After 10 Years of Struggle, Low-Power FM Will Give Thousands of New Communities A Chance To Get Their Voices On The Air.

Ten years ago, the FCC did a startling thing. It recognized that much of the rise in “pirate radio” came from frustrated demand for small, local licenses of the sort the FCC had simply stopped distributing many years before. So the FCC offered a deal to the “pirate” community: stop transmitting illegally and the FCC would create a low-power radio service. Despite fierce resistance by commercial broadcasters at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) (and, to their eternal shame, National Public Radio, which can be just as much of a bad incumbent as its commercial sisters), the FCC adopted rules to allow 100-watt radio stations to operate on a non-commercial basis. These stations would operate on a “secondary” basis to full power stations, required to protect these stations from any interference. To create space for these new community Low Power FM (LPFM) stations, the FCC would relax the “third adjacent” spacing requirement, a mechanical rule for spacing radio station transmitters far enough apart adopted in the early days radio to ensure no interference. The FCC studied the matter and concluded that relaxing this rule would not cause harmful interference to existing full-power stations.

Needless to say, the full-power broadcasters did not give up so easily. But neither did the supporters of LPFM. It’s a story worth celebrating not merely for the result, but for what it teaches us about staying in the struggle for the long-haul.

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Take Two Tablets, Call Me in the Morning

Against all previous precedent I’d like to present a product review.

This is not a paid review. It’s not even a particularly competent review. But if you’re at all interested in what might possess an otherwise sane person to buy into a ridiculous and expensive electronics fad and then live with it for six months, read on.

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Why Australia Is Building A National Broadband Network And the U.S. Can’t Fund BTOP Oversight

So the Aussie’s are spending $35billion (US) to build a national broadband network (creatively named the NBN). Meanwhile, in the United States, not only did we cut $300 million from BTOP’s grant program, but it is unclear that Congress will even fund the necessary oversight of the program to ensure that stuff funded gets built. As for future funding for actual grants — ha!

There is a reason such projects now happen in other countries, where once they happened here in the U.S.

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Why Network Neutrality Will Not Die (But It Doesn’t Mean We’ll Win, Either).

Was it only last month when network neutrality was supposedly dead, deceased, passed on, expired, gone to meet its maker, run down the curtain, and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible? Yet here we are, with a network neutrality rule teed up for a vote at the FCC’s December 21 meeting. Even more surprising, it appears that a number of long-time opponents may actually be willing to come to the table on a compromise rule, with AT&T’s Jim Cicconi practically living in the Chairman’s office for the past few weeks presumably negotiating over the details of a proposal. Mind you, if the proposed rule is too much of a compromise, network neutrality supporters will oppose it. And, even if major carriers support it, Republicans at the FCC and in Congress are dead set against it.  But for the moment, network neutrality appears to have once again gone from “totally dead” to “certain to become law.”

Truth is, network neutrality has been declared dead so many times it ought to have its own movie or television franchise. I picture Jim Cicconi as Dr. Evil staring at a garishly dressed Josh Silver as Austin Powers and saying: “But you died in that landslide election, when my Tea Party sharks with laser-beams grafted to their skulls had you trapped in their lair!” Josh flips back his hair and replies: “Network neutrality will never die, baby. It’s too shaggidelic!” Or perhaps I, in my secret identity as Perry the Platypus, will once again foil Scott Cleland as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz as he attempts to destroy the open internet with his Close-Internet-Inator (besides, I think FCC Chair Julius Genachowski and Chief of Staff Eddie Lazarus would look cute dressed as Major Monogram and Carl). Or perhaps a looming Voldemort-eque composite of the cable industry will turn its high power lobbying wand on a Network Neutrality Harry Potter (played by Sascha Meinrath, since Ben Scott is no longer available) and asking “Why do you live?” and a defiant Meinrath answers: “Because I have something to live for!”

But while network neutrality appears almost comically unkillable, that does not mean those pushing for strong network neutrality rules  will actually prevail.  As The Mikado once observed: “it’s an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances.” Hence the concern over the actual substance of the rule and the endless last minute wrangling.

Why Network Neutrality keeps coming back from the dead but why supporters still need to pull out the stops to get a strong rule below . . . .

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