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Broadband Roundup: AT&T Won’t Block Internet, Google and Vodafone Working to ‘Seal Cracks’ in Net

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WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 – In a blog post on Friday, AT&T gave its assurance that paid prioritization was not part of the telecommnications gianits plans.

“Not a single [internet service provider] has asserted a desire or right to engage in any of these practices to create ‘fast lanes and slow lanes.’  AT&T certainly has no plans or intent to change its position on this,” said Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president and top lobbyist for AT&T.

Even if AT&T were to want to separate people into fast and slow lanes, the company would be obliged to follow the 2010 open internet order from the Federal Communications Commission, as well as its statement of broadband practices, not to violate net neutrality commitments. Comcast made a similar commitment as part of a merger agreement.

AT&T remains vociferously opposed to reclassification of broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act, said Cicconi. Doing that would “strangle broadband investment just as it did investment in wireline telephony.” Such a move would punish America’s most successful global internet companies.

“We’re with the innovators,” Cicconi said. “We’re with those who see the internet as a liberating technology.  We’re with those who want to challenge the status quo, and those who simply want to entertain.  And, importantly, we’re with those who use the internet to bring the accumulated knowledge of mankind to every single person on the planet.   We’re determined to keep expanding the opportunities the internet creates.”

In other news, The New York Times reported that Google is taking measures in “sealing up cracks” in its systems since Edward Snowden revealed the National Security Agency’s widespread telephone and internet surveillance.

Google is encrypting and encoding data – and helping consumers to do the same. The activity is not just to protect people from the NSA, but from surveillance by foreign governments like China. Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo are following suit, according to The Times.

On a similar note, the Associated Press reported that Vodafone has disclosed government surveillance of customers in 29 nations. Most of those 29 nations requested cooperation from the wireless provider, but in at least six countries, security agencies asserted direct access to company phone records without legal process.

Too often, Vodaphone itself is left “in the dark” on surveillance activities by governments, wrote AP.

No specific nations were mentioned, but the AP noted that in an 88-page appendix to documentation released by Vodaphone, five countries – Albania, Egypt, Hungary, Ireland, and Qatar – were identified as having laws allowing authorities to “demand unfettered access.”

Bloomberg reported that many governments explicitly forbid the disclosure of electronic snooping. According to Bloomberg, Vodafone’s steps toward transparency encouraged carrier Deutsche Telekom AG to disclose more information.

Republican and Democratic Freedom Fighters Join Hands to Proudly Declare Freedom on the Internet

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WASHINGTON, February 6, 2013 – Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee collectively patted themselves, and their nation, on the back at a hearing on Tuesday entitled, “Fighting for Freedom: Dubai and Beyond.”

Our notions are grounded in freedom, said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. Indeed, said Rep. Poe, “freedom is what we do in this country.” Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., also echoed the flag-waving spirit in saying that a universal commitment to upholding free speech was “one of many things that unite Democrats and Republicans.”

The hearing focused on the United States’ choice to align with 53 other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and India, against other country’s proposals put forward at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in the United Arab Emirates in mid-December 2012. The event was the subject of the November 2012 Broadband Breakfast Club.

The WCIT conference had been held to examine proposed changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations first adopted in 1988. The 1988 regulations were initially implemented by the Geneva, Switzerland-based International Telecommunications Union to address to the changing world of international communications, namely, telephone systems.

According to a memorandum distributed for the hearing, the 1988 regulations were “conceived in an era when most countries still had monopoly, government owned telephone providers.” These regulations did not relate to any projected internet usage, an option that was not yet on the global horizon.

Founded in 1865 to deal with the birth of the telegraph in global context, the ITU is now part of the United Nations.

Sally Shipman Wentworth, senior manager for public policy at the Internet Society, hoped that the ITU would “become more transparent” and that the “processes need to be more open, more inclusive of civil society, more reflective of a broader community and not a closed door intergovernmental place…which promotes this feeling that it is a secret plan.”

During the WCIT Conference, the U.S. and the 54 other nations united against proposals by Russia, China and Iran to incorporate that might allow government control over its citizens’ access to international telecommunications services, thus allowing countries the ability to censor their citizens’ internet-based speech. Additional proposed rules allowed for international tariffs that might restrict market-based exchanges of information.

Opposing the 55 countries that included the United States were 89 nations “ led by Putin’s Russia and our good buddies the Chinese…[who] want the internet as a weapon against democratic opposition,” said Rep. Poe. He wondered whether aid given by the U.S. to countries that supported the resolution might need to be re-examined.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., warned that the regulations “could be used by oppressive governments to censor and surveil.”

The divided outcome of the WCIT convention has led to some uncertainty as to what will happen next.

In a rare unanimous vote, Congress preemptively voted 397-0 in opposition to United Nations governance over the internet — even prior to the divided outcome in Dubai.

Panelists speaking before a joint hearing of several committees led by the Energy and Commerce Committee warned of the issues that would arise if Congress does not engage with its critics.

Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell urged Congress to act swiftly against the effort. “Let us not look back at this moment and lament that we did not do enough, we have but one chance, let us tell the world now that we will be resolute,” he said.

“The internet is under assault,” he said. “These wonders of the 21st century are inches away from being smothered by innovation-crushing rules designed for a different time.”

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., agreed with him. She said he hoped that the internet would remains “a success story for generations to come, not only for Americans, but for people around the world.”

Rep. Henry  Waxman, D-Calif., said that the U.S. can continue to strengthen the relationships between “coalitions of countries that stood together in Dubai.”

Also present at the hearing was Bitange Ndemo, secretary for the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications. Speaking via internet connection from a location in Nairobi, Kenya, Ndemo spoke of the internet’s ability to give people hope and its ability to empower a nation’s people to see their government is more responsive. He referred to the internet as the “lifeblood for innovations we have made in Kenya.”

Former U.S. Ambassador David Gross praised Ndemo’s desire to “defend that which he believes to be correct.” Gross also spoke of how in recent years, internet connectivity has risen, and that broadband latency has greatly decreased in Kenya.

These kids of technical improvements have enabled the internet to provide a voice – literally as well as figuratively – for Ndemo speaking via an internet connection.

Harold Feld of the non-profit advocacy group Public Knowledge said that the unity between the United States and many nations of the rest of the world gave an “advantage ultimately in the political sphere, by making clear to many in global society what the stakes are here.”

Congress must continue their support “of the multi-stakeholder model of internet policy…both at home and abroad,” Wentworth said in her closing statements. “We can work together to ensure the internet continues to transcend political divides, and serves as an engine for human empowerment throughout the world.”

Hillary Clinton: ‘U.S. Government Is Committed To Internet Freedom’

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WASHINGTON, January 21, 2010 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday addressed a crowd of activists and policymakers on the lack internet freedom abroad – and its impact on U.S. policy.

“Technology is forming a new nerve-system for our planet” Clinton said, relating stories of technology serving people world-wide: saving lives in Haiti, helping farmers in Kenya, and facilitating open dialogue around the world.

Clinton also spoke of the Internet as the “digital commons of our time,” adding that the responsibility of every nation to maintain the integrity of the Internet as a system for facilitating commerce and the free flow of information throughout the world.

Clinton spoke strongly against internet censorship, singling out the regimes in China, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan for special criticism.

Clinton condemned their “co-opting of technology to stifle political and religious minorities.” She cited the case of Hamoud bin Saleh, a Saudi blogger was imprisoned because he chronicled his conversion to Christianity online, as a particularly egregious case of censorship and persecution.

Clinton also mentioned internet filtering, saying that “…new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom, but the United States does.”

The United States stands for “a single internet,” where information can flow freely across international borders, she said, and that virtual walls like the “Great Firewall” of China represent obstacles to global economic growth and peace.

America needs a more robust network security policy, she also said, applauding the appointment of Howard Schmidt as Obama administration cyber-security coordinator. Countries that facilitate attacks on other countries’ computer networks should be dealt with quickly and forcefully. An attack on one nation’s computer networks should be treated as an attack on the networks on every nation.

“Both the American people and nations which censor the internet should understand that the U.S. government is committed to internet freedom,” Clinton said during the question-and-answer period. She also stated that the U.S. is committed to supporting other countries, particularly developing countries, in their requests to protect their networks against hackers.

Clinton’s remarks come after Google’s announcement that it was no longer censoring searches on its Google.cn domain – and that it may proceed to close its Chinese version altogether. Google has said that itss actions are related to the company’s growing dissatisfaction with the Chinese government’s use of Google.cn to spy on web users in China, as well as a major cyber-attack on Google’s Chinese domain.

State Media: China Launches National Internet TV

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WASHINGTON, December 29, 2009 – China’s national broadcaster has launched the country’s first national internet television, state media reported Tuesday.

“The website, which reportedly received 200 million yuan ($29.4 million) in government investment, is expected to generate stiff competition to popular domestic sites and some mainstream media as well,” states the publication.

China Daily said China Central Television is offering 20 channels or about 750 hours of programming each day on news, sports, entertainment and video-on-demand services. The launch also reportedly comes “after recent government efforts to shut down more than 500 file- and video-sharing websites for pirated and porn content.”

At Supernova, A Belief That New Networks Foster Invention and Innovation

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Embrace The Change, Exhorts Hollywood producer Peter Guber
Embrace change, exhorts Hollywood producer Peter Guber

SAN FRANCISCO, December 1, 2009 – Digital Age Paul Reveres have been warning the world lately about the impending internet lock-down that they fear will result from the growth in popularity of permission-based development environments such as Apple’s iPhone.

Unlike the World Wide Web where everybody is free to execute their ideas without having to obtain prior permission from an infrastructure provider, Apple requires developers to submit their iPhone applications for approval before they can be offered to the public.

Critics, such as Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain, worry that such regimes could suffocate the freewheeling nature of the Web and kill the innovation that emerges from such an environment.

While innovation on the software layer may be on the endangered phenomenon list, Tuesday’s presentations at the Supernova technology conference made it clear that today’s broadband and social networks are enabling other kinds of innovations and collaborations.

Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson was a case-in-point. He has started a new venture called DIY Drones, which grew out of a hobby. DIY Drones is a community Anderson created using a Ning social network. Anderson said he stumbled across his business and technical partner, a 19-year-old high school drop out living in Tijuana, on Ning. The Internet has provided Anderson with access to talent and information while factories in China allow small companies such as his to outsource the manufacturing process.

A Hollywood bigwig noted Tuesday that the massive sea change currently sweeping the media and entertainment industries is causing high anxiety among executives, but that the best approach is to dive in and to embrace the industry’s transformation.

“You have to surrender your resistance to uncertainty,” and accept that “you don’t have to have the answer,” said Peter Guber, a UCLA professor and producer of some of Hollywood’s biggest hit films.

Guber pointed to two different films coming out over the next month, and wondered how each would fare. He said that Fox recently spent $350 million on James Cameron’s science-fiction film “Avatar.” Meanwhile, the producers of “Paranormal Activity,” spent $11,000 and marketed it virally on the Web. Guber said that this kind of environment is producing a lot of anxiety among studio executives, who still haven’t figured out how to hang onto their profits in the rapidly-changing media landscape.

“I produced Flashdance, and I live in a nice home,” he said. “If it were selling on iTunes, I’d be living in a trailer park.”

Meanwhile, Harvard’s Zittrain noted that not all innovations in the new networked environment are positive. He pointed to a January incident in which gear maker Belkin was paying Amazon’s Mechanical Turk users to write good reviews of its routers.

Authoritarian governments could also outsource their surveillance to Mechanical Turk users by getting the users to scan and match the faces in a crowd of demonstrators to IDs in police databases, he said.

Former Googler in Obama Administration at Cross-Hairs of Net Neutrality Debate

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WASHINGTON, November 25, 2009 – The rhetoric surrounding whether the Federal Communications Commission should move forward with rules to regulate internet access to support the principle of network neutrality took on new legs this week when a government official – a former top policy official at Google – conflated net neutrality, free speech and anti-government censorship in the same discussion.

It comes at a time that the FCC has already moved away from the controversial term “network neutrality” to focus instead on the importance of ensuring that an “open internet” exists going forward.

Still, the term “network neutrality” or “Net neutrality” continues to used interchangeably with the phrase “open internet” by some administration officials.

President Obama highlighted “open internet” during his recent trip to China. Last week Obama’s Deputy Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin and Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University, addressed during a conference last week “how an open Internet, or so-called net neutrality, underlies free speech on the Web” and how, “Without it, censorship can occur.”

McLaughlin was former head of global public policy for Google, which says that it supports Net neutrality.

In his campaign, Obama supported network neutrality. Generally, the term seems to rule out possibility that broadband providers may charge differential rates for preferred business customers.

While the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski considers rules to support network neutrality, McLaughlin drove the nail in hard during the speech at a conference sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln law school.

“If it bothers you that the China government does it, it should bother you when your cable company does it,” McLaughlin said.

Following McLaughlin’s comments, AT&T went on the counter-charge.

Jim Cicconi, the top lobbyist with AT&T, a company that stands on the other side of the fence on the net neutrality issue, was not happy.

“It is deeply disturbing when someone in a position of authority, like Mr. McLaughlin, is so intent on advancing his argument for regulation that he equates the outright censorship decisions of a communist government to the network congestion decisions of an American [internet service provider],” AT&T lobbyist Jim Cicconi said in an e-mailed statement. “There is no valid comparison, and it’s frankly an affront to suggest otherwise.”

“Mr. McLaughlin’s statements are ill-considered and inflammatory,” Cicconi continued. “They describe a supposed threat to free speech by ISPs that simply does not exist, and seem designed to manufacture a ‘crisis’ in order to justify regulations that could damage investment and jobs,” he wrote.

In turn, Cicconi’s comments irked the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which said that it supported “the President and his administration are right to proclaim the importance of an open, uncensored Internet and to resist efforts to allow countries or dominant companies to manage or censor the Internet.”

CCIA also tied net neutrality into the argument against government censorship.

“CCIA has a history of opposing government censorship whether it happens in China, Iran or anywhere else in the world and has long supported net neutrality to ensure that Internet Access Providers do not restrict the public’s access to all applications, services and content,” the tech association said.

“It’s no surprise that AT&T and China had a similar response to the call for freedom and openness on the Internet. Restricting access to content, information and speech, whether for government censorship purposes or to protect excessive revenue streams, is an affront to all those who value free speech,” said Ed Black, president of CCIA.

“The juxtaposition of these free speech issues – Internet censorship and net neutrality – pulls away the layer of confusion about net neutrality that opponents have hidden behind for years,” said Black.

“What probably further concerns AT&T about linking Net neutrality to internet censorship is it hits too close to home. There is a real danger ISPs will use the scarcity of connectivity options and long-term contracts locking in customers as a means of control to favor one speaker or competitor over another on the Internet,” said Black.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy also weighed into the controversy. “A key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the most open network in history,” the office said in a statement. “Mr. McLaughlin was simply reiterating the Administration’s consistent support for the importance of an open Internet – both at home and abroad.”

Obama Talks Open Internet, and Twitter and Google, In China

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November 16, 2009 – Speaking in a country known for its internet censorship policies and heavy-handed government involvement in communications technologies, President Obama repeatedly took the time to voice his support for an “open internet” in Shanghai on Monday.

“So I’m a big supporter of not restricting internet use, internet access, other information technologies like Twitter. The more open we are, the more we can communicate. And it also helps to draw the world together,” said Obama.

“And so I’ve always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I’m a big supporter of non-censorship. This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged,” he continued.

Obama delivered his remarks to four hundred-plus Chinese youth as well as thousands of others who attended the event virtually through events organized by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates. The question related to Internet use was delivered by U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr., who asked “‘in a country with 350 million Internet users and 60 million bloggers, do you know of the firewall?’ And second, ‘should we be able to use Twitter freely’ – is the question.”

Obama said he never uses Twitter, “But I am a big believer in technology and I’m a big believer in openness when it comes to the flow of information. I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable.”

Obama said at times he wished “information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.” He also attributed his win as president in part because his campaign was able to mobilize young voters through the Internet.

According to the OpenNet Initiative, a collaborative partnership between four academic institutions including the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, China currently leads the world with 298 million Internet users and about 583.5 million cell phone subscribers.

Over 90 percent of internet users have broadband access. “As the Internet records extraordinary growth in services as well as users, the Chinese government has undertaken to limit access to any content that might potentially undermine the state’s control or social stability by pursuing strict supervision of domestic media, delegated liability for online content providers, and increasingly, a propaganda approach to online debate and discussion,” states the initiative’s page on China.

Obama also opted to use the U.S. company Google as an example of why an open internet is needed. “You think about a company like Google that only 20 years ago was – less than 20 years ago was the idea of a couple of people not much older than you. It was a science project. And suddenly because of the Internet, they were able to create an industry that has revolutionized commerce all around the world. So if it had not been for the freedom and the openness that the Internet allows, Google wouldn’t exist,” said the president.

Obama’s comments may have been particularly hard-hitting in a country known for its internet censorship, but they also sound very similar to the rhetoric that is being used for the debate in Washington, D.C., about whether the Federal Communications Commission should step in and regulate internet access to ensure an “open internet.”

In China, Obama also noted the downside of technology. It “means that terrorists are able to organize on the Internet in ways that they might not have been able to do before. Extremists can mobilize. And so there’s some price that you pay for openness, there’s no denying that. But I think that the good outweighs the bad so much that it’s better to maintain that openness.”

Aspen Review: Questions Posed by the Expanding Participation of a Many-to-Many Age

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August 21 – Looking back at three productive and engaging days at the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s Aspen Summit, it’s worthwhile to step back and examine the so-called digital revolution with an eye towards the future of innovation. What were the essential questions asked by the summit discussants? What are possible answers? I’d like to contextualize the issues that arose in regards to the mission of BroadbandCensus.com.

The stated goal of the Aspen Summit was to discover the contemporary keys to innovation. The market and policy issues addressed as a part of this discovery included online copyright enforcement, targeted web advertising, network traffic management, innovation and global economic competitiveness — and broadband connectivity in the US and around the world. While many of these issues have been around for a while, internet users, innovators and policy makers are confronting them today in substantively new ways.

The best way to sum up what’s new: internet communications have reached a new stage of maturity as a many to many medium. John Horrigan opened the Summit by reporting that 40% of internet users are also contributors to the medium. While the digital revolution may be old and champions of the web have always claimed it to be a democratizing technology, the emergence of the web as a true many-to-many medium is quite recent and still under development.

Discussants at Aspen from both the private and public sector were keenly aware of this profound evolution in the digital realm. Their analysis focused on two key characteristics of the many-to-many web: the renewed potential for monetization and the emerging scarcity of bandwidth.

There’s a sense in which both of these factors drive each other: profits are promised for those who can deliver bandwidth-intensive services, and bandwidth-intensive services offer new opportunities for profits through revenue streams like advertising. But I’d like to step-back and consider these factors separately, which is, in effect, what was undertaken at the Aspen Summit.

The first full day of the summit considered the following digital issues: protecting IP, liability and enforcement, and advertising and privacy. We can trace the emergence of all of these issues back to the potential for enhanced profits that now characterizes the many-to-many internet. Participants at Aspen were essentially asking what the new revenue streams will be in the many-to-many age, how can they be protected, and what are the political and legal boundaries that might restrain them? Further proof that we’ve only now entered the “many-to-many age”: In panel after panel, discussants focused on turning to the users for answers to these questions.

Cooperation, consensus, and communication were heralded repeatedly by both private-sector stakeholders and policy makers. Both groups also expressed interest in user-generated solutions to the many issues that will arise as new revenue streams are pursued online. As the many-to-many web matures and John Horrigan’s 40% turns into 60% and higher, these industry leaders will have no excuse for not following through on their promise to engage.

Day two at Aspen then considered the implications of a bandwidth-scarce digital age. If the monetization discussed on day one is to become a reality, then how can enhanced services in the digital medium be sustained and expanded?

Panelists focused on engaging with the global marketplace, fostering innovation in the US, and ensuring investment in expanded networks around the world. These, of course, are broad objectives and discussants offered many, and sometimes conflicted, answers to the question of how to achieve them.

For example, engaging with the Chinese marketplace offers a great opportunity to extend the many-to-many web and its profits. But that engagement will put further pressure on the necessary management of intellectual property. Many participants at the summit also agreed that network traffic management practices would be a larger part of the bandwidth-scarce many-to-many web, but there were unanswered questions regarding how “deep” these methods (e.g., “deep packet inspection”) should go before they encroach upon issues of privacy and competition. Everyone was interested in expanding networks to alleviate scarcity issues, there were also disagreements over how to achieve this expansion while preserving a competitive marketplace that will continue to facilitate innovation.

It’s no surprise that network expansion is also the core interest of BroadbandCensus.com, but the mission to develop better data on broadband connectivity is one that digs deeper than the current policy options. BroadbandCensus.com seeks accurate and transparent data to better inform the web and its users. It should also come as no surprise that in the age of many-to-many, the user is essential to this mission.

The defining information and communication policy debates for the forseeable future (and I don’t claim to see that far) will be over how to profit from and expand the many-to-many Internet. Some may argue that this is just the answer: “if the many-to-many internet is profitable, it will expand.” But I think at the heart of discussions at the Aspen Summit were concerns over the restraints on profit and expansion to which the market simply doesn’t offer a good answer.

Conflicts over privacy, property, competition and freedom of speech will expand just as the many-to-many web does. The summit engaged policy makers and industry leaders on these very issues. The issues remain, but strides were made towards more closely defining shared-interests, values, and policy objectives for the contemporary many-to-many web.

Europe and Asia are 'Cleaning Our Clock' on Broadband, Says Report Author

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By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 10 – The lack of a cohesive national broadband policy in the United States is hampering the nation’s ability to deploy high-speed broadband, attorney James Baller said Thursday at the Alliance for Community Media conference here.

Nations in Europe and Asia our “cleaning our clock” on broadband deployment, competition, speeds and prices, said Baller, of the Baller Herbst law firm.

Baller, who represents municipalities seeking to deploy broadband systems, recently authored a 100-page report, “Broadband Revolution: Developing a National Broadband Strategy to Keep the U.S. Prosperous in the 21st Century,” which was released by the e-NC Authority of North Carolina.

Among the report’s key findings, which Baller highlighted again at the ACM conference:

  • Hong Kong (with Singapore soon to join them) boasts a 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) broadband system. Japan averages 93.7 Megabits per second (Mbps), the U.S. languishes at 14th place with an average of 8.9 Mbps.
  • In broadband prices, the U.S. stands at 11th place with a monthly average of $12.60, more than four-times the $3.09 average cost in Japan.
  • On a composite scale, incorporating speed, price and availability of broadband, the, the U.S. ranks 15th globally.
  • The U.S. can no longer even boast as having the most broadband lines, as China has now surpassed America in this category.
  • After being first in amount of broadband lines as percentage of population in the 1990s, the U.S. is now somewhere between 15th and 24th.

If these trends are not reversed, the report argues, the U.S. will lose more and more low-cost manufacturing to Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called “BRIC” countries, and to other developing nations.

Baller also noted the many politicians and organizations supporting a national broadband strategy. The list includes presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Federal Communication Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, as well as non-profit organizations including the Benton Foundation, Free Press, the New America Foundation and Public Knowledge.

Among the states that have launched broadband initiatives, according to Baller’s tally:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Washington

The fact that such a large amount of states are creating their own broadband initiatives probably indicates a failure of leadership on the federal level, said Baller.

The report also reminds readers of the values of broadband to the nation. The elderly, the disabled, youth, minorities and businesses would benefit from improved education, health care, homeland security, urban revitalization, public safety, and a healthier environment – provided that Americans refuse to be content with low-end broadband of less than 3 Mbps, it says.

Stories and Documents Referenced in this Article:

Editor’s Note:

The Benton Foundation is a supporter of BroadbandCensus.com. See all our supporters, or learn more about BroadbandCensus.com, or get involved in the effort to map out broadband.

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

U.S. Technology Could Thwart Chinese Internet Censorship

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By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, June18 – Technologies exist that allow Chinese internet users to evade government censorship, but their deployment is being thwarted by American companies based in China, panelists said Wednesday at a hearing of the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

A technology called Psiphon allows internet users to bypass China’s requirement that all foreign Web sites go through one of three gatekeeping firewalls, said Ron Deibert, speaking on behalf of the Open Net Initiative, which developed Psiphon.

The Open Net Initiative is a partnership of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and Cambridge University, Oxford University and the University of Toronto. Deibert is director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

Deibert said that Psiphon may be an answer to allow people in China to circumvent Beijing’s purposeful and repeated attempts to hinder free speech. Without the technology, an internet user attempting to access a Web site restricted by the Chinese government is confronted with an “error” screen on his or her computer.

Xiao Qiang, director of China Internet Project at the University of California, Berkeley, agreed with Deibert that China would not be able to conduct internet censorship without the cooperation of U.S. companies like Cisco Systems, which manufacturers internet routers.

Qiang said that more and more evidence is now surfacing about how the Chinese are blocking websites, enabling better means of circumventing such censorship.

Both were testifying on a panel about access to the Internet and Chinese filtering as a part of a two-day hearing before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was held in a Senate office building. Several members of the commission were worried about Beijing’s interpretation of Psiphon – particularly if it there were a concerted effort to promote its use by the United States – as an act of information warfare.

Established by Congress in 2000, the commission’s purpose is to monitor, investigate and submit an annual report on the economic relations between the U.S. and China. Of its twelve members, three each were selected by the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate.

All panelists on the internet filtering panel agreed that China’s efforts to control the Internet were rampant in the rural areas. But Randoph Kluver, director of the Institute for Pacific Asia at Texas A&M University, who initially spoke on an earlier panel about information control and the media, said that there are a number of holes in what has been dubbed the “Great Firewall of China.” As a result, China’s cities are relatively free from censorship, he said.

Still, as a result of widespread internet filtering, the majority of the population knows little or nothing of the protests and uprisings in Myanmar, said Lucie Morillon, the Washington representative for Reporters Without Borders, who also spoke on the panel with Kluver.

Qiang said that a free and open internet is more pressing than ever because China has now surpassed the U.S. as the country with the most internet users. The enormous rise in the number of internet users is partially due to the increase of cell phones with internet acces, he said.

Responding to questions posed by commission member Patrick Mulluy, the panelists said that Article 19 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which has been signed by the People’s Republic of China, obligates the nation to permit freedom of the press.

In China, Kluver said, economic benefits almost always trump rights perceived as political. Agreeing, Morillon said that in global rankings of a free and independent press, China is fifth from the bottom.

Unlike the West’s traditional embrace of freedom of the press, some 80 percent of Chinese internet users believe the Internet should be controlled, said Kluver. Most of these Chinese consider the government of China to be the most appropriate internet censor.

Disagreeing, Dan Southerland, executive editor of Radio Free Asia, said that the number of nomadic and rural Chinese listening to RFA broadcasters – or bribing rural officials to capture RFA’s satellite signal – demonstrated support for a free press. Southerland, speaking on a panel about China’s grappling with ethnic unrest and outbreaks of infectious diseases, questioned Kluver’s findings.

Morillon echoed Southerland’s perspective by noting that Beijing has routinely engaged in random repression aimed to remind journalists that government officials are watching. Morillon was heartened by Beijing’s decision to lessen restrictions on foreign journalists, at least until the end of October, as a positive but far-from-adequate development.

Beijing’s tendency to suppress knowledge of emerging infectious diseases backfired during the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, said retired Col. Susan Puska. It resulted in a further spreading of the disease, potentially endangering the U.S. Speaking on the infectious diseases panel, she said Beijing only responds after leaks to the outside world occur.

Southerland stated his opinion that the Chinese media “initially [did a] pretty good job” at openly and honestly reporting on the March earthquake. The Chinese media has often made unflattering comparisons to the U.S. government’s widely-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina with the generally-praised response of the Chinese military to the recent March earthquake, Morillon said.

Beijing repeatedly blames the foreign press for various internal failures, the panelists said. A government insinuation that foreigners might be responsible for a particular problem often results in full-scale demonstrations against the West, such as a recent anti-CNN movement. This allows the government to circumvent potentially damaging issues with little backlash, the panelists agreed.

To help encourage a more robust domestic Chinese press, Southerland suggested that the U.S. fund schools of investigative journalism for members of the Chinese media.

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