Local News Noise & Notes Politics

McConnell Recommends Tabling Online Piracy Bill

With a number of Senators abandoning support for new online piracy laws, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is calling on Senate Democrats to reconsider bringing the controversial bill up for a vote.

The PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) would block access to foreign websites that supporters claim are “dedicated to theft” and break U.S. copyright laws. But critics suggest the legislation would “censor the Internet”, including McConnell’s counterpart, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who threatened to filibuster the legislation.

In a statement Thursday, McConnell says the Democratic majority should table PIPA pending resolution of “the serious issues” with the legislation:

From McConnell’s office:

“While we must combat the on-line theft of intellectual property, current proposals in Congress raise serious legal, policy and operational concerns. Rather than prematurely bringing the Protect IP Act to the Senate floor, we should first study and resolve the serious issues with this legislation.

Considering this bill without first doing so could be counterproductive to achieving the shared goal of enacting appropriate and additional tools to combat the theft of intellectual property. I encourage the Senate Majority to reconsider its decision to proceed to this bill.”

Local News Politics

FCC Chair Discusses Broadband Access, Affordability

This week, a coalition of call center operators promised to create 100,000 new American customer service jobs, many of which could be done from home. But unless Internet access is improved, those jobs will be off-limits to one third of the country.

There are two hindrances to broadband. For 20 million Americans, there are no service providers in their area. Another 80 million Americans have access, but either can’t afford it or don’t want it.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says more Americans need access to multiple providers, and the FCC has initiatives to encourage cable and wireless providers to expand their services and make them more affordable. But at the same time, many providers are merging, meaning more coverage could be offered by fewer companies.

Most recently, AT&T and T-Mobile have announced a merger. Genachowski can’t comment on pending deals, but he says the FCC must ensure that access and affordability aren’t hurt.

“Competition is just essential to generate innovation, private investment in the U.S., and so, along with the Justice Department, where we have jurisdiction to review mergers, we take that very seriously,” says Genachowski.

Many Louisvillians only have one option for wired broadband access. The necessity of access has led many advocates to say broadband should be treated as a utility, like electricity or water. In parts of rural Kentucky, there are small co-ops or municipal service providers.

“Is broadband essentialy for participation in our economy and our democracy? Yes. Would we prefer to see universal broadband achieved through competition, multiple providers, rather than a monopoly utility? Absolutely,” says Genachowski, adding that co-ops and other small providers still have a role in national broadband deployment.

The full interview is available here:

Audio MP3

Local News

Many Rural Homes Lack Broadband, Study Finds

According to the United States Department of Commerce, broadband access and adoption is lagging in rural America, and large swaths of central and eastern Kentucky have little to no internet access.

A recent study found that about 40% of rural households use broadband internet service, while roughly half of urban households are online. About 28% of all Americans do not use the Internet at all.

The government’s broadband map charts Internet accessibility. It shows no coverage–wired or wireless–in portions of eastern and southern Kentucky.

State of Affairs

Copyright, Free Culture & the Internet

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Copyright, Free Culture, and the Internet
So you’re hanging out with friends, shooting some video, just having a good time. You go home, do a little editing, set it to music, post-it on YouTube and… it’s taken down for copyright issues related to the music. And boy are you mad. Fast forward in time, you’ve just spent an untold amount of time on your personal masterpiece, a documentary that you’ve posted on your personal site. The next day, you see fragments of it used in another video on another site, and boy are you mad. But you can’t have it both ways, or can you? And should anything that is posted on the internet be fair game? Join us on Tuesday for a discussion about copyright, free culture and the internet.

Listen to the Show

Related Links:

Looking for an older episode? Browse the State of Affairs Audio Archive.

Blog Archive

Obama And Rural Broadband

Al Cross at the Rural Blog has a post about President-Elect Obama’s plans for improved broadband penetration. Obama mentioned the need to increase internet access in his press conference today (the one attended by Mayor Abramson).

The typically tech-friendly Obama and his fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin supported a similar effort last year. Back then, it relied on public-private partnerships like Connected Nation, which began as ConnectKentucky.

Here’s our report from last year on ConnectKentucky’s questionable progress. While the full details haven’t been released, it looks like Obama is no longer recommending support for Connected Nation or its affiliates.

When I was conducting interviews for the ConnectKentucky story, I talked to the managers of several small ISPs. They agreed that the free market was increasing access, but it needed a booster shot of cash to speed things up. If people in rural areas had the money for computers and service, ISPs would meet that demand, they said. If the ISPs had more money, they could improve their infrastructure and increase competition, theoretically lowering prices.

The ISPs also had plans for increasing demand and service without the direct injection of money. One way would be to provide low-cost computers to low-income households – something ConnectKentucky has begun working on. Another is to reverse years of regulation and deregulation to make smaller ISPs more competitive with the giant telecoms.

So, what do you support: Cash-infusions, discount computers, new legislation or some combination of the three?

Local News

No Layoffs Expected In Win.Net Bankruptcy

No layoffs or service interruptions are expected as a result of Win.Net’s bankruptcy filing this month.

The Louisville-area company provides internet service to homes and businesses in Southern Indiana, Central Kentucky and parts of Arkansas. The company is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to help reorganize nearly $750,000 of debt.

President Michael Tague says the debt was accumulated as Win.Net acquired other ISPs. He doesn’t expect the bankruptcy to affect the company’s 25 hundred customers or 14 employees.

“Our operations are profitable,” says Tague. “I mean we just simply had some accumulated debts that had just been too much. But the operations themselves are profitable and ongoing.”

Tague says the company is now in the process of restructuring its debt.

The company’s clients include Louisville Public Media.