Thursday, July 16, 2015

When Talking About American Broadband, Don’t Say the ‘I’ Word

Want a blazing fast Internet? Well, you can get it if you live in select parts of the United States where ultra-high-speed services are available — and if you’re willing to pay a lot of money.

On Monday, Comcast announced that it will charge $300 a month for Gigabit Pro, its new 2 gigabit symmetrical service (2 Gbps down, 2 Gbps up). At those speeds, Comcast says, you can download a full music album in less than a second.

But there’s a catch: The service is available only to those living in and around Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, San Francisco and in urban areas of Tennessee and Indiana. And you have to be willing to fork out $1,000 more on installation and activation fees.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Free Press Beams a Message over Times Square

The open Internet flexed its political muscle in 2015, with millions of activists going online to demand Net Neutrality, protest an epidemic of hate crimes and celebrate equal marriage rights.

Free Press has brought this message of online power to Times Square, the world’s premier showcase for old media, placing a video spot on a 1,624 square-foot screen high above Broadway and 43rd Street.

The spot, running from July 1–Sept. 30, is a provocation to both media corporations and the millions of people who pass through this dynamic location.

Why Times Square? Long known as the “crossroads of the world,” Times Square has evolved in the last two decades from a seedy and abandoned stretch of pavement into a place where powerful corporations pump their brands via colossal advertising displays.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Internet Test Reveals Many Americans Not Getting the Speeds They Paid For

For too long Internet users had to take it on faith that our Internet access providers were making good on their promises to give us what we pay for.

But even those who pay a premium for top speeds have found that certain sites and services sputter out at the pace of dial-up. And calling your ISP’s customer-service department to find out what’s going on can be a torturous exercise — requiring you to endure an endless loop of hold music as you pray for a sentient being to pick up the line.

(Photo: Bernard Dupont,
Now you can do something about it. Last month the Free Press Action Fund and our partners launched the Internet Health Test to collect data on the speeds offered by the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The test is an interactive tool that lets users run speed measurements across multiple “interconnection points” and gather information on whether and where ISPs are degrading speeds.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Sun Must Set on Mass Surveillance

The Senate's pro-surveillance wing is scrambling to advance new legislation to preserve the NSA's unchecked ability to spy on all of us.

And they're in a rush. Authorization for the federal government's bulk collection of phone records is set to expire on June 1.

Their efforts were scuttled last Friday -- moments before members of Congress returned to their home states for the week-long Memorial Day recess -- as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to muster the votes needed to continue the surveillance program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Opposition to spreads 
Originally published at

Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for world domination is in deep trouble.

The billionaire Facebook founder recently took to his social network in a bid to save, his plan to give billions of the planet’s poorest people a limited taste of the World Wide Web.

“We have a historic opportunity ahead of us to improve the lives of billions of people,” he said in an impassioned video plea. “It’s just the right thing to do.” is essentially a mobile application that provides free access to a handful of other applications, platforms and websites, including Facebook, Wikipedia and the BBC. Use of comes at no cost; local carriers stream data via the service for free.

Monday, April 27, 2015

In the Jungle with Friedlander

I had the happy fortune to spend a week taking pictures with Lee Friedlander. It was the mid-1990s. I was living in Hanoi, Vietnam and was asked by a mutual friend to guide Friedlander through the country’s distant northwest corner, 350 miles up a rutted mountain road to the former French hill station of SaPa.

I elected to take the back way, a track that winds close to the border with Laos and passes through remote provinces peopled by ethnic tribes. That’s what Lee wants to photograph, I thought.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Your Right to Record: Protected by Law, Disrespected by Law Enforcement

Originally published at PBS MediaShift

While Feidin Santana and Ramsey Orta are hardly household names, these men played pivotal roles in one of the most important civil rights stories of our time.

They made news by using their cellphone cameras to record the police killings of two unarmed black men: Walter Scott and Eric Garner. And though they may not have realized it at the time, such recording is constitutionally protected.

But that may be little comfort to people who record tense encounters between police and the public. After filming the April 4 shooting of Walter Scott, Santana told NBC News, “I felt that my life, with this information, might be in danger. I thought about erasing the video and just getting out of the community, you know Charleston, and living some place else.”

Thursday, April 09, 2015

For Telco Industry Hacks, Progress Is Just Another Word for Crony Capitalism

Published at

The Internet’s politically engaged public is here to stay. Millions of people have begun to use online tools to engage in policy fights and protect our online rights — most recently to secure historic Net Neutrality rules at the Federal Communications Commission.

Net Neutrality supporters at a 2014 rally
in front of City Hall, NYC.
That’s a good thing. But it’s rattled the cages of those on the losing side of these battles. Many of their responses don’t deserve to be taken seriously. But every so often something emerges from Washington that is so reckless and repugnant that it cannot be ignored.

On April 1, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an industry-funded think tank, convened a panel of industry-funded “experts.” ITIF held the D.C. event to blast what it calls “tech populism” — embodied, speakers said, by groups like Free Press, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In its place panelists touted “tech progressivism” — for which industry-funded think tanks like ITIF and the Progressive Policy Institute are the supposed standard-bearers.

Friday, February 27, 2015

We, the Internet, won

Originally published at DailyDot

We, the Internet, won.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved real net neutrality protections, which prevent Internet access providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from becoming the gatekeepers to everything online.

Today’s vote puts control over the Internet where it belongs: in the hands of the people who use it everyday and in every way.

The FCC now has the authority to require that providers act as “common carriers” for all content. That means that they can only connect Internet users to the places we want to go, without slowing our ability to communicate with the people, websites, and services of our choosing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Getting a Win for Net Neutrality

Originally published at the Seattle Times

THE Federal Communications Commission, which on Thursday is expected to circulate a groundbreaking ruling to protect the open Internet, has heard more from the public on the issue of net neutrality than on any other matter in its history.

Nearly 4 million Americans have weighed in. And according to data the agency released earlier this year, Seattle had a higher number of people per capita who urged the agency to stand up for real net-neutrality protections.

It's easy to see why.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Building an Internet Movement from the Bottom-Up

In the early days of the Arab Spring, Wael Ghonim declared, “If you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet.”

In retrospect Ghonim, a well-known Egyptian activist at the center of Cairo protests, should not have stopped there. Just giving a society the Internet isn’t enough to set it free.

As pro-democracy and social justice movements have taken root on the Web, they’ve been challenged by official efforts to remake networks into tools of censorship and exclusion.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

President Obama Comes to the Defense of Gigabit CIties

On Wednesday, President Obama called for an end to rules that prevent cities towns and other communities from creating their own high-speed Internet networks.

During a speech in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to preempt state laws that restrict municipal broadband networks. The phone and cable lobby pushed hard for these bills and succeeded in getting at least 19 on the books in states ranging from North Carolina to Utah.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Four Pivotal Internet Issues as the Year Turns 2015

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with protesters
outside agency headquarters in Washington
The death of the Internet is at hand.

Sound familiar? That’s what Internet pioneer Robert Metcalfe predicted in 1995 when he wrote that spiraling demands on the fledgling network would cause the Internet to “catastrophically collapse” by 1996.

Metcalfe, of course, was dead wrong: The Internet is still chugging along nearly twenty years later, with a predicted 3 billion users by year’s end.

Still, the Internet’s fate feels distinctly uncertain as 2015 begins. Washington is engaged in a furious debate over Net Neutrality, access to affordable broadband services is still considered a luxury for many, while governments here and abroad continue to filter digital communications to spy on everyone, crack down on dissident voices and silence speech.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Best of ...

OK. My Best Records of 2014. This took a while to compile, including hours of winnowing, playing over and again, and gathering feedback. Despite that, you're entitled to hate this list or love it. All I ask is that you give these a listen and then share your favorites for the year (listed alphabetically):