I’ve been pushing for our local government to invest in community-owned networking as necessary infrastructure for the 21st century. Communities that provide neutral and widely accessible communications infrastructures will reap the benefits of greater economic activity, level the playing field vis-a-vis the digital divide and help create a new Town commons open to all our citizens irrespective of their political or other views.
To date, the Town has ear-marked $500,000 to tag-along with NC DOT’s traffic signalization upgrade project.
One argument in favor of a municipal network is that the community has direct oversight and input into its operating policies.
So, unlike a mega-corp telco like AT&T, our local community can adopt policies which don’t siphon off our emails without due legal process and protect our 4th Amendment freedoms. Or, again unlike AT&T, can sustain network neutrality, repudiate online censorship and preserve our ability to exercise freedom of speech.
AT&T did their part this weekend to make the abstract threat of mega-corporation censorship little more concrete:
After concluding our Sunday night show at Lollapalooza, fans informed us that portions of that performance were missing and may have been censored by AT&T during the “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast. When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them. During the performance of “Daughter” the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” but were cut from the webcast:
– “George Bush, leave this world alone.” (the second time it was sung);
– “George Bush find yourself another home.”
This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media. AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media. Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of “NetNeutrality.”
Pearl Jam? Hey, whatever you think of their music or RIAA issues, they have a point. If their performance can be censored in real-time by the only conduit carrying their message, well, it can happen in pretty much any other venue.
AT&T was caught this time. What of the next when, say, they are tempted to prune a few unflattering comments made about their monopolistic practices during the telecast of a Congressional oversight hearing?
I’ve taken a break from pushing the community owned networking agenda for a short while. Folks like fellow ‘blogger and net-activist BrianR have picked up my slack and moved forward.
I have a post coming up singing the praises of these local activists who have striven to protect our community’s ability to deploy a counter to the AT&T communications monopoly.
Until then, please hop over to Brian Russell’s Yesh ‘blog to catch up on what has been happening on the local scene.