Friday, June 24, 2011

Tracking Telecom Issues

The Telecommunications Industry Association, TIA, has a very useful, information-packed website. Though this is a member-site of over 600 telecommunications companies from around the world, it also serves up a fair amount of free content to the general public. Look for the annual Standards and Technology Annual Report (STAR) (which they've been posting since 2001).

You can also follow what's going on at the FCC with the TIA Legislative Tracker and the TIA Regulatory Tracker. The June 2011 Regulatory Tracker, for instance, boasts 198 pages of up to date information on regulatory policy.

And while TIA's 2011 ICT Market Review & Forecast may be prohibitively expensive, the previous year's report is free for download, as are older white papers and the like. So even at the TIA Store most items are free.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

FCC on the Information Needs of Communities

The FCC Working group on the Information Needs of Communities has just released its eighteen-months-in-the-making Future of Media report—now called “The Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age.” The 365-page report thoroughly assesses the current news media landscape, including policy and regulation, and provides recommendations, some directed at the FCC, others to the broader community of policymakers, philanthropists, and citizens.

From the Report's Overview:

Thomas Jefferson, who loathed many specific newspapers, nonetheless considered a free press so vital that he declared, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” If he were alive today, Jefferson would likely clarify that his dedication was not to “newspapers” per se but to their function: providing citizens the information they need to both pursue happiness and hold accountable government as well as other powerful institutions.

That sense of the vital link between informed citizens and a healthy democracy is why civic and media leaders grew alarmed a few years ago when the digital revolution began undercutting traditional media business models, leading to massive layoffs of journalists at newspapers, newsmagazines, and TV stations. Since then, experts in the media and information technology spheres have been debating whether the media is fulfilling the crucial role envisioned for it by the Founders. In 2008 and 2009, a group that was both bipartisan (Republicans and Democrats) and bi-generational (“new media” and “old media”) studied this issue at the behest of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The group, the Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, concluded: “America is at a critical juncture in the history of communications. Information technology is changing our lives in ways that we cannot easily foresee...The digital age is creating an information and communications renaissance. But it is not serving all Americans and their local communities equally. It is not yet serving democracy fully. How we react, individually and collectively, to this democratic shortfall will affect the quality of our lives and the very nature of our communities.”

The Knight Commission’s findings, as well as those of other blue-ribbon reports, posed a bipartisan challenge to the FCC, whose policies often affect the information health of communities. The chairman responded in December 2009 by initiating an effort at the FCC to answer two questions: 1) are citizens and communities getting the news, information, and reporting they want and need? and 2) is public policy in sync with the nature of modern media markets, especially when it comes to encouraging innovation and advancing local public interest goals?

A working group consisting of journalists, entrepreneurs, scholars, and government officials conducted an exploration of these questions. The group interviewed hundreds of people, reviewed scores of studies and reports, held hearings, initiated a process for public comment, and made site visits. We looked not only at the news media but, more broadly, at how citizens get local information in an age when the Internet has enabled consumers to access information without intermediaries.

This report is intended both to inform the broad public debate and help FCC Commissioners assess current rules.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

June CommQuote

Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, has a more more sober view of the internet and social media as great liberators. He wrote a short piece on the subject a few months ago in Wired Magazine.

The last time American leaders were this ecstatic about the power of information was at the end of the Cold War, when illicit fax machines and photocopiers and the work of broadcasters like Radio Free Europe were presumed to have been a leading cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. (In 1990, Albert Wohlstetter—the ur-technocrat who was one of the inspirations for Dr. Strangelove—told an audience of perplexed eastern Europeans that “the fax shall make you free.”) Today, most historians reject such views as reductionist, but they are still extremely popular among US politicians (probably because celebrating smuggled technology allows them to celebrate the politicians who made the smuggling possible—particularly Ronald Reagan). Such Cold War thinking showed in Clinton’s speech: “Virtual walls,” she said, are “cropping up in place of visible walls,” and viral videos and blogging are “becoming the samizdat of our day.”

But not all blogs are revolutionary. China, Iran, and Russia all have bloggers who are more authoritarian in their views than their governments are. Some of these governments are even beginning to follow the path laid by Western corporations, actively deploying regime-friendly bloggers to spread talking points. Is this “samizdat”?

Cold War baggage, in short, severely limits the imagination of do-gooders in the West. They assume that the Internet is too big to control without significant economic losses. But governments don’t need to control every text message or email. There’s a special irony when Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggests—as he did in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations last November—that China’s government will find it impossible to censor “a billion phones that are trying to express themselves.” Schmidt is rich because his company sells precisely targeted ads against
hundreds of millions of search requests per day. If Google can zero in like that, so can China’s censors.

Calling China’s online censorship system a “Great Firewall” is increasingly trendy, but misleading. All walls, being the creation of engineers, can be breached with the right tools. But modern authoritarian governments control the web in ways more sophisticated than guard towers.
--Why the Internet Is a Great Tool for Totalitarians, Wired Magazine, January 2011

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Tracking the Crackups: News on the Net

Searcher Magazine features a roundup of go-to internet sites for breaking news. You can read the article, Tracking the Crackups: News on the Net, by Irene McDermott, online via the Penn Library e-resources. Or you can just rifle through the sites mentioned in the article without context with the useful resource list the magazine provides on the open web for free.
These URLs appear in the column:
by Irene E. McDermott
Reference Librarian/Systems Manager
Crowell Public Library, City of San Marino
Searcher, the Magazine for Database Professionals
Vol. 19, No. 4 • May 2011






Twitter for News







News Aggregators





Newspapers Online





Reports from Responders and International Media






News Analysis






The New Media Revolutions







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