Posts about fcc

TelHell thus far

Notes on the Verizon fight, ongoing. The original post is below.

Here is my rant on This Week in Google:

The discussion continues. Here is the full show.

It took six days but a Verizon executive handling Verizon policy and external affairs, Libby Jacobson, finally responded to me there. But I won’t buy her company line.

The discussion around my posts on Google+ has been fascinating — vitriol against Verizon and a surprising level of customer support for T-Mobile and its service and data plans.

Here is where the saga began. Note how calm I am: I’m assuming this is just a bureaucratic screwup, not a willful act to violate the terms of the Block C spectrum auction and a consent decree against Verizon. I don’t hear anything over the weekend — understandable — so I wait until Monday to ask again.

I got confirmation that the device does work on Verizon’s network — it just *won’t* connect it. So I wrote the post below and crossposted it on Google+ with much conversation there.

Here is reaction to my FCC complaint against Verizon, which I filed with the Enforcement Bureau. Here was Verizon refusing to connect my unlocked device and trying to sell me one of their locked devices instead. I think that’s a violation of consumer law and I think I’ll go to the Federal Trade Commission on that.

I also posted a version of the tale on Huffington Post, where there is more conversation.

Related: Here is a Guardian story reporting that phone companies did not put up a fight when handing our data over to the NSA. Whose side are they on? And here’s a Verizon executive slamming Google and other technology companies for “grandstanding” when they defend our rights against the NSA and its spying. Again, whose side are they on?

I still have not heard from Google on this matter. I’m disappointed but I will keep trying.

I’ll keep the reports coming.

: AND: Here is the post Verizon erased (along with a few years’ worth) in which it promised to follow the open network requirements of the Block C auction (thanks to a Buzzmachine commenter for finding it).

: UPDATES: Continuing to update this post to keep a record of coverage.

* Josh Stearns at Free Press writes a wonderful post looking at Verizon’s larger venalities.

Verizon is working hard to undermine openness not just on wireless devices but across the Internet. In court last week, Verizon argued that it should be allowed to edit the Internet — blocking sites if it wants, or making them pay more to reach Verizon customers.

It’s all part of Verizon’s campaign to undermine the FCC’s authority to protect consumers online. This is like Exxon saying the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the authority to stop polluters from destroying the environment.

Jeff Jarvis has filed his complaint about Verizon’s blocking. It’s now up to the FCC to stop Verizon’s latest assault on open networks.

* Ars Technica also gives the matter good coverage. I disagree with their conclusion that Verizon will beat the regulators by approving the device soon. That does not wipe away their crime, which was delay and bogus certification.

* Consumerist points out that Verizon doesn’t know the difference between “can’t” and “won’t.

I cause a fleeting expletive

This morning in an otherwise carefully bleeped-and-blurred segment, the CBS Early Show reported on the #fuckyouwashington hashtag. At the end, on my Mac screen, they showed the Trendsmap display of the hashtag popping up, like Howard Beale’s windows, across America:

Screen shot 2011-07-26 at 12.17.37 PM

For a flash, you can see the word “fuck” Indeed, you can see it often. This is the very definition of a fleeting expletive.

Will the FCC and its henchmen dare to file a complaint? Do they have a sufficient sense of irony to stop them?

I have fought against the FCC and its unconstitutional efforts to restrict free speech. Here is a report on a FOIA I filed that showed that the FCC levied its then-largest fine ever on the basis of only three complaints (nevermind the damned spam links in the archive). When I testified at the FCC about the future of news, I began with the word “Bababooey” as a reminder that the FCC had chilled Howard Stern’s speech — his political speech — with its harassment and fines. I defend the word “bullshit” as political speech — and here will defend “fuck” as political speech as well.

Even as the Supreme Court reviews the FCC’s fleeting expletives doctrine, will it have the balls to go prosecute one more?

I dare you.

Evil?

UPDATE: It’s looking more and more to me as if the New York Times report that provoked the first half of this post went too far. See the footnote below with denials of a deal from Verizon and Google, though those statements leave much to be asked: namely, what are the discussions; what is the compromise over net neutrality? But I just read this from a CNBC interview with Eric Schmidt that spoke more clearly: “Schmidt clarified that the net neutrality he advocates is not a neutrality between different types of content, but between the same type of content. He wants to make sure that there’s no discrimination between one video download over another.” So under that rubric, a YouTube video would not get discriminatory treatment over my video.

Update on the update: The Times stands by its story. What we need here is a good dose of transparency. It is, again, our internet they’re talking about.

The original post:

* * *

The report that Google is making a devil’s pact with Verizon for tiered internet service is disturbing because I wonder whether people inside Google are still asking that vital question: “Is this evil?” I wonder whether Google is still Google.

I don’t mean to come off like a high priest of the net neutrality church. But if ISPs like Verizon can charge tiered pricing for quality (vs. unquality?) service, then it’s the consumers who’ll get screwed because costs will be passed onto us. ISPs (like newspapers) want added revenue streams but those streams always end up at our feet. But we know that.

What also concerns me is that creators will get screwed, too. Only the big guys will be able to afford to pay ISPs for top-tier service and so we return to the media oligarchy that — O, irony — YouTube and Google broke apart. Google, I fear, is gravitating back to the big-media side because it wants those brands on YouTube so it can get their advertisers on YouTube because those advertisers are still too stupid to see where the customers really are. And then we’re back to a world of big-media control over what we get to see. It was the millions of little guys — people who made their own videos, people who embedded videos — who made YouTube YouTube.

But that’s short-sighted strategizing, I think — I hope — because fragmentation is infinite; blockbusters will get ever-harder and ever-more-expensive to create; advertising will catch up with reality, the real world, and customers and (unless the Wall Street Journal ruins it) become far more targeted and relevant; advertising will also start to fade away; the mass market will shrink.

But this is a last-gasp attempt to hold onto mass-market economics (vs. open-market scale). [Craig Roth in the comments makes the critical point that the story I linked to is supposition rather than announcement, a caveat I certainly should have delivered. As I said in response to him, I thought this was worth discussing before it was fait accompli in the hopes that it won't be.]

It’s an uncomfortable moment for a Google fan boy. This report comes at the same time that Google killed Wave. Now Wave has had its detractors who are now cackling, but it’s not the specific platform that concerns me. It’s that Google can’t figure out how to launch new platforms. Wave was a bust. Buzz was a bust. Knol was a bust. Orkut was mostly a bust. Brilliant people like Gina Trapani hung their hats on these platforms; she wrote the book on Wave and others started developing it and now the rug’s pulled out from under them because Google didn’t support their development, which is what would have made Wave a success. Evil or merely rude?

The reason these efforts were busts is because Google didn’t think them through, didn’t have the corporate discipline to find and execute on clear-eyed strategy. I’m all for beta — I learned that lesson from Google — but you can’t just spend your life throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. Eventually, you’re knee-deep in shit. But you can do that for a long time — if you have lots of money. A poor startup uses betas to learn precious lessons because they can’t afford to fail. This rich company is using betas, I fear, rather than making hard decisions up front — because it can afford to. So Wave may have ended up dead anyway but if it were run by entrepreneurs it would have struggled long and hard before taking its last breath.

I worry that Google isn’t an entrepreneurial company anymore. It didn’t start those platforms under the hard economics of entrepreneurship. And it hasn’t nurtured some outside entrepreneurs well. If it did, Dodgeball would be Foursquare today.

My real fear then is that Google is too big. I certainly don’t mean that in the way that EU regulators do: “so big we have to rule it.” Uh-uh. No, I mean it may be too big for its own good. Too big for the right hand to find the left hand and have coherent strategies for operating systems (Android v. Chrome) and applications (Docs v. Wave). So big that it starts to identify with other big guys (ISPs and Hollywood entertainment conglomerates). Big is a fine thing when it brings critical mass and the freedom to innovate. As Eric Schmidt himself says, lack of innovation can kill a tech company. So can bad innovation — fat innovation.

I’ve never bought the arguments that Google is a one-trick pony. Honda is a one-trick pony; it makes cars. That’s not Google’s problem. Its problem is that everything it faces is new and it can’t ever afford the luxury of leaning back on old lessons and old relationships. So what does it hold onto on that rapids ride? It has to hold onto its mission — organize the world’s information, etc. — and its evolving definition of evil so it doesn’t stray. It also needs to find the organizational structure — the firm-jawed management — to force different teams with different agendas to work to shared goals and to hold them to entrepreneurial discipline.

All of these are just early warning signs — every early. It’s good — for Google and also for a fan boy like me — to see these cracks because, used properly, they are lessons that help a company get back on its track and shade its eyes from the bright glare of hubris. But only if they ask the really hard questions. Like, is that evil?

: MORE: On a different thread, I also want to note that I think the way this devils’ deal works out is that it will give the FCC and possibly even the FTC and Congress the rope they need to hang ISPs on net neutrality. Is that Google’s really evil plan? It doesn’t like regulation but wants it in this case and so it’s creating the invitation for it? Naw. As I said, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. In any case, I do think that such a deal will invite regulation.

: I won’t cry for ISPs. I was at a meeting of cable ISPs some years ago when they were all cackling about their margins on broadband exceeding 40%. They ain’t hurting. The solution to all this remains competition. Remember that Google’s founders entered the big spectrum auction a few years ago to force neutrality and they want broadcast white spaces opened up to become “wi-fi on steroids” and thus competition for broadband providers.

: ALSO: I want credit for not making a WWGD? gag. I leave that to Twitter. But it may, indeed soon be time for a sequel (or update).

: LATER: Verizon put a statement on its public policy blog that says the Times report linked above is “mistaken.” It doesn’t say whether there’s any agreement but talks about its “purpose” — a “policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect.” I’m not sure what that means. The more transparency about these dealings from all parties — including the FCC — the better.

Google said on its public policy Twitter feed: “@NYTimes is wrong. We’ve not had any convos with VZN about paying for carriage of our traffic. We remain committed to an open internet.”

The AP quotes the FCC saying that Google and Verizon are involved in stakeholder talks and Verizon is quoted saying that it is talking with Google about a “compromise on net neutrality” in the AP’s phrasing. The question remains: What are they talking about?

The First Amendment wins one

Bravo. The Court of Appeals has struck down the FCC’s indecency rule — specifically, its fines for “fleeting expletives” — as “unconstitutionally vague.”

No shit.

Fox is the official victor here. The other networks also win. But we all win whenever the First Amendment does.

The Appeals Court, to its credit, notes how much media and the country have changed since George Carlin first uttered his seven dirty words on radio and the Supreme Court blushed. Says the appeals panel:

The Networks argue that the world has changed since Pacifica and the reasons underlying the decision are no longer valid. Indeed, we face a media landscape that would have been almost unrecognizable in 1978. Cable television was still in its infancy. The Internet was a project run out of the Department of Defense with several hundred users. Not only did Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter not exist, but their founders were either still in diapers or not yet conceived. In this environment, broadcast television undoubtedly possessed lives of all Americans.”

The same cannot be said today. The past thirty years has seen an explosion of media sources, and broadcast television has become only one voice in the chorus. Cable television is almost as pervasive as broadcast – almost 87 percent of households subscribe to a cable or
satellite service – and most viewers can alternate between broadcast and non-broadcast channels with a click of their remote control. The
internet, too, has become omnipresent, offering access to everything from viral videos to feature films and, yes, even broadcast television programs. As the FCC itself acknowledges, “[c]hildren today live in a media environment that is dramatically different from the one in which their parents and grandparents grew up decades ago.”

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s doctrine in the Carlin decision stands. But this court is not reinterpreting that rule of law. Instead it finds that the FCC’s police is “impermissibly vague.” That is: “A law or regulation is impermissibly vague if it does not ‘give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.’” And the First Amendment requires extra attention to protection from such vagueness. The court said:

We agree with the Networks that the indecency policy is impermissibly vague. The first
problem arises in the FCC’s determination as to which words or expressions are patently offensive. For instance, while the FCC concluded that “bullshit” in a “NYPD Blue” episode was patently offensive, it concluded that “dick” and “dickhead” were not. Other expletives such as “pissed off,” up yours,” “kiss my ass,” and “wiping his ass” were also not found to be patently offensive…. Thus, the word “bullshit” is indecent because it is “vulgar, graphic and explicit” while the words “dickhead” was not indecent because it was “not sufficiently vulgar, explicit, or graphic.” This hardly gives broadcasters notice of how the Commission will apply the factors in the future. The English language is rife with creative ways of depicting sexual or excretory organs or activities, and even if the FCC were able to provide a conew offensive and indecent words are invented every day….

The same vagueness problems plague the FCC’s presumptive prohibition on the words “fuck” and “shit” and the exceptions thereto. Under the FCC’s current policy, all variants of these two words are indecent unless one of two exceptions apply. The first is the “bona fide news” exception, which the FCC has failed to explain except to say that it is not absolute. The second is the artistic necessity exception, in which fleeting expletives are permissible if they are “demonstrably essential to the nature of an artistic or educational work or essential to informing viewers on a matter of public importance.”

That’s how Saving Private Ryan got away with “fuck” and “shit” while on The Blues, they were dirty. In other words: when white people say them, the words are clean, but not when black people say them. Says the court: “The FCC created these exceptions because it words would raise grave First Amendment concerns.” Yup.

The policy may maximize the amount of speech that the FCC can prohibit, but it results in a standard that even the FCC cannot articulate or apply consistently. Thus, it found the use of the word “bullshitter” on CBS’s The Early Show to be “shocking and gratuitous” because it occurred “during a morning television interview,” before reversing itself because the broadcast was a “bona fide news interview.” In other words, the FCC reached diametrically opposite conclusions at different stages of the proceedings for precisely the same reason – that the word “bullshitter” was uttered during a news program. And when Judge Leval asked during oral argument if a program aboutthe dangers of pre-marital sex designed for teenagers would be permitted, the most that the FCC’s lawyer could say was “I suspect it would.” With millions of dollarAmendment values at stake, “I suspect” is simply not good enough.

Importantly, the court recognizes that the FCC has chilled speech. CBS affiliates would not air a 9/11 documentary because it contained curse words — and I can’t imagine a better cause for them. As I argued in this column, bullshit is political speech. Sandra Loh was fired from an NPR station because she said a bad word. “Broadcasters,” the court says, “may well decide not to invite controversial guests on to t heir programs for fear that an unexpected fleeting expletive will result in fines.” A station did not air Pat Tillman’s funeral because of family members’ grief and language. Fix didn’t air a repeat of a That ’70s Show episode — a Kaiser Family Foundation award winner — that dealt with masturbation. They were no longer masters of their domain.

Sex and the magnetic power of sexual attraction are surely among the most predominant themes in the study of humanity since the Trojan War. The digestive system and excretion are also important areas of human attention. By prohibiting all “patently offensive” references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what “patently offensive” means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive. To place any discussion topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.

All is not won. The Appeals Court says the FCC could create constitutional policy — this just isn’t it. And this could return to the Supreme Court. But for now, let’s all say a celebratory “BULLSHIT.”

Post-postal

Imagine an America in which everyone has an internet connection, a device to use it, and a printer.

Ruth Goldway, the chairman of the U.S. Postal Regulatory Commission, imagined such a world when the head of the U.K.’s Royal Mail International asked at an industry conference a year ago what Google would do with the Postal Service. Goldway (who hadn’t read my book) replied, “They’d give every household a computer and a printer.” (And I’d add, of course, a broadband connection.)

Goldway was just speculating. As someone who believes in the Postal Service’s universal service obligation, it makes sense that she’d wonder about universal connectivity.

Now — as is my habit — I’ll take it farther — too far — and ask: When we all are connected, do we need a Postal Service? Or what kind of Postal Service do we need? What still needs to be delivered? What are the economics of that delivery — who’s being served and who should pay? Do we still need daily (let alone Saturday) delivery? Do we need to guarantee physical delivery to every address in America? How much could we save? Can the market take over delivery of things while the net takes over delivery of information and communication? What’s the impact on publishing and advertising, on retail, on education?

These are fascinating questions I’ve been tossing back and forth with a new friend, John Callan, a high-level consultant in the delivery industry. He did read my book (and gave Goldway a copy) and came to visit me to talk about the post office in the Google age. Callan, his colleagues, and I are thinking of holding an event to explore these questions and opportunities.

The Postal Service is forecast to lose $7.8 billion in 2010. A USPS presentation here reveals the dynamics: a 17% decline in volume from ’06-’09; a forecast 37% drop in first class ’09-’20. With its universal service obligation, the USPS has to deliver to 150 million addresses a day. With its post offices, it has 36,500 retail locations, more than McDonald’s, Starbucks, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart in the U.S. combined — and it’s not allowed to close offices for economic reasons. Its retiree health benefits alone cost $5 billion a year. Dropping Saturday delivery, as has been proposed, would save $3 billion a year — but that doesn’t solve the problem. Federal Times says the USPS is “officially in a panic” (not a bad thing, I’d say) because it could lose $250 billion in a decade.

The US Postal Service as we know it is, in a word, like much of the rest of the economy disrupted (or, if you prefer, doomed). I think it’s time to ask the radical question: Do we need it?

If all of us are connected, we don’t need the USPS to deliver letters; email is precisely the reason that first class mail is already plummeting. We consumers are, in my view, subsidizing the delivery of advertising because 71% of the USPS margin available to cover its costs comes from first class, only 21% from advertising. Yet in 2009, the USPS delivered an equivalent number of ads vs letters and by 2020 it will deliver far more ads (86 billion ads vs. 53 billion letters, according to the USPS projection). Should an ad-delivery service be the province of a government-anointed entity? I don’t think so.

So let’s zero-base the Postal Services’ services: Once more, information and communication can be handled electronically. Commercial delivery should be handled commercially. There will be an increase in parcel delivery as more and more retail moves online; that’s a profitable business the market should take over. Junk mail should pay full freight — if it is still delivered once mobile becomes a better, more targeted, and more efficient delivery mechanism for coupons and such (and if do-not-mail lists threaten to cut their volume). Magazines? Sorry, but I don’t really want to subsidize their businesses — and besides, tablet triumphalists insist we’ll be using iPads before you know it. Do we need six-day-a-week delivery to every one of 150 million addresses in America then? No; delivery of things is made on an as-ordered basis. What about out-of-the-way addresses (see: Sarah Palin)? Maybe that requires some subsidy, but that would be minimal.

What about the post offices? The USPS presentation shows far lower costs if these services were run through partners (e.g., other retailers), online, and self-service machines.

What about delivery of government paperwork? Well, it’s ludicrous that we’re not given the option to fill out the census online. We are shifting our taxes online.

Mind you, I have nothing against mailmen anymore than I have anything against pressmen. It’s just that they work in antiquated industrial structures and we can find not only efficiency but improvement of service thanks to digital — if we are all connected.

That is why I wish the FCC broadband plan went farther faster (as is happening elsewhere in the world), assuring everyone a high-speed connection quickly. This examination of the Postal Service is just one example of the impact universal connectivity would have on the economy. Some of that impact is painful — lost jobs, severance cost, unused real estate, mothballed trucks. But much of that impact is positive — improved service, reduced costs, reduced environmental impact, new opportunities, new entrepreneurship, new innovation. New companies would emerge to take up the opportunities this change presents, creating new jobs and value.

That’s why I was so impressed with Chairman Goldway’s answer to the WWGD? question: Rather than trying to paddle against the flood, she was at least willing to at least wonder about going with the flow.

I’ll ask: What happens if we spend capital not on money-losing, dying institutions (repeat: $250 billion losses over a decade) but on subsidies to get every American connected? If we fully examine the opportunities that presents, it could have a profound impact on policy, budgeting, and many sectors ofsociety. Let’s model that impact on the economy.

So Callan and company and I would like to get together both incumbents and entrepreneurs to imagine the near-future world of delivery after digital ubiquity. I’d like to continue the discussion with other sectors: newspapers and media, obviously, but also education (how would it change if every child were connected and equipped?); retail; real estate (what happens when all that retail leaves its brick-and-mortar stores?); financial services (why the hell are banks still building branches?); government; and on and on. That is what should inform the policy debate over broadband policy: Let’s map out all the opportunities — for entrepreneurial innovation and growth, for savings, for improvements in life, for export value — and let that inform the resources and speed we put into universal broadband.

What do you think?

Cablevision sucks

Well, but that’s not news, is it? Everybody knows that.

But that hit home – again – tonight when I returned after three days away to find our internet not working. I called Cablevision and after a few obvious steps, I’m told they can’t see the modem and they offer to send someone out … in three days.

Three days?!?

I’ll spare you the Dell Hell details. But what ensues is amazing, even to me. When I said I wanted someone here tomorrow because I’m paying for service and it’s not working, the tech, “George” – I assume they use phone names – told me they have lots of customers without phones, internet, and cable ahead of me. Well, I said, that’s shocking: lots of customers waiting days to get their internet, phone, cable. I asked him point blank and three times whether if I had my phone service with them they’d also make me wait. Seems so. He asked me why I think I should get service tomorrow and get ahead of a 90-year-old lady without a phone. I asked him why he thinks that lady shouldn’t have had her phone fixed long since!

I got a supervisor, “Marc with a c.” I told him that I’ve had to have a vice-president come to my aid before to get service, that I used to work with Cablevision and his boss, Chuck Dolan (back when I had the misfortune to be around at the start of News 12 NJ), that I saw Dolan at a meeting a few weeks ago (where TiVo’s Tom Rogers, who does fix customer problems, was speaking with a small group), and that I planned to call his office in the morning to report the quality of service I was getting from his people.

“Marc” replied, “I don’t see you listed as a VIP.” I can’t believe he said it either. So you only give decent service to VIPs? He said he was going to tell his management that I was calling myself a friend of Dolan’s. Friend? I said I was going to call the boss to tell him about your service. Maybe I should be his friend. Every customer should be. I tweeted: ” In any good company, there are no VIPs. All customers are VIPs. Not Cablevision. All its customers are prisoners.”

I also said I planned to call Verizon as soon as they finish cabling my street so I can switch. Cablevision didn’t seem to give a damn.

When I had problems with Dell, I waited weeks and then resorted to a blog post. Now is the age of Twitter. So I vented my frustration there (using my iPhone and its AT&T connection, not my Cablevision wifi, of course; that’s how I’m writing this).

Here’s the funny part: Cablevision didn’t answer my tweets. So I tweeted: “Hey @comcastcares, is there a @cablevisioncares? Ha! What an oxymoron.” And two minutes – I swear, two minutes – later, Frank Eliason, aka @comcastcares, tweeted. He said he’d just been emailing with an EVP/CFO of Cablevision on something else and that he’d email him about my problem. Get that: Comcast doing a better job at Cablevision service than Cablevision. Too bad Comcast couldn’t come out to fix my internet. Eliason later tweeted: “I think you & I agree that social media will force that to change for companies, & service by all must improve in the new world.” Amen, but how long will it take companies like Cablevision to learn that?

But there’s another punch line. I got a tweet from John Czwartacki (@cz), Verizon’s policyblogger who tweeted: “Jeff, Verizon is ready when you are! DM or reply and i’ll get things rolling Monday morning. Hope we earn your biz!” A few DMs later, and he’s checking with his colleagues to get my street lit and get my business. Another Verizon person, Laurie Shook, also asked for my business: “Hey Jeff, Verizon is listening. Would love to hook you up on FiOS.” Now that’s the spirit. That’s business.

Comcast cares. Verizon cares. Cablevision doesn’t. But then, that’s not news.

(P.S. If somebody from Cablevision actually does anything tomorrow, I’ll send a free copy of What Would Google Do? to my good buddy, VIP Chuck Dolan. For his convenience, just because he’s important, I’ll put a bookmark on the Dell Hell story.)

: LATER: I tweeted that I had been invited to meet the new head of the FCC this afternoon but couldn’t because of work in New York. Oh, if only I had. I’d have bent his ear about how fine administration goals of broadband for all will get us nowhere if the future of our technology, innovation, communication, and entrepreneurship can be railroaded by companies such as Cablevision. I’d also have bent his ear about the need for customers – not just business customers but all customers – to have service-level agreements with cable and phone companies, guaranteeing us response time and repair (except, perhaps, in the cases of natural disaster), with penalties to back them up. (Here’s today’s Wall Street Journal report on FCC Chair Julius Genachowski’s mission of “making affordable high-speed Internet available to all Americans.”)

: LATER STILL: Oh, just got email from someone at Cablevision who saw the discussion 12 hours ago. He works in media relations. Hint to all companies: Now that we’re all in media, everybody in a company is in media relations.

: FOLLOWUP: A technician arrived yesterday morning. The amplifier on the street didn’t work. He fixed things that would affect other people on the street. It works now. I don’t know whether the 90-year-old lady has her phone back. She should.

Now the FCC cares about journalism

First John Kerry and then the FTC fretted about journalism and what government should do and now FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is swinging his worry beads. CNSNews.com (I hadn’t heard of it before) says Copps is circulating an internal Notification of Inquiry (a step toward rule-making) about journalism and TV hinting at requirements for stations to provide journalism in the public interest and at possible government support.

Journalism and TV: an oxymoron? Well, not always. But often. Local TV news has sucked for years – that horse is out of the barn, over the horizon, and in the glue factory already. Fluff and fires, that’s most of local news on TV. So what is Copps lamenting?

The local broadcast business is going the way of newspapers, only a bit behind and more slowly and without all the attention of self-obsessed print reporters. So what’s to protect?

Local TV news still has, amazingly, the trust of its audience. And it still makes money. So there is a business there. Too bad there’s just so little journalism there.

So I say that Copps shouldn’t be protecting the incumbents or goading them to make more of the same. If he wants to do anything, he should be encouraging new players to compete with local TV and grab some of their attention and dollars.

Scratch that. I don’t want the FCC to do anything that has anything to do with journalism, news, and speech. It’s a bad idea.

The one thing the FCC could do that would encourage more creation of content online, more audience to use it, and thus a better business model would be to get ubiquitous broadband throughout the country. That is the FCC’s job. So, Commissioner, get on with it, please.

Broadband nation

I’ve been offline in a UK castle with wi-fi only in the basement (but I suppose that’s a miracle) and then in a Holiday Inn (what a fall) with gawdawful and gawdawfully expensive so-called broadband so I’ll take this opportunity while sitting in the Apple store (bless it) to just join in the chorus of celebration that Barack Obama pledged to fix our gawdawful broadband status in America. Now let’s speculate about just how ambitious we can be.

At the conference I just attended (a few posts on that later, when I can be online for more than two minutes) there was talk of trying to tax broadband providers here to subsidize (or some would say compensate) content creators. I think that’s bassackwards.

If we wanted subsidy, there could be none better than assuring that the entire nation is on broadband. Then all consumers, all content, all advertisers could meet there. It would fast-forward the inevitable. It would spark innovation and jobs and trade and education.

To hell with public-service broadcasting. How about public-service connectivity?