On Monday, December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission announced a field hearing on broadband and small business to take place at the University of Chicago's Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. The FCC has convened a series of several of these field hearings across the United States to solicit feedback from citizens across the country. The FCC seems to be sincere and far better in its solicitation of public comment to help craft public policy, particularly for something as important as a national broadband policy plan which the FCC has to craft by February 17, 2010.
That said, there are the usual litany of criticisms regarding this hearing like other FCC hearings: lack of sufficient advance notice (getting a week's advance notice is cruel but not at all unusual). At the FCC media ownership organized in Chicago in 2007, public forces were lucky enough to get weeks of advance notice that made a big difference in preparation for the Rebel Alliance to organize against the Evil Empire(s). The FCC has (at this writing) yet to announce even an itinerary or lineup. Oh, and there's the teeny tiny small matter of the fact that this hearing is taking place during a weekday (strike two) four days before Christmas (strike three). Those more conspiratorial minded might be inclined to think that there MUST be a connection (especially with the suspicious timing and Chicago's recent record of independent media and media activism), but even if there's less nefariousness now than in previous go-arounds, this does raise eyebrows of suspicion.
Plus, there's the whole point of the event: "focusing on how broadband technology can help small businesses spur growth and reach new markets." I can understand why many people understandably consider this a laudable goal, especially with a crappy economy and the U.S. poised to play its own version of the Lost Decade in Japan. But a great many activists, and growing sectors of civil society (witness what's been happening in Copenhagen) have reiterated that relying on markets to get out of a market-made mess on climate change is a non-starter. The idea needs to make its way into activism on media policy, though progress on that front is (pardon the pun) glacial. But we have to nevertheless draw the connections between markets and unaccountable corporate tyrannies and the solutions that have been proposed, whether it be in climate change, broadband policy, or scores of other topics.
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