Net Neutrality Wins the Day

This is a historic day in the life of the Internet in America.

Media Council Hawaii applauds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote for an open Internet in America by classifying broadband service as a public utility. The new "net neutrality" rules, which were approved by a 3 to 2 vote along party lines, will prevent providers of high-speed Internet access from blocking websites they do not like or creating fast lanes to those who can afford it and slow lanes for those who can't.

The New York Times quoted Chairman Tom Wheeler as saying that the FCC will use "all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers" and preserve the Internet's role as a "core of free expression and democratic principles."

The Free Press, a public interest advocacy group in Washington, D.C., called it an "incredible victory" in the face of major opposition from corporate cable and phone companies. Free Press praised the grassroots effort that led to this decision, but warned that cable and phone companies such as Verizon and Time Warner Cable will be "relentless in their efforts to knock it down."

So be prepared to fight like hell to protect this victory and for the strongest possible policies to protect a free and open Internet. As Free Press puts it, "this isn't the end. This is the start of something huge."

Community Broadband Efforts Compete with Corporate Services The FreePress' Save the Internet initiative covered a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) today and shared the video above. Josh Levy of the FreePress reported, "Bristol, Va., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La.— built next-generation broadband networks that deliver a faster, more affordable Internet than their corporate competitors."

Christopher Mitchell, Director of ILSR’s Telecommunications as Commons Initiative said that all three cities offer gigabit service throughout the community. Additionally, “these publicly owned networks have each created hundreds of jobs and saved millions of dollars,” said Mitchell. The full text of the ILSR report can be found here, as well as more information at the Community Broadband Networks initiative.

On Oahu, Kokua Wireless is smaller version of community broadband. It describes itself as "a private network that has joined forces with the City and County of Honolulu and Private Business sponsors, to create free access to the internet via Wifi across the island." There is also a map of where the service can be accessed, and at what data rate. Statewide, the Hawaii Broadband Task Force is using their own broadband map to collect data on usage and areas in need of service.


#UNZ12: Unconferenz Highlights

This past Saturday, Burt Lum and Ryan Ozawa held the 5th annual Unconferenz at Kap'iolani Community College, and once again spurred great conversation on technology in Hawaii. In addition to all to the photos and other media that will surely come out of the event, Gee Why's Storify is a neat piece that drew the day together, and there's Ustream footage of the Ignite session online as well. You can also check out our twitter feed for more notes from the discussions. In the following, I've provided a few highlights from my day there as a first-time attendee. Because issues of interest to the Media Council were slated for the same room, I was in one place almost all day. Fortunately, a number of others selected a similar schedule and kept conversation ripe throughout the day. The morning sessions I attended seemed to run in an interesting chronological and ideological order:

The first session was centered around social innovation; ways to engage and activate a community on and offline. This discussion began in on agricultural issues, but quickly grew into other areas when Kevin Vaccarello of Sustain Hawaii brought up the idea of achieving a 'triple bottom line' through education, innovation and advocacy. The concept being that, in working toward these three goals, an organization can help educate a public, provide entrepreneurship and business opportunities through innovations, and advocate for their cause to create policies for governance.  The triple bottom line was a good foundation for the subsequent session on Internet Activism & Democracy.

Dan Leuck and Peter Kay  helped continue the social innovation conversation into voter action in Hawaii. They specifically welcomed Civil Beat Editor, John Temple, for the work his media outlet provides to Hawaii voters. Improving Hawaii's low voter turn-out, Temple said is one of his goals for Civil Beat. With a number of web developers in the room, ideas for helping voters identify with candidates, ranged from infographs to facebook updates and applying concepts from dating sites to match issue interests between candidates and voters. Soon, discussions turned to action in the next session.

In the third morning session, the Hawaii Innovation Alliance (which grew out of the #HiTechTown talk ) made an ambitious effort, amid a room full of contributors, to draft a charter. Even Rep. Gene Ward showed up to add his insight to the discussion. While some progress was made, debate over semantics was an obstacle. From my own seat, it was neat to see a room full of independent contractors try to find a bi-partisan common ground in their establishment of a guild/trade association. One issue for action, that I think many HIA members have a stake in, is the increased speed and access of broadband services in the state.

After lunch, the future of Hawaii's broadband infrastructure was discussed with several experts in the room. Kiman Wong (Oceanic), Yuka Nagashima (High Tech Development Corp.), Gordon Bruce and Forest Frizzell (City & County of Honolulu) lead the discussion with contributions from knowledgeable participants who have worked, or are currently working, in this industry. With nearly all participants present IRL (in real life) and online, wifi capabilities at the conference were noticeably burdened by the data traffic. This proved to be the common concern of the session, that improvement in Hawaii's broadband is desired, or necessary.  Disagreement, however, came upon ways to connect to, or improve upon, current infrastructure. Gordon Bruce's decades of experience in this industry was particularly insightful for understanding the relationships between telecom providers and the state.

The day closed out with a presentations by Code for America Fellows and Ignite Honolulu. For me, these presentations exemplified the past and current successes of the Unconferenz, while displaying a consistent trait in the tech community - a potential for future opportunities.

Thanks again to Burt, Ryan and everyone who helped put the event together.


Broadband Bills To Watch This Week

This week, both House and Senate committees are scheduled to discuss bills relating to broadband internet technology. Last year, Gov. Abercrombie announced a broadband initiative with ambitious connectivity goals. These bills are, in part, ways to get there. You are encouraged to submit your testimony to the House bills (here) and the Senate (here). On Tuesday, February 7, at the House Committee on Economic Revitalization & Business hearing agenda are several bills for permitting and construction for broadband infrastructure.

  • HB2324: Broadband; Permits Exempts the upgrading and new construction of broadband facilities on state and county property from state and county permitting processes.
  • HB2325: Broadband Permits; Automatic Approval; Construction Requires the State and counties to approve, approve with modification, or disapprove all broadband related permits within 45 days. If no action is taken, the application will be deemed approved on the 46th day.
  • HB2653: Broadband; Telecommunications; Permits Exempts the upgrading of existing wireless broadband facilities from state and county permitting processes. Requires State and counties to give final approval for new wireless infrastructure within 120 days and approve permits for new wireless infrastructure within 45 days.

Then on Wednesday, February 8, Senate committees on Commerce & Consumer Protection, and Economic Development & Technology are scheduled to hear more bills on broadband communications. (The hearing agenda.)