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At Kickoff of FCC Workshops, Genachowski Calls Broadband ‘Infrastructure Challenge of the Generation’

in FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan/Transparency by

Editor’s Note: BroadbandBreakfast.com has been actively covering the workshops of the Federal Communications Commission as the agency prepares its national broadband plan. We have covered all of the workshops since late August. In preparation for assembling the complete collection of articles, BroadbandBreakfast.com reporters are returning to the beginning of the of workshops, on August 6, 2009. To see the complete collection of articles, click here.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski began the first in an extensive series of agency workshops on August 6, 2009, with a statement about that the workshops were intended to evaluate how increased broadband internet access could improve the efficiency and transparency of government.

“Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of our generation,” said Genachowski. “It is to us what railroads, electricity, highways, telephones were to previous generations.” Chairman Genachowski explained that broadband will serve as “a platform for commerce, for addressing major national problems, and for civic engagement.”

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra elaborated on the promise of increased broadband access and how it could increase the efficiency of the federal government through crowd-sourced applications and increased teleworking programs.

Kundra held up the Patent and Trademark Office and Government Accountability Office as models of broadband-centric innovation in government. He said other government agencies could cut costs and maintain robust continuity of government plans through increased telework programs.

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, described his experience increasing broadband penetration in Fort Wayne. As mayor, Richard implemented numerous broadband-centric networking programs which reduced crime and streamlined the delivery of city services.

Digital mapping technology through Geographic Information Systems reduced the time needed to fill potholes from four days to four hours. On-line learning options dramatically increased the number of courses available to local students through collaboration with local universities.

When asked what advantages he thought increased broadband access brought to work environments, Richard said “the workroom environment serves to bring people together so they can convene, connect, and collaborate’ to create new solutions for today’s problems. What broadband does is increase that space for innovation a factor of a million.”

Government transparency was the final focus of the workshop. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute noted the Obama-Coburn bill’s success in publishing all non-classified federal contracts online. Ornstein and John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation expressed interest in current efforts to require the publishing of earmarks online though no such legislation has been introduced in either chamber.

The Internet’s effect on campaign finance, community activism, and public information campaigns were also discussed at the FCC workshop. The next workshop, on August 12, 2009, focused on issues relating to the deployment of wired broadband infrastructure.

White House Releases Open Government Directive Mandating Transparency

in Transparency by

WASHINGTON, December 8, 2009 – The White House on Tuesday sent an open government directive to every federal department and agency with instructions on actions that should be taken to make their operations more open to the public, according to a blog entry from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

“The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. Transparency promotes accountability. Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise to government initiatives. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the federal government, across levels of government, and between the government and private institutions,” said Orszag.

The move follows President Obama’s action his first day in office to sign a memorandum to federal agencies directing them to break down public barriers to transparency, participation, and collaboration. Orszag noted the White House is now publishing the names of all its visitors and posting more information on federal spending and research.

In addition to the directive, the White House released (PDF) an open government progress report noting that the Obama Administration is experimenting with new techniques and tools to improve citizen engagement. The report adds that the administration is working on “developing “communities of practice” to facilitate the sharing of ideas and software code across agencies and levels of government to realize open government in practice.”

“The Open Government Directive issued today demonstrates the seriousness of administration’s commitment to data transparency and citizen engagement,” said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, in a statement.

Jim Harper of the CATO Institute was critical of the Obama Administration’s progress toward openness. “Today the White House announces plans for dramatic steps forward on government transparency. But the steps it could have taken starting on day one remain promises unfulfilled.

President Obama’s “Sunlight Before Signing” campaign pledge breaks every time he signs a bill without posting its final version at Whitehouse.gov for five days of public review before signing it,” he wrote in a Wednesday blog entry.

Computer & Communications Industry Association President Ed Black said he thought the directive was positive but took the opportunity to complain about the lack of transparency surrounding a proposed multilateral trade agreement for establishing international standards on intellectual property known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

The United States Trade Representatives has said it has taken steps to make information on ACTA more open.

Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Talks Continue Amid Controversy Over Leaked Draft

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2009 – While representatives of countries were scheduled to begin meeting today in Seoul, South Korea, to negotiate a confidential international anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, some public interest and consumer groups continue to press for more transparency of the negotiations.

On November 3 a number of groups signed a letter addressed to President Obama and carbon copied to other key administration officials calling for greater transparency of the talks.

The list of signatories included Knowledge Ecology International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, Peter Suber of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Laura DeNardis of the Yale Information Society Project, among many others.

“While we agree that the enforcement of intellectual property rights is very important, it is also a complex area where the “solutions” to the enforcement issues are often controversial, and it is important to balance a variety of competing interests, and to ensure that measures to enforce private intellectual property rights do not undermine civil rights and privacy, or unduly impede innovation,” reads the letter.

Last month, the United States Trade Representatives reportedly invited a number of folks in the technology space to view copies of the documents related to the negotiation. The Knowledge Ecology International letter complained that while the USTR appeared to be responding to calls for greater transparency of the process, the people it chose to show the documents to largely represented business interests who were required to sign a non disclosure agreement to prevent public discussion.

According to Knowledge Ecology, those who were able to see the documents after signing NDAs included representatives from the Business Software Alliance, Google, eBay, Consumer Electronics Association, Wilmer Hale, Verizon, the International Intellectual Property Alliance, Public Knowledge, Intel, Dell, Center for Democracy and Technology, Sony, Time Warner, among others.

“We have no confidence in this new approach,” reads the Knowledge Ecology letter. But the USTR said it has “broadened its consultations to include a diverse range of views including not only the list of cleared advisers who give input to USTR on a regular basis, but also to interested domestic stakeholders representing a broad range of views and expertise on internet and digital issues, including representatives from non-governmental organizations and industry leaders in intellectual property and technology.”

In 2007 the USTR said the goal (PDF) of the ACTA was to “establish, among nations committed to strong IPR protection, a common standard for IPR enforcement to combat global infringements of IPR particularly in the context of counterfeiting and piracy that addresses today’s challenges, in terms of increasing international cooperation, strengthening the framework of practices that contribute to effective enforcement of IPRs, and strengthening relevant IPR enforcement measures themselves.”

The idea of such an agreement took root in 2004 and gained group in 2006 when Japan and the United States launched the idea of a plurilateral treaty to establish effective international standards to enforce intellectual property rights, according to the USTR. In 2007 the USTR wrote (PDF) that the office hoped to “complete the negotiation by the end of this year.”

On April 6 the USTR released a summary (PDF) of the current state of the ACTA negotiations. Countries involved in the discussion include Canada, the European Commission, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, the United States and Singapore.

Former U.S. Coordinator for International Intellectual Property Enforcement Chris Israel called the accusation by Knowledge Ecology and others that the government has been secretive about the negotiations a “red herring.”

He told BroadbandCensus.com that the “USTR has reviewed the actual text with dozens of interested parties who both support and question ACTA. The goal is to work with a number of sophisticated and important trading partners to negotiate an agreement that will address the major problem of global piracy and counterfeiting. You can’t effectively do that online or in the blogosphere.”

Israel, who worked under the Bush Administration, added that “At some point senior government officials have to meet with each other privately and hammer out serious details. The Obama Administration is doing a great job tackling tough IP enforcement issues and trying to be as open and transparent as possible.”

There has been significant speculation and alarm bells raised including an EFF blog post and a post from Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, on the Internet this week about what will be discussed during the negotiations.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

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.

On Transparency, Advocacy Group Waits for Obama to 'Show Us The Data'

in Broadband's Impact by

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Andrew Feinberg’s video interview with Brock Meeks on BroadbandCensus TV.

WASHINGTON, February 17, 2009 – The new administration of President Barack Obama’s has a limited window to fulfill its promise of transparency in government, Center for Democracy & Technology officials said Tuesday.

CDT vice president Ari Schwartz praised the Obama White House for making open government – an issue on which the president made central to his campaign and his image – a theme “from day one.” The administration seems to make “another open government announcement literally every day,” Schwartz said.

While transparency is a “keystone, signature issue” for the new administration, making good on its promises “is going to be an interesting challenge,” said CDT president and CEO Leslie Harris. The toughest aspect of changing the culture of secrecy in Washington is “a bureaucracy created for closure – not openness,” Harris said.

The administration has let 30 days pass on its self-imposed 120 day deadline to for the GSA, OMB and a yet-to-be-named National Chief Technology Officer to create a national directive on open government, Schwartz said. And with the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and in launching the Recovery.gov web site, the Obama administration will face an early test.

Promises don’t make transparency so, said CDT. Together with the Sunlight Foundation, CDT announced the “Show Us The Data” project where users can help create a list of documents that should be online, but aren’t. While in the past CDT has had lists of the “10 most wanted government documents,” Schwartz said this is the first time the group has allowed voting.

The administration has so far been unsuccessful in posting most bills passed by Congress for the self-imposed five-day public viewing period, Schwartz said. While he acknowledged the need for exceptions for “emergency” legislation, he said that firmly defining those exceptions is “extremely important.”

Another area of concern is the continual failure to make available Congressional Research Service reports. While the Wikileaks and OpenCRS project have managed to post many reports online, the CRS still will not make them public on their own initiative. And while concerns over politicization of the reports may have been valid at one time, Harris said that the number of reports publicly available made such worries moot.

“A lot of open government folks have judged the Obama administration based on past administrations,” Harris said. And the first few Executive Orders the President signed went far towards restoring transparency in comparison to the Bush administration, she noted. But the Recovery.gov site and the 120 day threshold will hold the administration to its own rhetoric, she said.

Schwartz said the administration had “a lot of work to do [in the privacy space]” – including work the new Justice Department must face in culling many of the Bush-era directives that restrict privacy or access to information. “They need to get moving,” he said.

Harris said it’s alright to give them a bit more time. But to Harris, time to enact concrete changes means a “matter of months…not a matter of years,” at least for most transparency issues.

Some agencies will take longer to fix, she said. Despite calls from Acting Chairman Michael Copps for more transparency, Harris called the Federal Communications Commission “broken” and “with no consistent process.” The FCC needs to “figure out a regular procedure and stick to it,” she said.

But despite the “signs of disappointment” from some in the Web 2.0 crowd that change isn’t faster in coming, Schwartz called for a little more slack, and urged the public to take another look at the 120-day mark.

One Web Day DC 2008: E-Democracy and Information Policy, an Education and a Celebration

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Blog Entries

WASHINGTON, September 22 – One Web Day, DC style: New York has a rally celebrating the Internet and its democratizing power, DC holds a panel session focused on the policies that could either expand the web as a democratizing force or stifle it.

Not that we don’t know how to celebrate in DC – the happy hour will be later this evening – but from 9 to 5 (or usually 10 to 6) it’s policy.

Sascha Meinrath welcomes the wonks and the media to One Web Day DC 2008 opening event at the New America Foundation’s headquarters and calls it a celebration of “one of the most important telecommunications innovations in history” and tells us that One Web Day (OWD) celebrations are going on all over the world at the same time.

The idea started and is still driven by Susan Crawford, who three years ago imagined a One Web Day that could at some point rival earth day.

“One Web Day may be in its infancy…but we can see the importance of Internet policy rising” in the national political landscape, Sascha says before introducing a key telecommunications policy maker, Jonathan Adelstein, from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Commissioner Adelstein follows his introduction with an introduction of his own, of Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D – Marylan, 4th congressional district).

Congresswoman Edwards is interested in how the internet can be an enabler for democratic engagement on the community level, but to start, she says, communities need access. Access to broadband is something Ms. Edwards sees lacking at the community level, even in her own houselhold.

“According to the broadband provider in my area, I can get service in the zip code I live in, and that’s true for houses just down the street from me, but at my house we can’t get broadband and are still on dial-up.” As a result, the Congresswoman has given up on utilizing the few hours of the day when’s she’s home to go online (“because it’s too much of a pain”) and she worries that students at the schools in her community are facing similar situations. “I think the Internet and access to the web is the future for the 21st Century and I connect that very closely to the future of the young people in the community.”

Ms. Edwards says she’s excited about the prospects for this digital future but also weary of the potential for some of the advantages broadband offers to be excluded. As her personal anecdote makes clear, exclusion is happening, even where we’d least expect it.

Returning to the podium, Mr. Adelstein, who was visibly frustrated by Ms. Edwards report that she does not have broadband at her home, follows-up on her inspirational speech with a focus on policy, beginning with the need for a national broadband strategy to “restore [the US] to its position as a global leader on technology.”

The elements of a national broadband strategy, according to Commissioner Adelstein, include an open and neutral internet and the goal of universal broadband penetration that facilitates empowerment.

Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation follows Mr. Adelstein and presents a good picture of the type of empowerment the web can deliver: Sunlight’s latest online transparency tool, publicmarkup.org, and One Web Day’s public mark-up release: “The Wall Street Bail-Out Bill,” open and exposed to users for discussion and comment.

Ellen highlights the power of the web as being particularly liberating, in that Sunlight has “liberated” countless documents and massive amounts of government information, but without the power of the web to publish, the information could never truly be liberated.

A prominent developer of the tools necessary for groups like Sunlight to liberate information and connect activists is John Wheeler of Democracy in Action. John introduces himself as one of the first staffers to have an email address on the Hill and talks about his difficulties in getting others in Congress to understand the power of the new medium in 1994.

“Today,” John says, “Congress is dealing with a flood of emails and I’m proud to be partly responsible for that flood.” For the rest of the online gadflies, Democracy in Action has put all the web tools for organizing and advocacy in one place at the Salsa Commons.

One group interested in utilizing John’s tools is Bread for the City, a grassroots organization with a mission of assisting those on the verge of homelessness. Bread in the City’s Greg Bloom gave the OWD audience a tour through his group’s weblog, Beyond Bread, and noted the challenge of connecting what organizers and advocates are doing at the offline grass roots level with the web community while remaining issue-focused.

Broadband Census’ own Drew Clark joins the panel and returns to Congresswoman Edwards’ eloquent opening remarks to highlight the importance of getting accurate data on broadband connectivity in order to better inform policy makers and ensure the technology’s expansion.

As a part of One Web Day, Drew (and everyone here at Broadband Census) is encouraging consumers to take the census and join in the effort to better inform consumers about their broadband service options. Much like Ellen Miller and the Sunlight Foundation, BroadbandCensus.com is an effort to enhance the transparency of publicly available information in the interest of a more engaged citizenry and more informed policy making.

“Broadband is too important,” according to Clark, and unless there is universal broadband, there will be a segment of people who are left out of a vital medium for commerce and conversation. “BroadbandCensus.com will be a place where you can find information on connectivity that is comprehensive, useful and reliable.”

Next up, Alec Ross, Barack Obama’s science adivisor reflected on the power of the Internet as an educational tool and an organizational tool and, most importantly, as a transformative personal tool.

“So much on the internet speaks to so many people directly,” Ross says, “it’s a very personal experience and one that allows people to find the information they want without the historical limitations of place and space.”

Mr. Ross believes Senator Obama’s experience as a community organizer has contributed to his acute unederstanding of the powers of this tool. He then laid out some of the principle policy goals of an Obama administration in regards to the Internet, including Universal Service Fund reform, spectrum reform, and the creation of a Chief Technologies Officer for the nation. He stressed that groups like the Sunlight Foundation would have a partner in the federal government in an Obama administration.

Wrapping up the One Web Day kick-off at New America Foundation, Nathaniel James, the Campaign Coordinator for the Media and Democracy Coalition and the lead organizer of DC’s One Web Day, drew attention to the local effort to create a Time Capsule for OWD. The goal of the Time Capsule, according to Nathaniel, will be to create “a living archive of where we were in terms of e-democracy up until One Web Day 2008.” At 5pm today, the site will be closed to further contributions (though comments will still be allowed) until One Web Day 2020, when the community will then undertake a critical re-evaluation of what has happened over the last 12 years.

Nathaniel sums up the objective of the Time Capsule: “we’ve outlined a trajectory today and we want to come back in 12 years and make sure that we’re following through on that trajectory.”

So that’s it for the live event, now it’s back to the online events of One Web Day and the DC crew will return at 6pm with a little less policy and a little more celebrating. Until then, try to be one of the last to leave your mark on the time capsule and remind yourself in 2020 what it was like today.

CWA Wants Better Broadband Data, As Does Internet for Everyone

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WASHINGTON, July 17 – Communications Workers of America this past week teamed up with a group of telecommunications companies, cable operators and non-profit groups to push for Congress to pass broadband data legislation.

In a Friday letter and a Monday press release, the groups wrote “to express [their] strong support for Congressional action to promote greater availability and adoption of broadband high-speed Internet services.”

They want “a national policy” to encourage more broadband deployment, and they cite economic statistics about broadband’s potential.

And, as a first step, these companies and CWA want Congress to pass the Broadband Census of America Act, H.R. 3919, or the Broadband Data Improvement Act, S. 1492.

Curiously, last month another large coalition announced a similar campaign. They call themselves Internet for Everyone.

Led by Google and the non-profit group Free Press, the organization boasts some the Internet’s leading luminaries, including Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig and internet “co-father” Vint Cerf, now at Google.

“Broadband’s potential to unleash innovation, promote free speech and encourage learning makes this technology the key to the future success of the U.S. economy and American democracy,” read the group’s first position paper. “But to unlock broadband’s limitless potential, it must be universally available and affordable.”

The message is the same — but the messengers are different.

Signing on to the CWA missive were Connected Nation, a Bell-, cable-, and state-funded organization that maps the availability of broadband, as well as the big Bells (AT&T, Verizon, Qwest), smaller telcos (Winstream, OPASTCO), cable titans (Charter, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable), and non-profit groups that frequently align themselves with telco priorities, including the Alliance for Public Technology and the Internet Innovation Alliance.

The Internet for Everyone collection is heavy on the Free Press crowd, including media reform reform groups now zealous about broadband, established non-profits (ACLU, Consumers Union, Common Cause, One Economy, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge, Sunlight Foundation), and tech companies with an internet focus (BitTorrent, eBay, Computer and Communications Industry Association and Google).

Of the 30 groups that signed on to the CWA missive, and of the 100 that are listed on Internet for Everyone’s web site, only two groups are on both lists: EDUCAUSE, and the American Library Association.

Welcome to the world of telecom politics.

Both coalitions say want a better internet, or even some kind of a national policy with some sort of a national broadband strategy. Indeed, both groups seem to agree that some kind of concerted action is necessary on broadband.

“There is a growing consensus on the need for broadband, and the need for government involvement to make the next generation of broadband happen,” says Wendy Wigen, government relations officer for EDUCAUSE.

“The industry, together with the CWA, have really come to that conclusion themselves,” said Wigen. But when the two divergent groups look towards developing broadband strategies, “there is still a lot of dissention between the two groups.”

BroadbandCensus.com certainly agrees — with both groups — on the need for better data about broadband.

We see a need for information about where broadband is available, just as does Connected Nation. Consumers also need to know the names of the companies that are that are offering broadband. You can find that on BroadbandCensus.com.

We also see the need for more accurate data about internet speeds, as does the speedmatters.org web site of the Communications Workers of America. Consumers also need to know which carriers offer the fastest and the slowest speeds, and whether they are living up to the speeds that they promise to offer. You can find that on BroadbandCensus.com.

Whether you’re part of the CWA crowd, or the Free Press-Google group, we hope you’ll turn to BroadbandCensus.com as your free, consumer-friendly resource about broadband data.

Blog Entries and Position Papers Referenced in this Article:

Watchdogging Government From Below: A Look at the Digital Transparency Movement

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Blog Entries

The final breakout panel of the Personal Democracy Forum examines the state of political wachdogging in the Internet age. The panel is led by Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, who sees the web and its access to information as being fundamental to the recent surge in the movement for enhanced political transparency. She believes that watchdogging our public officials becomes easier when citizens can mark up a google map with earmarks received by various localities and can keep a wiki detailing the fine print of the most impactful legislation.

Ellen’s panelists include David Stephenson, Matt Stoller, and Mark Tapscott and she presents them with four big questions about watchdogging in the digital age:

1) Why is the movement for political transparency flourishing now?

2) Do the left and the right agree on the movement’s core principles?

3) What are the best practices for facilitating political transparency?

4) What are currently the most prominent government efforts to improve political transparency?

Beginning with David Stephenson who points to the importance of data graphics in providing transparency. He presents a mash-up Google map of pothole reports for Washington, DC…which was constructed by a user located in Keane, New Hamphire. Here, relatively difficult to parse, though publicly available, data has been presented in such a way (on a map) that it becomes highly useful to users (dodging potholes on their way to work). Another example David presents is the Gapminder project, which presents massive global data on poverty and other indicators and utilizes animated visual presentations to show changes over time.

David reviews a few keys to improving transparency in government and watchdogging through data graphics. First, he stresses the importance for immediate release of data, even real-time releases and catalogs. Following the release of raw data, users need the freedom and technologies to utilize that data and creatively and productively enhance it through data graphics and visualizations. But he also warns that the genie is out of the lamp and that countless mashups and data visualizations will bloom. The government may not like all of them, but “hopefully the quality of the debate will be a little more focused and a little more fact based.” Greater transparency and accountability is one result. Another is reaching optimal efficiency and gaining new perspectives on issues through broader exposure to data.

Matt Stoller, co-founder of Open Left, is next and wants to address the disparity between rhetoric (on the part of both Left and Right) and reality in DC and the need for political watchdogging to fill that gap. Matt finds a lack of criticism within each party for legislative actions that clearly go against the wishes of many of the party’s constituents. The space where politicians should be criticizing the party leaders might be filled by citizens with transparent access.

Mark Tascott, editor of The Examiner newspaper, harkens back to the beginning of government transparency efforts during the end of the Clinton presidency. Mark is pleased that these effort continued into the Bush administration and cites the creation of usaspending.gov as one of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation in recent memory. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you’ll agree that transparency is fundamental to good governance, according to Mark. He believes that the Internet has given us unprecedented tools for empowering individuals and groups to render obsolete the need for mass government.

The presentations from the panelists inspire a vibrant audience-focused discussion on data collection. Some of the key reactions are below:

*We need better data in order to have a better democracy. It can be done efficiently.

*We need better data in order to better govern and protect.

*What data should the government be publishing?

*Mark: all of it, it’s ours, but we have to keep the focus on transparency and avoid government waste.

*Audience: More transparency could make public aware of government resource shortages.

*David: This requires government will, strong leaders like Adrian Fenty and Martin O’Malley are showing it.

*Mark: But it needs to move faster, perhaps after election.

Many panelists and audience members seemed to agree that transparency is a “trans-partisan” issue that both parties can unite around: more transparency is a good thing and as David Stephenson remarked, “Coburn-Obama says it all!”

Personally, I’m a bit skeptical that transparency is always a non-partisan issue. Take the work right here, of BroadbandCensus.com. The Census had to be created because the Government data on broadband deployment is insufficient. Many policy makers have agreed that the data is deficient for a long time, yet slow-moving reforms at the FCC still are not enough. Meanwhile, speaker after speaker at this conference have stated that broadband deployment must be expanded. Surely, many would agree that we need to know where broadband isn’t before we can begin to expand it. But should the government be responsible for collecting extensive data from resistant telecommunications firms on their deployment?

A broadband census would ultimately provide more transparency and inform better policy, but unfortunately politics is one of many things getting in the way of achieving this. But I suppose if partisan divides and bureaucratic foot-dragging get in the way of transparency, then that’s where citizens and technology need to create an end-around and that’s exactly what Broadband Census is.

Free Press, Google and Others Form Pro-Broadband Initiative

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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

The Tools for Personal Democracy

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Blog Entries

NEW YORK, 23 June, Mid-Morning – The morning speakers and break-out sessions thus far have focused on some of the tools and innovations for enhanced democracy that Micah and Zephyr discussed. Anthony Helle of Linkfluence and Matthew Hurst of Microsoft Live Labs looked at the power of mapping the blogosphere. Collecting data on what citizens are blogging about is clearly a vital part of conveying what’s important to these citizens to the politicians. Matthew is interested in the kind of things you can do with this data and how you can harness it to give people a stronger voice. For instance, he presented a map with geographically and chronologically shifting tags that can reveal the issues that are important to citizens in real-time and can give an idea of local significance.

In the morning break-out session, the Sunlight Foundation demonstrated some of their latest tools for enhancing the transparency and accountability of Congress. Sunlight is developing tools that can aggregate, syndicate and replicate the data they and others gather on politicians, their voting records and the donors that hope to influence those records. Sunlight’s Political Profile widget can be embedded in any website and can make any blogger a Congressional watch-dog. Sites with this widget will broadcast aggregated data on the politician they choose to profile that updates itself and even transforms spreadsheet data into readable text.

The potential for political empowerment presented by these new tools got me thinking about how they could be utilized by the related efforts of initiatives like Broadband Census. The Census seeks transparency and accountability as well – wouldn’t Provider Profile widgets that reveal accurate speeds, costs and coverage offered by ISPs be useful additions to any website concerned with the telecom industry?

Powerful innovations for personal democracy will aggregate the most accurate data from the most diverse sources and will be available to the most expansive community. These tools and the data they deliver need to be syndicated and widely available in order to make positive contributions to the policy debate and they can also impact other arenas like consumer choice and industry competition.

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