FCC’s Michael Kopps on net neutrality, the need for democratic media, & more


As Big Telecom tightens its grip over broadband, is your access to the Web at risk? Bill Moyers talks with FCC commissioner Michael Copps to discuss the future of ‘net neutrality’, the fight for more democratic media and the future of journalism in the digital age.

Watch the Video here:

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps is passionate about the
role of media in the United States. That’s why two recent court rulings are troubling him. One rolled back restrictions on cross-media ownership (owning a broadcast entity and a newspaper in the same market). The other, in a big victory for telecomm companies, basically states that the FCC has little authority under current law over Internet service providers.
Find out more about these and other media issues below.

The Comcast Case and Net Neutrality

In 2006 Bill Moyers investigated the complicated debate about net neutrality in the documentary THE NET @ RISK. Some activists describe the ongoing debate this way: A few mega-media giants owns much of the content and controls the delivery of content on radio and television and in the press; if we let them take control of the Internet as well, immune from government regulation, who will pay the price? And how can we assure equal access for all materials and ideas? Their opponents say that the best way to encourage Internet innovation and technological advances is to let the market – not the federal government – determine the shape of the system. As Michael Copps defines it: “This isn’t about regulating the Internet, this is making sure that the Internet is kept open and that others don’t close the doors and become gatekeepers or the keepers of those tollbooths.”

In early April 2010 a federal appeals court handed a set-back to the FCC’s ability to police the Internet – ruling that the FCC’s purview under current law gives it little authority over broadband services. Copps believes that the companies providing and making a profit from Internet services are not the right people to police the system. And Copps doesn’t mince words about the importance of the net neutrality issue:

Our future is going to ride on broadband. How we get a job is going to ride on broadband. How we take care of our health. How we educate ourselves about our responsibilities as citizens. This all depends upon being able to go where you want to go on that Internet, to run the applications that you want to run, to attach the devices, to know what’s going on. That’s what net neutrality is all about.

More About Net Neutrality

* “Court rules for Comcast over FCC in ‘net neutrality’ case,” Cecilia Kang, WASHINGTON POST, April 7, 2010.
* “U.S. Court Curbs F.C.C. Authority on Web Traffic,” Edward Wyatt, THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 6, 2010.
* Watch The Net @ Risk
* Net Neutrality Resources

Where Does the US Stand?

Connectivity Regulating broadband content speeds is just one of the Internet issues facing the US public and government. Some people look upon high-speed Internet access as akin to a right. Michael Copps terms it “more transformative than anything since the printing press” and yet for many Americans high speed broadband is either not available or too expensive. A quick look at the OCED’s statistics on broadband penetration and cost shows the US’s standing. The US has fallen from second to 15th in broadband penetration. Our average download speed is far slower than Japan, Korea, France and a host of other countries. As for price, the US hovers above the middle of the pack in average monthly prices.

Media Ownership

Under the administration of two previous FCC chairmen Michael Powell and Kevin Martin media ownership rules had been relaxed. The FCC then reinstated some of the restrictions prohibiting cross-ownership. But in early 2010 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit lifted the ban on cross-ownership. It’s a move which leads many media watchers to fear a further narrowing of voices in mainstream media. As Michael Copps notes: “If your big issue is energy dependence, or climate change, or health insurance, or expanding equal opportunity, this issue of the future of the media, now the media on broadband, has to be your number two issue. Because, on that one, depends on how that big issue that your number one issue gets filtered and funneled to the American people.”

* “Court lifts ban on media ownership restrictions,” Joelle Tessler, AP, March 23, 2010
* Find out who owns the media nationally
* Find out who owns the media locally
* Federal Communications Commission on media ownership

Michael J. Copps

Michael J. Copps was nominated for a second term as a member of the Federal Communications Commission on November 9, 2005, and sworn in January 3, 2006. His term runs until June 30, 2010. He was sworn in for his first term on May 31, 2001.

Mr. Copps served from 1998 until January 2001 as assistant secretary of Commerce for Trade Development at the U.S. Department of Commerce. In that role, Mr. Copps worked to improve market access and market share for nearly every sector of American industry, including information technologies and telecommunications. From 1993 to 1998, Mr. Copps served as deputy assistant secretary for Basic Industries, a component of the Trade Development Unit.

Mr. Copps moved to Washington in 1970, joined the staff of Senator Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and served for over a dozen years as his administrative assistant and chief of staff. From 1985 to 1989, he served as director of government affairs for a Fortune 500 Company. From 1989 to 1993, he was senior vice president for legislative affairs at a major national trade association.

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