Report on Communications Security Meeting # 1

January 04, 2009

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy hosted the first of several community sector meetings in Chittenden County (Vermont’s most populated region), designed to secure the region’s telecommunications future for the next 25 years - i.e. make sure that the public has reasonable access and control of the means of media production and communciations networks. (Watch it below or here.)

These meetings are supported by Channel 17/ Town Meeting TV, Media & Democracy Coalition, Media Justice Fund/ Funding Exchange, Media Democracy Fund and the Surdna Foundation. Fifteen participants from a variety of community development organizations and local media organizations attended, as well as representatives from labor, health, arts, public broadband sectors.

See Report on Communciations Security Meeting # 2 here.

Communications “Security” refers to public access and management of media making and communications rights of way. CCTV Center for Media & Democracy is hosting these meetings in order to:
-    Line up broad-based, multi-sector public support for the renegotiation of PEG contracts with Comcast Cable in 2010;
-    Promote expansion of Burlington’s broadband network to communities throughout the region;
-    Inform state and national telecommunications policy on these issues.

Objectives/ Meeting #1:

The first communications security meeting was held on Thursday, December 18th from 2.30 – 4pm. During the meeting, participants from multiple community sectors:

-    Discussed what they consider to be necessary public access to media and communications for their constituents, i.e. the means of production and distribution;
-    Raised concerns about the future
-    Framed media policy recommendations for the new (US) administration’s FCC transition team and internet policy agenda via the Media & Democracy Coalition;
-    Launched discussion of community communications needs in light of 2010 PEG contract renewal with Comcast Cable and potential for public broadband control.

-    Indicated interest in continued discussions with broader community involvement.

Discussion: What Concerns you?
We are in the midst of a great sea change – the tides of the analog and digital age are turning as we move swiftly into an interconnected future. As a result of this change, people feel pressed for a time and an increased urgency, generate by the ubiquity and packaging of the endless, often accelerated stream of multi-media content. Several concerns arose in the discussion: 

We are pressed for time, plugged in and losing our sense of “community”. Individuals are detaching rather than participating in person. What is the effect on brain functioning?

“Impact on Social Structure: Communications must be used to mitigate economic access” through affordable services and devices, opportunities for public access, and common carrier networks.  

“The apparent democratization of media through self-publishing on the internet does not mean that the public has meaningful control over the means of production and distribution.”
PEG access is public real estate that we cannot relinquish. We must expand the principle to all bandwidth providers in a rewrite of the 1934 Communications Act.

“Ownership of transport and content production determines who has access and who does not.”
Particular concern here that PEG access will not be carried as an internet service as cable migrates to IP. Control of both the network and the portal (e.g. Comcast, Fairpoint) can prevent free flow of communication necessary for democracy to function.

”The public policy framework is appropriated by business interests.” We need to change definition of the “level playing field” to a uniform set of public interest principles that protects access to networks and content production. These principles must cross platforms and assure for both network open-ness plus support for schools, poor people, libraries, community centers to access/ train/ produce.

“Our data is not our own…it is under the control of other people.” – Data ownership, digital rights, copyright, security are key considerations of a communications security plan. How do we promote local control of community data?

How do you tame the Fire Hose and constancy of the media stream? The digital bitstream sped up the rate at which we are required to process information. Participants describe feeling overwhelmed by the rate and volume of digital bits coming through their mobile and desk-top devices.

“Who are the trusted sources? How do you sort through so much information? Who do you trust? Who do we turn to for “context”? In this era of infotainment + overload, where is the useful information? Newspapers are under siege: “How do we support the 4th estate when it can’t afford to operate? Who will keep government accountable?

How much do we have to worry about Comcast and Fairpoint portals limiting access and data speeds?

Opportunity: Local community centers can play a critical role as “trusted sources” for their own networks of members, supporters, staff, etc.

“How do we expand our reach and impact and do more with less?”
Citizens, activists, the public sector, nongovernmental agencies and nonprofit organizations require strategic frameworks in which to use media and communications to expand their reach and impact.

Recommendation: Draft Policy Framework for new Administration
Participant recommendations for national telecommunications policy can be summed up as follows:

1. Initiate policies that promote free speech, public access, open networks and privacy;

2. Reaffirm the core public interest concept: the “commons” and take back media policy framework from the business interest;

3. Promote public right of way management and common carrier status for broadband providers (requiring them to provide “universal service”, open-nondiscriminatory access and support for public, educational and government purposes);

4. Re-structure regulatory silos of the 1934 Communciations Act, i.e. “telephone” & “media” into a new framework of transport and content;

5 Redefine cable internet service, i.e. “information services” as common carrier service and subject to PEG fees;

6. Use PEG fees to fund technology capacity programs for citizens, local government, education and nonprofit organizations;

7. Advance the use of “white spaces” for public use;

8. Promote public ownership of broadband networks;

9. Fund the rural broadband expansion from dirt roads to highways through “fiber to the farmhouse” program (loans and grants);

10. Promote diversity of media and communications ownership through access to capital and regulatory support;

11. Adopt digital right policies.

Next meeting is scheduled for January 22nd at 2.30 – 4pm at CCTV Center for Media & Democracy.

For more information: Lauren-Glenn Davitian, Davitian [at] cctv [dot] org, 802.862.1645 x12

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy promotes free speech, public access and open networks. CCTV provides channels, tools, training and technical support to expand the reach and impact of public speech so that democracy can happen. Look for CCTV's 25th Anniversary events at and stand tall for free speech at


Embed This Player