Thursday, July 17, 2014

The ‘Shocking’ Truth About Net Neutrality

It’s rare for liberals and conservatives to find common ground in this era of political brinkmanship. That’s why it’s been refreshing to see a strong national consensus in support of Net Neutrality, the principle that protects free speech and innovation on the Internet.

Republican Alabama Representative Spencer Bachus, a champion of First and Fourth Amendment values, recently spoke out in favor of such protections, suggesting that the FCC treat Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon as common carriers, and prevent companies from blocking, censoring or discriminating against Internet traffic.

Big Telco Loves Fake Net Neutrality

Wheeler with protesters outside the FCC.
What do you get when you mix a cable lobbyist with a federal regulator?

You get FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. What you don’t get is Net Neutrality.

Wheeler's proposed rules for protecting the open Internet fall so spectacularly short on protecting the open Internet that all of the major phone and cable companies are lobbying Washington to support them.

On Wednesday, Mike Masnick of Techdirt looked at comments filed in the FCC proceeding by Comcast, Verizon, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and other industry representatives. His conclusion: “[A]ll of the major broadband players are pretty clear that they really, really like the FCC's plan.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Safeguarding Free Speech in the Digital Age

Net Neutrality protests in June outside the FCC
A version originally published by Other Words

Representative Spencer Bachus stands out among conservatives.

Representing Alabama’s 6th district, he’s built his Republican political reputation as a supporter of fiscal responsibility, limited government and constitutional rights — with special attention to the First and Fourth Amendments.

Therefore, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to hear this southern Republican speak in favor of net neutrality, the principle that preserves free speech on the Web. “There shouldn’t be fast lanes on the Internet,” Bachus told Politico after a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Shedding New Light on Dark Money

July 1 is a bright summer day for most of the nation, made even more so by a new tool designed to shed light on the dark money behind political advertising this year.

On Tuesday, every major broadcast television station in the United States is required to post online information about the political ads that they air. These broadcasters were already required by law to keep a "political file" on site at their stations.

Now, this file will also be maintained at the Federal Communications Commission website -- with stations posting copies of contracts showing who these political advertisers are, how much they're spending on ads, and where and when their ads air.

This includes files from the nearly 2,000 local broadcast stations in 210 broadcast markets nationwide -- a planned expansion on a 2012 ruling, which initially required only the top affiliates in the largest 50 markets to disclose online.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Big and Fast, Open and Affordable

My testimony before the New York State Public Services Commission tonight:

Hello my name is Timothy Karr. I am from Free Press, the public advocacy group that fights for everyones’ rights to connect and communicate.

Free Press has 55,000 members who call New York their home.

I first moved to New York City 25 years ago. At that time the Internet was in its infancy. It had just been made available under an open protocol. And this gave millions of everyday users the power to share information, create websites and connect with one another.

From there the network grew into a truly World Wide Web -- a people-powered engine of economic opportunity and free speech.

For more than a decade I have represented the interests of these Internet users.Wherever they are in America, people have told me one thing: They want an Internet that is big and fast, open and affordable.

I’m here tonight to tell you that this merger would accomplish none of this.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Tell If Your Member of Congress Is a Crony Capitalist

Last Tuesday, Rep. Eric Cantor learned the hard way that crony capitalism comes at a political cost. In a decisive 10-point upset, Cantor’s Republican primary opponent David Brat defeated the Virginia congressman after charging that he was “trying to buy this election with corporate cash.”

Few inside Washington thought charges like this would stick; for decades they’ve opened their campaign coffers to millions of dollars from Fortune 500 firms without fearing any consequences at the ballot box.

Since arriving on Capitol Hill in 2001, Cantor has received corporate contributions extending from Bank of America to Verizon and beyond. Only four other lawmakers took in more corporate cash during the most recent election cycle.

In exchange, Cantor became big businesses’ “ace in the hole.” According to TIME, big banks, energy and defense industries, insurance firms, and phone and cable companies knew they could rely on Cantor to put their interests before those of his constituents back in Virginia’s 7th District.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Time to LOCK CAPS and Save the Internet


As with many complicated issues making news, it often takes a comedian to sort things out in ways most of us can understand.

Last night John Oliver, host of the popular news-comedy show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, informed the world about Net Neutrality in ways that were both nutritious and hilarious. Yes, funny broccoli.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Dirty Secret Behind Rep. Latta's Anti-Net Neutrality Bill

Support for Net Neutrality has spread — in the streets, in Silicon Valley and at kitchen tables and coffee shops around the country.

But the more traction it gets nationwide, the more vicious the attacks on the open Internet have become. Most all of these attacks are generated by lobbyists and public relations flacks on the payroll of powerful phone and cable companies.

While they aren’t winning many converts to a corporate controlled Internet among the general public, they have found a few allies on Capitol Hill.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reject This Anti-Competitive Deal: Opposing View

Originally published at USA Today

AT&T wants to spend nearly $49 billion to buy DirecTV. If you throw in DirecTV's debt, this deal would cost AT&T a whopping $67 billion. Earlier this year, Comcast proposed a merger with Time Warner Cable that would cost the company a total of about $70 billion.

For the enormous amount of money AT&T and Comcast are shelling out for their respective mega mergers, they could deploy super-fast gigabit-fiber Internet services to every single home in America. But these companies don't care about providing better and faster services, or connecting more Americans to the Internet.

These mergers are about eliminating the last shred of competition in a communications sector that's already dominated by too few players.... (Read the full commentary at USA Today)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Make or Break Moment for the Internet

Coauthored with Craig Aaron. Originally published at MSNBC. 

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission cast a vote that could reshape the future of the Internet. They decided to proceed with a proposal that if implemented would let Internet service providers charge content companies for priority treatment, relegating other content to a slower tier of service.

At stake is Net Neutrality – the fundamental principle that ensures that when you go online you can read, watch or download whatever you want without your phone or cable company deciding which sites will work the fastest (or not at all).

Net Neutrality is a big part of what has made the Internet an unrivaled space for free speech and economic innovation. We want to keep it that way... (Read the article at MSNBC.com)

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Breaking the Cycle of Internet Repression

Originally published at PBS MediaShift

“If you want to liberate a society,” said Egyptian Arab Spring activist Wael Ghonim, “just give them the Internet.”

In retrospect, Ghonim should have qualified his statement to include the kind of Internet free societies need. For as online tools have become standard issue for protest movements worldwide, governments have heightened efforts to remake digital networks as a means of censorship and surveillance.

Today, the optimism about free speech and the Internet that emerged during Egypt’s 2011 uprising has been dashed by the Morsi and Sisi regimes, which have silenced online and traditional media and imprisoned dozens of journalists.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Song for the FCC: Don’t Blow Us Up

If you think explaining tech policy is difficult, try putting it to music and lyrics. That’s exactly the challenge that faced musician and artist Jonathan Mann, who last week composed a song urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to ditch his plan for a payola Internet.

For the last five years, Mann has been composing a song a day. “Don’t Blow Up the Internet” is his 1,939th. In it he asks the FCC’s five commissioners whether they work for the public — or for Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

“Don’t blow up my home. History will judge. Are you going to kill creativity, or help give it a nudge?”

Mann, who graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 2006, says the open Internet is “integral” to his work as an artist. He submitted “Don’t Blow Up the Internet” to the FCC last week and is hoping the commissioners will listen in — and maybe even sing along.

I caught up with him over the weekend:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Strike Two: Obama's Second FCC Chairman Fails on Net Neutrality

When President Obama pledged to appoint a Federal Communications Commission chair who would protect Net Neutrality, we had no reason to doubt he'd find the right person for the job.

Obama campaigned in 2008 as a strong champion of the open Internet, saying he'd "take a back seat to no one" in safeguarding Net Neutrality.

Now the president is on his second FCC chair, and neither has proven himself up to the task.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Post at Bill Moyers & Company

(via Moyers & Company)
Tim Karr is the senior strategist for Free Press, an advocacy organization that works to change media and technology policies, promote the public interest and strengthen democracy. He contributed this post for our “Take Action” section. “If large…