Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taking the Internet Back to the Future

Welcome to the Comcast Age.

No, that's not a new corporate slogan, but the future facing Internet users everywhere.

Cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner have come to dominate information access in the United States. And they're using this new power to squeeze out competitors and remake new media in their old image.

For anyone online that means a future of fewer choices among broadband providers and less control over the digital diet that's fed across their networks.

Big Cable's Old Plan for New Media

Television is at a crossroads.There are two paths to choose from and two destinies for television viewers: one better, the other far worse. The path taken will have lasting political consequences.

One leads to a future where new technology offers millions of video channels streaming in and out of American homes via fast online networks.

The other involves a handful of local cable monopolies controlling what programming is aired — and blocking anything that might loosen their grip on viewers.

One future looks like the people-powered Internet, where choice is boundless and the audience is in charge. The other is a throwback to cable television's "gilded age," where powerful gatekeepers picked what people watched, when they watched it, and how much they paid for the privilege.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Reform in the Age of Corporate Lawyers

Illustration: Bill Brown
In the post-Citizens United era, wealthy individuals and corporations think democracy is a trophy they can buy, stuff and mount on their parlor walls.

But Americans scored a solid victory against big money in April when the Federal Communications Commission decided to require television broadcasters to post data online about political ad spending.

The FCC's ruling was encouraging for anyone hoping to shed light on the shadowy groups and campaign operatives that are funneling billions of dollars to local TV stations this year. The decision will help everyone get a clearer picture of the misinformation machine behind the flood of attack ads.