Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Making the Internet Less Fair

Sometimes it's easier to listen to KSER, or many other radio stations, on your computer instead of on a radio.

At the moment, in theory, when you visit a website or stream audio or video all things are relatively equal. Whether you're watching a movie on Netflix, downloading a book from a giant corporation like Amazon, or listening to your local independent community radio station, we're all sending our 'product' through what the late Senator Ted Stevens called a series of tubes. The rest of us just call it the internet. And for the most part we're all on equal footing.

But all that might change, depending on what the FCC decides on the issue of 'Net Neutrality.'

Unless you're a media attorney, understanding all the details of the debate on 'Net Neutrality' can be challenging.  Amy Goodman had an excellent synopsis of the debate this week on KSER, explaining the basics of the issue and the political angle that happens to involve the son of Colin Powell. If you didn't hear it, you can read her commentary here.  Or, just look at this Tom the Dancing Bug cartoon by Ruben Bolling.

Like many of these debates, it seems what the people want takes a back seat to what the big corporations want. Is there a user of the internet who would prefer that powerful corporations can buy better internet speeds? Does the average person want smaller companies, local start-ups or individual bloggers to get left in the dust or possibly shut out completely?

You probably know that Comcast is merging with Time-Warner Cable making it an even bigger cable behemoth. This week AT&T announced it's buying DirectTV in a $67-Billion deal.  A few weeks ago the FCC did decide against allowing radio companies to own more radio stations in an individual market. In the bigger markets, the maximum number of stations one company can own is eight. The radio industry wanted that raised to twelve. For now, the FCC has said no to the increase.

But there is one ownership rule the FCC may eliminate: cross-ownership of radio and newspapers. There's been a long-time ban preventing companies from owning both a local newspaper and local radio stations. There are some exceptions, 'grandfather' clauses in a few markets. But now the FCC has tentatively concluded there is no reason to keep the radio/newspaper ownership ban in place.

Is that a move the people want? One organization that is fighting to lift the ban is NAMB, the National Association of Media Brokers. Wonder what they'd have to gain?

If you don't think some of these rule changes make sense, you can call or write your member of congress. But remember, they're being lobbied daily by the big corporations that will benefit from the rule changes. 

Personally, I'm just going to keep donating to KSER to make sure that we have local community radio and hoping KSER always has equal access to that 'series of tubes.'