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CPSR Newsletter Winter 1995


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Chapter Updates

CPSR News Volume 13, Number 1: Winter 1995


The chapter now has 96 members. Over 140 people are on the chapter hard copy mailing list, and about 145 on the chapter listserv used for announcements. The chapter meets once a month to address chapter business and a discussion topic, usually with an outside speaker. Attendance at these meetings varies from half a dozen to 20 or more. Some of the topics covered this year have been:
  • Access to government information
  • Intellectual property and the National Writer's Union activities
  • The Italian BBS crackdown
  • Highschool Internet use
  • The high-tech workforce
  • Wireless communications
The chapter has held meetings in Berkeley and San Francisco to discuss community networking, and will continue to meet with groups creating a community access network in San Francisco. We also have representation at meetings being held by the Association of Bay Area Governments, which is coordinating the development of city and county information services on the Internet. A chapter member is the community resource person for a grant provided by the California State Library to local public libraries to help them learn how to provide public access to the Internet. In addition, CPSR members are involved in various kinds of community computer and Internet training. Finally, because the chapter is also a Special Interest Group of BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh User's Group), we had a table at the Mac Faire held on the Berkeley campus. Several hundred people visited our table (and one even became a member on the spot!).

During the last year CPSR/Boston has enjoyed both a stable membership, and the transition to several new activities. In the spring we had a flurry of activity with DIAC-94, and since then have created a couple of new regional projects. Our friend Gary Chapman, CPSR's first executive director, moved from Cambridge, taking his 21st Century Project work to Texas. CPSR/Boston wishes Gary all the best, and thanks him for his work here and nationally.

Coralee Whitcomb attends, and occasionally chairs, the national Telecommunications Policy Roundtable (TPR) meetings in Washington, D.C. Steve Miller and Hans Klein, in addition to national board posts, act as midwives for two new local projects, the State Policy Project and TPR-Northeast, respectively.

The State Policy Project (SPP) collected a list of information technology-related issues that eastern Massachusetts CPSR members think deserve the attention of policy-makers and the public. We compiled and circulated this list in order to offer our expertise to those who wish to learn more about these issues, find out what other people and groups are already doing, and search for ways we can work together. Such issues include:

Economic Development and Equity

  • Building an information infrastructure
  • Minority access
  • Conversion
  • Telecom rate structure
  • Building on our machine tool industrial base
  • Resale of public data
Community and Public Service
  • Access to public electronic data
  • Civic networks
  • Restructuring government
  • Health
  • Education
  • Computer crime
  • State implications of national policy
Civil Liberties and Privacy
  • Commercial database misuses. accuracy and resale
  • Access to public data, accuracy. accessibility, and resale
  • Protection of electronic communication (email, encryption, publishing, and freedom of expression on boards)
A spin-off of the SPP was the CPSR/ Boston Statehouse Email Project to inform state legislators about computer communications technologies. With the recent discussions of the "information Highway" and national information infrastructures, we know these technologies are essential, and we feel compelled to help increase state legislators' knowledge and use of telecommunications. Specifically, we surveyed legislators for details of their computer experience, connectivity, and interest. We obtained a few free accounts at local schools and cleared the project with the state Ethics Commission. We demonstrated electronic mail, news, and web browsers. Lately, we have extended the demonstration efforts to the Legislative Service Bureau staff, and expect to broaden our audience through that office.

TPR-Northeast is a grassroots coalition of groups concerned with the public interest in telecommunications policy, working to support the TPR in Washington D.C., to promote enlightened policy at the regional and local level, and to educate groups, the public. and policy-makers about telecommunications policy. For instance, Massachusetts Congressmen Markey and Kerry both occupy influential positions in telecommunications policymaking. They can affect such issues as reserving space on the NII for nonprofits (currently being contested in Congress). fees for noncommercial access, and the implementation of legislation for FBI wiretaps. Locally, a grassroots coalition could help educate NII providers about public interest concerns. In eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, for instance, the regional Bell operating company has filed plans to install 200 to 400 channels of digital video to 330,000 homes. Whether such a video service will provide public access remains unclear.

TPR-Northeast hosted a panel presentation on "Universal access and teledemocracy" at the Emerson College Student Union, organized a Civic Forum, and plans a monthly forum for the coming year.

In Wisconsin, a group led by State Senator Lynn Adelman is challenging the Public Service Commission's recent decision to permit Caller ID service without offering free per-line blocking to any customer. The group includes members of the CPSR local chapter, police associations, domestic violence groups, and a health care union. A petition has been filed in Dane County circuit court (Madison). For further information, contact

Frank Evans 414-277-7348 (work) 414-351-9129 (home)

Palo Alto
California Assemblyman Tom Bates (D-Oakland), with assistance from CPSR members, introduced legislation to make all state public information available free via the Internet. It was the most far- reaching legislation of its kind in the nation. Although the bill passed in the Legislature unanimously, it has been held back from the Governor's desk to address a number of policy issues that arose during the course of the legislative process. A revised bill will be introduced in January.

CPSR/Palo Alto President Al Whaley set up a mailing list to discuss state on-line policy. California's "virtual town hall" has over 200 Internet users, librarians, computer experts, open government advocates, legislators, and legislative staff members, discussing the Bates bill, other pending legislation, and policy issues.

Jeff Johnson recently attended the 10th anniversary meeting of FIFF (whose members refer to it as "the German CPSR"). Jeff gave a speech (in German) during the opening ceremonies, in which he summarized CPSR's history and current activities. Later, he took part in a press conference and in the activists' meeting. FIFF is a highly active organization, and was recently granted official advisor status to the Bundestag (lower house of parliament). This is roughly equivalent to being a lobbyist or consultant to the U.S. Congress. At the end of the meeting, FIFF's leaders expressed hope that CPSR and FIFF could work together soon on a joint conference.

Chapter Secretary Lucy Suchman was given the CPSR Award for Outstanding Personal Contribution. Congratulations Lucy, and thanks for your support!

San Diego
The revitalization of the San Diego chapter began last Spring when Phil Agre of the Communication Department at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) organized a ten-week lecture series. Every Tuesday night from April 5th through May 31st brought an enlightening and entertaining presentation and discussion hosted by the chapter. An excellent group of speakers contributed to this series:

  • Christine Harbs of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at the University of San Diego asked, "Will your privacy be a casualty on the information superhighway?"
  • Kent Backstrom of the University Libraries at UCSD addressed "The mission of public libraries in a new technological era."
  • Rob Kling of the Department of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) interacted with a San Diego audience from distant Irvine over an Internet MBone video link. His topic was "Who's gonna get it?: The meanings and conditions of universal access to computer networks within the National Information Infrastructure."
  • Bill Drake of UCSD's Department of Communication described "The political economy of the global information infrastructure."
  • Bruce Miller, Assistant University Librarian at UCSD, presented the results of a meeting of the national Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Forum that produced some "Principles for the development of the National Information Infrastructure."
  • Jonathan Grudin of UCI's Department of Information and Computer Science discussed the conflicts between "Privacy, freedom of information, and technology."
  • Dan Schiller of the Department of Communication at UCSD explored how our society has come to view "Information as a commodity."
  • Sara Baase of San Diego State University's Computer Science Division provided the results of her "Evaluation of climate models."
  • Phil Agre of UCSD's Department of Communication combined practical, social, and technological issues in his discussion of how to do "networking on the network."
This speaker series drew a diverse audience including academics, technical professionals, business leaders, government employees, librarians, political and social activists, reporters, freelance writers, and others. Many important contacts were made as people discovered their common concerns. The talks also grabbed the attention of several local newspapers and prompted one large story on privacy rights. This spring speaker series was a striking success.

After this series concluded, the summer was spent preparing for the CPSR national Annual Meeting, which was held in San Diego in October. While a great deal of effort went into this event, details concerning the Annual Meeting are sure to be found elsewhere, so little information will be provided here. The meeting generated a lot of attention for CPSR and our San Diego chapter, and it also brought together a wide assortment of individuals and organizations interested in community network access, activism, and social projects. Local BBS providers and other technical experts mixed with activists for causes ranging from privacy and environmental protection to public schools, public libraries, and neighborhood community projects. Thanks to the organizational efforts of Phil Agre and a large staff of volunteers, this meeting was another grand success.

The fall season has been allocated to catching our collective breath. However, one project has continued throughout the year. Under the guidance of Rik Belew of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD, a draft document is being prepared by CPSR/San Diego that is intended as a framework for computer usage policies at academic institutions. The goal is to educate the administrators and users of academic computing services about relevant security and privacy issues, and to provide a draft document that schools can use to explicitly specify the rights and responsibilities of all members of their academic computing community. As this set of guidelines matures, it will be presented to local computer system providers at UCSD and, later, to groups at other institutions.


Jim Grant
806 Martin Luther King Drive
Abbeville, LA 70510
318-231 -5226

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