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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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June 6, 2008 12:56 PM

Future of the Internet Part Two

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - A question was asked about how cell phones fit in to the battle over and open Internet during the Q&A period of the Future of the Internet panel. Tim Wu said that because cell phones have grown differently than the Internet the battle will be uphill.

"The culture of the cell phones is different than the culture of the Internet."

Continue reading this post ...


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June 6, 2008 12:11 PM

Future of the Internet

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - That is the beginning of the title of the panel I am now sitting in. The full name is, "Future of the Internet: Open, Neutral, Mobile and Ubiquitous." The panel opened with some words by moderator Timothy Karr of Free Press. The first panelist was Tim Wu, who is not chairman the Free Press board and a law professor at Columbia University.

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June 6, 2008 9:15 AM

NCMR opening

Posted by Ryan Blethen

MINNEAPOLIS - Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, got the National Conference for Media Reform off to a fiery start. You can take my word for it or watch him and other speakers on the Free Press Web site where they are being streamed.

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June 4, 2008 7:00 PM

Blogging from the Media Reform Conference

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I will be blogging Thursday through Saturday at the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis. There are a lot of big and interesting names on the speakers list including Bill Moyers, and Federal Communications Commission members Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.

Stay tuned for more from Minneapolis. For more information about the conference go to the Free Press Web site.

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May 23, 2008 9:20 AM

Content filtering felony

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Ryan Singel of Wired has been turning out some interesting reports from the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference. On the magazine's Threat Level blog he writes that Internet Service Providers scouring their networks for copyright infringements might be committing felonies.

He quotes a University of Colorado law professor who was on a panel about ISP content filtering. The professor, Paul Ohm, said Comcast's blocking of peer-to-peer applications and Charter Communications idea of using a system to see the URLs visited by its customers could violate the Wiretap Act, which bans eavesdropping.

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May 21, 2008 4:26 PM

Presidential hopefuls, the Internet, and amnesty

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Some important issues facing the United States have received scant attention in the presidential primaries. Missing has been any meaningful discussion about presidential and federal powers. The Bush administration has done a fine job extending its reach in ways other presidents have not, either because Congress stopped them or they had the good sense to respect for the citizenry.

I want to know what presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton think about the current administrations use of warrantless spying, FISA, and extraordinary rendition. Where are the candidates on amnesty for the telecommunications companies that helped the administration's domestic spying? Not exactly topics being discussed by the pundits or posed to the candidates by the press.

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May 21, 2008 2:29 PM

A boost for net neutrality

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Users of the Internet take for granted their ability to access all Web sites on an equal basis. That could change, however, if Internet service providers started discriminating among content, to make more money or to suppress ideas they do not like. A new "net neutrality" bill has been introduced in the House, which would prohibit this sort of content discrimination. Congress has delayed on this important issue too long and should pass net neutrality legislation now.

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May 9, 2008 1:00 AM

The R/D divide

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The notion of an open Internet, an Internet that allows information to freely flow, seems to be too much for House Republicans to grasp. Too bad because a bill in the House would insert some language into the Communications Act of 1934 ensuring an open Internet while not turning the FCC into a pack of raving regulators.

I wrote about this in my column that ran today. Click below for a Q&A discussion of this column.

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May 6, 2008 3:00 PM

Net neutrality hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I dragged myself into work today at 6:30 a.m. to listen to a hearing on a net neutrality bill that is before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The bill follows this entry.

The differing views by the panelists was expected. Those testifying against the bill were people from the telecommunications and cable industries. The opposition also squeezed in an academic from Penn. Those testifying for the bill were consumer advocates, business owners and Hollywood writers.

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May 2, 2008 3:28 PM

Comcastiness!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

A recent story from the Philadelphia Inquirer showed how Comcast is fighting back against the growing outrage related to its service. I was not surprised when the story noted that Comcast rates near the bottom for customer service satisfaction. I use Comcast for the Internet and cable.

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April 22, 2008 10:58 AM

Commerce hearing: Wrap-up

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sens. John Kerry and Byron Dorgan did a nice job of pushing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin for concrete answers. As expected, Martin did a good job knocking the edges off of the questions.

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April 22, 2008 8:53 AM

Commerce hearing: Quote of the day

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"If anybody can find anybody who is enforcing antitrust laws send me their names."

That is what Sen. Dorgan said near the end of the hearing.

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April 22, 2008 8:45 AM

Commerce hearing: Yo...Mallory!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Mallory from Family Ties is testifying. I loved that show. I wonder where Alex P. Keaton would be on this issue? Mallory, er...Justine Bateman, nailed it. I will track down her testimony and post it here.

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April 22, 2008 8:36 AM

Commerce hearing: Christian Coalition

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Michele Combs VP of Communications for the Christian Coalition is now testifying in favor of net neutrality. She says the coalition does not want network providers "snooping" around. She pointed out that the recent dust-up with Comcast began when it blocked the downloading of the King James Bible.

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April 22, 2008 8:02 AM

Commerce hearing: Inoye, Dorgan, Martin

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. Inoyue asked Martin if there was a need for Congress to get involved if the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet. Martin did not answer. He said that some network providers like Verizon agree that the FCC does have the authority, but Comcast has said the commission does not, and has filed a petition saying as much.

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April 22, 2008 7:51 AM

Commerce hearing: Kevin Martin

Posted by Ryan Blethen

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in his opening statement that the commission currently has the authority to keep the Internet open.

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April 22, 2008 7:34 AM

Commerce hearing: Corporate v. Government regulation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nevada, is going on about how regulation would strangle the life out of the Internet. He rightly says that the future of the Internet is unpredictable. His logic stumbles when he views net neutrality as a barrier to innovation.

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April 22, 2008 7:16 AM

Blogging the Commerce Committee Internet hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I will be bogging off of the Senate Commerce Committee's Future of the Internet hearing that began a couple minutes ago.

The hearing is being Web cast, and can be found here. Chairman Sen. Daniel Inoye just finished his opening remarks. Sen. Ted Stevens was late and allowed Sen. Byron Dorgan to speak first. The first panelist is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin.

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April 21, 2008 4:04 PM

FCC Stanford hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

"I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea that my ability to speak my mind to whoever wants to hear is a matter of corporate grace rather than constitutional right, and I suspect other Americans will feel equally uncomfortable if the FCC abandons its responsibilities and fails to act."

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April 1, 2008 9:54 AM

Ben Scott/Free Press profile

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press. The story, which can be found here, gives a nice glimpse into the workings of Free Press and Scott's effort to push the organization to prominence.

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March 28, 2008 10:54 AM

Keep up the pressure

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Comcast/BitTorrent agreement is a pleasant development that should not lull the Federal Communications Commission into complacency. The story can be found here. The net neutrality question has not been answered simply because Comcast said it will figure out a way not to block or degrade the file sharing technology of BitTorrent by year end.

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March 5, 2008 11:53 AM

Read all about it!

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Here are some links to pieces that spun from the Federal Communications Commission hearing at Harvard University last week. We at The Seattle Times editorialized today about the need for net neutrality. The edit can be found here. And here is a first person account of the hearing from our friends at Wetmachine.

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March 1, 2008 8:00 AM

Clinton's media policy

Posted by Ryan Blethen

What are the presidential candidates policies for the press, media, the Internet, broadband, cable and telecommunications? I touched on this question in my column yesterday, which can be found here.

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February 26, 2008 2:02 PM

Stifling more than the Internet

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Is it smart for a company going before a federal regulatory agency to answer questions about how it has blocked content on the Internet to try and block the public from the hearing?

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February 26, 2008 1:43 PM

Adelstein and Copps

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Below are two quotes from yesterday's FCC hearing at Harvard. The first is from FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, the second from commissioner Michael Copps.

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February 26, 2008 9:58 AM

The FCC & net neutrality

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The net neutrality movement might have gotten a boost yesterday from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. According to an Associated Press story Kevin Martin said during his opening statement at a commission hearing about network monitoring and blocking practices that:

"The commission is ready, willing and able to step in if necessary to correct any practices that are ongoing today."

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February 25, 2008 1:22 PM

FCC Internet hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Federal Communications Commission held a public hearing at Harvard University today. The commission heard from panelists about potential rules for Internet networks.

There was a live audio feed that for some reason I could not work until the end of the hearing. The FCC says the complete hearing will be posted within 24 to 48 hours. If anybody did tune in or was there, please send me something and I will post it on Daily Democracy.

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February 14, 2008 2:14 PM

Comcast the Gate Keeper

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Comcast is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission that it has the right to monitor the Internet. The Internet Service Provider giant filed comments with the commission on Tuesday explaining that it needs to block the activities of subscribers to efficiently manage traffic on its network. Comcast is particularly concerned with subscribers sharing files.

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February 4, 2008 4:58 PM

The New York Post's endorsement against Clinton

Posted by Ryan Blethen

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January 24, 2008 4:24 PM

Net neutrality and newspaper op-eds

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Two op-eds ran in today's Opinion section of the Seattle Times are worth checking out. One deals with network neutrality, the other with the future of newspapers.

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January 24, 2008 12:39 PM

700MHz auction

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Here is a link to an editorial in today's Seattle Times. The edit is about the 700MHz auction that begins today.

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November 1, 2007 1:02 PM

The Internet and music

Posted by Ryan Blethen

The Internet's importance to independent musicians was obvious at the Crocodile Cafe on Tuesday night. I went there for Matt Nathanson's concert, which was billed as a Rock the Net show. I had never heard of Nathanson but everybody else at the sold-out show knew him. The young crowd sang along, lyric-for-lyric, and yelled out requests in-between songs.

How is a musician on an independent label like Nathanson able to sell out a show so quickly to an obviously smitten crowd? Through the Internet and a lot of touring. The Internet is vital tool of commerce and communication for a musician who is on the road for about 10 months.

Nathanson is part of a growing list of 763 bands and 155 record labels that have joined the Rock the Net campaign. Seattleites will recognize many of the names on the list like Death Cab For Cutie, and Conduit Records.

Nathanson was part of a teleconference for Rock the Net before his show on Tuesday. The teleconference highlighted why a net neutrality law is needed for the music industry. Nathanson explained how he has used the Internet to make a career in music and communicate with fans.

The community that I have built between my fans and myself, and the network that I built -- the lifeline of my existence -- is crucial that the Internet be free and clear for everybody to use.

Independent labels and bands could be shut out if service providers are allowed to discriminate against competing content or content not to their liking.

Luckily for independent artists there are a number of groups pushing for good Internet policy. In Washington, D.C., The Future of Music Coalition is working hard for net neutrality, and closer to home there is Reclaim the Media, which was at Nathanson show. Jonathan Lawson of Reclaim the Media manned a table with literature about net neutrality and the FCC's still not figured out Seattle media ownership hearing.

Nathanson made an effective pitch deep into his set. He pointed out that Rock the Net had a table by the entrance, and explained why net neutrality is important. He couched it as a free-speech issue that demanded the attention of the youthful crowd.

The First Amendment never really goes out of fashion, he said.

The message was not lost on an attentive audience. As the crowd squeezed through the exit a group of fans huddled around the Rock the Net table.

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October 30, 2007 3:26 PM

Obama continues to talk net neutrality

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is keeping network neutrality alive in the presidential campaign. He was asked today during a Q&A session on MTV about net neutrality. The question, which was fittingly asked through video by somebody who helps build Web sites, was if Obama would make net neutrality a priority during his first year in the White House. The questioner also asked if Obama would appoint FCC commissioners who felt the same.

The answer is yes. I am a strong supporter of network neutrality.

He then goes on to give an understandable explanation of the often wonkish issue. He explains the damage the Internet will sustain if the companies that control networks, such as AT&T and Comcast, are allowed to favor the content of their choosing.

That I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet, which is there is this incredible equality there.

Obama should be commended for making net neutrality an issue in presidential politics. Net neutrality clearly resonates with younger voters, and anybody who uses the Internet regularly. I am sure Obama did not miss the moderator say that the net neutrality question was the most asked question by viewers of the session. Hopefully the candidates from both parties were listening.

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October 24, 2007 7:30 PM

Presidential candidates and media consolidation

Posted by Ryan Blethen

Presidential candidates Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, and Barack Obama D-Illinois, are both concerned about the push by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin to change media ownership rules. Good for the senators. In a Friday press release Biden told the FCC to not lift the cross-ownership restriction, which bans a company from owning a newspaper, television station, a number of radio stations, and an Internet Service Provider in the same market. Obama sent out a press release Monday saying he is also concerned about media concentration, and urged the FCC to do more to promote diversity of media ownership.

It is encouraging to hear these two candidates speaking out on this issue. I hope the other candidates, including Republicans, can work this into their stumps. The responsibility also falls to the press. Reporters should be asking the candidates about issues such as media concentration, and Network neutrality.

Media concentration and media diversity should be at the forefront of the presidential debate. These two issues are so fundamental to our democracy, yet politicians rarely make it an issue. They might be surprised by the positive response from voters of all political affiliations if they did make it an issue. Media consolidation is not a wedge issue, which dims the flash of the lure for candidates during a primary. What candidates would discover by talking media consolidation is that it cuts across the electorate like few topics. Christian conservative broadcasters are as worried about consolidation as is Common Cause.

An inclusive issue might be too good to believe for most politicians locked in a struggle for the White House. But it is out there, and as important as the war, health care, and fund raising.

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Recent entries

Jun 6, 08 - 12:56 PM
Future of the Internet Part Two

Jun 6, 08 - 12:11 PM
Future of the Internet

Jun 6, 08 - 09:15 AM
NCMR opening

Jun 4, 08 - 07:00 PM
Blogging from the Media Reform Conference

May 23, 08 - 09:20 AM
Content filtering felony

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