Today, Thursday, January 31st, 2013, Brooklyn Law Incubator and Policy Clinic (BLIP) and the New Networks Institute will host a Reverse ALEC Legal Hackathon at Brooklyn Law School. The invitation-only event, something of an emergency meetup, brings together experts, lawyers, advocates, technologists and competitors, who are concerned with the state of telecommunications in the United States. The goal is to create consensus and build a campaign to define principles for model regulation, pursue legal actions, and create a working path to accomplish the following goals
• Reverse the ALEC-state-based telecom and cable infrastructure deregulation, which has passed in varying degrees in multiple states.
• Stop the immediate threat: AT&T has petitioned the FCC to remove all telecom regulations and keep broadband networks closed, based on concepts in the ALEC-state based ‘model legislation’ that is now used in states and will be presented to Congress.
• Create a proactive, pro jobs and economic growth alternative model that is based on the principle that everyone in America is entitled to a very high speed broadband service that can handle cable, internet and phone services, where the customer selects the providers they want.
Participants include Susan Lerner (Common Cause), Bruce Kushnick (New Networks), Jonathan Askin (Brooklyn Law), Earl Comstock, and David Rosen. The morning plenary session will consist of three panels to outline the issues which, I am happy to report, ISOC-NY has arranged to webcast live via the Internet Society Chapters Webcasting Channel. There will be an opportunity to participate remotely via the livestream chat. No live captions, sorry.
What: Reverse ALEC Legal Hackathon webcast
When: Thursday, January 31st, 2013 – 0930-1300 EST | 1430-1800 UTC
Panel 1: Opening Remarks.
Panel 2: Dialogues for Working Towards Consensus.
Panel 3: Panel 3: Reversing ALEC – What Do You Want to Discuss?
AT&T, Verizon and Centurylink, working with the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, have been able to pass “model deregulatory legislation” in 23 states and there will be more attacks in the remaining states. While these bills vary, their target is to close down all major telecom regulations and obligations including ‘carrier of last resort’ –where the company no longer has to provide phone service, much less upgrade the networks. At the same time, on the federal level, AT&T has petitioned the FCC to use this ALEC-based approach to close down the networks nationwide and has got the FCC to set up a ‘task force’ to make this happen.
While couched as “Internet freedom”, in reality this is only freedom of regulation for the communications companies. 50% of the US will be pushed into ‘digital dead zones’ as AT&T and Verizon are not upgrading about half of their territories; even wireless services are impacted as most cell sites and Wi-Fi hot spots connect to a wire.
As of this writing
• AT&T has submitted a Petition to the FCC to start the process of ‘transitioning the networks’. Comments are due on Jan 28th, 2013; Reply comments February 25, 2013
• Greg Walden of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee has announced hearings starting February 5th, 2013. We expect he will be proposing legislation in Congress to finish the job.
Alongside this, 19 states legislatures have closed municipalities’ ability to offer competitive broadband services and more are expected.
Giving the wired companies monopoly controls over their wires also impacts everything from competition and innovation to the price of service – or even who gets service, and customers will have no recourse. It also means no plans for major upgrades, thus no cable or even broadband competition. And it gives control over all aspects of service, from Net Neutrality or bandwidth caps, to acting as a policeman of content or blocking innovative services.