Technology

Public broadcasting is critical to our democracy (Rep. Earl Blumenauer)


Every month, more than 170 million Americans have their lives enriched by tuning in or logging online to public radio and television stations. These local stations serve every major city and many small towns in America.  In many rural areas, they are the only source of free and high-quality local, national and international news, children’s shows, music and cultural programming.  Public broadcasters employ more than 17,000 people, providing family-wage jobs in every state.

Once broadcast and print journalism was local, but today that era is over.  A few giant, private companies dominate.  Public broadcasting is one of the few remaining journalistic institutions organized around and rooted in local communities.   There are over 9,000 local board members to assure community interests are reflected in programming. 

Local newspapers are shuttering their doors at an unprecedented rate, and national broadcasting networks are cutting back, making federal funding for public broadcasting more important than ever.  As most news sources are downsizing – if not closing – their foreign bureaus, leaving one person to cover all of Russia, public broadcasting is one of a handful of sources able to provide original content and news from abroad.

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The FCC: Censors, regulators and snoopers

These are busy times for the Federal Communications Commission. President Obama’s law school classmate, Julius Genachowski, managed to regulate the Internet, defying Congress and a unanimous holding from the D.C. Circuit.  The FCC also lost their longstanding indecency feud with NYPD Blue.  (Lesson: Dennis Franz always wins.) Now that the FCC has decided to take its talents to cyberspace, all one billion gigabytes of it, they’ve announced a new effort to entice Americans to develop apps to help the Commission monitor Internet providers.

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Why ruin really necessary cybersecurity legislation with a really bad idea?

A recent white paper written under the auspices of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), asserts that the federal government should disregard existing professional cybersecurity certifications in favor of supposedly more advanced ones that test both knowledge and skills, and even goes so far as to claim that existing certifications are wasting scarce resources. 

Talk about an absurd notion, and one that certainly does not need to be legislated. Let’s take it apart bit by bit.  

First, cybersecurity professionalization involves far more than technical knowledge. Moreover, it is a field that is changing and growing more rapidly than any other field involving federal employees, with the possible exception of healthcare. Yet, the Office of Personnel Management has not seen fit to create a job specialty series for the cybersecurity workforce, or otherwise to determine the knowledge, skills and abilities, or the career path for these professionals. The principal authors of the white paper are two former Office of Management and Budget officials who, during their tenure inside the government, could have easily moved OPM in the right direction to create a series for the cybersecurity professional.

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The federal pat-down of the Internet (Rep. Mary Bono Mack)

With so many Americans rightly focused on jobs and the economy, it is very possible that many people are unaware of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scheme to impose a number of burdensome government regulations on the Internet. The move - while bad for consumers, innovation and investment - is not surprising because it is the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by President Barack Obama in 2008. Never mind that the Internet is a bright spot for our struggling economy and functioning just fine without what amounts to a federal pat-down of the inner workings of the Internet.

Federal regulation of the Internet, also known as network neutrality, has been seen as the holy grail for the media regulation obsessed left-wing special interest groups like Moveon.org, Free Press and George Soros's Open Society Institute for the latter half of the past decade. And with these and other special interests to satisfy going into a Presidential Election, it really does not matter that only 21 percent of Americans support federal regulation of the Internet over the free market or that these regulations will deter capital investment which create private sector jobs. Despite promises to change how Washington works, this is special interest policy-making 101 and to the Obama administration's FCC all other facts are seen as inconvenient truths.

Sadly, this is not the FCC's first attempt to regulate the Internet. For years, my colleagues and I - primarily Republicans but also some Democrats - have introduced legislation and written to the FCC asking the commission to cease attempts to regulate the Internet unless given the clear authority to do so by Congress. The message in our correspondence to the FCC was crystal clear: Members of Congress do not believe you have the current legal authority to regulate the Internet, therefore, do not act. Like too many other out of control Washington agencies, the FCC did not listen. In 2008, FCC bureaucrats attempted to extend their regulatory tentacles beyond the authority granted by Congress and were stopped cold by a court ruling earlier this year. Unfortunately, like teenagers determined to out-game an authority figure, the FCC was determined to prove it knew best. And so, here we are once again confronted with another big-government plan to regulate a vibrant component of our nation’s commerce.

At its core, the FCC’s plan to regulate the Internet will force businesses and people to check first with the government and get permission to innovate. Under this regime the FCC, not the free market, would determine what can be done online and what should be given priority. That’s right, an unaccountable FCC, which meets with special interests in private, will be able to craft rules to benefit politically favored companies that can afford expensive law firms so that they can gain competitive advantages. Are you angry? You should be.

As the Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell who staunchly opposes the FCC’s regulation of the Internet stated the following:

"Litigation will supplant innovation. Instead of investing in tomorrow’s technologies, precious capital will be diverted to pay lawyers’ fees. The era of Internet regulatory arbitrage has dawned."

But, all is not lost. Fortunately, we have the United States Constitution on our side. As a government agency the FCC is not elected by the people - Congress is. And, as our Constitution points out, the authority to makes laws is only granted to the elected representatives of the American people, i.e. Congress, not the politically appointed FCC. As such, my colleagues and I will introduce legislation next Congress to undo this regulatory power grab by the FCC.

Unfortunately, each minute we spend reining-in out of touch bureaucrats who have never created a job in their lives is one less minute we spend focusing on getting our economy back on track and putting more Americans back to work.

The American people should reject this power-grab and demand that government get out of the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the Internet. As a member of Congress serving on the Committee with oversight of the FCC, that is what I will continue to do until this poorly conceived plan is abandoned once and for all.

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The incoming House majority should not repeal new FCC rules (Rep. Bobby Rush)

The FCC’s Open Internet Order will dramatically impact the lives of more than 230 million users of the Internet in this nation. It issues basic rules of the road to promote user access and establish consumer safeguards against discrimination and paid prioritization for fixed broadband access consumers. It also clears up some of the fog that prevents industry and investors from funding new innovative products and services, which both complement and could compete in the future against existing services and technologies.

However, because these rules are neither network nor technologically-neutral, they will disproportionately impact minority and other wireless broadband consumers, who pay more money with fewer dollars to subscribe for broadband Internet access service. Commissioner Clyburn has correctly pointed out that the two-framework system that has been adopted in this Order will invariably cost minorities more to stay connected and do things online, such as receive workforce training and healthcare advice, save money through online comparison shopping, register to vote and to acquire the resources and the “know-how” to start small communications and technology sector businesses of their own. I will be reaching out to the FCC, industry, public interest groups, and other stakeholders to discuss ways to blunt the negative impact that these rules will have on minority and other wireless broadband consumers.

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FCC’s net neutrality rules will stifle innovation (Sen. Mitch McConnell)

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday:

Later today the Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve new rules on how Americans access information on the Internet. It has a lot of people rightly concerned.

The Internet has transformed our society, our economy, and the very way we communicate with others. It’s served as a remarkable platform for innovation at the end of the 20th century and now at the beginning of the 21st century — and all of this has been made possible because people have been free to create and innovate, to push the limits of invention free from government involvement.


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Top global news stories of 2010

In an exclusive global analysis performed by the Global Language Monitor, the top news stories of 2010 are the South African World Cup, the iPad launch, the rise of China, U.S. healthcare reform, and Wikileaks. The Tea Party movement, the fall of Obama, the Gulf oil spill, Haitian earthquake, and the political anger and rage witnessed in the major western economies, followed. The list is notable for two firsts: the first time a sporting event tops the list and the first time a product launch contends for the top spot.

The globe has witnessed the major news sources of the 20th century fragment into thousands of micro-focused outlets in the twenty-first. At the same time, the major global media are playing an ever-more important role when major events occur, as aggregate communities for shared experiences. For these reasons we performed two independent analyses. The first focused on the number of citations found over the course of the year on the Internet, blogosphere, and social media sites. The second focused on the top 75,000 print and electronic media sites. Finally, the two analyses were normalized with the final results appearing here.

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Minorities remain grossly underrepresented in communications and media businesses (Rep. Bobby Rush)

Rep. Bobby Rush today addressed a Capitol Hill policy forum hosted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Good afternoon. Thank you so much, Dr. Turner-Lee for that warm introduction. I can’t tell you, Ralph how wonderful it is to see and to be with you and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies at today’s very timely event, Blackout: The Impact of the Digital Age on the Broadcast Media.

Although the title of today’s event cleverly alludes to African Americans, most of the issues that both panels are discussing today significantly affect black, brown, red, yellow, white ethnics, and non-ethnic whites and collectives of minority and ethnic groups, and communities, all just the same. Thanks, especially, to my supporters from the South Side of Chicago and in the Southwest Chicago suburbs as well as my kindred souls and friends around the country who want so desperately to see minorities and small businesses fare better than they are currently. They are the ones who are directly responsible for ensuring that I can stand in front of you today.

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Broadband: A must for America’s economic recovery

America has certainly experienced its share of economic highs and lows over the years, but the current state of our economy has become a cause for great alarm and distress for virtually all of us.  There is no doubt that our current economic situation played a key role in the recent midterm elections.  And minority communities have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn.  Unemployment rates for Hispanics and African Americans are hovering at over 12 and 16 percent respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.[1]  Our nation’s digital divide has made this situation worse because minorities who lack access to broadband services face significant disadvantages in the job market.

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Our national security should not depend on Assange (Rep. Anh Joseph Cao)

When WikiLeaks began its unprecedented disclosure of more than 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables on Sunday, compromising the nation’s foreign policy and possibly putting the lives of our friends abroad in jeopardy, the Administration was quick to lay blame at the feet of the website and its editor, Julian Paul Assange.  

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