Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat at the FCC

Today's FCC hearings on localism in media featured stellar testimony from a panel of witnesses nearly united in their belief that diversity in media ownership and community-centric broadcasting are of enormous public value. The hearings took place on Halloween, and, judging from the response of concerned citizens to the possibility of further consolidation, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin should be spooked.

Despite short notice and a very small venue, more than 150 citizens showed up at the FCC's doorstep. (Some as early as 5 and 6 in the morning!) Those who made it inside, including a panel of powerful witnesses, made it clear that media consolidation is not in the best interest of any community — be it rural or urban.

"A business model that shuts out local news and entertainment options in favor of homogenized content is detrimental to the public interest," said Bob Edwards, National First Vice President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and former host of NPR's "Morning Edition." Directly addressing the FCC Commissioners, he stated, "the health and robustness of American media depends on your actions."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow Push Coalition also had strong words for the Commission. "For far too long, media policy has been made behind closed doors," he said. It's time to democratize the public airwaves. The FCC should serve the public, not profits."

Several panelists, including Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, spoke candidly about the importance of localism. "The programming needs of local communities are best served by local owners," she said. "It's hard to argue with the obvious." She also pointed out the appalling lack of diversity in the current media sphere, claiming, "the more consolidated the market, the less likely it is that there will be female or minority ownership."

FMC has extensively examined the effects of consolidation on the public airwaves, and has conducted original research which changed the debate about radio. Economic data from our 2003 and 2006 studies showed a massive and negative restructuring of radio and proved that the FCC's own studies following the 1996 Telecommunications Act did not accurately measure diversity or localism. Our 2006 Radio Study can be found here. You can also check out an Executive Summary of this report.

In 2006, FMC Executive Director Jenny Toomey was a witness at the FCC's hearing on media ownership in Nashville. She spoke about the radical transformation of the airwaves following the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and the resulting lack of diversity and localism on the dial. Of course, Jenny looked beyond terrestrial broadcasting and to the future, tying the negative affects of radio consolidation to the importance of net neutrality:

"If there is a silver lining to this cloud of failed radio policy, it will be the lessons that we apply to the debate over net neutrality and to structural decisions about the internet marketplace. Radio’s story has played a major role in spawning the movement against media consolidation. And concerns about access to the data used in the FCC's decision-making process have shown that the public needs more substantial and transparent information to monitor media industries. Never again should these decisions be made in the dark."

And they won't be, if today's cadre of concerned citizens, broadcasters, advocates and activists have anything to do with it.

Read the rest of Jenny's testimony here.

Learn more about today's FCC hearing at

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Power to Low-Power!

Tomorrow is a big day for supporters of community radio. The Senate Commerce Committee is voting on removing the caps on low-power FM stations in urban markets, something that's long overdue. But, as expected, the big broadcasters aren't happy about it.

In 2000, the FCC voted to issue low-power FM licenses, which many hoped would go a small way towards making up for the loss of diversity and localism that occurred with the passing of the 1996 Federal Communications Act.

The National Association of Broadcasters didn't see it that way. They campaigned hard against LPFM, claiming that the influx of new stations would cause "oceans of interference "on their own megawatt channels. Comprehensive studies have shown this to be patently untrue, but Big Radio still managed to score a ban on 100-watt broadcasting in urban areas through the innocuously-named "Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act," which was passed by Congress in December 2000.

Now LPFM is back on the table. What can you do? Well, if you hurry, you can contact your Senator and tell them how important community radio is to schools, community and religious organizations, nonprofits and music lovers. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or visit visit to get your Senator's info. Also, our associates at have made it incredibly simple to send a letter expressing your support for low-power radio.

For more information on LPFM, check out this handy FMC factsheet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Circling the Wagons

It’s been reported that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is aggressively attempting to push through changes to media ownership laws which could result in further consolidation of not just radio, but also television and print media. Although the FCC claims to recognize the importance of localism, competition and diversity, Martin’s own actions indicate otherwise.

In 2003, FCC Chairman Michael Powell also tried to ram through rule changes, but was strongly rebuked by the general public, not to mention the House, Senate and Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The congressional and court reprimand included a stern admonishment to hold public hearings on localism, competition and diversity before voting on any rule changes.

The FCC took Congress' advice and the commissioners have, indeed, attended formal and informal hearings over the past 18 months in Chicago, Tampa, Portland, Harrisburg, Nashville, and Los Angeles, where thousands of concerned citizens overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to any rule changes that would let Big Media companies swallow up more local outlets.

But these hearings aren’t worth much if the public isn’t a): given adequate time to prepare arguments, or b): provided date and location info until the absolute last minute, as is the case with the next event. Hmm, could this be a strategy?

Yesterday, the FCC finally released information pertaining to a rumored Washington D.C. hearing on localism. It takes place on Wednesday, October 31 — a mere week away. That leaves little time for anyone to organize concerns about the proposed rule changes — the specific details of which still remain a mystery.

The hearing will be held in FCC Room TW-C305 — which can only accommodate a hundred or so people. Makes you wonder if this, too, is a deliberate attempt to ignore public opinion.

In the past, FMC has helped to bring artists' voices to the debate, with Tift Merritt, Jenny Toomey, Chuck D., Tom Morello, Ted Leo, Boots Riley, the Indigo Girls and Mike Mills appearing as invited witnesses. Each musician talked frankly about how issues including media ownership, low power radio, payola and net neutrality affect their careers as musicians, and their access to information as citizens.

Key legislators are also on the side of diversity, competition and localism in media. A couple of days ago, Senators Dorgan and Lott held a joint press conference in which they called the FCC’s rush to relax ownership rules “a big mistake.” Check out the press conference here.

Here are some things you can do regarding the FCC and media ownership:

Official FCC Localism Hearing
Oct. 31, 2007, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Room TW-C305 following open commission meeting
FCC, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20554 (map)

1. Attend the hearing and sign up to deliver a short statement on your thoughts on media and localism. We cannot guarantee that you will be allowed to testify -- or even that you'll be let in the building -- as we expect hundreds of people to show up, but the more people who show up just demonstrates the public's determination to make the FCC take these hearings seriously.

2. Watch the hearing. Audio/Video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's Audio/Video Events web page at Spanish language translation service will be provided. In addition, the hearing will be recorded, and the recording will be made available to the public.

3. File a short comment on your thoughts on localism on the FCC website. The proceeding docket number is MB 04-233.

Learn more at StopBigMedia dot com.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Merge on the Hill

Yesterday's Senate Commerce Committee hearings on "The Future of Radio" covered a surprising amount of ground -- everything from media ownership, to localism, to webcasting royalties. In fact, there's so much to talk about that we've created two blog posts. (This is the second!)

Senators aside, the hearing had some real star power in the form of witness Mac McCaughan — longtime rocker and co-founder of Merge Records. (You know, the 20 year-old North Carolina label with acts like Arcade Fire and Spoon?) McCaughan spoke clearly and eloquently about how non-commercial broadcasting in its many forms has made a major difference not just on his business, but also in his personal development.

“As a kid I went to sleep and woke up to the radio in an era when even on album rock radio the DJ was playing his or her favorite new records,” he said. “Then at the age of 12, college radio exposed me to music that I had never heard on top 40 or album rock stations. The music I discovered then set me on the course of making music myself and starting a record label. And since that time, as both a performer and a label owner, I have relied on radio as an essential component of the work we do helping audiences learn about our music.”

McCaughan talked about the importance of diversity, competition and localism in radio, urging Congress to “take action to allow for the growth of non-commercial radio, and the expansion of Low Power FM into more urban settings.” Certainly Senator Dorgan was in agreement — he’d earlier suggested holding official proceedings to deal with the FCC’s recent movements towards changing laws regarding media ownership, which would have an extremely negative impact on the non-commercial radio that McCaughn and so many others cherish and rely on.

“I want to urge this committee to take the necessary steps to ensure that our media landscape does not become even more consolidated,” McCaughan said. “The deregulation that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed for unprecedented consolidation in commercial radio, which has resulted in a homogeneity that is often out-of-step with artists, entrepreneurs, media professionals and educators — not to mention listeners.” Check out FMC's 2006 Radio Study for extensive documentation on the effects of consolidation.

But what about the internet? Although there was plenty of discussion about online royalty structures, the important issue of network neutrality was not explicitly examined. McCaughan made plenty of room for the topic in his written testimony, but due to time constraints, didn’t get the chance to fully speak his mind about the subject. Still, he stressed that “labels and artists should have the benefit of competing on an equal playing field,” stating that “Any policy decision that enables the reestablishment of old bottlenecks or creates a tiered internet would be a step backward.” FMC's ongoing Rock the Net campaign is a great way for bands and artists to get involved in the fight for net neutrality.

Much of the focus of the hearing remained on radio, although its actual definition was at times unclear. In his opening statement, Senator Inouye waxed nostalgic for simpler times: “I suppose radio isn’t as sexy as the internet,” he offered. “But I remember growing up on it, back when it was local.” Senator Snowe, who talked about the decline of local stations in her home state of Maine and asked questions pertaining to broadcast diversity, echoed Inouye’s comments about localism. FMC has published a media ownership factsheet that should help clarify these issues. While you're at it, check out our low-power FM factsheet for info on other community radio possibilities.

It’s definitely encouraging to know that many of our representatives are concerned about diversity, competition and localism in radio. And it’s doubly great that Mac McCaughan would take the time to offer his perspectives on these issues in the very place where they most need to be discussed.

Watch McCaughan's testimony (and the rest of the hearing) here.

Senate Commerce Hearing Tackles Performance Royalties

Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the Future of Radio. This hearing was set up to address a range of issues -- LPFM, ownership, royalties, public radio, etc -- but after a New York Times article last week disclosed that FCC's Chairman Kevin Martin was considering a fast track effort to loosening media ownership rules even further, the Senators also used this time to send a message to the FCC, reminding the commission that a bi-partisan majority had objected to the efforts to deregulate media in 2003, and the Senate was ready to do so again.

During the hearing, Senators Snowe, Inouye and McCaskill all had cautionary messages for the FCC. Senator Dorgan was the most focused, warning the FCC that it was in for a "huge battle" if they thought they were going to relax the media ownership rules by mid-December. Immediately after the hearing, Dorgan met up with his Republican colleague Trent Lott for a bi-partisan press conference to introduce a bill that would prevent the FCC from rushing to judgment in the ongoing media ownership proceeding.

The Senators also spent a lot of time asking witnesses about on the ongoing debate about performance royalties, for both internet radio play and terrestrial radio play.

A bit of background: When you hear a song on regular radio in the US, the composer/songwriter are compensated for that "public performance" via ASCAP/BMI/SESAC, but the performer and record label are not.

However, if you hear the same song performed via a digital platform of some sort -- this includes XM or Sirius, or via a webcast, or on a cable music station, even on that very same terrestrial radio station's webcast -- the songwriter gets her/his ACSAP/BMI/SESAC royalties AND the performer and record label are compensated via SoundExchange. Huh? Different royalties for the very same performance?

This difference exists because US terrestrial broadcasters have been exempt from paying a public performance right for sound recordings for decades, despite the fact that this right exists in almost every other Western country. The exemption has withstood repeated criticism -- this was a right that Frank Sinatra lobbied for back in the 1960s, and the US Copyright Office has supported the establishment of a public performance right for just as long -- but the National Association of Broadcasters is a very powerful trade group that has been able to beat it back every time.

However, this right *does* exist for digital performances (i.e. webcasts, satellite radio, etc) because of the passage of the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act by Congress in 1995. This means that, when you hear John Coltrane playing "My Favorite Things" on an XM station, composers Rodgers and Hammerstein are compensated via ASCAP, and John Coltrane's estate and his record label are compensated via SoundExchange.

[If this still isn't clear, you can learn more by reading our fact sheet about the performance right, a SoundExchange Primer, or a letter that we sent to Congress in 2005 supporting public performance right for sound recordings]

So, back to the hearing.

During his testimony, broadcaster Russell Withers, who was also testifying on behalf of the NAB, mentioned their opposition to the "performance tax". That's the NAB's new way of trying to sully this debate because, you know, nobody likes taxes.

During the questioning, Senator Sununu tried to dig in a bit on this topic by asking about the NAB's position on the current webcasting royalty debate, asking Withers whether the NAB opposes the rates that the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) set for webcasting, or whether they oppose the royalty altogether. After some deflection, Withers said that he "objects to paying them", though Sununu's line of questioning left us wanting more clarity.

Then Sununu asked Tim Westergren from Pandora who Pandora competes against. According to his testimony, Pandora is the third largest webcaster in the US and paid out over $2 million in performance royalties in 2006, something they are very proud of. Answering Sununu's question, Westergren said that he thinks they compete against anything that resembles radio, including stations like Mr. Withers'. Pandora, he said, and other webcasters operate under a radically different rate structure than established terrestrial broadcasters, and that they are simply looking for "rate parity".

Senator McCaskill had the final question of the hearing, which was directed at Mr. Withers. Taking up where Sununu left off, she asked the broadcaster how the NAB can justify the differences in costs for licensing music between different platforms. She asked him (to paraphrase): how can it work when Pandora has to pay for something that you get for free?

This led to the tensest moment of the hearing. Unfortunately, the question was left unanswered by the witnesses because the senators had to leave for a floor vote. McCaskill did, however, request a written answer.

For seven years, FMC has consistently reiterated our view that Congress should establish a public performance right for terrestrial broadcasts that does not curtail the traditional royalties received by songwriters/ publishers or unduly burden non-commercial broadcasters.

FMC has also weighed in on the webcast rate debate through testimony and news releases, saying that the best solution is a proportionate royalty structure: large commercial webcasters should pay rates that use their audience size and associated revenue as a means to measure their royalty rates, and there should be reasonable rates and reporting requirements for clearly-defined categories of small, noncommercial, college and hobbyist webcasters that will ensure the future development of this medium.

Artists need small webcasters. Small webcasters need music. And artists deserve royalties. Congress needs to create a royalty rate structure that doesn’t damage both in the process.

Whether this hearing gets us closer to resolution remains to be seen, but performance royalties and webcasting rates are certainly on the congressional radar.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Senate to Explore "The Future of Radio" During Hearing

On Wednesday, October 24 -- that's tomorrow, people -- the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on "The Future of Radio" during which "Committee Members will assess the state of innovation and competition in the radio market."

Mac McCaughan, musician and co-owner of indie label Merge Records has been invited to testify, along with Tim Westergren from Pandora and folks from National Public Radio, Withers Broadcasting, Free Press and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

The hearing starts at 10 AM ET and is being held in Russell Building 253. The committee also offers a live webcast, which you can access as the hearing starts at:

FMC will provide gavel-to-blog coverage...

Media Ownership Rules — A Narrow Window?

Back in 2003, the FCC tried to change regulations concerning corporate ownership of media outlets. Then-chairman Michael Powell wanted to alter the rules without taking into account public opinion. Suffice it to say, there was unprecedented resistance in the form of citizen feedback, the bulk of which was decidedly negative. FMC collected and analyzed data on the public comments; the report can be found here.

Well, it’s happening again. The FCC just doesn’t seem to get it. When they previously attempted to change the rules, it resulted in serious blowback from the House, Senate and Third Circuit Court. Sure, there are more public hearings scheduled this time around, including one in Washington next week, for which the venue has still yet to be determined (!) But these hearings may be entirely superfluous in the eyes of current Chairman Kevin J. Martin.

A recent article in Condé Nast’s Portfolio magazine confirmed what many have come to suspect: Chairman Martin is aiming to limit the timeframe in which dissent can be registered.

“FCC commissioner Kevin Martin learned a lot from his predecessor's ill-fated attempt at media ownership deregulation. Above all, he learned that the public hates the idea of further consolidation -- so if you want to push through rules allowing it, you have to do it while no one's looking.”

And the New York Times even deemed the story worthy of front page treatment. In their reporting, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein calls Martin’s timetable “awfully aggressive.” Possibly provocative, definitely true.

According to Dow Jones, Martin hopes to schedule the rule changes vote for December 18. This ensures not only a narrow window for dissent, but also a particularly distracting season in which to discuss the issues.

Check out this must-see clip of Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) engaging in his own brand of protest:

Other Senators, including Barack Obama, have also registered their displeasure with the FCC’s tactics.

FMC has long opposed radio consolidation, because it severely limits musicians' odds of getting airplay.

Instead of focusing on further deregulation, shouldn’t the FCC be working towards enhancing localism, competition and diversity in all media?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

NCE filing window extended

The FCC announced Friday that it has extended the filing window for noncommercial FM radio applications that opened Oct. 12 (PDF of Public Notice). The window was slated to close Friday, but after encountering some database problems, the commission said it will accept applications until 2 p.m. Eastern time, Monday, Oct. 22.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

FMC Seeks Operations Coordinator

Future of Music Coalition seeks an Operations Coordinator to manage our office, provide administrative support to Executive Director, be responsible for organizational accounting and budgeting, including year-end reporting and payments to vendors, and assist with creation of FMC publications and documents.

Knowledge of Quickbooks, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Filemaker are necessary. Experience with audio & video software and editing, podcasts, blogger, youtube is desirable. Very good understanding of FMC programs and related issues is helpful, but not necessary. This is a full-time DC-based position.

For complete job description and details on how to apply, please visit:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Speak up for more low-power radio

We've already told you about our excitement over the radio stations that nonprofits around the country are applying for this week. But there's another campaign afoot to get new voices on the airwaves - and it needs your help.

You might know about the noncommercial, low-power FM stations that air music and cover community news and public affairs, providing unique local services all over the country. (Check out our fact sheet for details.) But opportunities to get these stations on the air are limited. Federal restrictions now in place require LPFMs to give their full-power neighbors a wide berth, keeping community broadcasters off the air in bigger cities.

Yet an independent study has proven these restrictions unnecessary, and legislation now pending in Congress would loosen these limitations and give more low-power broadcasters access to the airwaves. FMC joined musicians, community broadcasters and public interest advocates in June to publicize this effort.

By calling or writing your representatives in Congress, you can show your support for this important legislation. Free Press and the Consumers Union make it easy with forms here and here. And the Prometheus Radio Project offers lots more information, including instructions about reaching your reps by phone. Don't delay - speak up for locally owned and operated radio!

Photo by Jacques-Jean Tiziou /

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Coming Soon: new website and new Communications Director!

We're going to turn off blog comments for a while, for two reasons:

1. we're in the process of hiring a new Communications Director. Blog posting and comment management is typically this person's job, and without that person in place we're unable to devote the proper attention to it. Luckily we should have the new Communications Director in place by early November.

2. we're nearly finished with a complete website overhaul at We're very excited about this project because, not only will the blog be integrated with the website itself, the new architecture will make it much easier for you to navigate and search FMC's filings, articles, campaigns, events and podcasts/webcasts.

We'll have comments up and running again as soon as we get the website overhaul done and the new communications director in place. We'll keep blogging in the interim but while comments are disabled, feel free to contact us at

Friday, October 12, 2007

What Does Radiohead's Pay-What-You-Can Plan Mean for the Rest of Us?

Yesterday's edition of public radio's Marketplace featured FMC's own Michael Bracy, discussing Radiohead's pay-what-you-like pricing of its new album, In Rainbows:

The political statement may be that the system is broken. And that the layers and layers of bureaucracy, and all the different gatekeepers that have been in the middle between musicians and music fans -- well that goes away. Now, that doesn't mean that this is the solution -- this sort of voluntary tip jar model where everything's available for free and people pay for it if they want to pay for it. That's not a long-term, systematic solution for the challenges of how artists get paid in the future.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Grant shows artists need for health insurance

The New York Times ran an interesting article yesterday that detailed how 50 artists spent $50,000 grants from United States Artists. USA is a new organization that tries to fill the gap for individual artist funding, as opposed to grants for organizations. Not surprisingly, more than 60 percent said they spent part of their money on art supplies, while 48 percent spent part of the money on housing and meals.

What was really surprising is that 26 percent said they spent part of the funds on health care. In fact, Wesley McNair, a 68-year old poet that received a grant, had put off buying eyeglasses because he didn't have the funds. Lourdez Perez, a singer and songwriter, had put off going to the doctor, so she used part of the money for a visit.

It may come as a surprise to many musicians, but there are health insurance options out there even if you aren't employed full time. FMC runs its HINT hotline to help artists scope out such options. Musicians can call up and get a half hour appointment to discuss various health insurance plans with a fellow musician, who is also a health insurance expert. The best part is it's free and confidential.

Coming soon: new life on an old medium

The dearth of musical variety on the airwaves these days is much bemoaned and well documented. In 2002 an FMC study provided early evidence that the deregulation of the radio industry had resulted in less musical diversity among stations, a situation that hadn't changed much by 2006. So it's no wonder that frustrated music lovers are turning off their radios and plugging in their iPods, flipping to satellite radio or taking refuge in the blissfully eclectic world of webcasting. But don't give up on old FM radio just yet. It could soon welcome a wave of sonic innovators.

Today, for the first time in seven years, the Federal Communications Commission will accept applications for FM radio stations in the noncommercial band. That's the lower end of your FM dial, 88.1 to 91.9 MHz, where funky college stations and refined public radio affiliates rub elbows. There's lots of room around the country for even more noncommercial stations, and at long last the FCC will award broadcast licenses to lucky nonprofits — particularly those proposing local services. This summer FMC has been working with the Radio for People coalition to help audio artists, activist groups, cultural nonprofits and other wannabe broadcasters join the party.

Competition for the noncommercial spectrum is expected to be stiff, though we're cheered by the FCC's Oct. 10 decision to limit the number of applications it will consider from any one organization (PDF of the Public Notice). And it will be several years before recipients of licenses get their stations on the air. But when our efforts pay off, FM radio will bring listeners a wider range of musical genres — folk, jazz, classical, indie rock, world music and more. Stay tuned.

Photo by takomabibelot.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Verizon, free speech, and net neutrality

It seems like a month can't go by with a telecom promising to protect free speech on one hand, and then violating it on the other. The latest example comes from Verizon, which blocked a request from Naral Pro-Choice to send text messages to its supporters. Verizon said it doesn't allow issue oriented programs to use its network. But when its denial became public in late September, Verizon reversed its course. Here's a full rundown from the New York Times.

Verizon's transgression comes after ATT censored Pearl Jam's political statements during a webcast of the band's Lollapalooza show in Chicago. These moves are significant violations of free speech, but they also call into question the telecoms' commitment to remaining unbiased arbiters of Internet content. After all, they want to be put in charge of prioritizing web traffic. If Verizon can't be trusted to deliver a simple text message without censorship, why should they be trusted to determine which web sites have the best service? Verizon's actions strongly make the case for net neutrality. Pearl Jam, REM, Boots Riley and many others have joined Rock the Net the campaign for net neutrality. For more on the campaign, go here.

A musician needs your help

George Grantham, the drummer of Poco, suffered a stroke 3 years ago, but his medical bills are still mounting. His daughter, Gracie, is helping raise money for his medical bills by selling donated music paraphernalia from some of the top names in the music industry on eBay. Information about Grantham's condition can be found at Poconut.

Here's a little bit about Grantham and the campaign from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band member John McEuen:

"In this day of higher and higher value for things of sho biz history, this is a good chance to latch on to something cool, at a good price, for a great cause, and help someone who brought great music to so many. POCO opened for us. their first L.A. gig, at the Troubadour...and blew us away. A year later we went looking for a singing drummer like George, who was always thought of as the Ringo of country-rock."

The number of artists without health insurance is a major problem in the music industry. FMC runs a hotline called HINT that allows artists to call up and get health insurance advice from fellow musicians, who also happen to be health insurance experts. You can check it out here.

Complete Policy Summit media coverage

We previously posted a few of the articles generated by our Policy Summit, but here is a complete rundown of the summit coverage for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

ATT drops free speech

ATT's slogan is "fewest dropped calls," but that may not apply to people who have anything bad to say about the company. Slashdot is reporting that ATT is reserving the right to cut off service to people that paint the company in a negative light:

"AT&T's new Terms of Service give AT&T the right to suspend your account and all service "for conduct that AT&T believes"..."(c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries." After cooperating with the government's violations of privacy and liberties, I guess AT&T wants their fair share. AT&T users may want to think twice about commenting if they value their internet service."

Of course, it's not the first time ATT has cut the cord on free speech. At Lollapalooza over the summer, ATT censored some of Pearl Jam's lyrics during a webcast. ATT at first blamed the incident on an over zealous censor it had hired, but that story was knocked down after other bands came forward to report they had been censored as well. This leads to a larger question: should ATT and other telecoms be allowed to determine which traffic is prioritized on the web? They've argued they will protect free speech, but when things like this creep up it's hard to take them at their word. It's a big reason FMC supports net neutrality.