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Oct 5 Press Release AM2003

Working Groups
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility


Mike Weisman

International Technology Conference Studies Public Participation and Corporate Accountability in Local Cable Negotiation


Dinner honoring Internet pioneer and philanthropist Mitch Kapor


Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) holds their annual conference in Seattle this year. "Getting the Technology You Deserve," explores the future of regional media and communication technology in Seattle, and other municipalities around the country. The conference will focus on the threat of monopoly in high-speed internet access and what computer professionals and the public can do to prevent that.

The one-day conference will be held Saturday, October 25, 2003 at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Discovery Park, and will feature a broad range of local and national speakers including national consumer advocates, local technology gurus, public access advocates, as well as local and federal elected officials. Confirmed featured speakers include Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA); Dirk Koning of the Alliance for Communications Democracy; and David Olson of the Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission. For agenda and speakers, see

Major topics to be discussed at the conference include the growing roles of cable technology and broadband data networks in local information and communication infrastructures, and the public policies associated with them. There is a serious threat that the US is drifting toward a cable company monopoly over high-speed internet access (or a cable & telephone company duopoly).

In contrast to many of the smaller ISPs that are being driven out of business, cable companies have a history of restricting the resale of bandwidth (or even giving it away for free, as in free neighborhood wireless networks) and may be interested in charging a premium for the Virtual Private Networks that are the key to widespread telecommuting.

Seattle, San Francisco, and other major cities will be renegotiating their cable franchise contracts in the next two years. CPSR conference participants will take part in a mock franchise hearing, considering the various business and civic interests at play in these complex negotiations, using Seattle as a case study for designing an ideal community-accountable franchise contract.


In June, when the FCC released new rules deregulating media ownership, they prompted an unparalleled outpouring of public opinion, congressional outrage, and more-than-usual media coverage. The future design of cable technology and broadband policies stand to have as great or even greater impact on the everyday lives of US residents.

Cable franchise policy alone will affect local pricing for cable television and broadband services; access to broadband technology and unfiltered, unencumbered Internet use; freedom of speech, including public access to community media production and distribution; and local corporate accountability, among other concerns.

Municipalities across the country have demanded substantial public benefits from cable providers in return for a monopoly or near-monopoly presence in the community (as Comcast enjoys in Seattle and several cities nationwide). In other cities, free broadband networks for schools, libraries and nonprofits, improved public access television facilities, rate caps, open access guarantees and other public benefits have all been negotiated into cable franchise contracts.

CPSR hopes to raise public awareness that cable franchise terms are no longer just a matter of the price of Basic Cable or whether you will be able to watch Canadian television. Regional cable franchise policy may be the most important factor determining whether people (and in many cases businesses) will have unrestricted access to high-speed internet connections and what that access will cost.


Mitch Kapor, founder of the Lotus Corporation, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and recent founder of the Open Source Applications Foundation, will be honored at the annual Norbert Wiener Award Dinner, Saturday evening, 7:00-9:00pm.. OSAF's mission is "to create and gain wide adoption of Open Source application software of uncompromising quality."

For more information about Mitch Kapor and/or CPSR's Norbert Wiener Award, see


The conference and dinner are available as a combination package, or separately.

Registration is available via


Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) is an international public-interest alliance of computer scientists and others interested in the impact of information technology on society. CPSR attempts to direct public attention to difficult choices concerning the applications of computing and how those choices affect society. CPSR was founded in 1981 by computer professionals in the Silicon Valley concerned about the use of computers in nuclear weapons systems. CPSR has working groups and chapters throughout the world.


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Susan Evoy * Managing Director
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
P.O. Box 717 * Palo Alto * CA * 94302
Phone: (650) 322-3778 * (650) 322-4748 (fax)

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