As a Green Party member, I believe social justice requires that everyone should have the rights and opportunity to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment. Among those resources available to us are: 1) Radio-frequency spectrum as a gift of nature and also 2) monopoly wired data networks and other communication networks which we produce through human intervention. I believe it is crucial for these monopoly resources to be administered through grassroots democracy while at the same time our media and means to communicate are integral to fostering grassroots democracy. However, we have given over these necessarily monopoly resources to narrow groups of oligarchical corporate boards of directors, who expect us to plead our case to grant us fair and equitable access to those monopoly resources. At the same time, these private for-profit corporations reap super-profits and carve out other monopolies from their privileged position enjoyed controlling these monopoly resources: further eroding grassroots democratic institutions.

In terms of our data and other communication networks, we allow these oligarchical corporations to endlessly duplicate network resources merely to create the appearance of a competitive landscape in these monopoly resources. Both this duplication of resources and the accelerated pace of technological obsolescence and depreciation – brought about by the quest for market domination – places additional and needless ecological strain on our planet.

Moreover, these corporate oligarchs used their privileged position in dominating our networks and radio-frequency spectrum to carve out other monopolies in content creation and network delivered services where no such monopoly tendency would otherwise exist. Therefore the domination of our natural monopoly resources is turned into a domination of the otherwise competitive and diverse content creation and network delivered services portion of our media industries. This then leads to media consolidation, conglomeration of media, and the trampling of dissenting views.

Some of these networks are not only necessarily monopoly resources, but are also constrained resources in that they are used to full capacity either at all times or at least quite often. Such constrained resources include our radio-frequency spectrum broadcasts, satellite broadcast channel lineups, and cable television channel lineups. Therefore those who control these constrained network resources enjoy a privilege to use these resources which necessarily excludes others from enjoying such use. Especially under these circumstances, we need to deploy democratic processes to mediate the use of such constrained and contended resources. We also require equitable access to such constrained monopoly resources so that alternative viewpoints can be heard and a fair presentation of all issues and events prevails. Those who enjoy the privilege of dominating such constrained resources can also leverage their privileged position to direct the public to other areas that are unconstrained such as an internet web portal and in doing so even dominate alternative viewpoints over unconstrained networks.

While the first amendment prohibits the government from directly stifling freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and free expression, monetary and market domination can be used to effectively silence dissent: especially in a climate which allows private control of the public commons., For example, the chartering of ‘independent’ corporations and the allocation of public commons to their private and exclusive use (including eminent domain, satellite orbits, and cable easements) allows government to skirt the first amendment. In doing so, government effectively abridges freedom of speech by abridging the means to communicate and assigns it to ignoble corporate fiefdoms – now in the form of ‘corporations’. While Article I of the Constitution prohibits – both to Congress and to the states – such granting of powers of  nobility, these clauses of the US Constitution are routinely ignored or distorted to allow the practice to go forward. In granting privileged access to a public common, states (and at times Congress) are granting such powers of nobility to specific chartered corporations and in so doing allowing those granted powers to silence dissenting views.

It is therefore important we clearly differentiate between the resources such as radio-frequency spectrum, data networks, and other communication networks which are necessarily monopolized on the one hand, from the many potentially abundant and diverse media content creators and network delivered service providers on the other hand. The former is by its very nature a monopolized resource and must therefore be made into a public resource with democratic control. In the case of radio-frequency spectrum (and the internet during peak loads), these are also constrained monopoly resource requiring democratic determination of scheduling and, or at least scheduling procedures. In contrast, when equitable and fair access is permitted over these constrained monopoly resources, we create conditions for a diversity of content creators and network delivered service providers and foster the conditions for healthy political debate and valuable dissent. Without equitable access to the monopoly networks, we create conditions for further monopolizing of content creation and network delivered services production and a drowning out of all dissent.

In order to strengthen grassroots democracy, the monopoly resources must be thoroughly separated from the other potions of media and those monopoly resources must be controlled and operated by democratic institutions of government at the most local level appropriate. Moreover, we must find ways to encourage greater democratization, decentralization, and community-based content creation and production of network delivered services. For example, a properly run public network would enable most anyone to operate their own phone service over the network rather than depending on the monopolized telephone oligarchs and oligopolies for such telephone services. Likewise, the internet has shown how equitable access to the network can create a proliferation of diverse communities and ideas. We need to strengthen this diversity by applying the same equitable standards when resources are constrained such as in the case of radio-frequency spectrum and provide a democratic means to fairly mediate among the diverse demands for this scarce resource. We also need to undermine the ability of those who monopolize the constrained resources to shuttle traffic to their own narrow content where they also come to dominate even the otherwise diverse and decentralized internet.

I support:

  1. Monopoly Network Infrastructure: The monopoly networks which comprise the internet, cable television, and satellite television should be made into public commons, publicly controlled:  built, operated, and made available for use according to grassroots-democracy-determined equitable and transparent procedures. Federal government should be limited to mediating between radio-frequency spectrum which conflicts between neighboring communities and providing the network backbones and other infrastructure for interconnecting the many local and regional networks. In general costs for such Federally provided internetwork services should be charged to local municipalities and other last-mile network segment operators, though also providing discounts or waivers for disadvantaged communities.
  2. Constrained Monopoly Networks:  When networks are unconstrained so that, for example,  every sender of digital bits and every receiver of digital bits is able to send and receive at a whatever rate they want, a scheduling mechanism is unnecessary. However, for constrained networks (such as radio-frequency spectrum and peak network periods), I support the thorough involvement of democratic institutions in establishing scheduling and peak contention mediating criteria through such mechanisms as community standards, fair market price auctions, triage, and other means. Federal, state, and local governments should also establish minimum guidelines for civics programming, public service programming, and other programming in the public interest over constrained networks. Whereas on unconstrained networks, the unlimited diverse and decentralized content creators provide all the conditions necessary for fair an equitable media content creation.
  3. Oppose censorship in the arts, media, press and on the Internet  and foster technologies to afford greater parental control over content differentiation, authorization, and access.
  4. Support a Constitutional amendment adding a fourth branch of government – a Tribune branch – to provide taxpayer supported funding of diverse viewpoints through media content creation where funding and access to constrained networks is determined through nationwide proportional voting.
  5. Encourage state, county, municipal and other local governments provide their own independently elected tribunes to provide the same sort of governmental oversight tribunes empowered tribunes at the federal level but in a decentralized and local manner.
  6. End commercial broadcasters’ free licensed use of the public airwaves. Scheduling of content on constrained networks should be done according to democratically determined constraints and then make use of fair market price auctions and other mechanisms to collect fees from commercially supported content and service providers and then use those funds to make grants and other payments to non-profit, civic, and other public interest content and service providers as determined through participatory local mechanisms. For subscription content, communities should democratically deliberate to determine what subscription content will be made available, what subscription content a community is unable to accommodate over constrained networks and which subscription content the community might want to pursue as a community and thus authorizing negotiators to pursue group subscription discounts.
  7. Until communities regain public control of all constrained networks:
    1. reinstate and strengthen the Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time requirements for campaigns, to require that holders of broadcast licenses present controversial issues of public importance in an equitable and balanced manner.
    2. also establish other substantial public interest obligations for broadcasters and hold them accountable, and revoke licenses from outlets that fail to satisfy these obligations.
    3. Reform the Federal Communications Commission so that it is responsive and accountable to the public at large, not just to lobbyists and commercial interests and once control over monopoly networks is returned to public control, reduce the FCC to an agency focussed only on mediating between community networks (such as provisioning specific frequency, power, and location of specific community radio-frequency transmitters).
    4. Overhaul the 1996 Telecommunications Act, with a new focus on promoting diversity and true competition in content creation, and preventing any consolidation tendencies that remain after control over monopoly networks is returned to public hands.
  8. Other proposed ongoing measures:
    1. Support Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) Access Television to ensure that citizens and community organizations have the opportunity to create and present their own programming on cable television.
    2. Expand the role of community radio, by expanding the licensing of new non-commercial low power FM radio stations.
    3. Promote greater opportunity for women and minority ownership of media outlets.
    4. Provide broadband internet access for all Americans by providing wired and wireless network development grants for community ownership of networks in poorly served communities, so that access to information is a right, not a commodity.
    5. Ensure net neutrality, so that access to all networks is determined in a democratic manner and operated in an equitable and transparent manner  and so that internet users can access any web content they choose and use any network applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider: especially inequitable limitations which favor the internet service providers preferred content providers over others.
    6. Ensure substantial free and equal airtime for all ballot-qualified political candidates and parties on radio and television networks and stations and provide web portals which gather together capsule information on every campaign with links to the campaign websites, debates, and any suitable independent political organizations who make endorsements and comment on the campaigns.
    7. Provide generous public funding for Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television and National Public Radio (NPR) to ensure high-quality news and cultural programming with the widest possible range of viewpoints.
    8. Prohibit commercial advertising targeted to children under 12 years old, as well as advertising in public places such as schools, parks, and government buildings.
    9. Reduce mailing costs for non-profit and independent magazines and journals, and eliminate them for those that receive less than 20% of their revenues from advertising and raising bulk mail costs on for-profit mailings so that they are closer to the cost of a standard letter to reduce junk mailings and the associated waste of resources.
    10. Promote policies to expand investigative reporting on federal, state and local issues.
    11. Promote policies to encourage more leisure time spent with family, friends and neighbors, and to engage in myriad other constructive, artistic, recreational, and healthful pursuits instead of the over-reliance on passive viewing of television programming.