Tales of the Sausage Factory: MAP Summer Fun Kit

Whose up for a summer of social activism on media and telecom policy? A show of hands please? What if I told you it would only take about 15 minutes using the equipment you are using to read this webpage?

I’ve pegged four FCC proceedings that will benefit enormously from an injection of real world information. My pitch letter for why you should care, along with links to summaries of the proceedings and instructions on how to file, given below.

Stay tuned . . .

Dear friends:

Media Access Project has prepared summaries of four important FCC proceedings in which we would very much like to encourage public comments. Two of these proceedings, the Deployment of Broadband Services (aka The

Commission’s Section 706 Inquiry) and the Wireless Access public notice are already past the official comment dates. Nevertheless, we strongly urge concerned citizens and organizations to file comments in these proceedings. You can find copies of these summaries here.

It is a sad consequence of life that those with the greatest resources and sophistication to respond to these inquiries — or even be aware of them — are those incumbent interests best served by the status quo. As a consequence, the inquiry into whether advanced telecommunications services are timely deployed to all Americans is dominated not by citizens either enjoying or unable to access such services, but by the largest telephone and cable companies rushing to assure the Commission that its deregulatory policies are a great success and a boon to the American people. The wireless access proceeding has become dominated by commercial licensees and their equipment maker supporters urging the Commission to adopt policies favorable to licensed technologies at the expense of unlicensed technologies.

Worse, in those areas where the Commission practices willful ignorance — such as the state of competition in the cable market or the state of local service by radio and television broadcasters — it takes a very load noise from the public to get them to acknowledge the existence of a problem.

I particularly wish to urge people to file in the 11th Annual Assesment of the State of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming. As part of the 1992 Cable Act, Congress ordered the FCC to conduct this annual assesment to determine what regulations Congress or the FCC must pass to protect consumers cable companies abusing their market power. Sadly, the FCC, bent on deregulation, has turned this annual assesment into an annual white wash. Every year, despite diligent documentation from a handful of citizen and consumer groups, the Commission concludes that competition for cable services is robust, prices are not spinning out of control, the public recieves high-quality and diverse news and entertainment, and that deregulation continues to work.

The FCC’s Annual Assesment has become such a travesty that when the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, examined the cable industry in 2003, the GAO issued a special report to chastise the FCC for its poor methodology and lack of accuracy. You can find this GAO report here. This scathing review resulted in no changes in the FCC’s processes or analysis.

Only if citizens create a record impossible to ignore will the FCC be forced to take action. I urge everyone who can to take a few minutes of their time to tell the FCC what is happening in the real world outside the Washington Beltway, away from the soothing chorus in praise of the FCC’s status quo sung by industry lobbyists. Anyone with access to the internet can file comments at the FCC. MAP maintains a webpage that explains the FCC and the filing process on MAP’s website.

All of these materials are released under a Creative Commons Attribution and Non-Commercial License. Please distribute them as widely as possible.

Harold Feld

Associate Director

Media Access Project


  1. Harold,

    I understand that the hour is late, but I’m behind on some real world deadlines. What’s the absolute latest that our comments can matter? Is there a difference between a comment filed today, and, say, next Monday?

  2. Anything in before the end of the month is good. Anything in before the end of August is probably stilluseful. That’s on the closed proceedings, although I would really hurry to get the wireless broadband comments in. That proceeding is moving like thunder.

    The open proceedings have a bit more time. Localism isn’t even due until September with replies in October.

  3. Further thoughts on publicity.

    When you have a substantive issue to report, or when you want to elicit participation, I think you might want to submit a story on Kuro5hin.org. (“K5”)

    Wetmachine gets 150 — 2,000 visitors/day, averaging about 200, while Kuro5hin gets tens of thousands.

    Obviously K5 is not a universal solution to communicating on the web– if it were I wouldn’t be shelling out good $$ to keep wetmachine going. I like the freedom that Wetmachine gives us, and we can create our own readership here.

    Furthermore, if you were to submit every “Tales of the Sausage” factory as a K5 story, people would soon tire of the and vote them down just on principle.

    Nevertheless, for situations like this, when you’re trying to stir up the grass roots, I think it would be good to submit to K5.

    Unlike Wetmachine, K5 doesn’t have editors who have posting rights. It’s a quasi-democracy, where every story submission gets voted on its merits. So, I can mention things in my K5 diary, but if you want real attention it needs to be in a K5 “story” (which is distinct from a diary entry.) In which case it would stand a lot better chance if you wrote it than if I wrote it.

    For what it’s worth. Lord knows I’m not trying to chase stories like this off Wetmachine. They’ve become the soul of wetmachine. But if you want a bigger audience for special articles, consider K5.

  4. Also or alternatively to K5, you can send stories you want more widely read, or pointers to them, to Cory Doctorow over at BoingBoing (http://boingboing.net) If he runs it (and if it bears on copyright or electronic protection, he likely will, as you probably already know), he’ll excerpt it and send a link back here. (SOP at BB) That would keep you from having to resubmit the entire story. But it might blow the bandwidth here at Wetmachine, so perhaps you and John might want to agree on policy in that regard before going ahead with it. (BoingBoing has been verbed, a la “slashdotted”, with the same meaning: to spike bandwidth by orders of magnitude when an article is pointed to by the site.)

    Either way, thanks, Harold! As always, thought-provoking stuff. (Question: Have you had occasion to research the INDUCE Act that Orrin Hatch is now promulgating? If so, I would love to see a piece on it. Thanks.)

  5. Bruce,


    Harold and I both know Cory. He’s boinged wetmachine three times — first about my books, then when my books were released under Creative Commons, and most recently with a general introduction to Harold’s “Sausage Factory” tales.

    I’m not averse to sending Cory a note if I think we have something particularly juicey, but he’s probably not going to give further boings to standard-issue Wetmachine stories.

    Meanwhile, of course, feel free to submit to boing-boing on our behalf, and by all means please tell your friends about wetmachine.

  6. John,

    Sure. I was specifically addressing Tales from the Sausage Factory, which generally bear on copyright issues. For some *ahem* [sarcasm] unfathomable [/sarcasm] reason, Cory is pretty hot to distribute good information about copyright stuff. For which the rest of us are quite grateful.

    When you run something he should know about, I’ll ping him with it, per your suggestion.

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