The media reform group Free Press has called on Rep. Bobby Rush to abstain from voting on any bills that could benefit AT&T, the telecommunications giant whose charitable arm donated $1 million to Rush’s Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corp.
The AT&T donation to Rush’s charity was reported today in the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Rush must stay out of any votes that impact AT&T until investigators can get to the bottom of this apparent quid pro quo,” said Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, a national media reform organization.
“We need to know if the congressman is selling his vote to AT&T and whether other members of Congress are participating in this kind of chicanery,” Silver said.
Rush is primary sponsor along with two Republicans — House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Commerce Committee chair Joe Barton of Texas — of the Communications, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act, which is scheduled for committee markup and a vote in the House tomorrow.
According to Common Cause, the COPE Act would place control of the Internet in the hands of a few powerful corporations, “transform the information superhighway into a toll road,” end consumer protections against abuses by cable companies, and expand the “digital divide.”
Lauren Coletta of Common Cause termed “baffling” Rush’s subcommittee vote against a Democratic amendment requiring cable companies to serve low-income rural and minority communities. “That’s obviously going to effect neighborhoods like Englewood negatively,” she said. “They’re not going to build out and invest in infrastructure in low-income communities” if they aren’t required to do so.
Michael Maranda, executive director of the Chicago Chapter of the Community Technology Centers Network, has urged Rush to reconsider his position on COPE, which he says will “open new dimensions of the digitial divide” and “give a green light to digital red-lining.”
Rush has not made a strong case for supporting COPE, said Bruce Montgomery, a local technology access activist and public access cable producer. Any benefits from the bill are outweighted by “much more onerous negatives,” he said — including national franchising for video companies that could undermine local control of cable franchises and support for community access TV.
(Last week Bill McCaffrey of the Department of Consumer Services told Newstips of the city’s concerns that the COPE act could vacate Chicago’s cable franchise agreements and remove requirements that all residents of a service area be served.)
Montgomery called for an extended public comment period and local hearings on the bill.
Mitchell Szczepanczyk of Chicago Media Action says he was “just furious” to learn earlier this month that Rush was sponsoring the COPE act. He had participated in a 1st Congressional District assembly on telecommunications reform in October and “we thought we had an ally” in Rush.
The bill “will be tremendously damaging to local media and the internet,” he said. “Unless it undergoes dramatic changes, it deserves to die.” Among his concerns is the loss of “network neutrality,” allowing internet service providers to determine what content will be available to customers.
Archive for April, 2006
Out for a walk on Easter, I stopped in the Hyde Park 57th Street bookstore and found a copy of Amartya Sen’s new book Identity and Violence: the Illusion of Destiny.
It’s probably better spell the whole thing out. Let’s think seriously about the Internet. If it’s just the ‘Net we run the risk of taking it for granted, as many of us do. What is the Internet, then? Do we have quite the same Internet as we did before Brand X? What will we have after the Telecom Rewrite? The stage is set for Whitacre Tiering. Another dimension of the digital divide comes into view. Angela Stuber makes the point well. It’s one piece of a larger issue: communities and communinty leaders have to define the terms with regard to the digital divide.
If the Internet moves from peer basis to tiered basis, should’nt we stop calling it the Internet? Should we stop calling it that now?
I began with a dramatic title: killing the ‘Net. That phrase is meant to bring people to awareness of the gravity of the situation. I’m more inclined to say it’s already done in some respects.
Back to basics… for those who undertand the fundamental character of the Internet: it ain’t what it used to be. As more and more join the Network it resembles itself less and less, and its clue-train promise becomes more distant. It’s not the numbers that are joining, or who they are. It’s how they are being joined to the Network, and on what terms. That is, it isn’t their fault, and they are unlikely to notice what has been broken or stolen.
The rallying cry for those who see it’s been broken or stolen is that we’re going to get it back or build a new one.
The latter is often stated with an underlying sentiment that the political game is already lost because it’s rigged or corrupt or sufficiently kafkaesque that the sane would do better pursuing other means. But we haven’t given up on politics yet. And you can’t kill this Internet idea. We will build it again if it comes to that.