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Personal Democracy Forum

Baby’s Got Back, but Does America Got Net?

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2010 – The Open Internet Coalition is trying to bolster its cause with America’s Got Net, a user-generated video contest open to small businesses, non-profits and individuals to create short videos to tell policymakers in Washington what the future of the “open internet” means to them.

The effort has enlisted some online gurus such as Craigslist founder Craig Newmark; Susan Crawford, a former special assistant to the Obama administration on science and technology; Jolie O’Dell of Mashable; and Personal Democracy Forum founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry.

“The open Internet is everyone’s printing press, a big deal in the evolution of democracy, and I really want to help promote democratic values,” said Newmark. “Everyone should take a look at this competition; it’s about using the Internet to save the Internet.”

Winners will be selected in the following categories: best small business, best non-profit/charitable and best individual user.

Winners are eligible for prizes starting with a trip to Washington to meet with policymakers, a package of goodies that include an Amazon Kindle DX, Google Nexus One Phone, one year of Skype Unlimited World Calling, Slingbox PRO-HD, Sony bloggie; and small business and non-profit winners will win free advertising and event opportunities as well as the chance to be featured in an Open Internet Coalition ad campaign.

Applications for the contest, which runs through Aug. 15, are available online at www.youtube.com/americasgotnet2010

Finalists will be announced Sept. 13.

Citizens Must Embrace and Benefit from Technology Revolution, FCC Told

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2009 – The technology revolution will fundamentally change and improve the way that citizens and government interact, but that change must embrace everyone to accomplish its goals, public officials and policy experts agreed Thursday.

The revolution is enabling people to access government services in a way that allows them to see how their government is operating, said Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra during the workshop hosted by the Federal Communications Commission.

Since federal money is being used to develop information technology, the government wants to engage the American people to help shape the way the money is used, he said, noting that the government is not the only source of technological innovation.

Broadband technology “enables us to create the most participatory democracy of our time” by providing better services and creating more open ways of working and policy making, said Beth Noveck, federal deputy chief technology officer for open government.

“We very much turn the policy-making process inside out,” she said.

Broadband has been used to “foster civic engagement in local communities” by getting citizens to communicate about problem in their local communities and collaborate about how to solve them, she said.

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Ind., praised broadband technology for making his city easier to run more efficiently.

For example, Fort Wayne has been able to use broadband to determine how to locate and fill potholes more quickly. It also has been aided by real-time monitoring technologies allowing it to find out the amount of time a street-sweeping truck spends sweeping the street versus how much time it spends going to where it has to sweep, he said.

Broadband has helped to reduce crime rates in Fort Wayne by facilitating police communication and their deployment along with services that allow law enforcers to track a criminal’s every move, he said.

“None of us are as smart as all of us,” he said.

Kundra also touted the benefits of e-government, saying it saves money for government employees and is a “mechanism to drive productivity. For example, 50 percent of Patent and Trademark Office employees telecommute, which saves travel costs and aids the environment, he said. Additionally, when Government Accountability Office employees were forced to evacuate their building after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they were able to continue agency operations by telecommuting.

However, it’s important to ensure that employees have the proper tools and understanding of how to use technology, said Kundra. “So much of what we do online actually requires training” but “many companies have made it so difficult to interact with technologies,” he said.

Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, spoke on the second panel on civil engagement.

Because most political discourse and commerce today will conducted through broadband, “we don’t want a society of haves and have nots,” he said.

The Internet is the new “public square,” where people can learn about the government, communicate with the government, and share their ideas, and “if citizens don’t have that access they will be shut out of the public debate,” he said.

One problem, said Ornstein, is that many Internet users are “cocooning” themselves by only reading the blogs that reinforce their own ideas, and “we are losing the common set of facts around which debate can be formed.”

Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, highlighted the importance of broadband in keeping average people involved in the political process.

Most videos of political candidates on YouTube during the 2008 election were created by average citizens, and this has had a tremendous impact on the political landscape, he said.

Rasiej shared the story of his elderly parents who were able to send e-mails with links to a video of then-presidential candidate Obama on YouTube to more than 50 friends at a time.

This technology can be used to protect free speech by enabling citizens to communicate with each other discreetly, and may ultimately redefine international politics by creating a “citizen to citizen diplomacy,” he said.

“If working-class people cannot access these sights,” he said, “they are being excluded from 21st century technology.”

Citizenship can only be transformed when the government is willing to make information public and in real time, said John Wunderlich, program director for the Sunlight Foundation.

Week's Links: Julius Genachowski Takes Reins at FCC

in Broadband Stimulus/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Premium Content by

From BroadbandCensus.com Weekly Report

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2009 – In a speech on Tuesday to staff at the Federal Communications Commission, new Chairman Julius Genachowski said that “if we…harness the power of communications to confront…challenges” such as the economy, education, health care, and energy, “we will…make a real positive difference in the lives of our children and future generations.”

Genochowski also called for “a new climate of openness and accountability at an agency that has been criticized for a culture of secrecy and playing favorites,” as well as a briefing from the FCC’s Bureau of Public Safety and Homeland Security on the agency’s own emergency management plans.


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Free Press, Google and Others Form Pro-Broadband Initiative

in Broadband's Impact by

NEW YORK, June 24 – A group of non-profits, businesses and other organizations seeking to guide the creation of a national broadband plan on Tuesday announced the formation of a new initiative, “Internet for Everyone,” seeking to highlight the crucial importance of broadband.

The initiative was officially launched at a breakout room in the Lincoln Center where the Personal Democracy Forum was being held, gathering internet luminaries including Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig; Vint Cerf, chief technology evangelist at Google; Tim Wu, Columbia University law professor; and Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press.

Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein announced the organization’s formation in his address at the Personal Democracy Forum. Adelstein said that broadband policy was integral to all of the major issues of this election. Adelstein was also set to be on hand at the initiative’s press conference.

Among the organizations also listed as supporters on the organization’s Web page include the American Civil Liberties Union, BitTorrent, Common Cause, the Computers and Communications Industry Association, Consumers Union, eBay, Internet2 and the Sunlight Foundation.

Free Press, a non-profit group against media consolidation and for Net Neutrality, is taking the lead in convening the Internet for Everyone organization, said Timothy Karr, campaign director for Free Press. Free Press registered the domain name internetforeveryone.org.

“We are at a point in the U.S. where the country that is credited for having invented the Internet, has fallen perilously behind other nations that have managed to provide faster, cheaper and more open connections for a large portion of their populations,” Karr said in an interview.

On its Web site, the Internet for Everyone initiative articulates four broad principles: access, choice, openness and innovation. Although the terms are not defined, the principle on “openness” suggests a pro-Net Neutrality bent in its language: “every Internet user should have the right to freedom of speech and commerce online in an open market without gatekeepers or discrimination.”

The site proclaims the need to “unleash innovation, promote free speech and encourage learning.” It also declares that “we all must play a role in the future of the Internet: federal, state and local governments, businesses large and small, non-profits, consumer advocates, educators, civic groups, churches and individuals.”

In his speech, Adelstein affirmed that while private sector will drive future broadband deployment in the U.S., the government should have a greater role in incentivizing and expediting broadband deployment. He also said that broadband in the U.S. was “suffer[ing] from benign neglect and it’s time for that [to] change.”

Adelstein also said he wanted to see a better integration of internet technologies into government to improve governance and civic participation. “We’ve never seen the kind of political participation that at least one campaign has brought to this election through the technologies enabled by broadband,” the Commissioner observed, referring to the success of the campaign of Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Adelstein expressed the hope of bringing “that same type of energy to the government itself.”

-Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com, contributed to the reporting of this article.

Related Article:

Baller: McCain and Obama Should Issue Joint Statement on Broadband, BroadbandCensus.com, June 23

Day Two at Personal Democracy Forum: What Happens After 'Reboot'?

in Expert Opinion by

Blog Entries

NEW YORK, June 24, First Thing in the Morning – “What happens next?” is the question Andrew starts us off with and the quesiton he wants to guide today’s session. The question concerns what comes after the reboot of American Democracy that was discussed yesterday and what we can do with the Democratizing tools to positively impact how government operates. Andrew wants to know what the audience is gonna do if they get to the White House and get a chance to help the next president change the way America does business, does democracy, and does citizenship. The morning speakers seek to address future efforts towards a more direct democracy where the influence of traditional moneyed power brokers can be restrained by and in the favor of a new, progressive citizenry with its finger on the button of the technology for a better Democracy.

Introducing Drew Bennett, Special Correspondent for BroadbandCensus.com

in Expert Opinion by

Blog Entries

Last October, when I was invited up to Cambridge, Mass., to speak at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society on “The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology,” I had the chance to make a wide-ranging presentation about my work as a journalist covering the ins-and-outs of internet politics in Washington. The week after the event, I blogged about the presentation on DrewClark.com, my six-years-and-running-blog (which, incidentally, is subtitled “The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology”).

I was particularly taken by the strong level of interest in mapping out broadband availability and competition during the presentation. (You can watch the video yourself on the Media Berkman site.)

One of those venturing into the discussion was Drew Bennett, then a master’s student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Recently, Drew finished his degree in international law, which a specialization in international information and communiciations policy. He’s worked in technologies for development in southern and eastern Africa. His core research was on global broadband policy, and you can read his thesis, “Toward and National Information Infrastructure Initiative for the United States,” here (PDF).

I kept in touch with Drew Bennett as I underwent a transition of my own, and began making preparations to start up BroadbandCensus.com last fall and winter. When our site went live on January 31, 2008, one of the first persons I contacted for feedback was Drew. Not only has he researched the policy of broadband data, globally, he’s also taken an active role in striving to make data about broadband available locally, by serving as a policy advisor to Sharon Gillett, Commissioner of the Department of Telecommunications and Cable in Massachusetts.

Then, Drew served as a consultant to the John Adams Innovation Institute, which has been supporting the commonwealth’s efforts. In the emerging movement to map out broadband data, Massachusetts has been one of the states most interested in ensuring information about broadband providers – including their names and the locations in which they offer service – are available to public.

I’m pleased to report that Drew will be a special correspondent this week for BroadbandCensus.com. He’s been blogging, and reporting, from the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City this week. Keep coming back to BroadbandCensus.com for news and reporting on how the politics and policy of broadband is affecting you and others in your neighborhood!

You can reach Drew Bennett at this e-mail address: bennett at broadbandcensus.com

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