John Eggerton

MMTC Presses Case At FCC For Multilingual EAS

The Minority Media & Telecommunications Council wants the Federal Communications Commission to act on its petition seeking multilingual emergency warnings.

In comments to the FCC, MMTC pointed out that Aug 29 marks the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and said the commission should act on MMTC's petition before then.

"Despite the Petition for Immediate Relief, Independent Panel recommendations and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) support, the Commission has made no significant progress to ensure that non-English speaking residents will have access to lifesaving information before, during, and in the wake of an emergency," MMTC told the commission.

MMTC wants the FCC to require broadcasters to work with local governments and other stations to come with a plan for what each will do in an emergency to make sure that non-English speakers get timely emergency info, preferably relayed by a human being rather than a computer translation program, at least "until translation technologies are capable of capturing the nuances of language through which critical information is transmitted and received."

Attorney General Holder: Journalists Won't Be Jailed For Doing Their Jobs

Attorney General Eric Holder told journalists that as long as he is on the job, no journalist will go to jail for doing his or her job.

That came in a meeting between Attorney General Holder, deputy attorney general James Cole, and other DOJ officials, and members of the news media and the representatives to talk about recent revisions to Justice's guidelines on government information-gathering from journalists.

During the meeting, according to Justice, journalists asked DOJ to reconsider some of the language announced in February, with a focus on the scope of newsgathering activities covered by the guidelines.

In essence, the change makes the default setting having to give notice to news media of data collection unless there is an affirmative showing that to do so would threaten the integrity of the investigation, risk grave harm to national security or pose an imminent risk to life and limb. DOJ also modified search warrant policies so that journalist work product cannot be sought under the "suspect" exception unless the journalist is the focus of the criminal investigation. Attorney General Holder has to approve any search warrants and court orders directed to members of the news media.

Comcast's Roberts: NYT Misreads Market

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said that the New York Times was entitled to their opinion, but that Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable is not going to create a colossus in the media space that would have too much power over video and Internet access.

Roberts said he did not think the paper's opposition would make the deal harder to sell and suggested that the paper's reading of the marketplace was off base.

"They got a lot of facts that I think they didn't quite look at right." For example, he said, NYT's comparison of the deal to creating a company akin to the pre-breakup AT&T. "In the days of AT&T there was only one phone company," he said. "It is truly an antiquated notion to say there is not competition in video."

He pointed out that Comcast had lost video customers for 26 straight quarters until two quarters ago. "It is a tremendously changing space...and I think they were looking at the wrong thing."

Responding to the criticism of Comcast's broadband subscriber footprint post-merger, Roberts said it was important to remember that Comcast and TWC don't compete with each other in broadband, so there will be no reduction in competition when they combine. He also pointed out that Comcast supports open Internet rules, or at least "the right kind of rules," that allow for investment and innovation. He said those should give consumers confidence that they aren't ever going to be slowed down or blocked.

Zaslav: Comcast/TWC Raises Issues

Discovery CEO David Zaslav, talking about Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, said media ownership consolidation raises some "real issues.”

Zaslav said the company was still studying the deal, and suggested it would take longer to close than everybody initially thought, perhaps first or second quarter of 2015. He said that would give Discovery time to kick the tires on the deal and determine where it stood.

CFA: Tenth Circuit Decision Boosts FCC Net Neutrality Approach

The Consumer Federation of America argues that the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision declining petitions to review Federal Communications Commission Universal Service Fund intercarrier compensation reforms buttresses the FCC's ability to regulate network neutrality using Sec. 706 authority, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed.

The Tenth Circuit ruling, it argues, gives a "huge boost" to that strategy in the following ways:

  • It finds that §254 is an independent source of authority to include broadband access service in the definition of universal service.
  • It identified §706 as a separate basis of authority that complements the §254 authority.
  • It recognizes the important role that flexibility has always played in implementation of the Communications Act and explains the logic of the new approach to flexibility embodied in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
  • It systematically and thoroughly dispenses with a wide range of arguments that are little more than screeds against change.

Senate Antitrust Leaders Advise Consumer-Focused AT&T/DirecTV Review

Senate Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee Chairman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-UT) are urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to focus on consumers -- including price, choice, quality and innovation – when reviewing AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV.

Justice will review for antitrust issues, while the FCC's review extends to public interest benefits as well as harms.

Tenth Circuit Won't Review FCC Intercarrier Comp Challenges

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has rejected a challenge by NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association and others to the Federal Communications Commission’s intercarrier compensation changes in the commission's Universal Service Reforms.

They had taken issue with portions of the 2011 USF reform order revising how the funds were allocated and employed.

The order was part of the FCC's shift of funds from traditional phone service to broadband.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “After years of good faith efforts faltered, voting to approve the comprehensive reform of universal service and intercarrier compensation continues to be one of my proudest moments at the Federal Communications Commission. The reforms are changing the lives of millions of Americans who will receive broadband for the first time. I am extremely pleased that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the FCC’s decision. I look forward to working with the Chairman and my colleagues as we tackle the next steps of reform.”

PCCC Launches Gamer-Targeted Net Neutrality Video

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) has teamed with animation producer Pixel Valley Studio on a new YouTube video to encourage Web surfers to sign a petition at its Web site, calling on the Federal Communications Commission not to create Internet fast and slow lanes.

The video, "2084 Calling," is aimed at gamers, showing a "dystopian" future in which various videogame-like characters have been relegated to the slow lane. "We're stuck here, but in your time you can still do something to change this," one of the "virtual descendants" warns. At press time there were 141,261 signatures on the online petition, according to the site, toward a goal of 150,000.

Republican Senators Seek Hearing On ICANN Hand-off

Led by Senate Commerce Committee members Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), nine Republican senators have asked the chairman and ranking member of the committee to hold a hearing on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s planned transition of some Internet domain name (ICANN) functions to a multistakeholder model.

That came the same day that the House agreed to amend the DOTCOM Act to a must-pass defense bill. The Act would require a Government Accountability Office study before that hand-off.

It was primarily backed by Republicans, though 17 Democrats also voted to amend to the National Defense Authorization Act. In a letter to chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Mark Pryor (D-AS), Rubio and company shared House Republican (and some Democrat) concern over the transition, pointing to the "success of the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance."

Actually, Democrats opposed to the DOTCOM Act, say that the hand-off is in service of that goal, since it is transitioning from US oversight -- though they argue that has been primarily ceremonial -- to the multistakeholder model.

Sen Franken Seeks Answer On Comcast Net Neutrality Condition

Sen Al Franken (D-MN) has asked Comcast to clarify what it means in ads suggesting the Time Warner Cable deal will be a boon to network neutrality.

Comcast is subject to network neutrality regulations through 2018 regardless of the legal status of FCC rules -- they are currently mostly invalidated but the FCC is reworking them.

In a letter to company CEO Brian Roberts, Sen Franken, who is a vocal critic of that deal, wants to know if Comcast will extend that condition beyond 2018 whether or not the FCC succeeds in reinstating them.

"Comcast has made net neutrality a central issue in its affirmative case for the Comcast-TWC deal. As such, it should explain fully its intentions with respect to net neutrality, not just for the period that runs from now until 2018," said Sen Franken.