Civil rights groups filed a federal complaint Tuesday challenging a Texas city’s ban on providing housing to “refugees” or foreigners such as the Central American children who’ve been turning themselves in at the border.
The complaint against an ordinance adopted July 8 by League City, a Houston suburb, was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, and Appleseed, a Texas public-interest law group. Appleseed has researched dangers faced by Mexican and Central American migrant children.
The complaint argues that the ordinance — one of a number being contemplated in Texas — is discriminatory and violates the Fair Housing Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “There is particularly ugly language about Muslims in this League City ordinance also,” said Maddie Sloan, an Appleseed attorney.
The number of children from Central America showing up along the U.S.-Mexico border has surged this year. Since last October, more than 52,000 minors, many of them without parents, have been detained, double the total number of such kids detained during all of last year. For some kids, a Department of Homeland Security assessment found, violence in their countries is so great that the risk of traveling alone “is preferable to remaining at home.”
Marisa Bono, a MALDEF attorney, said the complaint against League City “is a warning to other municipalities that are considering similar resolutions. Cities can’t accept federal funds, and then use them to discriminate.”
The complaint asks the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate and halt ordinances aimed at “vulnerable children.”
The League City ordinance, approved in a 6-2 vote, lists a number of allegations that elected officials say motivated them to outlaw the provision of housing for children.
Language in the housing ban makes the claim that illegal immigrants carry diseases “endemic” to their countries of origin — an allegation that international health experts say is factually unfounded, as the Texas Observer reported.
The United Nations Children’s Fund reports that 93 percent of children in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are vaccinated against measles, compared to 92 percent of American kids.
Federal officials have not approached League City about placing children there at federal cost, as they have in other communities with suitable shelters.
But supporters of the ordinance said they wanted to take a stand, and protect taxpayers from having to shoulder costs for schooling or other services for children. The ordinance also asserts a need for a ban because “radical Islamist terror groups continue to exploit the situation to infiltrate the United States” — an allegation that has also not been proved or linked to the influx of Central Americans.
“Be it resolved,” the ordinance says, that all agencies in League City are “instructed to refuse requests or directives by federal agencies to permit or establish any facility for the purposes of processing, housing, or detaining any illegal aliens, designated as ‘refugees,’ or otherwise.”
Heidi Theiss, the council member who wrote the ordinance, talked to KPRC television in Texas about why she proposed the housing ban. “We are a very safe city, here in League City,” she said, “and it’s that way because we’re proactive.”
Some minors taken into custody at the border say they fear gang violence and reprisals and other dangers in Central America, an impoverished region struggling with organized crime and drug cartels, as the Center for Public Integrity has reported.
Debate is on over whether to alter existing federal legislation so that Border Patrol agents can quickly deport more of the minors rather than put them in shelters where social workers can assess them and they can get immigration court dates.
Advocates for children argue that as children, the minors need a safe place to reveal their circumstances and talk about whether they might be eligible to seek asylum or another type of legal status, or agree to be returned to their home countries in an orderly fashion.
As election season spools up and an already lethargic Congress readies for recess, federal lobbying efforts among elite special interests are sputtering, too.
About three-fifths of the nation’s top 100 lobbying entities spent less during this year’s second quarter than they did during the same period in 2013, according to a Center for Public Integrity of analysis of new congressional disclosure reports and Center for Responsive Politics data. Spending by several others remained stagnant.
Unlike last year at this time, members of Congress are more concerned about getting re-elected than passing legislation.
The second-quarter thriftiness reverses what amounted to a modest spending uptick earlier this year, at least among lobbying powerhouses.
The American Medical Association ($3.9 million, down from $4.3 million during the second quarter of 2013), American Hospital Association ($4.4 million, down from $5 million) and General Electric ($2.8 million, down from $3.6 million) rank among the top decliners.
The defense industry generally deployed less legislative firepower, with contractors United Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics cutting lobbying spending.
Many large oil and energy production interests also spent less, including Southern Co., Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Exelon Corp., Duke Energy and BP.
A surprise lobbying spender of 2013 — the upstart National Association for Gun Rights, which spent more than $3 million during last year’s second quarter and easily trumped the National Rifle Association in this regard — invested $1.24 million during this year’s second quarter.
Last year “was the biggest year on gun legislation in Congress in two decades, and NAGR was the main player in defeating every gun control measure anti-gun legislators tried to pass,” National Association for Gun Rights spokeswoman Danielle Thompson explained. “We will continue to fight against any infringement against our Second Amendment rights and push for repeal of anti-gun laws that are already in the books.”
Everytown for Gun Safety Action, the Michael Bloomberg-led group formerly known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spent just $100,000 from April to June after spending $580,000 during the same time frame last year.
Even top lobbying spenders can largely thank midterm congressional campaigns, not policy battles, for their prolific output.
That’s because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($28.8 million during second-quarter 2014 compared to $19.1 million during second-quarter 2013) and the National Association of Realtors ($16.5 million versus $9.1 million) opt to disclose state- and grassroots-level lobbying, as well as issue and political advertising, alongside its federally focused efforts. Most lobbying entities don’t.
Chamber spokeswoman Blair Latoff Holmes attributed second-quarter spending to a “significant voter education campaign … highlighting candidates’ positions on issues important to the business community with the goal of electing people who understand how jobs are created and are interested in governing.”
To date, the Chamber has spent nearly $15 million during the 2014 election cycle advocating for or against federal candidates. Its top beneficiaries so far include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. and Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Back on Capitol Hill, the Chamber continues to lobby heavily on “critical job creation issues being considered by Congress,” such as transportation, infrastructure, energy and trade matters, Holmes said.
The Realtors association has likewise this cycle spent about $1.5 million on direct candidate advocacy through its super PAC — Cochran, and Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, are favored politicos — and counts that money toward its lobbying output.
“Since it’s an election year, yes, our numbers are up over last year,” Realtors’ spokeswoman Jenny Werwa confirmed.
There are several exceptions to the second quarter’s lobbying slump.
Notable among them: the tech and telecom industries, which have wrestled Congress, the White House and federal agencies on a variety of issues ranging from corporate mergers to net neutrality to National Security Agency surveillance.
Companies and trade groups reporting lobbying spending increases during 2014’s second quarter from 2013’s second quarter include Google ($5 million from $3.7 million), the National Association of Broadcasters ($4.7 million from $3.2 million), AT&T Inc. ($3.8 million from $3.7 million), Verizon Communications ($3.5 million from $3.3 million), CTIA-The Wireless Association ($2.2 million from $1.9 million), Facebook ($2.1 million from $1 million) and the U.S. Telecom Association ($1.35 million from $1.3 million).
Among communications companies spending less during this year’s second quarter, Comcast Corp. is most well-known.
Twitter spent $90,000 on lobbying during the second quarter — a pittance compared to other tech titans, but significant considering the social media company only began lobbying the federal government late last year and has been increasing expenditures ever since. Data security and privacy matters topped its agenda, according to its federal filing.
Spending by financial interests was up from April to June, as many continue to snipe at elements of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which this week marked its fourth anniversary.
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association ($2.1 million from $1.3 million), JPMorgan Chase and Co. ($1.6 million from $1.3 million) and Wells Fargo ($1.6 million from $1.4 million) led the way, although the American Bankers Association and Financial Services Roundtable posted lobbying declines.
Paris, 23 July 2014
The National Assembly adopted an amendment to Bulgaria's penal code on first reading on 16 July that is very disturbing because it envisages sentences of two to five years in prison for circulating “false or misleading information” about banks that could “cause panic.”
The amendment follows a series of rumours in the news media and on social networks that has undermined the Bulgarian public's confidence in the country's banks and threatened economic stability.
By adopting this amendment, you hope to protect the banking sector, which is experiencing a major crisis. But in practice, you would be turning it into a walled-off fortress that would have to render accounts to no one.
Banks and financial institutions are no more immune to abuses and excesses than any other sector of Bulgarian society, and it is the media's job to make the public aware of these problems. It is also the media's job to explain how this complex sector operates, because the public's understanding is essential to the country's prosperity.
What journalists would dare to fulfil this role, even when sure of their facts, if the threat of a jail sentence were hanging over them? How could they prove to a judge that their stories were not “false or misleading” especially as, in the overwhelming majority of defamation cases, it is the journalist's good faith that is demonstrated, not the story's accuracy? And finally, how could journalists be sure that judges, at their discretion, would not decide that the public's reaction constituted a “panic”?
The balance of power between the banking sector and journalism was already skewed, inasmuch as the banks can afford much better legal advice. If you adopt this amendment, this imbalance will be enshrined in the law.
Many civil society representatives have come out against this amendment. Some say the very vague reference to “other information” should be made more precise. Some want “false or misleading information” changed to “deliberately false or misleading information.” Others point to the fact that “causing a panic” is not defined. Reporters Without Borders shares these criticisms.
But Reporters Without Borders asks you to go further. This amendment should be abandoned altogether. It has no place in the penal code because it is draconian, it contradicts all of the international accords that protect fundamental rights, and it contradicts the Bulgarian constitution, which enshrines the right to receive and disseminate information freely.
Our organization understands your concern to protect the banking sector against collapse. You are responsible for the country's stability, which depends on the solidity of its banking institutions. But history shows that if you trample on civil liberties and forget the rights that are fundamental to democracies, one crisis leads to another and a dangerous spiral of democratic decline sets in.
The Bulgarian media have their problems. Some of them report the rumours that are undermining the banks and threatening your country's stability. There are solutions. Demand more transparency from the media companies about their owners. Reinforce the self-regulatory mechanisms that already exist for the media. Above all, improve the justice system so that it is able to enforce the constitution, which guarantees freedoms and sets out responsibilities.
Freedom of information is in poor shape in Bulgaria, which is ranked 100th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, the lowest position of any European Union member. You have a duty to improve your ranking, not make it worse. You can use the crisis to achieve this, or you can weaken your position even further at the expense of the democratic values you nonetheless share.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general
On 9 July, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve tabled a bill in cabinet that is designed to strengthen anti-terrorism provisions. It contains three articles that could prejudice freedom of information and damage news organizations.
The bill has aroused broad criticism, both of its form and its substance. As it stands, the draft could undermine freedom of information since it reduces the legal protection for journalists, allows websites to be blocked without a court order and increases surveillance with no guarantees for the confidentiality of sources.
As far as its form goes, the procedure being used to fast-track it through sets a two-week deadline for discussion in parliament, instead of the usual six weeks, preventing genuine democratic debate.
“Too often when new security legislation is tabled, the lawmaker concerned has to be reminded of the need to guarantee basic rights,” said Prisca Orsonneau, a member of the Paris bar and coordinator of Reporters Without Borders' Legal Committee.
“Criminalising expressions of opinion, blocking access to websites, extending investigative powers to the detriment of the confidentiality of sources… These worrying provisions contained in articles 4, 9 and 14 make it essential to allow time for reflection and democratic debate. Using a fast-track legislative procedure is clearly not the right way to go.
Article 4 of the bill removes the crimes of “provoking acts of terrorism” and “advocating terrorism” from the 1881 press law and inserts them into the criminal code. It sets a penalty of five years' imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros. Disseminating the offending remarks via the Internet would be considered an aggravating factor and would increase the sentence to seven years.
The use of the term “advocating” implies an opinion, rather than an act, would at issue, which raises a problem. The safeguards contained in the 1881 law are aimed precisely at avoiding the penalization of expressions of opinion. Could journalists or netizens be prosecuted under the criminal code, for example, for sharing a video that is posted online by a terrorist organization, or for giving a voice to members of terrorist networks?
In an interview with Le Monde, Christine Lazerges, president of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), expressed her concern about article 4, noting that “all matters relating to freedom of expression should remain within the 1881 law”.
Article 9 gives “the administrative authority the option to ask Internet service providers to block access to sites that provoke acts of terrorism or advocate them”. The blocking procedure described in the draft is unclear. Who draws up the list of sites to be blocked? What are the criteria? The bill provides for referral to a judge but without giving him or her the power or the independence to have any real control.
In 2010, RWB expressed its objections to the extra-judicial blocking of websites at the time parliament was voting on a new domestic security law known as Loppsi2. At that time, the Socialist Party, then in opposition, also opposed the law, which it considered repressive.
Extra-judicial blocking of websites entails a clear risk of over-blocking. The impact assessment that accompanies the bill states that in 2013, more than half the reports of sites advocating terrorism concerned social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter. ISPs are now faced with the technical impossibility of blocking a single Facebook page or one Tweet.
Blocking mechanisms are becoming less effective as software to bypass them, such as VPN, Tor or proxy servers, becomes easier to use. Blocking content can be counter-productive since it forces terrorist networks to use more complex encryption methods, making the investigators' work more difficult. Thus it is an ineffective measure, as has been pointed out by the National Council of Digital Technology.
Article 14 broadens the current provisions for tapping data that is recorded or typed on a computer to include images. Although such investigative methods may be legal, they should be used without violating the confidentiality of journalists' sources. With this in mind, Reporters Without Borders reiterates that the 2010 law on the confidentiality of sources does not contain sufficient guarantees and needs a major overhaul.
While investigation and surveillance methods pile up in France with the proliferation of security legislation, such as article 13 of the Military Programming Law, there is an urgent need for new safeguards. Exceptions to the rules on confidentiality of sources must be spelled out and only a liberty and custody judge should be allowed to waive it.
The use of the fast-track procedure is highly dangerous, seen against the background of the parliamentary debate on digital technology and given that the bill is an extremely serious piece of legislation.
In a view on the security and terrorism law expressed in December 2012, the CNCDH said: “The fast-track procedure does not allow Parliament to function normally and take adequate account of rights and freedoms.”
An EU ruling, giving individuals the ‘right to be forgotten’ on the internet, has been criticized by UK journalists after Google deleted links to their articles from its search engine. Robert Peston, BBC News economics editor, last week accused Google of censorship and said the ruling will “curb freedom of expression and suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest.” The Guardian newspaper described the directive as a “huge challenge to press freedom.”
The right to be forgotten was applied against Google in May, following an appeal by a Spanish lawyer to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The court ruled that Google Spain should delete information about the 1998 repossession of the lawyer’s home and that any information deemed ‘inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant,’ must be removed from search engines if requested by an individual. Since then, Google has received more than 70,000 requests from across Europe to remove links to more than 267,000 webpages.
Among the first articles removed were a blog written by Robert Peston in 2007, criticising a senior banker, and another, in the Guardian in 2010, about a football referee who lied about a penalty decision. In both cases the journalists who wrote the articles argued they were in the public interest. Google later reversed its decision to remove links to the football referee story, following an appeal by the Guardian. Media experts say that Google’s indecision over which links to delete, demonstrated that the company must not be required to judge whether an article should be on the internet.
Mark Stephens, a London-based media lawyer, argued that “holding intermediaries responsible for determining what information is in the public interest is dangerous and unworkable: more than 100 billion searches occur each month on Google alone, which could in theory be subject to review-on-demand for adequacy and relevance, rather than accuracy or lawfulness.”
Stephens believes the new ruling would be biased towards influential sectors of society. “This overreaching judgment is far more likely to aid the powerful in attempts to rewrite history, than afford individuals more influence over their online identities,” he wrote soon after the judgment. The Index on Censorship also challenged the ruling: “It’s like the government devolving power to librarians to decide what books people can read (based on requests from the public) and then locking those books away,” it said in a statement. Campaigners say Google has deliberately applied the ruling too liberally, to create bad publicity and highlight its flaws.
Paul Bernal, lecturer in Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Media Law at the University of East Anglia, believes that Google has chosen to delete links to stories by high profile journalists, such as Robert Peston, and Roy Greenslade, a Guardian media commentator, hoping they would loudly complain of press censorship.
Bernal is among a number of privacy campaigners who believe that although the recent ECJ directive is vague and difficult to implement, the principle is right. He said the concept should be clarified and refined as part of the proposed new EU Data Protection Regulation. “A well-executed reform, with a better written and more appropriate version of the right to be forgotten is the ultimate solution here,” Bernal said. “If that can be brought in soon – rather than delayed or undermined – then we can all move on from the Google Spain ruling, both legally and practically. I think everyone might benefit from that.”
Simon Hughes, the UK’s justice minister said that while the British government wants to maintain people’s right to privacy, it must also protect freedom of speech. He said people should not assume that they have an “unfettered” right to remove material about themselves from search engines just because it is inconvenient and that in many cases there is a public interest in keeping information alive. Google, which delivers more than 90 per cent of European online searches, claims to have hundreds of staff, including paralegals, working on assessing requests to delete information. “This is a new and evolving process for us,” a spokesman said.
Photo credit: Brian J. Matis / Flickr Cc
Lewis DVorkin performed a miracle with Forbes … almost. He almost rescued a dying brand, almost helped get it sold to a new owner, and almost rescued the Forbes family and its no-doubt-regretful investor Elevation Partners. I respect Lewis’ inventiveness and innovation. He has done the best he could with the brand he had.
But there’s only so much that can be done urgently with old media on the descent. As Steve Forbes himself said announcing the sale of a majority stake in his company to a group of Asian private-equity investors and cataloguing how his business used to be run: “The web has made this way of doing things obsolete.”
The Times, quoting unnamed sources, says the deal values Forbes at $475 million, but the Financial Times’ John Gapper properly asks:
I'd like to see proof that this deal valued Forbes Media at $475m http://t.co/MLkUgHSMWo
— John Gapper (@johngapper) July 18, 2014
Axel Springer, a leading European magazine publisher and digital company, was supposed to be interested in Forbes. But it and other media buyers dropped out early. Forbes had reportedly been hoping to sell the entire company for more than $400 million. That didn’t happen. Whatever the real valuation, given the buy-out of Elevation Partners — which had invested in Forbes in 2006 getting a reported 40% for $250-300 million, valuing the company then at under $750 million — and given the large chunk that Forbes is left with, I’d guess the family got something in the borderline nine figures. [I should add that as one commenter elsewhere points out, I'm not even trying to make a guess at such things as liquidation preferences for Elevation.] Not a deliriously happy ending for the Capitalist Tool, but — as people told me this week when I complained about turning 60 — it beats the alternative.
When DVorkin returned to Forbes in 2010, where he had been executive editor a decade before, with the purchase of his startup True/Slant, he brought with him what looked like a solution for a dying brand: He used that brand as candy to draw more than a thousand contributors to write mostly for free — the top few traffic attractors can make a decent buck — adding onto the work of a few score Forbes staff journalists. Thus he simultaneously exploded the quantity of content Forbes could serve while reducing the total cost of content to nearly nil. Now I’m all for media opening up to more voices, but let us acknowledge that not only the price but also the overall quality of Forbes content declined.
At the same time, the business side, headed by Mike Perlis, used that dying Forbes brand as candy for advertisers: Come appear on Forbes.com with your own pieces labeled “Brand Voice.”
I’ve long said that if you have to put a link next to a label saying “what’s this?” then the label clearly isn’t clear enough. This was a pioneering entry into the the so-called native advertising that is now overtaking media everywhere. Just as it was supposed to be the salvation of Forbes it is now supposed to save legacy media.
Beware the silver bullet. It can backfire.
The problem in the end for Forbes, I believe, is that the brand became even more devalued. I illustrate this very simply: Now, when I see a link to Forbes on Twitter, I don’t know whether it is going to take me to (1) the good work of a Forbes journalists, (2) the good work of a Forbes contributor, (3) the bad work of one of many Forbes contributors, or (4) the paid and wordy shilling of a Forbes advertiser, e.g.:
[Forbes] Korea's Entrepreneurs Garner Global Validation As Local 'Startup' Valuations Soar Into The Billions http://t.co/azshQ00GSZ
— BN3WS (@BN3WS) July 18, 2014
Thus, I hesitate three beats before clicking on a Forbes link. That is the definition of a devalued media brand. And that is precisely what other media companies should fear as they more and more try to fool their readers into thinking that what we used to call advertising is now something else that can comfortably live under brands, enigmatically labeled.
The real lesson of Forbes is that there are no easy answers and quick solutions for transforming legacy media companies. DVorkin became a key tourist attraction for media executives touring New York. I know because I took many of them to meet Lewis. He generously shared his means and methods. But I also told these executives that the path was not without the peril I just described.
Media executives are looking for quick fixes still.
Tablets were going to save them, returning to them the control of user experience and business model the link had taken from them. Hearst Magazines has had some success with tablets. But salvation does not this way lie.
Pay walls were going to save them, finally recognizing the value of their content online. But as Gannett has learned, after grabbing cash flow the first year, growth stops. No Moshiach there.
Ad marketplaces were going to save them — or at least let them compete with Google. But programmatic advertising — those ads that follow you all around the web telling you to buy that kayak you looked at once on Amazon — commodify media. They value direct data about a customer over the context media provides — that is, it’s better to show a kayak ad to a kayak buyer than to buy an ad next to a kayak story. This is why I argue in the start of a white paper I’m finishing now that we must shift to a business based on known relationships with people as individuals and communities rather than as a mass.
Shifting to a relationship and service strategy over a pure content strategy will take not only urgency but also time, with much experimentation and failure and a need for patient capital — likely not the Hong-Kong-based private-equity investors Forbes now has, not the hedge funds that Digital First Media has, not the public owners that Gannett and Time Inc. have. This won’t be easy.
I’m not saying that DVorkin and Perlis ever thought that what they were doing was easy. But others did. They hoped that Forbes would show the way to a solution for all their problems. Well, so much for that. That way lies the skin of your teeth.
We’ve received about 647k #netneutrality comments so far. Keep your input coming — 1st round of comments wraps up July 15.
— Tom Wheeler (@TomWheelerFCC) July 11, 2014
I just filed my comments on net neutrality with the FCC, adding to the 647,000 already there. You should, too. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s important. It’s democracy. Do it here. And do it by July 15, the deadline. [Note: The deadline was extended to July 18.] Here’s mine:
* * *
I am Jeff Jarvis, professor and director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York and author of the books “Public Parts” and “What Would Google Do?” and the ebook “Gutenberg the Geek.”
I ask you to govern your decisions regarding net neutrality and broadband policy according to the principles of equality that have made the internet the powerful engine of freedom, speech, innovation, and economic development that it has already become.
As Sen. Al Franken said at the South by Southwest conference in 2011, we proponents of net neutrality are not asking you to change the internet; we are asking you to protect the net from change imposed by the companies trying to exploit their positions of control. “We have net neutrality right now,” Sen. Franken said. “And we don’t want to lose it. That’s all. The fight for net neutrality isn’t about improving the Internet. It’s not about changing the Internet at all. It’s about ensuring that it stays just the way it is.”
I put it this way in a question to then-President Nicolas Sarkozy at the eG-8 meeting he convened in Paris that same year: “First, do no harm.” I urge you to take that Hippocratic Oath for the net. Do not allow it to change. Preserve its equality.
The first principle upon which the net must be maintained is that all bits are created equal. If any bit is stopped on its way by a censor in China or Iran … if a bit is slowed by an ISP because it did not carry a premium toll … if a bit is detoured and substituted by that ISP to promote its service over a competitor’s … or indeed if a bit is spied upon by the government of China or Iran or the United States … then no bit can be presumed to be free. The net is built edge-to-edge so that anyone can speak with anyone without discrimination.
Another principle upon which the net must be maintained is that it is open and distributed and if any institution — government or corporate oligopoly — claims sovereignty over it, then it is no longer the net. Of course, I recognize the irony of asking a government agency for help but that is necessary when a few parties hold undue control over choke points in this architecture. The real answer is to ensure open and broad competition, for any provider in a competitive marketplace that offers throttled, incomplete, inferior service will lose; in an oligopoly, such providers use their control for profitability over service. Corporations by their nature exploit control. Government protects consumers from undue exercise of such control. That is your job.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has offered another principle: the permissionless nature of the net. “Let’s give credit to the people who foresaw the internet, opened it up, designed it so it would not have significant choke points, and made it possible for random people including twenty-four-year-olds in a dorm to enter and create,” he said.
My entrepreneurial journalism students can barely afford to start the companies they are creating, the companies that I believe will be the salvation of journalism, scaling up from the bottom, not from the top. Innovation, we already know, will come from the entrepreneurs over the corporate incumbents. These entrepreneurs cannot afford to pay premiums to ISPs for access to their customers.
We know that corporate incumbents in this industry will abuse the control they have to disadvantage competitors. I filed a complaint with the Commission last year when Verizon refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet to its network as required by the Commission’s own rules governing that spectrum as “open.” The incumbent ISPs have demonstrated well that they choose not to understand the definition of “open.”
“Changes in the information age will be as dramatic as those in the Middle Ages,” James Dewar wrote in a 1998 Rand Corporation paper. “The printing press has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution, all of which had profound impacts on their eras; similarly profound changes may already be underway in the information age.” The internet is our Gutenberg press. Note well that it took 50 years after the invention of Gutenberg’s press for the book to take on the form we know today. It took 100 years, says Gutenberg scholar Elizabeth Eisenstein, for the impact of the book on society to be fully recognized. It took 150 years and the development of postal services before anyone thought of using the press to create a newspaper and 400 years — with the advent of steam technology and mass production — before newspapers were in the hands of the common man and woman.
We do not know what the internet is yet and what it will foster. It is too soon to limit it and to grant control over it to a few, powerful companies. I urge you to protect its freedoms by enforcing a principle of net neutrality and to nurture its growth and development with a broadband policy that fosters competition over control and — here is my best hope — I urge you to establish the principle of a human right to connect to the network with equality for all.
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Read the latest comments here. (Mine is not posted yet. I assume it will be after the weekend.)
- Trushar Barot, Assistant editor of the UGC and Social Media Hub, BBC News, ‘The changing face of newsgathering in the social and digital age’
- RISJ seminar, Wednesday 11 June