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On the Media Talks Cable Consolidation, Municipal Networks With Crawford and Baller

The possible merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable and the FCC's recent announcement to review state barriers have created a significant buzz in the world of telecommunications. Two recent NPR interviews with Susan Crawford and Jim Baller provide insight into how the merger may affect consumers and why a new light is shining on municipal networks.

Crawford spoke with Brooke Gladstone for a recent interview for On the Media. The two addressed some of the consequences of the potential merger. Crawford also discussed the option of municipal broadband investment is an alternative gaining traction. As our readers know, Crawford authored Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age. Crawford joined us in a past episode of the Communiy Broadband Bits podcast.

Jim Baller, President of the Baller Herbst Law Group, also joined On the Media when he spoke with Bob Garfield. Baller and Garfield talked about the cable and telecom lobby's efforts to block municipal authority to build networks. Baller supplied a few of the many examples of successful communities that have blossomed as a result of their investment. We have interviewed Baller three times for our podcast.

 

Each interview is a little over six minutes.

Susan Crawford on National Public Radio

"Unless somebody in the system has industrial policy in mind, a long-term picture of where the United States needs to be and has the political power to act on it, we'll be a Third World country when it comes to communications."

Susan Crawford recently spoke with Dave Davies on NPR's FreshAir. During the conversation Crawford touches on a variety of interrelated topics that affect telecommunications in the U.S. The interview is worth a listen; Crawford and Davies discuss her book, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and get into U.S. telecommunications policy.

Crawford discusses the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision on network neutrality. Davies and Crawford also tackle the inteplay between the court decision and role of government in bringing access to more people:

I think the problem is actually much more profound than mere discrimination by a few cable actors when it comes to high-speed Internet access. We seem to currently assume that communications access it a luxury, something that should be left entirely to the private market, unconstrained by any form of oversight.

The problem is, that's just not true in the modern era. You can't get a job, you can't get access to adequate healthcare, you can't educate your children, we can't keep up with other countries in the developed world without having very high capacity, very high-speed access for everybody in the country. And the only way you get there is through government involvement in this market.

That's how we did it for the telephone. That's how we did it for the federal highway system. And we seem to have forgotten that when it comes to these utility basic services, we can't create a level playing field for all Americans or indeed compete on the world stage without having some form of government involvement.

You can listen to the 38 minute interview and read the transcript at the NPR website.

WUNC Radio Show Explores Muni Network Restrictions in North Carolina

WUNC, a public radio station out of Chapel Hill in North Carolina, covered community owned networks and broadband availability on its recent "State of Things" midday program. I was a guest along with a local resident and a public relations executive from Time Warner Cable to discuss North Carolina's broadband compared to other states and its law that effectively bans local governments from building networks.

The discussion is good, though I certaily could have done a better job. Ultimately I thought the host did a good job of bringing in each guest to make their points, though Time Warner Cable was totally unprepared to talk about how North Carolina can expand access. Instead, they talked about the cable giant's requirements to invest in networks in rural areas.

We are going to follow up on these points but for now wanted to make sure you have a chance to listen to the show. Our coverage of the bill discussed in the radio show is available here.

Prometheus Joins Us to Discuss Community Radio and Internet - Community Broadband Bits Episode 61

The Prometheus Radio Project is an impressive grassroots organization that has successfully opened the radio airwaves to communities after big corporations had effectively locked up unused radio channel for years. Prometheus Policy Director Sanjay Jolly joins us for Episode #61 of our Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Our conversation ranges from the recent history of pirate radio to the many years of actions and organizing that led to the 2010 Local Community Radio Act. Local groups have an opportunity this fall to apply for licenses to broadcast - a capacity that would well complement a community owned Internet network.

The struggle for community radio has many parallels to community owned Internet networks, particularly the right of people to communicate without a few massive corporations acting as gatekeepers, mediating our broadcasts. Additionally, community radio advocates had to fight through years of junk science and misinformation hiding the plain fact that powerful broadcasters simply didn't want to face competition from locally owned stations. Seems familiar.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed.

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Christopher Talks with Santa Cruz's KSCO 1080 AM

Michael Zwerling, of Santa Cruz’s KSCO 1080 AM, was looking for an expert on broadband so he contacted our own Christopher Mitchell. The June 2 conversation involved questions from Michael, his co-host, and listeners and covered municipal and community broadband, accessibility, WiFi networks, and more. The interview runs about 1 hour.

 

Prometheus Radio Project Offering Webinar April 9th

Here at MuniNetworks.org, we encourage the idea of local communication, via broadband or any other medium. Naturally, we are fans of low power radio, owned and operated by independent groups, rather than more stations owned by a few communications giants, seemingly located all over the radio dial.

The Prometheus Radio Project has been working with communities since 1998 to advocate for democracy in radio and aid in local control of the media. They will be hosting a webinar, Expand Community Radio: National Campaign Update, on Monday, April 9th, at 4 pm EST, to update, educate, and support local groups interested in the possibilities of low power radio. Register ASAP

From their email announcement:

The Prometheus Radio Project is coordinating a broad coalition of groups to get the word out and help hundreds of groups apply for, build, and sustain stations nationwide. Over the past year, we have built a campaign plan and significant infrastructure to support community groups and nonprofits wanting stations. Meet civil rights groups, labor, environmental, indigenous, immigrants, LGBT, faith groups and more - the 99% - who are gearing up to build stations.

The Promethus Radio Project was instrumental in the FCC's decision to clear the airwaves for community radio, allowing for the largest expansion of community radio in US history. Now, Prometheus wants to assist groups interested in community radio as they prepare for the licensing process. In addition to the upcoming webinar, they provide additional training and information.

If you can't make the call, but want to play a part, please email Danielle Chynoweth at danielle@prometheusradio.org. Enjoy!

Community Radio Video

Before communities were building broadband networks, many had local radio stations.  Now most radio stations are owned by massive companies far from the community -- but this is a key moment for expanding local, low-power radio.  Watch this video to learn more and how you can help.

Video: 
See video

Craig Settles Launches Gigabit Nation

Craig Settles has announced a new weekly audio show, Gigabit Nation, that will streamed across the Internet as well as available for on-demand listening. The first show is on Wednesday, July 27, at 14:00 EDT featuring Chattanooga's EPBFi FTTH community network.

The schedule for upcoming guests is quite heavy on community networks and private companies that are partnering with communities to build networks that respond to their needs.

Gigabit Nation’s mission is threefold: 1) inform listeners how to get meaningful broadband into communities everywhere, 2) help communities increase broadband adoption and 3) provide a vehicle for people to work together – and with organizations – to get broadband done.

Tim Wu on Network Neutrality

The day before the FCC's Chairman decided that AT&T and Comcast should have greater powers as gatekeepers to the Internet, Marketplace Tech Report published an interview with Tim Wu.

Tim Wu discusses the history of net neutrality and its importance. In addition to the usual 5 minute clip, they have released a longer 20 minute clip. Listen to the longer one.