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2022 Brings Hope For State And Local Broadband Progress

If 2020 convinced the country that broadband for all Americans is essential, then 2021 underscored a reality of life: Goals often require longer timelines than we’d prefer. To put it another way, a worldwide emergency helped the U.S. recognize the importance of having ubiquitous high-speed Internet, and now we’re playing catch-up. There’s no quick and clean fix, which is a clunky pill to swallow for millions of people who contend with substandard or nonexistent connectivity as a new world of hybrid education, remote work, online services and telehealth takes over. The urgency for wider access to high-speed Internet has been palpable this year. The federal government has ramped up its focus on the issue.

Re-Lighting The Night After The City Repossessed Their Streetlights

The City of Highland Park, a predominantly Black city surrounded by Detroit, Michigan, has had most of its residential streets in the dark for the last 10 years. In 2011, the city owed $4 million to utility company DTE Energy. An agreement was made between DTE and city officials to remove roughly 1,200 streetlights to settle the debt. Reports suggest the repossessed lights were sold for scrap. Since then, Highland Park remained in the dark figuratively and literally. Residents had no clue what happened. “And it was just really a sad day actually seeing the poles, the trucks came to take the poles out, and it just left these stumps,” says Shamayin Harris, a lifelong Highland Park resident. “So they’re basically all around our city right now. It just looks like a graveyard of cement stubs where lights used to be on the residential street.

How To Unlearn Capitalism Through Cooperative Ownership

In the context of user-generated content platforms, the coop model is just such a natural fit. One of the principle questions that made a cooperative model feel relevant is this idea of, “Who's generating value, and who's capturing it?” Under capitalism, it’s people with ownership who end up capturing most of the value. So at a base level, sharing ownership with a company’s users and creators can align incentives. And that can dramatically affect the decisions that a platform makes, and steer it in a way that is to the benefit of the people who actually use it and rely on it. What's Spotify valued at, a billion or more? And they’re completely dependent on musicians to make their platform’s content. Lately though, there has been more awareness that this model is not serving its creators. So where coops pop up naturally is when people are like, "I'm not being served."

Ajit Pai’s Broadband Legacy: Haste And Waste

As we documented in our previous three posts, the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) — FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s supposed crowning achievement toward closing the broadband digital divide — is looking more and more like one of the most wasteful projects in FCC history. Our first post gave some examples of questionable funding in urban areas that we stumbled upon after spending just a few minutes with the map of winning bidders. This included ridiculous examples of “rural” subsidies awarded to major ISPs to offer broadband in gated urban communities where they already offer service, and awards to bring broadband to a posh resort that is already well-connected.

Draft Bill Would Eliminate Fair Use On The Internet

Today, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) released a discussion draft of a bill that would “update” the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The language in this draft, if enacted, would radically overhaul the current copyright system for online content by centralizing unprecedented control of both content and digital platforms in the hands of the executive branch. The current draft text would significantly curtail online speech, subjecting every upload to mandatory content filtering while effectively eliminating fair use on the internet. The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

New Effort To Give People More Control Over Online Privacy

We believe online privacy should be simple and accessible to everyone, period. With the introduction of privacy regulations worldwide, consumers are gaining more rights to limit the sale and sharing of their personal data. While this is a great idea in theory, it doesn't amount to much if it is hard for consumers to take advantage of their rights. At present, consumers must invoke most all online privacy rights manually, website by website. That's why we're proud to be a founding member of a new effort to create a simple browser-oriented setting for users to more easily express their preference for privacy, called Global Privacy Control (GPC).

TikTok, Trump And The Need For A Digital Non-Aligned Movement

Recent weeks have seen a dramatic escalation in the U.S.’ stance towards tech companies from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). After hounding the telecommunications company Huawei for years, the social networking app TikTok is the latest Chinese company to enter the firing line. On 5 August U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo published a press release that could be seen as the master plan that explained the logic behind these policies: creating a parallel internet, defined as a place where companies from the PRC have no place.

How Big Telecom Smothers City-Run Broadband

Janice Bowling, a 67-year-old grandmother and Republican state senator from rural Tennessee, thought it only made sense that the city of Tullahoma be able to offer its local high-speed Internet service to areas beyond the city limits. After all, many of her rural constituents had slow service or did not have access to commercial providers, like AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. But a 1999 Tennessee law prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Bowling wanted to change that and introduced a bill in February to allow them to expand. She viewed the network, which offers speeds about 80 times faster than AT&T and 10 times faster than Charter in Tullahoma according to advertised services, as a utility, like electricity, that all Tennesseans need.

Co-op Has A Plan To Democratise Large Parts Of The Internet

Around 5% of all websites use the .org domain, with the most popular being Wikipedia. These websites represent around 6% of the top 1000 websites and 7% of the top 100 000 domains. The domain itself has been controlled by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which is part of the non-profit Internet Society. In 2019 a private equity firm, Ethos capital, approached ICANN with an offer of buying the .org registrar for $1.6 billion. As the deal seemed likely to pass, the opposition to the deal mobilised a massive campaign to stop it. ICANN received 3,252 comments, with only 6 in favour of the deal. Perhaps the most commonly cited criticism included the removal of the price cap. The price for .org domains had been capped at 9.93$/year since 2013, although registrants were allowed to freely sell them.

How Artists Are Exploring Radical Economies

There are many proposals for radical economies from progressive economists, activists and think tanks. Artists are increasingly joining these debates with speculative proposals and unconventional methodologies. I will explore three art projects here that approach the economies of caring labor, agricultural and social production on farms, and forests, with an artistic spin. Driven by artistic curiosity but not shying away from addressing systemic issues, these projects help us open the scope of our discussions by engaging with diverse social actors. The ReUnion network is a design prototype for a socio-economic ecosystem that helps people organize bottom-up social support through long-term P2P (peer to peer) care agreements.

Corona Virus And The Digital Divide

It is not lost on some that, all of a sudden, paid sick leave is obviously socially important; understaffed hospitals are an outrage; and, really, shouldn’t the government be paying for this…? I mean, it’s community health we’re talking about!  And all it took was a little pandemic—an outbreak that, as it just happens, doesn’t confine itself to low-income or non-white people. The New York Times‘ Farhad Manjoo (3/11/20) tried wistfully to imagine US companies and politicians taking seriously the coronavirus lesson of the need for a real social safety net and worker protections. Journalists could also themselves keep focus on enduring fissures that a public health crisis throws into relief. For example, as more schools move classes online, we could talk about the minimally 12 million, disproportionately African-American and Latinx students who don’t have internet access at home.

Stop .org Domain Registry Sale To Private Equity Firm

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said a private equity firm newly created by domain name industry insiders should be stopped from acquiring the .org domain registry, which provides a home on the Internet to thousands of public interest nonprofits organizations. EFF this week called on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to halt a transaction that puts nonprofit organizations at risk of censorship and financial exploitation. EFF also provided to ICANN a petition signed by over 500 nonprofit groups from around the world, plus thousands of Internet users, all voicing opposition to the $1.1 billion sale.

Freedom Rider: The Internet Does Washington’s Dirty Work

In its early days the internet seemed to be an undisputed good, a means of communication open to all. It was hoped that these new platforms would level the playing field and give smaller outlets like Black Agenda Report access to a worldwide audience. The internet has done that but it is also a weapon that is used against the left in this country and against nations and movements declared enemies by this government.

Dodging Bullets On The Path To A Decentralized Future: 2019 In Review

The Internet’s decentralized nature has historically been its greatest super-power, granting it the ability to shrug off censors and spies and redistribute power away from corruptible gatekeepers out to the creators and innovators on its edges. But it’s only been in the last few years that the Net's own corporate children—Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the rest—have started to defeat that innate ability to re-route around such choke-holds.

Co-ops: By The Community, For The Community

At home, her family in Barnes County, N.D., often relied on a cell phone hotspot. However, their ability to access information was frequently constrained by their phone plan’s data limits. Tina routinely had to drive to the next town to access the internet, or she had to rely upon whatever books happened to be available for the four children that she home schools. This travel took a toll on her family, and Tina worried that her autistic son was not getting the quality of the education he needs. Fortunately, these challenges have since come to an end.
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