Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Democrats, Republicans and the Internet

Reading between the lines of the party platforms

Party platforms are the wallflowers of the four-day infomercials we’ve come to know as national conventions. During the run-up to these events, partisan functionaries and delegates pore over drafts and tweak language only to see the candidates too often ignore the resulting policy statements in their march to Election Day.

Consider Donald Trump’s convention-closing attempt at a peace offering to the LGBT community in light of the Republican Party platform’s call to abolish gay marriage and nationalize state laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.

To read too much into a platform would be a mistake, especially when trying to predict the policies of the next administration. Still, platforms establish a benchmark against which we can measure the success of any president. They also reveal important shifts in party culture, offering us a glimpse at the evolving priorities of the body politic. This year, for the first time, internet policy is prominent in both major-party platforms.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is Winning Net Neutrality Enough to Save the Internet?

Originally published in the Seattle Times

Net neutrality advocates can add last week’s court decision to a recent string of victories on behalf of everyday internet users.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the latest broadband-industry bid to kill the open internet — a legal challenge to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 “net neutrality” decision. The FCC rules protect your right to connect with everyone else online without your cable or phone provider blocking websites or carving the internet into fast and slow lanes.

The ruling last year was itself a major victory — the product of 10 years of activism involving millions of Americans who lobbied their elected representatives and urged the agency to adopt online safeguards.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Still Waiting for America's First Tech President

Originally published at The Guardian

As Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have shown, any candidate hoping to connect with voters in the 2016 election can’t do so without a strong online presence.

But embracing the internet as an organizing tool isn’t enough. To become the nation’s first genuine tech president, a candidate must also champion internet policies that safeguard users and ensure the network’s survival and continued growth.

Shortly after Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the White House in late 2007, he took to the stage at Google headquarters to unveil a set of policies on key tech issues, including net neutrality. Later in his campaign, he promised to “strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and … harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy”...

Read the rest at The Guardian

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Why Cable Mergers Are Bad News for the Internet

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about the Internet: Big cable companies hate it.

That’s a bad thing because big cable companies are the on-ramps to the wired world for most Americans.

And big cable companies are getting even bigger. Just last week, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intention to approve the merger of Charter Communications with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

If Presidential Candidates Love the Internet, They Must Set It Free

What has the Internet done for presidential candidates lately?
All the presidential candidates se the Internet as a tool for
their campaigns. But some would like to see it restricted.
See the 2016 Internet Voter Guide.

In a recent Nation article, civic technology advocate Micah Sifry heralds the Clinton and Sanders campaigns for using the network to organize potential voters in a way “that has never existed before in American politics.” Leveraging the ubiquity of smartphones and Facebook accounts, they’ve managed to reach millions of people outside traditional politics.

Vox’s Timothy B. Lee credits the Internet for disrupting establishment politics and giving rise to outsider candidates like Sen. Sanders and Donald Trump. Trump’s success “was aided as much by his popularity on cable television as on social media,“ writes Lee.

But it’s the candidates’ use of direct-to-voter platforms like Twitter that is “only going to accelerate in the next few elections.

Friday, February 26, 2016

One Year Later: Hanging Tough for Net Neutrality

Originally published by BillMoyers.com

At the conclusion of the FCC's historic vote. Feb. 26, 2016
(photo: Timothy Karr)
A year ago, on February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted to restore real Net Neutrality protections for Internet users across the United States.

The FCC action, reclassifying high-speed Internet access as a telecom service under Title II of the Communications Act, prohibits phone and cable companies from blocking and throttling Internet content or giving priority access to rich companies while relegating the rest of us to online slow lanes.

It would be hard to overstate just how important this decision is for Internet users. After years of debate in Washington and beyond, the issue came down to one agency, and one crucial vote.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Journalists Can Save Themselves by Advocating for Their Sources

Originally published by OtherWords.

The Obama administration’s ongoing crusade against government whistleblowers — which culminated last year in the imprisonment of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling — has reignited a debate over the role journalists should play in defending their profession and the sources and networks on which it depends.

Sterling’s serving a three-and-half-year prison term for a conviction built primarily on circumstantial evidence — a heavy sentence, though less than the draconian 24 years the government originally sought.

Sterling’s alleged crime was divulging a botched CIA operation to New York Times journalist James Risen. While the Times and other news organizations fought for their own — hiring a team of lawyers to defend Risen against a government subpoena in the case — they did much less to advocate for the rights of whistleblowers, or to denounce the severe punishment meted out to Sterling himself.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Candidates, Lies and the Internet


"The Internet and technology are incredibly important," Carly Fiorina said in response to an audience member on a snowy Friday in New Hampshire.

Of course it is, but what would Fiorina do as president to ensure that Internet access is more affordable?

That's when Fiorina fishtailed into a ditch. "The first thing I would do, honestly, is roll back the 400 pages of regulation that the FCC just rolled out over the Internet," she said, referring to the agency's 2015 Net Neutrality decision, which protects Internet users by preventing access providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking, throttling or otherwise interfering with our connections.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

It’s the Internet, Stupid

People are asking the candidates intelligent questions about the Internet. If only the candidates’ answers were as smart.

I've got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that presidential candidates are starting to talk about Internet issues.

The bad news is that presidential candidates are starting to talk about Internet issues.

Since the 2012 election, the Internet has emerged as a widely discussed political issue. Advocates of an open and accessible Internet number in the tens of millions and include people of every political stripe living in every part of the United States.

This growing community supports Net Neutrality, worries about violations of their privacy by government spies and corporations too, and believes the Internet is a crucial platform that everyone should be able to access at affordable prices.

Whether you're one of the more than 10 million people who protested congressional efforts to pass Internet-censoring copyright legislation or one of the millions more who urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt real Net Neutrality protections, you're part of a growing political base that expects our elected leaders to support our rights to connect and communicate.

That's a good thing, right? Here's the problem. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle haven't caught up with the rest of us. When facing intelligent questions about their views on important Internet issues, they just plain get it wrong most of the time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Truth-Testing Ted Cruz’s Latest Net Neutrality Gibberish

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz slammed the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 decision to protect the open Internet. His comments were captured in a video now being circulated by Protect Internet Freedom, an anti-Net Neutrality Astroturf group made up of GOP public relations staffers.

The question itself fails the truth test. And Cruz’s response is so full of whoppers that it has to be taken apart, sentence by sentence, to fully demonstrate the depth of his dishonesty.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

For Internet Users 2015 Was a Year of Many Wins ... and One Loss

Times Square, 2015 (photo: Timothy Karr)
While not every fight ended in a win for Internet users, 2015 was a year when millions of advocates defied the conventional wisdom that tech policymaking was an arcane and secretive world limited to a small circle of insiders.

We organized online and off, sending millions of comments in support of an open Internet, beating back efforts to build even larger broadband monopolies, and creating new online tools to safeguard the privacy of our online communications.

Here are the many highlights… and a few less-than-spectacular moments:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Between Snowden and Paris: Using a Public Square for Reflection and Debate

In the main square of Strasbourg, France, artist Davide Dormino recently installed “Anything to Say,” a public art tribute to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Public art installation in tribute to whistleblowers Edward
Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
Strasbourg, France. (photo: Tim Karr)
Statues depicting each of these whistleblowers stand shoulder to shoulder on a row of chairs. An empty chair is placed to the right of Snowden so that members of the public can take a stand alongside the three.

“They all chose to get up on the chairs of courage,” Dormino says about the subjects of his installation. “They made their move in spite of becoming visible, thus threatened and judged. Some think they are traitors. History never had a positive opinion of contemporary revolutionaries. You need courage to act, to stand up on that empty chair…”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What Comcast Doesn’t Want You to Know About Data Caps

Comcast wants you to believe that it’s just playing fair in its latest push to control the Internet. Last week the cable-Internet colossus expanded its plan to impose unnecessary broadband-usage caps on Comcast users in cities across the South.

Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told the Associated Press that caps “introduce some more fairness” into the way Internet users pay for data. Comcast customers who exceed a monthly 300 Gigabyte usage cap will have additional fees tacked onto their monthly bill.

Photo: Free Press
That’s a bitter pill to swallow for the millions of Comcast customers who’ve already seen bills for the company’s cable bundle rise at many times the rate of inflation. Those hoping to save costs by cutting cable television altogether now face a Comcast-imposed scheme to choke out the popular trend of watching TV over the Internet.

No Congestion Here

In documents leaked onto reddit last week, Comcast instructs its customer service representatives how to spin the expansion of data caps. The reasons for the caps, the documents say, are “fairness and [the need to provide] a more flexible policy to our customers.” But what could be more fair and flexible than giving customers the unlimited data plan that many originally paid for?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your ISP Thinks It Has the Right to Censor You

Image: Backbone Campaign
Earlier this year, the Newseum Institute asked 1,000 Americans to name their rights under the First Amendment. A clear majority listed freedom of speech first — before freedom of religion, assembly, and other core civil liberties.

And that makes sense. Protecting free speech is essential to the health of any functioning democracy.

Free speech matters to the hundreds of millions of Internet users who exercise this right every time they connect with others online. But if you ask some of the lawyers working for the companies that sell you Internet access, they’ll insist that it’s more important to protect the free speech rights of phone and cable giants like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.