The threat of TV blackouts is never welcome news. For the millions of consumers unlucky enough to have had to worry about their favorite shows going dark, or actually losing their signals, the problem is not only real but frustrating and inconvenient. So what’s being done about it?
Blackouts occur when video distributors (such as cable, satellite and telephone companies) are unable to reach agreement with television stations over “retransmission consent” fees. These disputes frequently blow up into public relations battles with each side blaming the other and consumers getting caught in the middle. At worst, TV stations pull the plug and their channels go dark for days and sometimes weeks.
Why is this happening? Broadcasters say it’s because they need more money to pay for programming, so they have to charge higher rates. Program distributors say it’s because broadcasters have the incentive and ability to play hardball, since there is usually more than one distributor in each local market to keep carrying the station. We see it happen in large markets and small ones.
When President Obama hosts his first Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, it will mark the latest chapter in Washington’s migration to the Internet-based technologies already fully embraced by Americans beyond the beltway. Cloud computing, in particular, is transforming the way business gets done in Washington, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are key to understanding voter concerns on hot-button issues like the economy, national security, health care and education.
Over the past half-decade, social media has redefined the way government conducts its daily business. Cloud computing -- services and platforms delivered over the Internet (Facebook, Google, salesforce.com and Twitter are all examples) -- has become more powerful with the broad adoption of high-speed broadband. Stories about building movements, streamlining operations, recruiting followers and launching interactive Web platforms — once the stuff of front page news — have, for the most part, become routine. Stated simply, the cloud is now the most efficient way for government officials to collaborate, broadcast messages (an almost unbelievable 94 percent of all people engaged by an online political message watched it in full according to one recent survey) and directly source ideas that form the basis of public policy.
We have it pretty good in America. When we're hungry, we can run to the nearest restaurant or grocery store for our favorite burger or salad. When we need a snack we head to the neighborhood convenience store on the corner. We live in a country where we enjoy the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world, right at our fingertips.
Our ability to largely find what we want, when we want it is in large part due to the hard work and innovation of America's farmers, ranchers and growers. Today, each agriculture producer is responsible for supplying food for more than 150 people. That's a modern miracle many of us take for granted. However, there's more for them to do.
June 13, 2011, 04:49 pm
By Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas), Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.)
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to contact your member of Congress, you mailed them a letter or picked up your home phone and called their office. Today you can send a text from your mobile phone or an email from your iPad. In a little over a decade, the Internet has revolutionized the relationship between elected representatives and their constituents. Now, almost every member has a “digital office” and online presence with virtual office hours to serve constituents around the clock.