Michael Barone writes: The knee jerk response of many liberals to political attacks seems to be to suppress such speech. Examples abound. Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, running for the Senate, threatens the broadcast licenses of stations that run adscriticizing him. Over at salon.com Fred Jerome imagines what it would be like to nationalize — have the government take over — Fox News. And of course evidence continues to accumulate that high Internal Revenue Service officials denied approval to conservative groups in order to suppress political speech.
Then there’s the Federal Communications Commission‘s “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs”–put on hold Friday. The FCC was going to query TV station and newspaper
writers about their “coverage choices.” As my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York explains, this “study” was the project of Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Rep. James Clyburn, and it was scheduled to be rolled out first in Columbia, S.C. — which just happens to be the Clyburns’ hometown. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Meet the Department of the Internet! We’ll be Handling the Internet You Love, but at the Speed of GovernmentPosted: February 24, 2015
Meet the Department of the Internet! We’ll be handling the Internet you love, but at the speed of government. https://t.co/xDIjKdpete
— Dept. Of Internet (@Dept_Internet) February 23, 2015
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 24, 2015
“He stated he is aware it is against government rules and regulations, but he often does not have enough work to do and has free time.”
For the Washington Times, Jim McElhatton reports: For one Federal Communications Commission worker, his porn habit at work was easy to explain: Things were slow, he told investigators, so he perused it “out of boredom” — for up to eight hours each week.
…In other news, the CIA is spying on the Senate, the president is assassinating American citizens, our governors are ungovernable, our cops are criminals, our corruption investigations are corrupt, our anti-crime programs are criminal enterprises, the IRS agents charged with keeping nonprofits from turning into fronts for crass and illegal political campaigns have turned the agency into a front for a crass and illegal political campaign, our Border Patrol agents are engaged in human trafficking . . .
But let’s talk about porn…(read more)
Lack of work has emerged time and again in federal investigations, and it’s not just porn, nor is it confined to the FCC. Across government, employees caught wasting time at work say they simply didn’t have enough work to do, according to investigation records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
“while I was pleased with several of Comcast-NBC’s voluntary public interest commitments, more can be done to achieve our diversity objectives.”
For Variety, Ted Johnson reports: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 51 other lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are pressing the FCC to ensure that upcoming mergers include “enforceable commitments” to boost media ownership, programming, advertising and other opportunities for women and minorities.
“In similar ‘mega-merger’ transactions in recent years, companies have attempted to demonstrate their ‘good corporate citizenship’ by identifying past philanthropic donations they have made to various charitable organizations and promising additional such donations.”
The letter cited the proposed mergers of Time Warner Cable and Comcast, and of AT&T and DirecTV, as well as “the imminent announcement” of Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile. The FCC’s merger reviews examine whether the transactions are in the public interest. Read the rest of this entry »
In a joint letter Wednesday, some 150 companies told the Federal Communications Commission its proposed rules over net neutrality would permit phone and cable firms to discriminate “both technically and financially” against companies providing online services.
“Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization,” they said.
They said the regulations “should make the market for Internet services more transparent” and warned that fair rules “are essential for the future of the Internet.”
The letter challenged the FCC’s proposed rules on how Internet service providers — mainly a handful of telecommunications giants who control the transmission of data via cable and airwaves — can negotiate individual deals over access levels, speed and priority with online companies rather than keeping access completely neutral. Read the rest of this entry »
Glenn Harlan Reynolds: Americans Rising Up Against Government: Three Examples of Pushback Against the Ruling ClassPosted: February 24, 2014
America’s ruling class has been experiencing more pushback than usual lately. It just might be a harbinger of things to come.
“This is more ‘Irish Democracy,’ passive resistance to government overreach.”
Many local police departments already use license-plate readers that track every car as it passes traffic signals or pole-mounted cameras. Specially equipped police cars even track cars parked on the street or even in driveways.
The DHS put out a bid request for a system that would have gone national, letting the federal government track millions of people’s comings and goings just as it tracks data about every phone call we make. But the proposal was suddenly withdrawn last week, with the unconvincing explanation that it was all a mistake. I’m inclined to agree with TechDirt‘s Tim Cushing, who wrote: “The most plausible explanation is that someone up top at the DHS or ICE suddenly realized that publicly calling for bids on a nationwide surveillance system while nationwide surveillance systems are being hotly debated was … a horrible idea.”
[Order Reynold’s book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself” from Amazon]
On Friday, after more public outrage, the Federal Communications Commission withdrew a plan to “monitor” news coverage at not only broadcast stations, but also at print publications that the FCC has no authority to regulate. The “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN (pronounced “sin”) involved the FCC sending people to question reporters and editors about why they chose to run particular stories. Many folks in and out of the media found it Orwellian…
- Tennessee Law School Professor: (will) Americans ever resist the increasing encroachments on their freedom? (therionorteline.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column shows that … (teapartyradical.squarespace.com)
- Law professor: Americans are rising up against government (fellowshipoftheminds.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column (usatoday.com)
- “Irish Democracy” is Alive and Well and Living in America!: Instapundit (reason.com)
- Americans are beginning to rise up against government (gopthedailydose.com)
- USA Today: Americans Rising Up Against Obama Government Is Just Beginning (patdollard.com)
- Americans rising up against government: Column (grumpyelder.com)
- DHS Cancels Plan For National License Plate Tracking System (wchildblog.com)
Intrusive media survey idea was doomed from the start
News Dump: Any surprise this withdrawal is announced on Friday, the customary day to bury unfavorable announcements? This Stalinist-progressive cuckoo-bananas Obama-era idea had no hope of lasting more than 48 hours in the spotlight before being abandoned, buried, disowned. Or is coming back? Do they really plan to ‘tweak’ it, revise it, reintroduce it quietly? Good luck with that.
In the meantime, the administration can enjoy a media transition that worked in their favor: the installation of a new asset on NBC.
The Federal Communications Commission has pulled the plug on its plan to conduct an intrusive probe of newsrooms as part of a “Critical Information Needs” survey of local media markets.
However, a revised version of the survey could raise new concerns: that it will trade its now-kiboshed news questions for a demographic survey that might justify new race-based media ownership rulemaking.
“[I]n the course of FCC review and public comment, concerns were raised that some of the questions may not have been appropriate,” the FCC announced in a statement Friday. “Chairman [Tom] Wheeler agreed that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required. Last week, Chairman Wheeler informed lawmakers that that Commission has no intention of regulating political or other speech of journalists or broadcasters and would be modifying the draft study. Yesterday, the Chairman directed that those questions be removed entirely.”
The Critical Information Needs (CIN) survey has been a slow-burning controversy since ever since this reporter first revealed its existence in October 2013.
First Amendment supporters objected that the design of the survey would have had FCC representatives interrogating newsroom staffers about how they make coverage decisions and select (or spike) story ideas. Many commentators objected to the potential intimidation involved in such a survey.
The original plan of the survey would also have taken the FCC out of its traditional purview of regulating supposedly scarce airwaves. Because the CIN sought to discover “underserved” consumers in a variety of “media ecologies,” the survey would have included not only broadcast media but newspapers, blogs and online news.
However, there have been consistent doubts that the survey was ever going to happen. In a December followup article I found that none of the major broadcast, print or online media in Columbia, South Carolina – the market selected for the Critical Information Needs pilot study – had heard from either the FCC or Silver Spring, Maryland-based Social Solutions International (SSI) the FCC’s contractor on the project.
The American Center for Law and Justice‘s Matthew Clark reports: The Obama Administration’s Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is poised to place government monitors in newsrooms across the country in an absurdly draconian attempt to intimidate and control the media.
Peter Doocy reports from Washington, D.C.
Before you dismiss this assertion as utterly preposterous (we all know how that turned out when the Tea Party complained that it was being targeted by the IRS), this bombshell of an accusation comes from an actual FCC Commissioner.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai reveals a brand new Obama Administration program that he fears could be used in “pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories.”
As Commissioner Pai explains in the Wall Street Journal:
Last May the FCC proposed an initiative to thrust the federal government into newsrooms across the country. With its “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs,” or CIN, the agency plans to send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run. A field test in Columbia, S.C., is scheduled to begin this spring.
The purpose of the CIN, according to the FCC, is to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.”
In fact, the FCC is now expanding the bounds of regulatory powers to include newspapers, which it has absolutely no authority over, in its new government monitoring program.
Not on welfare or below the poverty line? Never mind — here’s your free phone.
Confession: You’re paying my phone bill.
In the past month, I have received three shiny new cell phones, courtesy of American taxpayers, that should never have fallen into my hands.
The Federal Communications Commission oversees the so-called Lifeline program, created in 1984 to make sure impoverished Americans had telephone service available to call their moms, bosses, and 911. In 2008, the FCC expanded the program to offer subsidized cell-phone service, and since then, the expenses of running the program have soared. In 2012, the program’s costs had risen to $2.189 billion, up from $822 million before wireless carriers were included. As of June, there were 13.8 million active Lifeline subscriptions.
To be eligible for Lifeline, the applicant is supposed to be receiving some significant government benefit — food stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, public housing assistance, etc. But because welfare eligibility has expanded under the Obama administration, more people than ever before are qualified to receive “free” cell-phone service — part of the reason why Lifeline mobiles have become commonly known as Obamaphones. Alternatively, applicants can qualify if their household income is less than 136 percent of the federal poverty line.
But as with any federal program with too much funding, too little oversight, and perverse financial incentives, Lifeline has become infamous for rampant fraud and abuse. There have been news reports about recipients flaunting dozens of subsidized phones. And in February, the Wall Street Journal reported on an FCC audit of the top five Lifeline providers, which found that “41% of their more than six million subscribers either couldn’t demonstrate their eligibility or didn’t respond to requests for certification.”
The FCC supposedly buckled down on eligibility standards last year and established other safeguards aimed at reducing fraud. I was curious about how tough it was to get one of these phones, so last month, I hit the streets of New York. And out of respect for the law and my journalistic integrity, I did not lie to obtain a phone.
BY BERIN SZOKA, MATTHEW STARR, AND JON HENKE
Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr
Despite public, political, and business interest in greater broadband deployment, not every American has high-speed internet access yet (let alone a choice of provider for really fast, high-capacity service). So who’s really to blame for strangling broadband competition?
While popular arguments focus on supposed “monopolists“ such as big cable companies, it’s government that’s really to blame. Companies can make life harder for their competitors, but stranglingthe competition takes government.
Broadband policy discussions usually revolve around the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), yet it’s really our local governments and public utilities that impose the most significant barriers to entry.
Game of Kickbacks
Deploying broadband infrastructure isn’t as simple as merely laying wires underground: that’s the easy part. The hard part — and the reason it often doesn’t happen — is the pre-deployment barriers, which local governments and public utilities make unnecessarily expensive and difficult.
Before building out new networks, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must negotiate with local governments for access to publicly owned “rights of way” so they can place their wires above and below both public and private property. ISPs also need “pole attachment” contracts with public utilities so they can rent space on utility poles for above-ground wires, or in ducts and conduits for wires laid underground.
The problem? Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction.
So the real bottleneck isn’t incumbent providers of broadband, but incumbent providers of rights-of-way. These incumbents — the real monopolists — also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.
This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service — such as AT&T’s U-Verse, Google Fiber, and Verizon FiOS. The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.
It’s a vicious circle. And it’s essentially a system of forced kickbacks. Other kickbacks arguably include municipal requirements for ISPs such as building out service where it isn’t demanded, donatingequipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
So What About Google Fiber?
But the story changes when ISPs have enough leverage.
In Kansas City and Austin, local governments wanted Google Fiber more than they wanted kickbacks. So they expedited the permitting process, gave Google rights-of-way access for little to no cost, andallowed Google to build-out selectively — i.e., in neighborhoods where consumers actually expressed demand.