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Depressed by Dial-up

February 15, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - They're depressed by dial-up, and they want "Affordable Broadband for All." This week, grassroots organizations in California and across the country are calling on the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to protect the principles of an open Internet, while removing the barriers that reduce Internet access in unserved and underserved communities. The Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-net) wants ordinary people affected by FCC decisions on a National Broadband Plan to be heard.

Eloise Lee, program director with the group Media Alliance, says that without rules to protect the poor and people of color, free speech will continue to get more and more expensive.

"It's a really critical time where certain decisions are being made in D.C. that could negatively affect the way people access the Internet."

The FCC's National Broadband Plan is to be presented to to Congress next month. It proposes affordable access to high-speed Internet. The agency's chairman has said he wants to develop rules that prohibit Internet service providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, from selectively blocking or slowing Web content to favor large-scale and corporate users. Opponents say the new regulations would hinder the development of the Internet.

At an event coming up in San Francisco on Saturday, community groups will ask Californians to tell their "Internet Stories." Lee says a story station will be set up to allow people to show how the Internet affects them, through art, audio and theater.

"The 'What's Your Internet Story?' is basically an interactive community teach-in on issues, that's connected to defining broadband as universal service, and network neutrality."

Network neutrality is taken to mean that all users, large or small, are treated equally under laws and regulations affecting speed and other technical aspects of Internet communication.

Lee says videotaped testimonials will also be made, advocating for Net Neutrality and universal broadband. Those tapes will be forwarded to the FCC.

More information is at The "What's Your Internet Story?" event is Saturday, February 20 at United Playaz, 1038 Howard Street, San Francisco.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA