Comcast to skip latest FCC network management hearing
By PAUL ELIAS – 1 hour ago
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When Comcast Corp. Internet subscriber Robb Topolski was prevented from sharing digital files of Tin Pin Alley-era music with other barbershop quartet enthusiasts, the computer engineer launched a personal investigation.
Topolski, 44, soon found that Comcast was blocking such uploads now and then in an effort to keep its broadband pipes unclogged. He said he understood the need of the company to keep Internet traffic flowing freely, but was dismayed that the blocking was done without notice and seemingly at the expense of select Comcast customers who swap files of music, videos and other bandwidth-sucking data.
The Hillsboro, Ore. resident posted his findings last summer on a Web site for "broadband enthusiasts" that touched off a protest that by January grew into a large-scale Federal Communications Commission investigation.
On Thursday, Topolski will be one of the first witnesses called to testify before the FCC at a scheduled daylong hearing into the network management practices of Comcast and its competitors
The hearing is being held at Stanford University and is the second such session the FCC will hold this year. The investigation and public hearings are the agency's most serious examination of "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet traffic be treated equal. Equal treatment of traffic is a long-standing practice on the Internet, and some consumers groups think it should be enforced by regulation because network owners, such as Comcast, have begun asserting more control over the Internet.
"Comcast ultimately has shortchanged some portion of its customers and continues to do so today," said Topolski, who resigned from Intel Corp. last year to battle colon cancer.
Topolski is just one of 17 witnesses scheduled to testify before the five FCC commissioners. But Comcast has declined an FCC request to send an executive to testify as it did at the agency's first hearing on Feb. 25 at Harvard University.
"This obviously isn't just a Comcast issue," said company spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice, who said a company executive testified at the initial hearing in Boston in February because it was more focused on the company's behavior than the one scheduled at Stanford.
Comcast also came under fire after the Harvard hearing for hiring "seat warmers" to help pack the auditorium. Event organizers accused the shills of applauding loudly for pro-industry sentiments and hogging seats that prevented company critics from attending. Comcast endured another round of withering cries of censorship afterward.
Fitzmaurice said the seat warmers were necessary to ensure that the company's views were fairly represented and it was common lobbying industry practice in Washington. She said the company would not be hiring seat warmers for the Stanford hearing.
Comcast acknowledged that it sometimes delays file-sharing traffic for subscribers as a way to keep Web traffic flowing for everyone. After the Harvard hearing, the company said it plans to change the way it manages its network and points to recent partnership announcements with BitTorrent Inc. — a company founded by the inventor of a more efficient successor to file-sharing services such as Napster and KaZaa — and with file-sharing software developer Pando Networks.
After the Pando collaboration was announced on Tuesday, the FCC invited Comcast Chief Technical Officer Tony Werner to testify Thursday.
"We look forward to more fully understanding the goals, scope and time frame of this industry effort," FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said.
Comcast officials said Werner wouldn't testify because he doesn't have enough time to prepare and that he recently suffered a death in the family.
The FCC investigation got started after consumer groups and a provider of online video filed complaints alleging Comcast hampered traffic between users without notice, violating the Internet's tradition of equal treatment of traffic. Two of the groups also asked the FCC to fine Comcast.
"We want to make sure the Internet stays as it is," said Ben Scott of Free Press, one of the groups that has asked the FCC to fine Comcast.
Scott plans to urge the FCC during testimony Thursday to enforce a statement it created in 2005 that says consumers are entitled to access all lawful Internet content. But Comcast and others argues that the statement is not a regulation and is unenforceable.
"Should we give more control to the network owners, who can then decide which Web sites load quickly?" Scott asked. "Can they become the gatekeepers for Internet content?"
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Comcast to skip latest FCC network management hearing
Monday, August 20, 2007
(photo is of Joe Michaels - Francine Orr/LAT 2005)Over the course of a month - October of 2005 - LA Times reporter Steve Lopez authored a series of articles looking at the desparation and insanity of life on Skid Row. Someone in San Francisco actually told me about it, when we moved to 4th & Main I finally read it. It's a hard series to read and I can only imagine how hard it was to write. Lopez toured the missions, the alleys and the support services that house the homeless pandemic in downtown Los Angeles. His story even got the attention of the Mayor who turns up in the wheelchair piece meeting the homeless in the courtyard at the Midnight Mission.
I don't know much about Steve Lopez beyond what's in his biography on the Times website. But I know that if you read his series - and you may not get through the whole thing - but if you do read it, you will take away a humanizing picture of a crisis that all of us living downtown are trying to get our heads around.
Click here for a link to the stories Steve wrote back in 2005. I'm not sure much has changed since then.
One thing that frustrates me about living downtown is feeling that one way or another, we are all looking the other way; because we have to maybe - or because we don't know what else to do. I try to be informed and understand the issues but after that I am at a loss. I'm not opposed to volunteering or trying to getting involved, but I'm pretty sure we can't volunteer our way out of this one. It will take a citywide, series of initiatives that tackle what are clearly long term problems to deal with the spectrum of issues that this community is facing.
One night Orlando Ward, who heads the Midnight Mission, explained to me that you see a kind of bell curve in the homeless population. There are the recently evicted/recently homeless who maybe had a job but lost their apartment or vice versa and who have landed on the streets simply because they are poor and lacking a safety net (this is often the case for homeless families/kids). Then there is another shade of folks who started out in that boat, but who have since sucumbed to the hardening of the tented life and will struggle more to get back on their feet, after that there's a pretty sizeable population that is facing drug/alcohol addiction along with living on the street and whether it was a cause or effect some level of depression or mental illness. Then the curve drops off to the other end of folks who have no chance. They have either been homeless for so long or have such severe mental illness that the damage might be irretrievable. I imagine some of these folks who are older could be victims of Reagan-era VA closures or cuts in funding for housing for the mentally ill. Where schizophrenia or severe untreated depression combined with the hopelessness of their situation have had devastating effects.
Ward says for the people on extreme ends of the "bell curve" there are more obvious solutions for those at the beginning of their stay on the streets - housing might be all that's needed. For the folks at the other end of the curve it might be long term inpatient treatment. It's the folks in the middle in the most complicated spot. I went to a meeting at the James Woods' center where one formerly homeless activist said "if you haven't been homeless you can't imagine how low your self esteem gets, you just get used to people looking at you like you have a tail." I couldn't shake that thought. The feeling of invisibility, of shame and the way that might shatter your psyche.
In the end I think it is the labryinth of addiction, of mental illness, the sheer anxiety of having no place to live, no place that is safe and no guarantee of the basic requisites for life, food, water, shelter that leaves I think many politicians bewildered. Where even to begin? And for many it seems like a long-term problem in what for many elected officials is a short term career. Most politicians want a fight they can win, something they can point to as they term out of one office and head for another. It's hard to imagine Skid Row fitting that bill.
Still, I have been waiting for some kind of platform of issues to emerge maybe from City Hall - or the City Council - waiting for one of our leaders to step to the plate and say if we did x, y & z we'd be on track to making improvements in this nightmare. But I gotta say it seems like a slow train coming.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Just the messenger for the good folks at the Cornerstorne Theater Co.
LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2007—For three nights only on September 6-8, Cornerstone Theater Company will block off Traction Avenue in the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District to present a whimsical street edition of Suzan-Lori Parks' 365 Days/365 Plays. Intricate shadow puppetry, mod dance, and film projected onto industrial buildings will be just some of the elements included in the company’s contribution to the largest theater festival in U.S. history. 365 Days / 365 Plays
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
September 6, 7 & 8 (Thursday-Saturday) at 8:30pm
At Joel Bloom Square
Located outside the Cornerstone Theater Company office at 708 Traction Avenue, between East Third and Hewitt Streets in the downtown Arts District, Los Angeles, CA 90013
FREE OF CHARGE
For more information, call 213-613-1700 x33 or visit www.CornerstoneTheater.org.
Well at least life downtown isn't boring... This week one downtownhound blogger witnessed the endgame of a beating at 4th & Winston that rolled out like so - two angry guys, a fight over a woman and one victim left bloody after a fight involving a baseball bat. Yikes. At 11AM no less. At Winston & Main St. Our morning coffee was improved after we met two beat street cops assigned to the block. Apparently drugs are on the rise, as are beatings and fights and apparently a more recent incursion of some MS-13 activity. More on that later. The fuzz advised us that they have been recently sent to spend their days on foot keeping Main St. safe and pushing out an incursion of drugs. We told them about the baseball bat incident, they said there have been fights on the rise and some seems to stem from an influx of dirty heroin. As if being a heroin addict isn't bad enough, you find out you've been shooting up melted down BeeGees records.
Any-hoo, officer #1 bummed a smoke and continued sharing with us this delightful factoid, there's been a surfacing by MS-13 in downtown. If you don't know who they are, stop reading now because you're blissfully ignorant and I recommend carrying on that way. If you do know who they are then you know that MS-13 is nothing you want any part of. MS-13 stands for Mara (army ant, also La Mara a street in San Salvador) Salvatrucha (Salvadoran + alert) - 13 from a merger with the Mexican Mafia. The Salvatrucha are one of the deadliest gangs at least on the continent. Likely in the world. They are a local born gang traced to the Pico-Union/ Rampart neighborhood two decades ago - but really born out of a bloody civil war that the US was on the wrong side of.
The El Salvadoran civil war raging in the early 1980's and which killed a reported 70,000 Salvadorans and sent thousands of Salvadoran immigrants north over the border, was only exacerbated by the election of President Reagan in 1980. Prior to 1979, El Salvador was ruled by Carlos Humberto Romero and his military government. Romero had succeeded Colonel Arturo Armando Molina two years earlier; both Molina and Romero ran "de facto" military dictatorships, deeply repressive and violent to the citizens of El Salvador. Romero was overthrown in 1979 in a reformist coup. For 2 years resistance groups struggled against the military. By 1981, five Salvadoran revolutionary resistance groups had organized with several guerrilla groups in El Salvador and established the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion or FMLN) and began to maintain control of key strongholds. In August of 1981, France and Mexico officially recognized the FMLN and their political legitimacy.
The inauguration of Reagan changed everything. The administration's Cold War outlook oriented their empathy not with the leftist rebels. but with a military government that looked more likely to crack down on an communist insurgencies. As a result. the Reagan administration sent aid to the El Salvadoran military, the civil war raged on for another decade, backed by US resources in "a conflict reportedly fueled by billions of dollars in aid from the United States government". It wasn't until 1989 and the brutal murder of six Jesuit priests a housekeeper and a young girl that the international community intervened. Massachusetts Congressman Joe Moakely was tasked, by then Speaker Tom Foley, with heading a congressional task force into US foreign policy in El Salvador. Moakley was horrified by what he discovered and felt the Reagan administration was deeply dishonest about the status of the war in El Salvador. Congresional aid James McGovern wrote: "The United States did not cause the war in El Salvador. But our policy did help prolong a war that cost tens of thousands of innocent lives. Had we used our influence earlier to promote a negotiated settlement, many might have survived. We in the United States need to acknowledge that fact. In particular, our leaders need to acknowledge that fact. There was an arrogance about U.S. policy that rationalized, explained away and even condoned a level of violence against he Salvadoran people that would have been intolerable if perpetrated against our own citizens."
Finally the United Nations sponsored talks in 1992 to broker a landmark peace accord that has largely been honored to this day. A quote from Reinaldo Figueredo of the UN Truth Commission lays the foundation for a country reeling from violence: "In examining the staggering breadth of the violence that occurred in El Salvador, the Commission was moved by the senselessness of the killings, the brutality with which they were committed, the terror that they created in the people, and in other words the madness, or locura, of the war."
Ultimately, it was the influx of immigrants from the civil war that sent thousands of Salvadorans into Los Angeles and specifically Mexican-American gang territory. As a result, the Salvadorans created their own gangs to defend against the already established Mexican gangs. Over time they aligned with the largest hispanic gang in the US the Los Surenos or Sur-13 upon doing so MS became MS-13. According to a 2005 Justice Department "threat assessment" report the MS-13 were reported "... in the jurisdictions of 145 law enforcement agencies across the country, although only 12.1 percent of respondents indicated that this gang had moderate to high activity. MS-13 was present in 31 states." The report continued... With growing numbers of undocumented persons in the region, investigators are seeing increases in Mexican and Central-American gangs in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. One of the more prominent gangs,MS-13 is recognized by investigators as the most fearless...MS-13 has also been found to be a serious threat in Massachusetts.This gang, with between 75 and 100 members in the state, has an affinity for excessive violence and little respect for law enforcement."
For their crimes many have been deported back to Central America resulting in recruitment from the major cities in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Multinational by nature the gang is managed both by gang leaders in the US and in El Salvador -where they are considered highly organized and highly disciplined -, Honduras and Guatemala. They are not a trifling group. They are alleged to be the largest gang in Central America and credited with the kidnapping and assassination in 1997, of the Honduran President Ricardo Maduro. Newsweek called them, The Most Dangerous Gang in America and in In December 2004, the FBI launched a multi-agency MS-13 National Gang Task Force - noted as the first of its kind. **Also check this story from the NY Times.
Not trying to be a fearmonger I swear. I have read about MS-13 a lot over the years and I thought it was time to understand them better...
All this talk of gangs got me on the lapdonline.com website for a little research. I think for the most part downtown still looks pretty safe. I searched the LAPD crime maps for all reported crime within two miles of the Old Bank District over the last seven days and I found:
- 7 counts of personal theft
- 7 counts of theft from a vehicle
- 8 aggravated assaults
- 6 instances of grand theft auto (not the game btw there's probably more than 6 of those downtown)
- 3 violent robberies
- 3 burglaries
- 0 rape
- 0 homicide
All that to say, I hope our new friends on the street beat are wrong about MS-13.
Friday, August 10, 2007
I know Gilmore is a controversial man in our neighborhood and some folks like him more than others, I haven't formed a real personal opinion of him, but I feel like the consensus is that he has created a charming life for the few hundred people that populate his holdings. I fear that the Medallion potentially sits in contrast to the cozy, bohemian vibe cultivated by Gilmore & Co.
The developers says his goal is to connect the project to the surrounding neighborhood. From the LA Daily News:
"Blueprints show an intricate layout of buildings crisscrossed by public alleys
and separated by plazas that will increase the flow in and out of the complex... "It's nine separate buildings and because of the way it is broken up, it is not going to have the big long block that's typical in L.A." ... said Farkhondepour. A wide pedestrian road will stretch from where Boyd Street dead-ends into Los Angeles Street across Medallion's lot and exit to Main Street with a wide staircase. Another thoroughfare will run north-south... A roughly one-acre plaza will mark where these paths intersect near the southwest corner of the block. There, plans call for a lawn-covered platform that will sit on top of a single story of stores and hold food kiosks. Farkhondepour said that he wants a variety of eateries to fill the bottom floors and have their seating flow out into the plaza... An amphitheater-style staircase will look out toward a smaller residential building with ground-floor retail. That could hold a large screen for projecting movies. To the west of the plaza, running along Main Street, will be a two-level row of restaurants and shops. The building's style will be a modern version of the historic structures to the south, with cornices and tidy rectangular windows. "The ideal situation for us is to copy properties in the Santee Alley area, and have all that weekend traffic. That's why we have the small spaces with big front-facing windows, to have the feel of an outdoor shopping mall but with all the security and the landscaping of private ownership," said Farkhondepour. A pocket park will fill the corner of Third and Main streets. Farkhondepour said he is looking for a small grocery store to fill a 12,000-square-foot storefront."
It all sounds good I guess but the secret is the execution, if it's executed badly it could at worst an eyesore at best a really corporate feeling development. Let's hope "Medallion" isn't code for “Medici". Also I don't want to take any shots at Santee because it actually seems like a decent place, but I've been over there a couple of times and really nothing about Santee is integrated into the street - there is a small entrance leading into the convenience store and leasing office and from the food court to the sidewalk, but Santee should not be the model for how to integrate new development - at street level- into an existing neighborhood.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Volunteer: Start by checking out the local service providers’ websites. Most of them welcome any help they can get from the Downtown community. The Downtown Women’s Center (dwcweb.org), at 325 S. Los Angeles St., makes volunteering simple and fun by offering opportunities for volunteers to prepare or serve meals, throw birthday parties for their clients and fundraise. It even caters to nine-to-fivers.
Chrysalis, an organization that helps formerly homeless people find employment, has volunteers assist clients in job training tasks, such as resume help and mock interviews. Contact (213) 806-6335 or changelives.org.
Also check the Union Rescue Mission’s online volunteer job board for updated postings about available volunteer positions. Visit urm.org. And remember, while many people flock to the Skid Row missions to serve food on Thanksgiving, the Downtown missions can use your help the other 364 days of the year.
Get to Know Skid Row: Every month, a group of local police officers, service providers, city officials, business leaders and Downtown residents take a Wednesday evening walk through Skid Row, getting to know each other and the homeless population there.
If you live or work nearby but don’t feel comfortable walking east of Los Angeles Street by yourself, it’s a good way to see firsthand the conditions people live in, the progress that is being made, and to meet active players who can help you make a difference. For more information, visit centralcityeast.org/SkidRow/walk.htm.
To get an even more intimate feel for life in Skid Row, you can schedule an overnight visit at the Union Rescue Mission shelter, located at 545 S. San Pedro St. The mission sets aside several rooms for volunteers, who can stay one to three nights while serving meals and helping with other duties. Contact Alex Cornejo at (213) 347-6300 ext. 1149.
Be Civically Active: If you live or work Downtown, you are already closer to City Hall than many Angelenos ever get. That means you can swing by council meetings, planning sessions and community redevelopment events. Visit and let your elected representatives know that you want homelessness to be a priority.
Hold up a second, you are probably saying. How do I know when these meetings are, and if there will be any items relating to homelessness?
Keep up by reading city agendas at lacity.com and articles about Downtown in local newspapers. Check out the Planning Department and the City Council for hearings on residential projects. For instance, if you’d like to see an affordable housing component in a market-rate development, let the officials know by either speaking at meetings or writing letters.
David Robinson, a director at Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, an organization that advocates tenants’ rights, said that making change takes persistence.
"Call council members and the mayor every day and ask them what they have done to increase affordable housing,” Robinson said. “Ask them what they have done that day to help solve homelessness.”
Learn: Knowledge is power, and it’s important to stay on top of the news - not only for yourself, but also so you can inform others with accurate and helpful information. Since solving homelessness is an overwhelming and complex issue, keeping up with current politics and theories can help you decide how you want to help.
Several recent studies on Los Angeles’ homeless debacle also suggest solutions to alleviating the situation. The website bringlahome.com lists many of these reports and articles, which discuss current strategies to deal with homelessness.
Also check out beyondshelter.com for information on affordable housing policies in Los Angeles, as well as the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority for official city news on homelessness (lahsa.com).
Several local blogs also keep up with homeless issues. Joel John Roberts, CEO of People Assisting the Homeless, posts regularly at lahomelessblog.org. The Los Angeles Mission blog, penned by the mission’s president, Herb Smith, is also a good resource, at losangelesmission.org.
Holy Crap! If you visited Ralph's anytime this week (and weren't a downtown resident) you might have been perplexed by your fellow shoppers. People staring at fresh fish, meat, cheese, wine, and of course produce as if they had NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE. If on the other hand you are a resident of downtown and traveled to the NEW RALPH'S you were among the teary-eyed shoppers. I was and I overheard at least a dozen conversations among shoppers and employees about the wondrousness of our latest edition. Those of us with a conscience were also relieved that our new store wasn't enduring a labor strike as we wouldn't have crossed a picket line - even for fancy cheese. It's been a half century according to the 43!!!! articles I found online about the event since downtown Los Angeles had a grocery store and about time.
Let me be the first to say, I am no fan of chain stores or box stores and if the grocery business was any different I'd be shopping at my local independent store. Unfortunately those days seem to be numbered and in light of that, when we decided on Friday night at 9PM to hit Ralph's it was a bit of an adrenaline rush. We were stunned to find not just a new grocery store but a pretty top-of-the-line shop with a cheese section that borrows substantially from the Whole Foods cornucopia of fancy cheese, an enormous wine selection and a massive produce section with more exotic vegetables than the standard Ralph's. Up until now we've pieced it together with Mitsuwa, convenience stores and for the rest shopping on the way home from work, or at the farmer's market. But sometimes it's 8 o'clock, Mitsuwa's closed and the idea of driving 15-20 minutes to 3rd & Vermont feels like a haul and it feels all a bit isolating.
So I say, Amen. For those of us who have lived downtown without such convenience, I think we can feel a little validated. We've been telling everyone we can for months or years that yes downtown is a great place to live, and it's not your dad's Downtown, it's on the move, there's lots to do, amazing community, lots of dogs and finally when my friends say - "yeah but where do you shop?" I can say, "at my neighborhood grocery store thank you very much."