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August 2007 (previous | next)

Friday, August 31, 2007

PBS to self-censor WWII documentary to appease FCC

I've written much about the potential "chilling effect" associated with over-zealous FCC regulation of speech. Some people doubt that the FCC's regulatory wrath is really so severe that media operators will censor important programs for fear of being fined afterward. But we know that that is exactly what happened with a 9/11 documentary last year when CBS decided to censor the remarks of firefighters under duress. Imagine that, firefighters were swearing as the disaster unfolded! But apparently we need to have history whitewashed for our benefit. Absurd.

And now it's happening again.

Continue reading PBS to self-censor WWII documentary to appease FCC . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 4:37 PM | Free Speech

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Problems in Muni Wi-Fi Paradise, Part 5

I've written about muni wi-fi problems many times before. (Here, here, here, and here). [Tom and I also wrote separate papers about the Philly plan.]

Here's another one to add to the list. The Chicago Tribune reports today that:

Chicago is curtailing its digital dreams, deciding to back away from municipal Wi-Fi service after failing to reach agreement with either of two companies that sought to build a wireless Internet network in the city. The move comes as municipal broadband wireless projects around the country face difficulties, and EarthLink Inc., a major player in the field, is re-evaluating its future in municipal Wi-Fi.

And here's the key line from the piece:

[T]echnology is advancing and the cost of online access for consumers is declining so dramatically that Chicago has other avenues to promote more use of the Internet. As a result, the Wi-Fi deal lost luster when negotiations bogged down, according to sources close to the matter.

In other words, markets are working.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:07 PM | Municipal Ownership

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Mobile Markets: US v. Europe

In July, I mentioned the interesting comparison chart that Verizon's Link Hoewing put together comparing contracts, competition, coverage, prices, new services, and more in both the U.S. and European cellular markets.

If you're interested in this subject, there's a new report out by the American Consumer Institute entitled "Comparison of Structure, Conduct and Performance: U.S. versus Europe’s Wireless Markets." The report finds that:

* The U.S. wireless market offers more choice and is less concentrated than any Western country’s wireless market;
* U.S. consumers use an average of 800 wireless minutes per month, while most European consumers use less that 200 minutes per month;
* U.S. wireless prices are the lowest in the world, with the exception of Hong Kong; and
* The combination of higher usage at lower prices presents compelling evidence that the overall consumer welfare derived from wireless service is higher in the U.S. than internationally.

"In summary, a comparison of international statistics suggests that the U.S. wireless market, in fact, leads its European counterparts, and the U.S. wireless market, compared to Europe, appears to be more competitive and vibrant. The contention that concentration leads to higher prices, lower usage and decreasing consumer welfare does not appear to be a U.S. problem, and furthermore, the contention that the U.S. lags the European market and needs some regulatory remedy is without empirical merit."

Read the whole thing here.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:21 AM | Wireless

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Aspen Summit videos are up

PFF's 2007 "Aspen Summit" featured some amazing panels and keynote addresses, and now they have all been posted online. Here are some of the highlights:

* Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO, Google Inc., Chairman's Dinner keynote address
* Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor, Harvard Law School, keynote address on "Freedom of Speech and Press in the 21st Century: New Technology Meets Old Constitutionalism"
* Dale W. Jorgenson, Samuel W. Morris University Professor of Economics, Harvard University keynote address on "Whatever Happened to the New Economy?"

* panel on telecom policy / Net neutrality
* panel on parental controls and online child safety efforts
* panel on copyright and content deals
* panel on patent reform

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:12 AM |

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tribe: Net Neutrality Violates First Amendment

Adam gives the long-version of Professor Tribe's Aspen Summit talk. I'll give the headline version: Professor Tribe opined that net neutrality regulation would violate the First Amendment rights' of broadband providers.

This would, of course, be as ho-hum argument if made by someone of the pro-market, property rights-loving right. But the fact that the champion of liberal-left constitutionalism -- such as it is -- would hazard such an opinion is noteworthy.

Continue reading Tribe: Net Neutrality Violates First Amendment . . .

posted by Ray Gifford @ 4:31 PM | Broadband, Communications, Free Speech, Net Neutrality

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Laurence Tribe on the First Amendment & Technological Change

Progress & Freedom Foundation hosted its 13th annual “Aspen Summit” this week and, as always, it featured some of the leading thinkers in the field of technology and media policy. This year, we were also lucky enough to be joined by one of America’s leading constitutional scholars, Prof. Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard University Law School.

I invited Prof. Tribe to Aspen to deliver a keynote address on the future of the First Amendment in an age of rapid technological change and media convergence. It was an amazing speech and I thought I would share a few highlights from his address with you here. I hope to transcribe the complete address and publish it sometime soon. [Update 8/27: The video is now online.]

Continue reading Laurence Tribe on the First Amendment & Technological Change . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:13 AM | Free Speech

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NY Times on Video Game Cases

Seth Schiesel of the New York Times seems to be channeling me in his piece yesterday entitled, "Courts Block Laws on Video Game Violence."

As video games have surged in popularity in recent years, politicians around the country have tried to outlaw the sale of some violent games to children. So far all such efforts have failed. Citing the Constitution’s protection of free speech, federal judges have rejected attempts to regulate video games in eight cities and states since 2001. The judge in a ninth place, Oklahoma, has temporarily blocked a law pending a final decision. No such laws have been upheld.

I've been doing a lot of writing on this subject in recent years and have pointed out that every single court that has reviewed the constitutionality of video game regulation has concluded that:

(1) Video games are a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.

(2) Not a single court in America has supported the theory that a causal link exists between exposure to video games and real-world acts of actual violence.

(3) Parents have many less-restrictive means of dealing with underage access to potentially objectionable games—such as the industry’s private rating and labeling system, third-party ratings and info, console-based controls, and the fact that they don’t have to buy the games in the first place! [See my paper and book for more details on all these things.]

Continue reading NY Times on Video Game Cases . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 5:50 PM | Free Speech

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Friday, August 17, 2007

On "Digital Divides"

A reporter from Education Week called me today to get my comments about the supposed persistence of the "digital divide" among U.S. schools and school children. Apparently a speaker at a conference that this reporter had attended recently had made the point that although the divide in computer use and basic Web access has been bridged, a new divide is emerging in Web 2.0 applications, high-speed Internet, and laptops and mobile technologies The reporter asked for my comments.

Back in the late 1990s, I used to do a lot of work on this issue and the same point I made during those old debates is still true today. Namely, although the pace of technological diffusion is never perfectly even, the good news is that digital technology is getting out to the masses faster than every previous media or communications technology known to man. In fact, children are gaining access to digital technology and software and a breakneck pace. The problem that many parents (and schools) will face in the near future is not too little technology being available to children, but rather, too much!

But there was another point I used to always make in those old digital divide debates that still holds true today as well: We should be careful not to confuse the debates over "goods-based divides" versus "skills-based divides." Debates about what goods and gadgets kids have access to are interesting and at times can be important since some gaps can persist longer than others. But, again, when it comes to digital technologies, those gaps tend to close very quickly. That's because the market for digital technologies continues to expand rapidly and costs fall almost as quickly. A lot of it is even free, of course.

But skill-based divides are another matter entirely. There are deep and persistent divides in our educational system. The basic skills our children need to take full advantage of digital technologies are not always being instilled in them. But let's not pretend that this has anything to do with access to technology or the supposed existence of a "digital divide." This is about an broken, state-run education system that has short-changed our children in terms of basic skills. Let's find ways of fixing that mess and stop pretending that digital hardware or software has anything to do with this.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 11:32 AM | Generic Rant, Mass Media

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Problems in Muni Wi-Fi Paradise, cont.

More bad press for the muni wi-fi movement. It seems like each week brings another story of how things haven't quite turned out as planned. This week, it's Business Week with a story about "Why Wi-Fi Networks Are Floundering." In the piece, author Olga Kharif argues that:

The static crackling around municipal wireless networks is getting worse. San Francisco Wi-Fi, perhaps the highest-profile project among the hundreds announced over the past few years, is in limbo. Milwaukee is delaying its plan to offer citywide wireless Internet access. The network build-out in Philadelphia, the trailblazer among major cities embracing wireless as a vital new form of municipal infrastructure, is progressing slower than expected.

These potholes in the nation's wireless rollout of civic ambition—criticized by many as an improper use of tax dollars—are hardly the exception. For the road is getting bumpier for cities and the companies they have partnered with in a bid to blanket their streets with high-speed Internet access at little or no cost to users.

Continue reading Problems in Muni Wi-Fi Paradise, cont. . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 3:26 PM | Commons, Communications, Municipal Ownership

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Friday, August 10, 2007

A La Carte: Voluntary vs. Mandatory

If you're following the ongoing debate over efforts to mandate a la carte regulation for cable and satellite TV, there's an interesting piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal entitled, "TV Channels Move to Web, Think Outside the Cable Box" [subscription only] that deserves your attention. Author Bobby White argues that "The Internet is offering a new outlet for voices -- including those of ethnic minorities -- that weren't heard from as much under old media." He highlights how the Black Family Channel and some other new networks that haven't found a home on the cable dial have decided to give it a go online instead:

Across the cable TV industry, other independent channels are also turning away from TV to the Internet. The Lime Channel, which focuses on healthy living, pulled out of cable last year and now offers its programming online and as video on demand. The Employment and Career Channel, which began streaming online in 2002, has junked its attempts to be a cable TV channel to be an online-only outlet. Others, like the Horror Channel and HorseTV (which revolves around equestrian events), have also opted to go online.

The shift illustrates how the Internet is offering a second chance to certain segments of old media. Web-based TV is now becoming a more viable business route, and Internet video is exploding. Running an online-only video channel, which doesn't require expensive cameras and broadcasting gear, is cheaper than operating a cable TV channel. While starting a new cable channel today takes an initial investment of $100 million to $200 million, a broadband channel needs just $5 million to $10 million to get going, says Boston-based research firm Broadband Directions.

Continue reading A La Carte: Voluntary vs. Mandatory . . .

posted by Adam Thierer @ 3:44 PM | A La Carte, Cable, Mass Media

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

First Amendment & Video Games [Updated] Score: Gamers 11, Censors 0

posted by Adam Thierer @ 3:35 PM | Free Speech, Online Safety & Parental Controls

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Problems in (muni wi-fi) paradise

posted by Adam Thierer @ 9:57 AM | Commons, Communications, Municipal Ownership, Wireless

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Sunday, August 5, 2007

editorial on Murdoch-WSJ deal

posted by Adam Thierer @ 12:44 PM | Mass Media

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  PBS to self-censor WWII documentary to appease FCC
Problems in Muni Wi-Fi Paradise, Part 5
Mobile Markets: US v. Europe
Aspen Summit videos are up
Tribe: Net Neutrality Violates First Amendment
Laurence Tribe on the First Amendment & Technological Change
NY Times on Video Game Cases
On "Digital Divides"
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