Monday, December 15, 2014

Read Our Lips: No New Internet Taxes

The tall tales of the phone and cable lobby keep crumbling down.

Last week we saw a string of the country's biggest Internet service providers, including Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable, admit what we've said all along: Reclassifying Internet access as a Title II telecom service won't hurt broadband investment. For years they've been claiming the opposite just to scare the FCC away from using Title II to protect Net Neutrality.

And here's another thing the cable lobby doesn't want you to know: Buried deep in the $1.1 trillion spending package Congress just passed is a provision to extend a moratorium on local and state taxes for Internet access. That moratorium is called the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), and Congress just reauthorized it through October 2015.

For weeks the cable lobby has been telling anyone who will listen that reclassification would sock Internet users with a "whopping" new Internet tax.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Obama, the Telcos and Getting Net Neutrality Right

In November, President Obama called for strong Net Neutrality protections, making good on promises to support the open Internet by urging the Federal Communications Commission "to make sure that consumers and not the cable companies get to decide what sites they use."

The president was following the lead of millions of Americans who had already urged the FCC to stop phone and cable companies from playing favorites with some websites while degrading access to others. The solution that Obama and so many others have called for? The FCC must reclassify Internet access service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

But companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to stop the FCC from taking that vital step.

And opposition to Obama's Net Neutrality statement has come from unlikely bedfellows ranging from Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted that Title II is "Obamacare for the Internet" (it's not) to Rev. Jesse Jackson, who claimed that the rule would take jobs from minorities (it wouldn't).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Verizon's Latest Censorship Plan Follows a Familiar Pattern

If the past is prologue, here’s what we can expect if Verizon is allowed to become the Internet’s editor-in-chief. 

On Tuesday, Daily Dot reported that Verizon is attempting to buy its way into the news cycle by creating a tech-news site,, to compete with the likes of Wired and The Verge.

But there's a twist: According to emails from the site's editors, SugarString will ban reporters from writing any stories about Net Neutrality or U.S. surveillance programs.

The site is now staffing up -- hiring editors and reporters to produce stories that Verizon hopes will appeal to mainstream audiences. In an email to a prospective reporter, SugarString Editor Cole Stryker wrote that the ban on coverage of Net Neutrality and spying "is pretty much it as far as content restrictions go. The upside is that we have a big budget to pay people well, make video documentaries and other fun shit."

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Photographing 'On the Road'

Timothy Karr. New Jersey Meadowlands, 2014.

Ever since I first picked up a camera I have photographed from the windows of moving cars. There’s something that is both familiar and foreign about the passing scenery. This push-and-pull between the permanent and the fleeting is inherently photographic while also being rooted in an art history of making landscapes.

My road pictures usually occur as I’m shuttling one of my daughters to or from New Jersey regional soccer games — an activity that has become a cliché of suburban life in America. Yet being “on the road” has more romantic associations with the era of Kerouac and Kesey. I often like to imagine myself as suspended between these two worlds.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Why Phone and Cable Companies Want to Kill the Internet’s Most Democratic Right

Originally published by PBS MediaShift

Net Neutrality — the principle that protects Internet users’ free speech rights — is censorship.

Did you get that? You did if you happened to be reading the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages. Former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell recently wrote a screed claiming that Net neutrality supporters have taken a turn “toward undermining free speech.”

And McDowell is not alone. Since the FCC announced its plan to make a new ruling regarding the open Internet, Washington has been overrun with phone and cable lobbyists whose sole mission is to convince the agency that real Net Neutrality rules are downright un-American.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Press Freedom Groups Pressure President Obama to Do Better

Sound advice: "The police should not be bullying or harassing journalists."
A seemingly innocuous industrial park in the Utah desert has emerged as a hot spot in the fight for press freedom.

Built under a shroud of secrecy, the Utah Data Center is the NSA’s data storage and processing facility — a place that maximizes the agency's surveillance capacity, which includes the ability to track the phone calls of U.S. reporters and store their metadata for a lengthy period of time.

While whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the extent of the government’s mass surveillance programs in 2013, news of the harassment and monitoring of journalists under the Obama administration predates the Snowden leak.

Friday, September 05, 2014

What's FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Really Afraid Of?

While millions of Americans, a nationwide coalition of mayors, and thousands of startups and small businesses called for real Net Neutrality protections this summer, the FCC’s boss remains holed up in the agency’s Washington headquarters, reluctant to engage the public on the issue.

There was no vacation for the Internet this summer.

While many Americans slipped away to the beach, Internet users were busy defending the openness of a network that has become this era’s engine for free expression, ingenuity and just about everything else.

The threat comes from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who has proposed rules that would fundamentally change the workings of the Web — leaving its fate in the hands of a few powerful phone and cable companies.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Net Blocking: A Problem in Need of a Solution

For years a lineup of phone and cable industry spokespeople has called Net Neutrality “a solution in search of a problem.”

The principle that protects free speech and innovation online is irrelevant, they claim, as blocking has never, ever happened. And if it did, they add, market forces would compel Internet service providers to correct course and re-open their networks.

In reality, many providers both in the U.S. and abroad have violated the principles of Net Neutrality — and they plan to continue doing so in the future.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Biggest Lie About Net Neutrality

One of the most persistent lies told in Washington is the notion that common carriage is a heavy-handed regulation that transforms innovative businesses into antiquated, government-run utilities.

Any mention of restoring this time-tested principle to the Internet causes fits among phone and cable industry lobbyists.

It's a debate now raging throughout the record number of comments filed at the Federal Communications Commission, which has put the issue of common carriage back "on the table" as it weighs new rules to protect Net Neutrality.

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.