Victory: An update of media and internet activism in the U.S.

Earlier in 2006, I blogged about the efforts to stop the wretched rewrite of the Telecommunications Act, the main law in America involving the media and the internet, and its likely negative ramifications as to the future of the internet and current community access television. I got involved in this, with the goal of stopping the bill from becoming law. This was a campaign which a number of seasoned activists told me was quixotic, hopeless, and an uphill battle against one of the most powerful, well-funded, and experienced lobbies in America: the telephone lobbies. Indeed, it looked hopeless early on. But we kept working, taking a page from the FCC media ownership victory in 2003 — that the way to win was to spread the word about it and make it an issue. So we did in every way we could — on radio, in person, in articles, in print — and I even chronicled some of the work on ZNet which materialized into a National Day of Outrage. We didn’t get very far in the House (the COPE Act in the House passed rather convincingly), but things definitely turned around when the Senate took up bill. Even though that bill also passed, and a provision for network neutrality on the internet lost by a tie vote (11 to 11), activist efforts got a big boost, ironically enough, by the evil empire itself. When faced with opposition in the Senate Commerce Committee, the corrupt Alaska Senator Ted Stevens went off on a wild anti-internet rant. Stevens decried his opponents, making the half-baked remark (probably fed to him by tech-ignorant telecom lobbyists) that the internet was a series of tubes. (Maybe you mean these tubes, Senator?) Then the gates of public awareness burst wide open. Procedurally, a block was placed upon the legislation, which prevented quick passage. Meanwhile, widespread grassroots lobbying continued to cement work at preventing any secret shenanigans from taking plac. Even though there’s a slim chance that the bill could sneak through the Senate in the coming Lame Duck session of congress, commentators have remarked that we’ve essentailly won, at huge odds, and in a way completely unseen at the beginning of 2006. Let that be a lesson, and a wellspring of inspiration. Democracy is more than what you do in a voting booth in a Tuesday in November; it’s what you do with you hands and your heart and your head every day all year long. And yes, Virginia, sometimes impossible dreams do come true.

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