,” – cited on Zellmer’s blog – the U.S. telecommunications companies have failed to live up to promises they would install fiber to 86 million households by 2006.  Kushnick said that agreement was part of the deal worked out in the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act. “They asked for and were given some $200 billion in tax cuts to pay for it.  “But the Bells didn’t spend that money on fiber upgrades,” he said. “They spent it on long distance, wireless and inferior DSL services.”   —>

Bright House Makes Waves In Government Television
by Anthony McCartney
The Tampa Tribune (FL)

Some television viewers who want to watch government programming will have to pay a little extra to tune in beginning Tuesday.  The move affects Bright House Networks subscribers who do not have a digital television or cable service that requires a converter box. They will have to pay $1 a month for a digital converter to watch several government, education and public access channels. The channels also will be moving on the channel lineup, no longer occupying a lower tier of channel numbers.  The new lineup will be as follows:   —>

Time to upgrade Channel 26
by Dave Hardesty
Tracy Press (CA)

—>   I recommend engaging a service provider that deals with live and indexed on-demand video services, such as can be seen by viewing, Elk Grove’s city Web page; or, the Web page for the city of Stockton.

With an initial investment of about $20,000 and a re-occurring expense of roughly $10,000 per year, money already available via the funding from the Cable Franchise Agreement and defrayed costs incurred by having city-paid employees do the job, the city of will be positioned to join cities like San Francisco, San Carlos, Palo Alto, Brentwood and Sacramento, offering residents live and on-demand streaming Internet video.   —>

Media center puts focus on nonprofits
by Erica Kritt
Carroll County Times (MD)

The Community Media Center is making it easier for residents to give to those in need in Carroll County.  All this month, 48 of the county’s nonprofits are being spotlighted on Channel 19, the county’s TV channel. The eight hourlong programs, which will run every day of the week for the rest of the month, were filmed Friday at the Community Media Center.  “We’ve been doing it for nine years,” said Marion Ware, executive director of the CMC. “It started off as a Christmas party and it’s just gotten bigger.”   —>

An “Honest” Mistake in Greece?
by stlo7
Rochester Turning (NY)

Well – another day another op-ed piece that makes you spit out your coffee.  I’d argue many of these op-eds are actual health and safety issues as it seems I’m continually spitting out my breakfast as I read the daily drivel.  Two words I don’t want to see in the same sentence – let alone referring to the same event “on advice from the district’s attorneys” and “honest mistake”

So let’s review the editorial. Here is my take.  A school board member urges voters to vote a particular way. This is either illegal in some degree or, as the op-ed says, prohibited. So the school board member urges a vote a certain way, the incident is caught on tape. Attorney’s are consulted and the offending (to the school board) video is deleted. The offending school board member apologizes and all with well with the world. Oh, we should be reasonably concerned that the school board who doesn’t have to tape these meetings might get the opportunity for greater abuses because there is a move to take these responsibilities from a local independent agency currently taping these meeting. The Fed rules are stricter.  Where to start.   —>

Celebrating everyday women
by Cindy Cantrell
Boston Globe (MA)

While working as a realtor for 22 years, Dacey Zouzas of Chelmsford said she was consistently inspired by tales of personal and professional perseverance from the women she met. So when she saw an ad looking for volunteers to produce public access shows a year and a half ago, Zouzas (left) became a television host and producer in order to share their stories.  “I wanted to do something to celebrate these everyday women who are working and raising families, and moving forward no matter what cards they’ve been dealt,” she said. “I wanted to bring their voices front and center.”

Since launching “Dacey’s Divas” through Chelmsford TeleMedia in June 2006, Zouzas has broadcast 40 episodes. Guests have included businesswomen, politicians, philanthropists, leaders in education and nonprofit organizations, athletes, musicians, artists, and survivors of cancer and other illnesses.   —>

For Ewa Today
Hawaii House Blog (HI)

That’s the title of Rep. Cabanilla’s weekly public access television show on Olelo, ch. 54. It airs every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. For the month of December, the show will focus on the Toll Road concept.

New bill would stop FCC’s cable regulation attempt
by Nate Anderson
Ars Technica

What happens when a large and powerful US industry decides that it doesn’t like a law? Simple: it works to change that law. AT&T has had notable success this year at pushing legislation for state governments to bypass local controls and give the company a statewide video franchise. Not to be left out, cable has mounted a lobbying offensive of its own in the wake of the FCC’s attempt to regulate the industry. The effort is now paying fruit in Washington.

Late last week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced HR4307 (PDF), the “Consumer Freedom of Choice in Cable Act.” It’s not clear why this name was chosen, since the bill’s main text is under fifty words long and simply repeals the 70/70 rule so loathed by cable. Does that make you, the consumer, feel free to choose?

The 70/70 rule came out of a 1984 cable law that largely deregulated the industry. That law said that the FCC could exert broad authority over the cable companies should they ever pass more than 70 percent of all US households, and should more than 70 percent of those households actually subscribe to cable. No one doubts that the first threshold has been reached, but there is substantial uncertainty about the second one.   —>

The 700 Club – Minus Two
by Jim Barthold

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have withdrawn from next month’s mortgage-the-future bidding war for 700 MHz spectrum, thereby squelching a pretty good theory about how cable operators could blanket their serving areas with WiMAX and deliver an in-franchise mobile wireless play using 700 MHz spectrum.

Ostensibly, the two biggest MSOs pulled out because that multi-billion-dollar swath of spectrum they bought as part of SpectrumCo, along with Cox Communications and (at the time but not now) Sprint Nextel, will cover their mobile needs. Beneath the surface, it’s also likely the two cable behemoths, who surprisingly broke stride with Cox on this, didn’t want to get into a bidding war with the deep pocketed telcos and their newfound gadfly friend Google.

While it sort of makes sense for Comcast and Time Warner to back away, and it sort of makes sense for Cox to stay in, it’s puzzling why Google, which has a lot of money but no networking sense, wants to play at all.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Martin’s FCC, 70/70, (a la carte?), & You

November 30, 2007

We’ve received some requests to help explain just what went down at the FCC this week.

Hard on the heels of FCC Chairman Martin’s full-tilt-boogie on relaxing media ownership/cross-ownership restrictions in recent hearings in DC and Seattle, comes his push to invoke Section 612(g) of the 1984 Cable Act – the so-called “70/70” provision. In short, this provision states that at such a time when cable systems (36 channels or more) pass 70% of US homes, and 70% of those homes subscribe, the cable industry shall be deemed to be uncompetitive, allowing the FCC to then adopt additional unspecified regulations in order to increase program diversity.

While Martin’s 70/70 gambit has received a great deal of press and analysis, it is not as straight-forward a matter, nor as urgent an action item, as the media ownership issue. There remain now just 11 more days for comments to be filled on the media ownership matter. If you haven’t yet submitted comments in that proceeding, please visit and do so – a simple online form is there, as well as info on other steps you can take to help.

Before moving on to 70/70, please note these important up-coming meetings:

Dec. 5 – House Oversight Hearing of the FCC: Media Ownership – Subcommittee on Telecommunications & the Internet; 9:30 am.

Dec. 13 – Senate FCC Oversight Hearing – Full Commerce Committee; 10 am
“At this hearing, the Committee Members will hear from the five Federal Communications Commission commissioners on current proceedings involving media and telecommunications policy.”

Dec. 18 – the next public meeting of the FCC.

StopBigMedia suggests you contact your congressional reps. Especially if your reps sit on these committees, it would help IMMENSELY if you contacted them before these hearings, letting them know how important localism in general and PEG access in specific is to your community.

Thanks. Now – on with the show…

I’ve been collecting every story I could find about 70/70, but learned early on that blindly forwarding them could do more harm than good. At this point, I’m going to suggest that the best single piece of info on this is Harold Feld’s Nov. 14 blog post:

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here Part I” – quoted extensively below. (In fact, since Harold is consistently fair in linking to those with opposing views, I’d say overall his blog is the best single source, certainly on this issue. ACM listserv readers may remember that Lauren-Glenn Davitian pointed to Harold’s blog after the FCC action this week for his take.)

Harold is an attorney with the Media Access Project – an organization that has a long history of being up-close and personal with the various media reform issues before the FCC. His post is fairly lengthy, but well worth reading in full. He gives an excellent whirlwind tour of cable regulation; great context-setting for those of us in the PEG access community.

I’m merely going to quote two extensive passages here, make one comment about where we’re at presently, and leave it at that. I don’t expect this topic to turn into a thread on the ACM’s lists, but this is an item we should all understand and be able to follow as the story develops. Here’s a start.

Harold begins his post by humorously addressing the difficulties some may have in accepting that Kevin Martin may actually be doing something helpful for increasing program diversity. In the second excerpted passage, after having looked at the source data and its sources, he then speculates about what additional regulations 70/70 could trigger – starting with a national PEG set-aside, and moving on to the ‘dreaded’ a la carte!

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here – Part I
by Harold Feld
Wet Machine

I gotta hand it to the NCTA – they really know how to spin the press. Given the outrageous excesses of market power displayed by incumbent cable operators, you would imagine that activists would leap at the opportunity offered by Kevin Martin to reign in cable market power – regardless of whether one likes Martin personally or thinks he is a Bellhead or industry tool in other respects. But no, over the weekend, the NCTA has done an exemplary job of spinning the upcoming sledgehammer to cable market power as a bad thing.

I am talking primarily about the news that the FCC may invoke the “70/70″ provision of Section 612(g) of the Communications Act (codified at 47 U.S.C. 532(g)). For those not as obsessed with the Communications Act as yr hmbl obdnt, this provision states:

[A]t such time as cable systems with 36 or more activated channels are available to 70 percent of households within the United States and are subscribed to by 70 percent of the households to which such systems are available, the Commission may promulgate any additional rules necessary to provide diversity of information sources. Any rules promulgated by the Commission pursuant to this subsection shall not preempt authority expressly granted to franchising authorities under this subchapter.

Now you would think anyone who opposes media concentration would be jumping for joy here, wouldn’t you? At last, a clear source of authority for the FCC to regulate cable in the name of diversity, and a directive from Congress to do it (without preempting local franchise authorities). And one would certainly expect that the Democratic Commissioners, Copps and Adelstein, who have repeatedly shown themselves stalwart champions of diversity and enemies of consolidation, would rush to seize the moment. But while I hope the later is true, some normally sensible people are buying into the cable spin that this is somehow bad because (choose however many apply):

A) It’s an “archaic leftover” of another time and nowadays cable is “highly competitive.”

B) It’s not really true that the 70/70 test is met anyway so the courts will just reverse it.

C) Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who has it in for cable, wants to deregulate broadcast media, and shafted local franchising authorities, so you know this must somehow be evil, even though it is something media reform advocates have fought for over 20 years to achieve.

D) Somehow, this is just an effort to distract us from the fact that Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who eats puppies and throws kittens into trees for his amusement.

E) Martin is just slapping the cable guys around because they didn’t do family tier.

G) Somehow this helps Kevin Martin deregulate the broadcast industry.

Having spent the last several years trying to get the FCC to recognize the goddamn truth that 70/70 was met years ago, and trying to get the FCC to address leased access and carriage complaint issues, the 30% cable ownership cap, and a bunch of other reforms to address cable market power, I am just a shade peeved to see folks who should know better eating out of NCTA’s hand. Because public policy is not about whether I like or dislike the current FCC Chair or whether I would rather he focus on reigning in telcos rather than cable cos. It’s about what is the best public policy. And what Martin has put out for a vote: 70/70, reform of leased access and the carriage complaint process, and reaffirming the 30% cable ownership cap, are all things justified by the record and urgently needed.


What does 70/70 Do For Me?

The 70/70 trigger gives the FCC a “power boost” on a number of pending proceedings to reign in cable market power, such as the leased access provisions and the 30% ownership cap. It also potentially gives the FCC new authority. To take a few examples of possible FCC Orders.

1) National PEG set aside. The FCC could decide that, because PEG channels are being eliminated by state franchising rules, it will require all cable operators to set aside capacity for PEG programming regardless of whether the local franchising authority requires it. Hard to say that doesn’t “increase diversity.”

2) Must carry for Low Power TV stations. There are a lot of low power TV (LPTV) stations, many of them providing Spanish-language programming (others provide religious programming, home shopping or just plain local programming). While a small class of these have must carry rights on cable, most don’t. Again, hard to say this doesn’t “increase diversity.”

3) Sometime back, I wrote a piece about a company called VDC:Virtual Video Cable. They are trying to do for video what companies like Vonage did for VOIP — a purely internet-based play that lets you get cable networks via broadband. Unsurprisingly, cable operators refuse to sell them programming, claiming that the rules requiring them to sell programming to rivals do not apply here because VDC is not a “cable service” as defined by statute. Equally unsurprising — given the “craptastic” speed with which FCC Media Bureau staff enforce the law against cable companies (official slogan of staff “If we wait long enough, the complainant will go bankrupt and our cable masters will reward us with doggie treats!”) — VDC’s emergency complaint is still pending. Well, triggering the 70/70 threshold could provide the FCC with authority to resolve the issue in favor of VDC without deciding whether they are a cable service. Similarly, the FCC could prohibit Comcast and other cable companies from making exclusive deals for “must have” video on demand, for “must have” sports programming, or other anticompetitive means by which cable operators prevent programs from appearing in other venues.

Of course, the FCC has none of these things teed up. The MVPD report merely notes that the 70/70 threshold has been met. If the FCC wants to do these things or anything like them, they would need to start a rulemaking and conclude that the new rules were necessary to maintain or increase diversity of views. Which leads us to the great elephant in the room — a la carte.

Isn’t this a sneaky way for Martin to do A La Carte/Isn’t this a great way to finally get a la carte?

“A La Carte” is French for “split the public interest community into bitterly warring factions.”

A La Carte rules would require the cable operators to offer cable channels on a per channel basis. Cable operators could also offer bundles, but would be required to offer individual channels as well.

A number of organizations like Consumers Union, Free Press, and Consumer Federation of America, love a la carte. They believe it will reduce cable rates and will force cable operators to give independent channels a fair chance because cable companies will only make money if they sell programming people actually want. On the other hand, a number of organizations like National Hispanic Media Coalition and Minority Media Telecommunications Council hate a la carte. They believe that minority-oriented programming and news programming will die, and we will be left with a handful of channels that compete for the ever-popular-with-advertisers 18-35 yr old white male eyeballs.

At Media Access Project, we resolve this conflict among our close allies by saying “SO HOW ABOUT THEM RED SOX!” everytime the subject comes up. If pressed, we will spill coffee or some other suitable beverage all over ourselves and flee the building. We have actually all signed a statement affirming that, even if threatened with waterboarding, we will not endorse a position on a la carte. —>


And the outcome for Section 612(g) at the FCC this week? Democrat Copps agreed with Martin and said ‘go for it’, republicans Tate and McDowell said the threshold hadn’t been met, and democrat Adelstein said, essentially, he’d like nothing better, but would like better data. (In fact, he said, “I would have no hesitation to invoke our authority if the evidence clearly justified that the standard had been breached. Many positive initiatives to promote diversity, such as a national baseline PEG requirement, could result.”)

So that’s what they voted for – let’s get that better data in here but fast. Their statements are all online at

Further press and blog accounts you can read will fill in the colors and political ramifications of these people’s actions, and that can be fun to know – but for now, for the PEG access community, our efforts can only be strengthened by the prompt delivery of better data. In the meantime, perhaps we may want to better inform ourselves about this ‘a la carte’ thingy. Seems possible that’s not going to go away. As Harold says, “stay tuned.”

Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/11/07

November 12, 2007

Using sign language, Joanne Cosentino provides a voice, ears for those who need it
by Erin Glass
Union-Tribune (CA)

As flames and city officials raced across the TVs of San Diego’s living rooms in pace with last month’s wildfires, viewers might have taken note of something unusual to these on-screen disasters.  While Mayor Jerry Sanders announced road closures and evacuations from behind his press conference podium, a woman with a bright face stood to his side, her hands fluttering like moths in a light. With her fingers she spelled out neighborhood names at lightning speed and made mesmerizing gestures for wind, planes and emergency.

Joanne Cosentino, a sign language interpreter for the nonprofit Deaf Community Services San Diego, was put to the task of interpreting the televised press conferences.  “People at the grocery store, they ask me, ‘Are you that interpreter?’ ” she said. “Yes I am. I appreciate that the hearing community appreciated it. They do care about the deaf community.”

After the Cedar fires in 2003, Deaf Community Services director Bonnie Sherwood wanted to make sure deaf people (who are not always capable of reading the rapid-moving news captions on TV) would have access to information in the event of another disaster. But such a service was rare, perhaps nonexistent, during 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina and Cosentino’s presence at the news conference was met with some skepticism.   —>

Community TV Showcases the Sleeping Ban
by Robert Norse
Santa Cruz IMC (CA)

Host and Free Radio Santa Cruz broadcaster Louis La Fortune advised me yesterday in a phone message that the call-in show Voices from the Village Live! will be featuring the Sleeping Ban, including Wells, Zimmerman, and Coonerty, as mentioned in the summary above.   —>

Irondequoit pastor’s TV Connection
by Erica Bryant
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY)

The Rev. Kevin McKenna laughs heartily when asked if he ever envisioned himself as the host of a television talk show.  “Not in my wildest imagination,” says McKenna, who is the pastor at St. Cecilia’s Church on Culver Road.  Since July of last year, the church has broadcast a series of shows on cable access television. Each features McKenna interviewing an interesting parishioner or figure in the community.

“I like the idea of having people in the pew talk about their faith,” said McKenna. “It’s a way of reaching out to those who aren’t coming to church on a regular basis.”  Earlier this month, he taped an interview with St. Cecilia’s Parish Council Secretary Diane Hamilton, who is trying to gather support for a mother-child medical clinic the parish would like to help build in Arusha, Tanzania.   —>

AT&T seeks state bill
Legislation would create franchising agreement
by Ned Hunter
Jackson Sun (TN)

Proponents of a state bill that would create a single franchising agreement with AT&T and all local communities will attempt to get the legislation passed when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.  Known as the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act, (HB 1421), the legislation would create a single statewide franchise that would allow AT&T to provide video services to local municipalities via the Internet without contracting with each of the state’s local governments individually.   —>

Battle brewing as AT&T looks to move into video services market in Tenn.
by Hank Hayes
Kingsport Times News (TN)

Another clash of the telecommunications titans — with AT&T facing off against members of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association (TCTA) — appears to be headed toward the Tennessee General Assembly next year.  Both sides are working to increase or protect their market share in a state that earlier this year ranked 37th in the United States in broadband availability.

At issue is AT&T’s efforts to pass legislation to allow the technology giant to obtain a statewide video services franchise. Such a bill failed to get out of Senate and House commerce committees in the last legislative session because AT&T ultimately pulled the plug on it, said state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, a House Commerce Committee member.  “It took away local control, and that was very important,” Lundberg said of one reason why the bill couldn’t get the support of lawmakers.

Still, TCTA Executive Director Stacey Briggs was on the road in Northeast Tennessee recently talking to association members and getting ready for another legislative battle.  “We know AT&T plans to come back (with another bill),” she said. “They’re out meeting people. … We decided after the last session that we need to do a better job of getting out more into the state and visiting.”

… Dueling Web sites spin the positions staked out by both sides. TCTA’s is at AT&T’s is at  While AT&T and TCTA continue engaging consumers and lawmakers, Tennessee appears to be moving slowing toward closing a digital divide between technology haves and have-nots.  A first portion of a survey examining technology use among Tennessee residents found that, on average, 43 percent of Tennesseans have a broadband connection in their home. But only 19 of the state’s 95 counties currently meet or surpass that average.

The survey, done by the public-private “Connected Tennessee” partnership, suggested that rural areas of the state tend to fall dramatically short of the state average of broadband adoption, with only 27 percent of residents having a high-speed Internet connection. Rural lawmakers have compared expanding broadband availability in their areas to the impact electricity had in the last century.

A second part of the survey also showed that businesses with a high-speed connection, and selling goods or services online, have higher revenues than other businesses not using those technologies.   —>

Seattle Editor Blasts FCC Drive To End Cross-Ownership Rules
Editor & Publisher

In an open letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin published in Sunday’s Seattle Times, Editor at Large Michael R. Fancher argued that the elimination of rules against same-market common ownership of newspaper and broadcast would have “catastrophic consequences” for journalism and democracy itself.  The letter follows the FCC’s final public hearing on ownership rules that took place in Seattle on Friday. According to published reports, a large majority of the speakers and audience opposed lifting the 1975 cross-ownership ban.

“What surprises me is how clearly the people get it,” Fancher wrote. “On the left and on the right, they know that bigger media aren’t in their best interest. That’s what people from all walks of life told you Friday night.”    Fancher’s boss, Seattle Times Co. Chairman Frank Blethen has been an outspoken — and rare — newspaper publisher who opposes lifting the restrictions.   —>

People understand threat of big media; so should FCC chairman
by Michael R. Fancher, editor at large
The Seattle Times (WA)

An open letter to Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

I hadn’t planned to write about the FCC hearing in Seattle on Friday night, but something you said surprised and troubled me. Your comment was in response to remarks about my boss, Frank Blethen, publisher of The Seattle Times. Frank’s name was invoked by two of your fellow commissioners and several other speakers who oppose your desire to relax restrictions on how many media outlets a single company can own in a market.

“Frank Blethen — what can I say — he’s got the public interest in his bones and no one — and I mean no one — has done more than Frank to spread the word and to right the wrongs inflicted by the media consolidation frenzy of the past decade,” said Commissioner Michael Copps.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein invoked Frank’s name to rouse the crowd, almost all of whom want more regulation of big media, not less. “For those who say media ownership does not matter, I say look at one man from Seattle: Frank Blethen …  “If we let local voices like Frank Blethen’s get bought up by voracious media giants looking to swallow up even more local outlets, voices like his will be snuffed out forever.”  Then he really got the 800 or more people going.   —>

FCC is of two minds on limits
Regulations would free big media, rein in cable
by William Triplett

The Federal Communications Commission is set to loosen some restrictions on Big Media while apparently planning to rein in one big medium — the multibillion-dollar cable television industry.  Congress hopes to stop the first move as cablers are protesting the second, but it’s too soon to tell who will prevail.

FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin said recently he would like to have the commission vote by Dec. 18 on whether to loosen media ownership restrictions. But two key lawmakers, arguing that Martin is moving too quickly on the issue, announced late last week they would introduce legislation to delay that vote.  Over the weekend, the New York Times reported Martin is preparing to issue regulations on cable TV, which Congress largely deregulated in 1996.   —>

Regulator to challenge US cable TV sector
Overview: Risk aversion hits markets
by Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Financial Times

The US cable television industry is set to come under unprecedented pressure in Washington after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who has been a relentless critic of the sector, said he wished to expand his authority over the industry.  Kevin Martin, the Republican chairman of the media and telecommunications regulator, has long sought the power to force US cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner, to unbundle their channel offerings and offer independent programmers greater access to the cable television market.

However, in a move that represents a radical departure from the broadly deregulatory agenda of George W. Bush, US president, Mr Martin has indicated he will take advantage of a rule established in 1984 – the so-called 70-70 rule – that allows the FCC to take measures that would challenge the cable TV providers’ approach once cable is available to 70 per cent of US households and 70 per cent of those households take out a subscription.   —>

Net gains
How technology could save presidential debates
by Dan Gillmor
The Boston Globe (MA)

ON THURSDAY NIGHT, most of the Democratic presidential candidates will travel to Las Vegas for the latest in this election cycle’s “debates.” The quotes around that word are deliberate, because political debates are stuck in a world of television sound bites, after-the-fact spin, and almost blatant contempt for voters.

Mass media, the communications technology that became supreme in the 20th century, has ruined debates. The Lincoln-Douglas confrontations in 1858 and other verbal contests were once among the deepest and most revelatory of conversations. They revealed intellect and passion, and illuminated the issues of their day. Today’s mass media, reflecting a cultural short attention span, elevates shallowness.

This year’s endless series of events, with so many candidates aiming for the nominations, have been especially puerile, little more than mini-press conferences and spin sessions. Even when the questions are serious, the time limitations on answers puts a premium on regurgitating canned, semi-clever lines that entertain instead of illuminate. These things are to real debating what motel room art is to Picasso.

But technology can also help restore the debate. The Internet and digital tools – search, blogging, online video, wikis, interactive games, and virtual worlds – are made to order for serious conversations. The collision of technology with media offers an unparalleled chance to hold debates that would illuminate our problems and opportunities and give us true insight into the people who want us to elect them.   —>

Blogging to Get Poor Communities Talking
by Damaria Senne (South Africa)
Fine Art of Blogging

I recently suggested to the CEO of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) that he start a blog for his organisation. My explanation to him was much shorter, but I decided to elaborate on this blog post why universal service agencies in developing countries need to use web technologies to expand their communications reach.

USAASA was formed through the Electronic Communications Act, so it’s a government entity. It’s responsible for making sure that people living in remote regions of the country, and those who are poor, gain access to telephones, the Internet, TV and radio.  The agency has also built over two 230 multipurpose centres and over 150 telecentres across the country, and will build more over time. Poor communities use these centres to access phones, computers and the Internet at minimal cost.

So why did I think this agency should start blogging?

1. Connecting to partners- I think a blog is a perfect way for the agency to talk to its stakeholders. The agency does send out media statements and hold press and stakeholder briefings.  But there is no guarantee that the media will pick up the story, especially because the issues raised are not necessarily breaking news.Through the blog, the agency will be able to communicate its news quickly and efficiently.

2. Enabling dialogue and learning among key players – Managers from all the multi-purpose centres and tele-centres can connect to share experiences and learn from each other through the comments section and guest blogging.

3. Raising awareness of communication technologies and their benefits – One of unique challenges South Africa faces is that there are two distinct communities – a sophisticated first world community that uses communication tools effectively, including Web 2.0 tools, and a third world community that has yet to understand the Internet and its benefits.

A blog will help the agency communicate its objectives and issues to the public more clearly, allowing them to raise their concerns. It also provides access for citizens to debate issues.

4. Understand community needs –Blog discussions don’t necessarily drive the agency’s work, because its duties are very specifically defined by law.  But they do help the agency understand the communities it serves. They also help the agency raise citizens’ awareness on technology use – something that is part of their mandate.

5. Introduce communities to Web 2.0 – We are living in an age where content consumers are also content creators in developed countries.  However, most South Africans have not yet mastered the art of using the Internet to access content, never mind Web 2.0.

The agency’s blog will also introduce the communities it serves to these technologies, so they can begin developing their own content get their voices heard.

P.S. The CEO was convinced, and the agency is currently setting up a blog on My Digital Life, which enables PC-based and mobile phone-based Internet access (South Africa has 89% mobile phone penetration).  My hope is that USAASA’s blog will get more communities talking, so South Africans’ voices are heard more loudly in the blogosphere.

Damaria Senne is a journalist, author and blogger based in SA. Read her blog about the impact of mobile phones on the way South Africans work, learn, play and communications. Read about her adventures as parent and children’s book writer here and her business articles here.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media