The iPhone Hearings – Free the iPhone

Free the iPhone

Sign the petition!

The iPhone has set the stage for the future of mobile Internet — but bad policies allow companies like AT&T and Verizon to shackle great gadgets to their closed networks.

To free wireless Internet, the FCC and Congress must use the 700MHz spectrum auction to create an open network that gives consumers:

1. The freedom to use whatever device we want on any network.

2. The freedom to choose among many providers in a competitive wholesale marketplace.

3. The freedom to access any content or services we want through our devices.

These true open access standards should apply to the entire wireless market.

Orange County, NC Elections Maps

Over on Orange Politics Ruby has posted a entry with links to some amazing Google Maps.
Southern Orange County NC Election Info Map

Last week I created a Google map of all of the candidates in Orange County in this year’s municipal and school board races. Now excellent electoral map maker Damon Seils has added two very helpful resources: a map of every polling site in the county, and another map of the voting precincts. All of these maps will be permanently available on the election info page:

This is going to be so useful to so many people. I’ve wanted to know exactly where the local precincts are. Google Maps rock! Overlaying several different kinds of data with Geo info can tell so much. I want to thank Damon Seils and B. Hammill for all their work on this! Also thank you Ruby for putting this out there for people to use. She has lots of other good ideas for maps too.

Now what I would like to see is to see is candidates overlayed with a map showing the average density and average income of each precinct.

Clap, Clap, Clap!

(Map Legend: Flags = poling places, Orange Boxes w/White lines = precincts, purple pins = Carrboro Candidates homes, yellow pins = School Board Candidates homes, blue pins = Chapel Hill Candidates homes)

Where is the WiFi?

At a recent council meeting the Chapel Hill IT Director presented information about a WiFi pilot project. One council member asked How will citizens know where it is? How will we know when its up? The Mayor asked the IT Director to work with the Town Information Officer. A good first step. I subscribe to the Chapel Hill eNews. (A email list.) I wonder what percentage of Chapel Hillians do?

For this pilot project to work not only do the WiFi hot spots need to be where people will be but the Town needs to tell people where they are. A press release will help but it won’t be enough to encourage full participation.

Here are a few ideas for getting the word out. I hope that if the Town is really interested in the success of this pilot that they’ll consider these options. What ideas do you have? Please leave them in the comments.

First, mark the locations clearly where open public WiFi is present. The Town of Carrboro uses a internationally known symbol for an open wifi node.
There is a symbol like this on the door of the Century Center as you head towards the Cybrary. Still this bit of iconography is a bit geeky so some may be confused by it. I think english AND spanish signs that say; Public Wireless Internet Access Available Here, would be good.

Second, plot the WiFi hot spots on a map. Google maps are incredibly powerful tools that are free to use. Last year I created a map for local WiFi called Chapel Hill Wireless. It has pins on a map that you can click on and learn more about the spot. I’ve included WiFi from both Towns and from local businesses. (Sadly UNC’s wifi is NOT on this map. That network is closed to most citizens.) Since this map’s creation we’ve also gotten maps for other towns such as Durham Wireless and Asheville Wireless.

Third, hold events at the WiFi locations. Work with local tech groups like BlogTogether and University user groups to have lawn chair parties within range of the WiFi. I suggest people need to bring their own chairs because it looks like the majority of the pilot project will be conducted in parking lots. Sorta hard to sip coffee and talk to friends and family on asphalt. But I plan on doing just that.

I am sure there are even more creative ways to let people know about these new public resources. As I said in my comments before the council success of public WiFi relies on two way communication with people more than technology. WiFi for people before parking meters!

Cross posted from Orange Politics.

Support the 'Community Broadband Act of 2007'

Yeah FreePress! I just got this Action Alert email. I’ll repost it here in it entirety. This is a really good action item. We need to support the new federal bill BEFORE the new study of HB1587 is done. If this new Federal bill passes HB1587 may become obsolete and maybe illegal!

Dear Brian,

Community Internet is safe for now in North Carolina. Help us protect the Internet for everyone:

Support the ‘Community Broadband Act of 2007’

The people of North Carolina scored a huge victory this week when HB 1587, the anti-municipal broadband bill, was derailed until 2009.

This bad bill — written by AT&T and Time Warner — would have eliminated the ability of cities and towns to build high-speed broadband networks to connect communities that have been overlooked by these phone and cable giants.

This bill will not be acted on until after a “study committee” report in 2009. At that time, the bill could still be voted on depending on the committee’s recommendations.

You can help make sure that doesn’t happen. Urge your members of Congress to support a bill that allows towns and cities to offer an Internet alternative. Support the “Community Broadband Act of 2007”:

ACT NOW: Internet for Everyone in North Carolina

Earlier this week, the bipartisan Community Broadband Act of 2007 was introduced in the Senate. The bill would ensure that states cannot prevent local governments from providing broadband networks to their residents and businesses.

This important bill would not only stop the bad bill in North Carolina, it would prevent Internet monopolies from attempting to stifle municipal broadband in other states.

North Carolina has fallen behind other states in high-speed Internet access. According to FCC data, the state ranks 41st in the nation in high-speed broadband adoption. In broadband growth rate, North Carolina ranks 47th.

Help bring the benefits of high-speed Internet access to your state — and all Americans. Tell your legislators in Washington to support the Community Broadband Act of 2007:

ACT NOW: Support the Community Broadband Act of 2007

Defeating HB 1587 is a huge accomplishment, but it may have little meaning if we don’t protect the rights of cities and towns to offer broadband and new technologies to their citizens. Please take action today to help connect more people in North Carolina.

Thanks for all you do,

Ira Horowitz
Online Community Organizer
Free Press

1. Learn more about the Community Broadband Act of 2007:

2. Other cities and towns are taking action to bring broadband to their residents. Learn more at:

3. Take Action to support Public Access TV in North Carolina. Urge your state representative to support community media bill S. 1068:

4. Read Shooting the Messenger, a Free Press report dispelling myths about broadband in America:

I don’t usually post entire action emails, I get A LOT of them, but this one is so important to NC and has lots of good info and links. That PDF called ‘Shooting the Messenger’ has really important info. It describes just how companies like AT&T and Time Warner operate. It is why we must work hard.

New US Senate Bill could Protect NC Broadband

The wonderful website MuniWireless reports about a US Senate Bill called the Community Broadband Act of 2007.

The bill, the Community Broadband Act of 2007, protects consumers on two fronts: It prohibits states from adopting legislation, like the bill pending in North Carolina, which denies local governments the right to deploy municipal broadband projects; It also addresses the concerns of private providers by forbidding municipal providers from discriminating against private competition.

The bill also requires municipalities offering broadband services to comply with Federal telecommunications laws and regulations, just as private providers must do. It also encourages public-private partnerships and insists on public notification and hearings before a local government deploys a muni broadband system.

This Bill reminds me of legislation that was enacted to help rural communities install electricity service. In 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration. In 1936 the Rural Electrification Act was created by Rep John E. Rankin and Sen. George William Norris. (source 1, source 2)

Check out this part about the REA from 1935:

The REA’s task was to promote electrification in rural areas, which in the 1930s rarely were provided with electricity due to the unwillingness of power companies to serve farmsteads. America lagged immensely behind European countries in the field of rural electrification. Private electricity utilities argued that the government had no right to compete with or regulate private enterprise, despite many of these utilities having refused to extend their lines to rural areas, claiming lack of potential profitability as the reason. The fact that private power companies set rural rates that were four times as high as city rates made this claim a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few farmers could afford the excessive power bills.[1] In fact, under the REA program, no direct government competition to private enterprise took place. Instead, REA made loans available to local electrification cooperatives, which operated the lines and distributed the electricity. By 1939 the REA served 288,000 households with electricity, prompting private business to extend their services into the countryside as well, and to lower their rates. By the end of the decade, forty percent of rural homes had power, up from around 10% in 1930.

Sound familiar? Just replace power company with broadband company. Here is what’s going on now. Local Broadband companies are unwilling to serve some areas, the US lags behind the rest of the world in the amount and quality of broadband service, Telcos complain that government should not compete with private enterprise, Telcos claim serving everyone isn’t profitable, and the high cost of mediocre broadband service could be reducing demand. All of this is happening in the 21st century.

One of the big difference I see between the legislation of 1930 and 2007 is the lack of funding of community broadband by the Federal government. My research on this particular point is not exhaustive but I don’t know of any large Federal program like the REA for local broadband coops. (please correct me) The Community Broadband Act of 2007 is a great start though. I hope it will allow us to spend more time creating networks instead of defending the right to build them.

The Community Broadband Act of 2007 [PDF]

Join NC Public Broadband List

Not long after I learned about HB1587, the bad NC House bill, I started a Google Group called NC Public Broadband. Its a email list with the goal of keeping people in the loop about what’s going on in the fight to protect community broadband. Its mainly an announce list but you can respond to emails. We can also upload files to share. Like a PDF of legislation or an Excel Spreadsheet of Legislative contact info.

Our ‘victory’ against HB1587 is a short lived one. Its is but one battle in a long war with “Goliath and all his cousins”. (As the Mayor Bruce Rose of Wilson, NC put it so succinctly.) I cringe at using a war analogy because of its seriousness but it is apt. Major telecommunications companies are spending a lot of money on lawyers and lobbyist to prevent the public from owning their own infrastructure. Through out the Nation they are using dishonest tactics, like making compromises in legislation then turning around and suing local governments. We can do something about this. How? By using the very resources they would take away from us. The Internet and all its tools.

I hope that this list will support the creation of a grassroots community that will monitor legislation, promote the creation of public broadband projects, and help us learn from one another.

So if you live in North Carolina and care about public access to the Internet please subscribe. (FYI – You need a Google Account) If you need help joining please contact me.