ArtsWatch: How Fast Is Your Internet Connection?

Netindex.com provides unprecedented look at global broadband speed test results
May 31, 2010 -- 5:21 pm PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

Network measurement specialists Ookla launched Netindex.com May 25, revealing the results of more than 1.5 billion uses of their Speedtest broadband measurement tool. The Federal Communications Commission applauded this powerful new presentation of data as well as a separate effort from Measurement Lab, which made its complete set of Net speed data more easily available to researchers. Consumer advocates Free Press called attention to the fact that Ookla's results do not provide a scientifically representative sample, having been generated entirely by users who knew of the service and were motivated to try it. Although the statistics are skewed towards digitally savvy home users, Netindex.com is a quick and easy look at a vast quantity of objective results. The FCC and the Obama administration are driving increased broadband adoption as a national priority and expect more high-speed Internet to produce economic and cultural rewards. On Netindex.com's national rankings, the U.S. comes in at 26 with better-than-average speeds.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to switch regulation of broadband transmission back to its previous status as a telecommunications service has been hit by tidal waves of resistance. On May 24 he received a letter in opposition from 74 House Democrats, another opposition letter from 37 Senate Republicans, followed by a letter from four Democrat committee leaders — two from the Senate, two from the House — advising him not to act because of Congressional plans to update the 1996 Communications Act. On May 25 Democratic Leadership Council Chairman and former House member Harold Ford Jr. opposed the agency's plans in a Huffington Post blog on behalf of Broadband for America — an organization with an impressive membership. Consumer advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge believe the agency must proceed because the time frame required to change the Communications Act is likely to drag on. On May 27 the FCC announced that the decision to issue a Notice of Inquiry on the plan has been placed on the agenda for the commissioners' June 17 meeting, in other words they are moving ahead. It seems that at a minimum, the FCC's role in the checks and balances with Congress will be to keep this on the front burner, prodding Congress to make actual progress.

The Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet held a hearing May 26 to consider S. 3304, the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act. The bill was introduced earlier this month to improve the ability of disabled persons to use the Internet and was modeled on a 2009 House bill introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Subcommittee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, "We can and should get this bill over the finish line this year... We will continue to work with everyone interested in helping us meet that challenge but we will not wait forever for industry not just to come to the table, but also to present solutions. And we will not accept a communications infrastructure that refuses to include people with disabilities." In his testimony before the subcommittee, Markey compared industry resistance to claims 20 years ago that closed captioning would "crush" the television industry.

On May 21 the World Intellectual Property Organization announced the launch of a public Web forum, open until June 20, to accept comments on a draft treaty proposal to improve access for the visually impaired to copyright-protected works on the Internet. In the U.S., the Library of Congress re-authorized the visually impaired to hack digital protections for e-books if these prevent the use of read-aloud software. The draft treaty would extend similar freedom to circumvent technological measures internationally.

Central California U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson imposed a permanent injunction on May 20 against Canada's notorious torrent-linking site Isohunt continuing to post links that induce infringement. MPAA General Counsel Daniel Mandil said, "We are pleased that, once again, the courts have made clear that they will not tolerate the blatant theft of copyrighted works whether such operations happen to be in the United States or abroad."

German collecting society GVL reached an agreement with several other European royalty collection groups regarding reciprocal neighboring rights. GVL will streamline the process the other societies must follow to claim royalties and will also allocate payments in Germany based on the actual use of tracks instead of relying on more expedient estimates.

The Copyright Alliance celebrated the beginning of its fourth year in existence May 17 with the launch of Creators Across America — an interactive state-by-state presentation of the importance of creative industries in the United States including video interviews with artists of many types. The organization invites creators and their representatives to be interviewed for addition to this unique demonstration that copyright issues affect not only large companies, but individuals as well.

 

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