Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your Right to Record: Protected by Law, Disrespected by Law Enforcement

Originally published at PBS MediaShift

While Feidin Santana and Ramsey Orta are hardly household names, these men played pivotal roles in one of the most important civil rights stories of our time.

They made news by using their cellphone cameras to record the police killings of two unarmed black men: Walter Scott and Eric Garner. And though they may not have realized it at the time, such recording is constitutionally protected.

But that may be little comfort to people who record tense encounters between police and the public. After filming the April 4 shooting of Walter Scott, Santana told NBC News, “I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else.”



Thursday, April 09, 2015

For Telco Industry Hacks, Progress Is Just Another Word for Crony Capitalism

Published at BillMoyers.com

The Internet’s politically engaged public is here to stay. Millions of people have begun to use online tools to engage in policy fights and protect our online rights — most recently to secure historic Net Neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission.

Net Neutrality supporters at a 2014 rally
in front of City Hall, NYC.
That’s a good thing. But it’s rattled the cages of those on the losing side of these battles. Many of their responses don’t deserve to be taken seriously. But every so often something emerges from Washington that is so reckless and repugnant that it cannot be ignored.

On April 1, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an industry-funded think tank, convened a panel of industry-funded “experts.” ITIF held the D.C. event to blast what it calls “tech populism” — embodied, speakers said, by groups like Free Press, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In its place panelists touted “tech progressivism” — for which industry-funded think tanks like ITIF and the Progressive Policy Institute are the supposed standard-bearers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

We, the Internet, won

Originally published at DailyDot

We, the Internet, won.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved real net neutrality protections, which prevent Internet access providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from becoming the gatekeepers to everything online.

Today’s vote puts control over the Internet where it belongs: in the hands of the people who use it everyday and in every way.

The FCC now has the authority to require that providers act as “common carriers” for all content. That means that they can only connect Internet users to the places we want to go, without slowing our ability to communicate with the people, websites, and services of our choosing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Getting a Win for Net Neutrality

Originally published at the Seattle Times

THE Federal Communications Commission, which on Thursday is expected to circulate a groundbreaking ruling to protect the open Internet, has heard more from the public on the issue of net neutrality than on any other matter in its history.

Nearly 4 million Americans have weighed in. And according to data the agency released earlier this year, Seattle had a higher number of people per capita who urged the agency to stand up for real net-neutrality protections.

It's easy to see why.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Building an Internet Movement from the Bottom-Up

In the early days of the Arab Spring, Wael Ghonim declared, “If you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet.”

In retrospect Ghonim, a well-known Egyptian activist at the center of Cairo protests, should not have stopped there. Just giving a society the Internet isn’t enough to set it free.

As pro-democracy and social justice movements have taken root on the Web, they’ve been challenged by official efforts to remake networks into tools of censorship and exclusion.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

President Obama Comes to the Defense of Gigabit CIties


On Wednesday, President Obama called for an end to rules that prevent cities towns and other communities from creating their own high-speed Internet networks.

During a speech in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband networks. The phone and cable lobby pushed hard for these bills and succeeded in getting at least 19 on the books in states ranging from North Carolina to Utah.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Four Pivotal Internet Issues as the Year Turns 2015

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with protesters
outside agency headquarters in Washington
The death of the Internet is at hand.

Sound familiar? That’s what Internet pioneer Robert Metcalfe predicted in 1995 when he wrote that spiraling demands on the fledgling network would cause the Internet to “catastrophically collapse” by 1996.

Metcalfe, of course, was dead wrong: The Internet is still chugging along nearly twenty years later, with a predicted 3 billion users by year’s end.

Still, the Internet’s fate feels distinctly uncertain as 2015 begins. Washington is engaged in a furious debate over Net Neutrality, access to affordable broadband services is still considered a luxury for many, while governments here and abroad continue to filter digital communications to spy on everyone, crack down on dissident voices and silence speech.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of ...

OK. My Best Records of 2014. This took a while to compile, including hours of winnowing, playing over and again, and gathering feedback. Despite that, you're entitled to hate this list or love it. All I ask is that you give these a listen and then share your favorites for the year (listed alphabetically):

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, SugarString.com, 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.