Future of the Internet, Aug 19, 2010, Minneapolis – FCC Public Hearing – full notes

Last night, I attended the FCC Public Hearing on Net Neutrality. I was impressed. The auditorium at South High was full and 1100 were watching the live stream on The UpTake. The invited speakers were very good. Everyone was passionate.

I thought I’d give a Reader’s Digest version – then you can read on for full details – including some links to video.

A last minute addition, Senator Franken was clearly passionate about the topic. He repeated the idea that Net Neutrality is the First Amendment issue of our time and spoke from his own experience as a politician and former NBC employee. Commissioners Copps and Clyburn were gracious – listening to probably two hours of public comments. They are obviously supporters of Net Neutrality and seem to feel that the FCC should strive to address consumer protection even more. The local speakers painted a picture of how broadband has made a difference in Minnesota (economic, democratic and for community organizing) and addressed the fact that we’re not all served here, yet. Secretary Ritchie compared our communication issues today with the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Science Museum. I particularly enjoyed that comment, since I had spent my morning at the exhibit. His point was that the decisions we make today determine the future and we need to be good stewards of the communication and democratic tools that we have inherited.

The public comments came from community activists, techies, small business owners, librarians, people with broadband and people without and some folks just wanted to be heard. Most people felt that Net Neutrality was essential to innovation, economic growth, civic engagement and citizen advocacy. Net Neutrality was depicted as a tool that leveled the field – and allowed the seed for a future Google (or other garage startups) to grow. Some were cautious about giving too much power to the government and wanted the people to have control. Many were concerned about affordability and access to “third places” to get online, such as libraries, which do not have the capacity to meet the current needs. One gentleman rewrote the Tale of Two Cities’ best of times, worst of times speech to accommodate his broadband points. One woman got up with her sign interpreters and eloquently spoke about the needs of folks who are deaf, blind or hard of hearing. (She had, but did not use the interpreters for her comments.) The computer can be a godsend to folks with disabilities but many tools require serious bandwidth. One woman wanted to know what happened to books.

Again, Commissioners Copps and Clyburn graciously held on to the end. Although one member of the public noted that while that was great – last night the public was primarily preaching to the choir. Commissioner Copps and Clyburn are supporters of Net Neutrality; and for the most part so were the attendees.

Even after three and a half hours, it was refreshing to see people speak their minds and be heard. Two of the planners (Amalia Deloney and Joshua Breitbart) had an editorial in MinnPost describing the need for the public to be heard early this week. Here’s a snippet of what they said…

By contrast, the chairman of the FCC, Obama’s law-school buddy Julius Genachowski, seems to see his role as a broker among corporate interests, not as their regulator. We have seen the results of that approach from Wall Street to the Deepwater Horizon. Now we are beginning to see it online.

Earlier this summer it emerged that Genachowski has been holding closed-door meetings with lobbyists from the big tech and telecom companies — Google and Amazon, Verizon and AT&T, and the like. Since then, some of these companies that once supported an open, level-playing-field Internet now say they want a privatized, pay-to-play network.

Last night folks in Minnesota got a chance to speak and Commissioner Genachowski will be here next week and will hopefully hear more.

Read on for full notes.

I’m not a transcriber – but I did my best to capture the essence of the comments.

Welcome by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Sec Ritchie started with comparison to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the importance of communication – preserving the right to communication for today and the future. It is important for all of us to play a role in shaping our future and the future of our communication.

First Amendment protects the freedom of speech and press. We live in a democracy striving for liberty and justice for all. We need to be good stewards of that democracy. When we don’t bad things happen – bridges go down. Today we’re talking about a super connector and we need to protect and shape it as a tool. We used that tool in the recount – and people throughout the state have been proud of that use of the Internet.

Part of the future of the Internet is its ability to transform of our democracy.

Josh Silver, Free Press
Spoke about the danger of not giving the FCC power to regulate

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROCBn2ouSfY

Senator Al Franken

I believe that Net Neutrality is the First Amendment issue if our time. (video above)

on media consolidation – see video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPF181dU8Fs

on NBC-Comcast – see video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rggEP1zOfg

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps

The Internet relies on openness. We cannot give that power away to the corporations. History has shown that when special interest who can produce and disseminate goods, they will strive for a monopoly. We saw this happen with radio, TV and cable. We don’t want to see this happen with the Internet.

Corporate debts have removed the ability/interest to be good stewards. The FCC has made it difficult for many independent broadcasters by making it easier for a few to take over the many.

“The television is really a toaster with pictures.” That was a line used to diminish the potential of TV to the public and allow for laws that ensured that it was treated with the importance of a toaster with a picture.

Broadband was moved into a legislative pocket with no or few consumer protection. The FCC made it an information services rather than telecommunications. We need to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.

We need to craft rules that protect consumers. That doesn’t mean transferring all the POTS rules to broadband – but it does mean someone gets to pay attention to what is happening.

Google-Verizon has come up with a service for the American people; but you don’t have to read too far to find holes in the proposal. The GV Gaggle

  • Did not include wireless into their plan (why regulate that?)
  • Removed FCC oversight of the open Internet
  • They want to build a series of private Internets (managed services) that would create virtual gated communities for those who would afford it. That will create a divide and prevent new vendors from competing.

“You can’t blame the businesses but you can blame the policymakers if they let I happen.”

The FCC needs to look at this if we want to maintain the FCC’s role as a consumer protection agency and if it wants to keep the Internet free and open.

We need for people to understand what is happening. The lobbyists are telling one tale. Citizen action still works. Demand action now.

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owtSLwnwgnc

Amalia Deloney, the Center for Media Justice

More residents are going online for necessary tasks. In the US, 24 million people do not have broadband.

Right now everybody has a voice on the Internet – and no voice in necessarily louder than the others. It gives people who have been marginalized by the media the power to be heard and mobilize. It especially gives power to diaspora – so communities who are local and global can united more easily online.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn

We cannot separate wired from wireless Internet. A recent FCC report found that more African American and Latino residents access the internet via wireless, not wired connections.

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfaQez6TJco

Steven Renderos, Main Street Project introduces the Community Panel:

Laura Waterman Wittstock, The Circle (replacing the folks from Leech Lake)

We have to help develop Internet access ourselves. And that’s p art of the message we’re getting tonight. Tribal communities are isolated. Poverty is prevalent. Paying for access is difficult enough – considering tiered pricing is out of the question. We need to share stories with the world in an environment that is unencumbered by ads and barriers.

Chris Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance

The Economist recently asked why the US had regulators. Because businesses left to their own devices will not protect customers. If business always agrees with the regulators – why do we need them?

We need to tell the FCC that we don’t want our broadband access to look like our cable access. Outside DC, communities networks are not a political issue. Municipal networks have been built. They are offering fast, affordable services. Monticello has two FTTH networks – and the best broadband deals in the Midwest.

Cook County relies on a single fiber line from Qwest for communication. Last winter that line went down and services stopped. Last fall the community tried to get into a network – but they were stopped by the super majority telecommunications law.

Chaka Mkali, HOPE Community and local hip hop artist I-Self-Divine

Community organizer in Phillips community, one of the most racially diverse communities in the Midwest; the average household income is $20,000. He uses broadband to provide service and communicate with the community. Their listening sessions have been successful. If the FCC doesn’t ensure Net Neutrality, we will see the impact in our services and ability for civic engagement.

As an artist – you can’t get promoted if you don’t fit a local radio model. With the Internet an artist can go directly to the audience – but if the fee to play online gets too high, the independent artist will no longer be able to play in that arena. Competition, innovation, and economic development lie in an open Internet.

Public Comments (I tried to capture the public comments because I figure folks making the effort to attend and wait to speak deserve to be heard. I missed the last 3 speakers because I just had to go – the meeting went very long; I left at 9:30.)

  1. Thanks for the first Native American (Migizi and many other hats) Office in the FCC. Native community is also concerned with the issues mentioned. In the 1970’s I hosted a Native American TV program because of media consolidation and influence of big money, the show went to a bad time slot, then off the networks. There is still no Native American show on the networks.
  2. Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizer – the Internet helps us promote/support the 2010 census. Language, lack of info and mistrust were issues in our job; much of the info on the census was available online. May folks didn’t have access at home it’s too expensive. It hinders civic participation. IN 2020 the census may end up online – how will people be counted then?
  3. Minnesota Center for Neighborhood Organizer – our goal is to strengthen neighborhoods. The Park Board proposed a soccer pitch. Online folks were discussing this field – but folks not online were not participating in the discussion. The folks not online supported the soccer pitch. We cannot let excessive fees and ISP put barriers on civic engagement.
  4. Media Policy – we have a report on media accessibility in the Twin Cities. Residents want diverse information. Audiences of local media have actually grown – but we need models for local journalism and digital literacy.
  5. Progressive Tech Project – they work with organizers. There are almost no technologies that we use that don’t touch the Internet. In KT, there’s a group that talks about coal mines. They have been able to bring a local story to a broader audience (back to the diaspora). Without a neutral Internet those voices won’t be heard. The Internet has always been content neutral. By codifying Net Neutrality we’re only cementing the spirit/history of the Internet.
  6. Network engineer (ISO, ITU) – the providers have received money but have squandered it by giving it to their shareholders. We need to have speeds that are competitive with the rest of the world. I have a home business working on cloud computing; I cannot get the connections/prices that my competitors get in Korea.
  7. High Plains Reader (Fargo Moorhead) – Implement the National Broadband Plan. The Fargo Forum is the local paper, radio and ISP. It has an impact on which voices get heard. It is concerning that ISPs align with content providers and political parties. It will create caste systems. Stop the Internet from becoming a commodity for the wealthy – it is a tool for communications.
  8. Twin Cities Community Voicemail – voicemail for low income folks – We serve people who are on the far side of the digital divide. The Internet is the new public space – folks who aren’t there aren’t seen or heard – nor do they hear and hear. Preserve the openness of the Internet. Remember access at home AND people without homes. We need more third places for Internet access. Many employers only accept online applications and the libraries don’t have enough capacity.
  9. Twin Cities Community Voicemail – we need reliable cell phone and Internet access. We have been monitoring Lifeline & LinkUp. A landline is again not valuable because so many people don’t have homes and/or are too transient for landline to be valuable. (Need to change the rule of one phone per household to reach people in shelters and other communal living.)
  10. Voices for Change – political advocacy for homeless community – need to expand Lifeline services for homeless. Folks who are homeless experience a disconnect. They don’t have access at home or work – we need a third space for folks to get online. The current third places do not have adequate capacity. Also folks need adoption training.
  11. Neighborhood Association & TC Media Alliance – There was a murder in the community. We used email, blogs, social media to get the word out about a vigil the night after the murder. That vigil could not have happened without the Internet. And the vigil gave support to the community and encouraged victims’ families to work with police to find the murderers.
  12. Produces Truth to Tell – experience with commercial and public broadcasting. The broadcasters use out public airwaves to make out money we can’t let them slip away from public responsibility. We want you to preserve the right to preserve our rights.
  13. E-Democracy – There was a shooting about 8 blocks away last night. I didn’t hear about TV or local media; I heard about it on our local online discussion list. People do chat with neighbors online – but the lower the income, the lower the chance they are talking online. We need to up access/adoption at the very local level.
  14. Fresh Air Community Radio – Kids entering high school today do not know a life without the Internet. KFAI is a voice for the underserved. We do not want to see marginalization in the Internet. We need affordable, equitable access.
  15. Commission of Deaf/Blind in MN – there is a great digital divide for those of us with disabilities. Changes to Net Neutrality may place great barriers to access. Because the Internet is not accessible to some without assistive technologies, people miss opportunities for education, healthcare, economic development. Assistive technology requires high bandwidth. Unemployment for Deaf/blind/hard of hearing is 40%.
  16. Homeless agency – broadband is a necessity. Access should be the same in any state. Cost is a big factor – $10/month is affordable. Scholarship should not be only for the wealthy; libraries do not have enough capacity.
  17. Technologist – there are limited numbers of most items – but that’s not the same issue with networks. But for businesses that are used to charging a premium for limited items; they try to bring an old school business plan even when it doesn’t make sense.
  18. CIO – We are hearing one thing from the corporations but it seems as if they are doing something else. For example, Verizon touts free speech but censors NARAL.
  19. Engineer, worked in the government – worked on telecommunications plans. The providers get big my providing access. No even the phones are only access 50 percent phone – the rest is access. When it’s an issue of access, the FCC should oversee it.
  20. Community Tech Center – people visit us because they don’t have access at home. The access housing info, info for starting business… Without Net Neutrality access to this info will be even more inaccessible to low income folks.
  21. Community organizer – jobs are being lost faster than we’re building them. It’s a threat to our democracy. All economists say we need small businesses and startups. Net Neutrality is essential to encouraging startups.
  22. Works with small businesses. Small businesses work on slim margins – and are sensitive to pricing. The internet levels the field – changing that changes the game. Private companies have no right to decide on issues of free speech.
  23. SPNN – community media center & provide tech training – we work with non-commercial media/content providers. They have an AmeriCorps project that support tech training. Independent content providers need Net Neutrality to be heard. They don’t have money to reach greater audiences without Net Neutrality.
  24. Librarian in the TCs. We help with tech training and access. The E-Rate has been helpful in getting libraries online. 71 percent of the libraries surveyed were the only free access points in their communities – especially in areas outside metro area. The computers in the library are at capacity.
  25. Augsburg College student & MPIRG – Net Neutrality is critical to students. We’re not looking for an online mall – we want an online town hall.
  26. Studies online communities (PhD in computer science – not works for a “global blue company”) – we never know how people will use online communities. They always come up with new ways. Ordering medicine online became online diagnosis. Requiring approval for innovation hinders innovation.
  27. TC Radio.Net – independent musical artists – they do live streaming of events. Last night they have listeners from around the world listening to a local concert. We already experience problems due to unreliable connections – especially when uploading. We’re glad you’re hear (FCC members) but you’re the ones that don’t need to hear us. Your colleagues do.
  28. Photojournalist with Global Peace web site – promotes peace and has spoken with people coming back from war. Let’s build broadband, not bombs.
  29. Works with content creation online – Net Neutrality is a trend symptomatic of not asking if we are a society of freedoms. Can we have folks who control the content and the transmission and still call ourselves free? We need the regulation in place to protect our rights.
  30. Owned a local ISP – one of the first customers was a gentleman from Hungary who wanted a web site. Another dialup customer wasn’t in the state. That customer was going to pay long distance for connectivity even in his own state and I offered a cheaper rate. Big ISPs sell bits – we need asymmetrical services.
  31. Owns an ISP (ipHouse) – in 1998, he talked about Nexus and Internet taxation. He was worried about mixing lines between content and service providers. We need to be careful about people owning content and controlling/preventing access to that content.
  32. From Blaine – we need Net Neutrality. Don’t let economic interest of a few make the decisions for the whole. Corporations can make political contributions – now maybe they will hinder the message from getting out.
  33. The public should handle this issue, not the FCC. I have a list of my problems with Comcast.
  34. Parallels with health care – we might have the best health care but right now many of us can’t access/afford it. So funding on one end (healthcare/research) and not the other (consumers) does not serve the public.
  35. Information is the key to progress. We’re in an epoch of intelligence and to progress to the next epoch we need to allow access to each individual. Right now oil is one of our big issues. Maybe if more people had access to technology we could find an answer to that issue.
  36. Graphic designer – he researches a new world order – if you want a global dictatorship, one of first things I would do would be place the government where it doesn’t belong. Fan of Alex jones – Jones has a message about getting the government out of daily business.
  37. Net Neutrality is a matter of peace, truth and civil rights. In 2002, the local police spied on our group in San Francisco. None of the mainstream media would pick up the story – but we told our story online and it got out. Broadband/the Internet adds transparency to what’s happening in the government.
  38. MN PUC (but speaking for self) – The USPS changed postage for large magazines and small press. Making small press more expensive. It silenced the small press. We’re looking at the same danger without Net Neutrality.
  39. Citizen in Columbia Heights – has no love for Comcast – but trusting the government to oversee business is not comfortable either. Big government and big business seem to go hand in hand. I want an unregulated Internet.
  40. Businesses do well in recessions. Top dogs in industries do well in recession. If we had more competition (Net Neutrality) then small businesses would have better chance to grow. The baseball commission tried to get rid of the MN Twins – but the public spoke out and now the Twins are a winning team.
  41. Tracks how media & big business lie. We have a digital divide. Lower incomes folks have bad access. We have the best democracy money can buy. We tried to stop the war, we fought to end the war, we tried to get single payer healthcare – if the FCC doesn’t listen to us what should we the public do.
  42. Unemployed – the Internet is crucial for doing job research, finding jobs and applying for jobs. We need access; we don’t need roadblocks.
  43. Musician – it’s hard to make money. The Internet opens doors that weren’t there before. Communication on the Internet provides lots of avenue for reaching out to family, friends and an audience.
  44. Geek – most folks have only two choices for the Internet. Broadband is a natural monopoly. Broadband is a telecommunications service. Therefore the FCC should oversee it. The promise of unlimited internet from ISPs is misleading; we need truth in advertising.
  45. Computers/ telecommunications – Net Neutrality is a good idea. Broadband is a tool. It should be run as a tool without bias. Let people decide on net neutrality – not the government. Don’t let the businesses govern the Internet for the government.
  46. People need to read books. Businesses should have paper applications. We need to meet in person. You can’t hook everyone up to a computer. Our bodies are being viewed by corporations. We need to know our history that’s not being written.
  47. TC Intermedia – We should restrict band ISP contracts. People should be able to resell their Internet connections. We need to scrutinize the cyber war. We need to disclose what’s going on.
  48. Retired social worker – when humans start something they are open. But eventually get more restrictive – like the US. We are no longer open to immigrants
This entry was posted in Conferences, Digital Divide, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

3 thoughts on “Future of the Internet, Aug 19, 2010, Minneapolis – FCC Public Hearing – full notes

  1. Pingback: Minnov8 Gang 90: Architecting a New Adventure | Minnov8

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