Tag: "capture"

Posted September 18, 2017 by Anonymous

This is the transcript for episode 270 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Professor Barbara Cherry goes into detail on the history of common carriage and telecommunications law. Listen to this episode here.

Barbara Cherry: It's been a mess. And part of the problem is restoring a more accurate understanding of our history.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is Episode 270 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez this week Christopher talks with attorney and legal scholar Barb Cherry about common carriage. We often talk about common carriage as it relates to telecommunications. And this week Christopher and Barb get into the policy. But most of us aren't aware of the legal history behind common carriage. Barb describes how its origins relate to the way it's applied today and how we need to consider the past as we move toward the future. Now here's Christopher and Barb Cherry.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another edition of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Chris Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance up in Minneapolis. Today I'm speaking with Barb Cherry a lawyer and a Ph.D. in communications who worked for the FCC for five years has 15 years in industry but is now a professor at the media school at Indiana University. Welcome to the show.

Barbara Cherry: Thank you, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: Barb, one of the things I've warned you about. I'll tell the audience that you have an incredible amount of knowledge and you're very passionate. And so if this seems like it's getting a little bit too you know, friendly I might poke you a little bit to get some of that passion up on the surface.

Barbara Cherry: No problem.

Christopher Mitchell: Let's talk about common carriage which is something that I've never heard anyone explain as well as you have and and maybe you can just start with giving us a sense of the historical origins of common carriage in general.

Barbara Cherry: Yes common carriage is a special legal status that evolved over centuries literally to reflect that certain kinds of businesses engage in certain kinds of services... Read more

Posted September 12, 2017 by christopher

The modern fight over network neutrality isn't a few years old. It is well over 1,000 years old across a variety of infrastructures and is totally wrapped up in a legal concept known as common carriage that has governed many kinds of "carriers" over the years. Few, if any, are as conversant in this subject as Barbara Cherry - a lawyer and PH.D in communications. She has worked in industry for 15 years, at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for five years, and is currently a professor in the Media School at Indiana University.

One of the key points of our conversation is regarding the problems with media shortening the Network Neutrality policy fights as turning the Internet into a "public utility."  Barbara helps us to understand how common carriage is distinct from public utility regulation and why common carriage regulation is necessary even in markets that may have adequate competition and choices.

We also talk about the history of common carriage and the importance of what might seem like outdated law from the days of the telegraph. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted January 10, 2012 by christopher

One of the reasons community broadband networks face so many unique hurdles (often created deliberately by states in response to cable/dsl lobbying) is because of the many ways in which campaign finance corrupts our national and state governments.

Community broadband networks are focused on meeting community needs, not sending lobbyist armies into Washington, DC, and state capitals (though one of things we do at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance is offer help to those that do push pro-community agendas in these areas).

To understand why DC is so focused on furthering the corporate agendas of AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and others, is to understand the revolving door. (Also, understanding capture -- which we have explained previously.)

In short, many of the people who make decisions about telecommunications policy in DC have worked, will work, or are presently working for the massive companies that effectively control access to the Internet in most of America's communities.

The good folks at Geke.US have created the following Comcast Venn Diagram illustrating a small piece of the DC revolving door.

Comcast and DC's revolving door Venn Diagram

Reforming this system is a deep, seemingly intractable problem. But for those looking for answers, a good place to start is with the work of Lawrence Lessig. I just finished his Republic, Lost, which offers a grand tour of the problems resulting from the present system of campaign finance.

You can also see a number of his presentations here.

His organization, the Rootstrikers aim to get to the root of problems rather than being distracted by trying to fix symptoms of deeper problems. This is precisely what we do with our focus on community networks.

Many focus solely on resolving digital divide issues, improving rural access to the Internet, lowering the cost of broadband, or the various other problems that result from narrowly-focused private corporations owning and controlling essential communications infrastructure with... Read more

Posted February 5, 2011 by christopher

As you observe (or hopefully, participate in), the debates around network neutrality or universal service fund reform, remember that many of the loudest voices in support of industry positions are likely to be astroturf front groups.  Between extremely well-financed astroturf organizations and industry-captured regulatory agencies, creating good policy that benefits the public is hard work.  It helps to study how industry has gamed the FCC in the past -- as documented by David Rosen and Bruce Kushnick in a recent Alternet article.

At the risk of being sarcastic, we can thank the FCC for working with the industry to make our phone bills to easy to read - an example is available here.

Posted November 24, 2010 by christopher

David Isenberg, of isen.blog, has published a short history of Reedsburg's community fiber network that he previously wrote for the FCC when they were gathering evidence of successful networks they would later ignore in formulating a plan to continue the failed status quo of hoping private companies will build and operate the infrastructure we need.

Nonetheless, one cannot say that smart people like David did not try to help the FCC overcome its obsession with national carriers who dominate the conversations, and whose employees often work periodically with the FCC in what we call the revolving door (which itself, is a reason the FCC has been captured).

Back to Reedsburg; it is a small community approximately 55 miles northwest of Madison that just happens to have far better broadband service than just about anywhere else in Wisconsin.

David writes,

RUC first entered the telecommunications business in 1998, when it constructed a ring to tie its wells, its five electrical substations together and to provide Internet access for its high school, middle school and its school administration building. In planning the ring, the city asked Verizon and Charter if they would build it, but they were not responsive. RUS built a partly aerial, partly buried 7-mile ring of 96-strand fiber at a cost of about $850,000. Internet access was provided by Genuine Telephone, a tiny subsidiary of LaValle Telephone Cooperative which ran a fiber from LaValle, about 8 miles NW of Reedsburg.

As they were building the ring, local businesses asked to be connected as well. Reedsburg took the path that so many communities have followed, start by building for yourself and expand opportunistically. Of course, this requires that you originally engineer the network so it can be later expanded, which is good practice regardless of your future plans.

Reedsburg used bond anticipation notes, a financial mechanism that few others have used in building similar networks.

A local bank loaned the initial $5 million in bond anticipation notes for planning and construction. Then RUC issued an... Read more

Posted November 16, 2010 by christopher

In the world of essential infrastructure, thousands of years of history have taught us that entities, acting on their own narrow interest, cannot be trusted to build or govern the building blocks of commerce or transportation. The temptation to abuse that powerful position has always proved too much for those without accountability to the public.

For instance, if the only way to move goods is a canal, private canal owners will price at a high level or use their position to take a stake in all the industries using the canal. Such an arrangement is great for the canal owners but poor for the rest of society. Witness the history of canals and railroads.

Two options to dealing with this problem have historically been either regulation or public ownership of such infrastructure. Readers of this site are undoubtedly well aware of our preference for public ownership - a structural approach using coops, local government, or non-profits to ensure the interests of the public at large receive the highest priority.

This post explains one of the reasons a regulatory approach, whereby private companies still own the infrastructure (and often make key decisions) but must go through some form of public body that is supposed to prevent the natural interests of the private company from taking over and reducing the benefits to society at large.

Writing in the Financial Times, John Kay explains regulatory capture, the process by which the agency or commission supposed to regulate effectively begins to act more in the interests of those regulated rather than the public. An obvious example of this is the Minerals Management Agency that has long improperly overseen the extraction industry, leading to the BP Gulf Oil Hole.

As Kay rightly explains, there are multiple kinds of capture from outright corruption to something that leads some political science geeks bring up Gramsci and Hegemony...

But the most common form of capture is honest and may be characterised as intellectual capture. Every regulatory agency is dependent for information on the businesses it regulates. Many of the people who run regulated companies are agreeable, committed individuals who are properly affronted by any suggestion that their activities do not serve the public good. Few members of the public, by contrast, ever make contact with a regulatory agency... Read more

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