By Joseph Schueller
On November 12th’s KRUI Roundtable, the news team spoke with Andrew Smith, the communications director for Occupy Chicago, gave their thoughts on recent efforts in the US Senate to repeal some FCC net neutrality regulations, and analyzed the Penn State rape scandal.
Listen to the full show here:[audio:http://www.krui.fm/assets/news/RT%2011-12-11%20mp3.mp3]
Andrew Smith, communications director of Occupy Chicago, updated the news team on what’s happening in the Windy City. As the founding member of the tech committee, Smith designed their website (occupychi.org) and created a social media presence on Facebook (facebook.com/occupychicago) and Twitter (@OccupyChicago) to spread the word. When the group began in early October, Smith said “Where I can be the most beneficial to the movement is through the website and social media,” and then took on the big responsibility of disseminating information about the movement. Before he garnered this position, everything was coordinated through Reddit.com, which was useful only to a certain extent. The new website Smith produced makes vast improvements, giving each committee a dedicated page so those who wish to learn about a specific part of the movement can find it easily.
The home page of the website serves as an outlet to media organizations to post press releases, direct actions and information from general assemblies, all in an effort to combat what Smith sees as “skewedness” in the traditional media. He wanted to make the website “a transparent source of information” that wouldn’t paint them on a canvas with a biased brush as he says the media already have. According to Smith, the fact that the mainstream media have pointed out some elements of anarchism, anti-Semitism, socialism and communism are “a part of their already set agenda, and that the webpage serves as a way to counteract that.” While in fact these elements have been fairly prevalent in some of the occupations across the nations, like on Wall Street and in Oakland, California, Smith denounced these individuals’ tactics and feel that they are not indicative of the entire movement.
Andrew Smith stayed on the air with the roundtable to discuss the Senate GOP’s effort last week to repeal some of the rules and regulations set up by the FCC to impose “net neutrality” upon Internet service providers (ISPs). Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas proposed the resolution because of GOP attitudes toward the government forcing companies to conduct business in a certain fashion, which they believe would be an overstepping of their powers. The Senate vote was strictly along party lines, with 46 Republicans voting to remove the regulations and 52 Democrats voting to keep them, with Senators Inouye and McCain of Hawaii and Arizona, respectively, not voting. The federal agency bypassed Congress in December 2010 to move forward with this new policy, which demands that ISPs not discriminate against any website or web user in terms of the content that they wish to view or obtain. There have been many complaints by consumers in recent years toward ISPs and the amount of money they charge for their Internet service. For example, Comcast’s 105 Mbps service in Chicago costs a whopping $199.95 per month for a great level of speed. The issue lies in comparative markets. Other countries, like South Korea, get these sorts of speeds for a fraction of the price. Proponents of this policy feel that it is because of a lack of federal regulation in the Internet market that result in this kind of consumer abuse, and that net neutrality will fix the inequities.
Andrew Smith also agrees with these sentiments. He said that “companies were already involved in the first place, and that the original legislation is woefully inadequate,” in terms of ISPs being able to control the content that their users are able to access, and their ability to change their client’s speeds if they access illegal information, like child pornography or unlawful torrent files that include music or movies. He mentioned that a lack of net neutrality legislation would give governments the upper hand, saying in regards to the Occupy movement, “There is a lot of information that governments would want to control because it is of dissent.” The same could also be said for the tea party movement or other demonstrations that are critical of government policies. Smith also added that, “You can directly trace the movement in New York City back to the Arab Spring” and their use of social media to rally individuals to protest, and compared what the Middle Eastern regimes have done to the Internet in their countries to dispel these groups from organizing online and through social media. The rest of the news team spoke in terms of the GOP looking at the issue in terms of corporate rights, while most Democrats view Internet access as a right because it allows individuals to express their free speech rights guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. In fact, the United Nations has declared that Internet access is a human right, although that declaration does not have any legal standing.
Most conservative legislators and pundits deny the net neutrality arguments and the UN’s declaration, asserting that the Internet is a product and is not entirely subject to the First Amendment. Jazz Shaw, via conservative blogger Michelle Malkin’s site HotAir.com, reported on a story out of California where a Santa Rosa-based company called Sonic.net offers a 1.0 Gbps (one gigabit/second, or 1000 Mbps) at $70 a month, which is ten times faster than Comcast and almost three times cheaper. He argues that the technology exists, and all it takes is market freedoms and competition to force the bigger companies into following suit instead of federal intervention. Similarly, Seton Motley from conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart’s website BigGovernment.com has reported on how the lack of government interference has allowed the tech industry to become one of the most prosperous in the United States, with only a 3.3% unemployment rate while the national average stood at 9.1%. He also mentions that net neutrality essentially attempts to fix a nonexistent problem of ISPs controlling content, which is true in regards to legal activity. No matter what side you take, it will surely be a big debate that won’t cease until both corporate and individual freedoms are both maintained on the Internet.
Penn State Scandal
The terribly tragic rape scandal at Penn State University that has grabbed the attention of the national media was also discussed at the roundtable. Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was charged last week with multiple counts of abuse for crimes that go back as far as 2002.
A graduate student had walked in on Sandusky engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with a young boy in one of the school locker room showers, which then prompted him to tell the longtime head football coach Joe Paterno about what he saw. While Paterno told his supervisors, he did not call the police, and an investigation was never held. After the story broke, Paterno was let go from his position for not taking further action to prevent any future crimes. Penn State students responded very violently by rioting in the streets of their campus, setting fires, throwing rocks at reporters, throwing mattresses out of windows, and tipping over a news van.
The roundtable debated the consequences of Paterno’s firing and thought that he was largely a media scapegoat and didn’t deserve to be fired before the end of the football season. They also inferred that this kind of student response could happen on the University of Iowa’s campus, bringing up the outrage over Darrel Johnson-Koulianos’s altercation with the law over marijuana charges as an example.