NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 12 January 26, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Just Say No to Telcom "Reform"
InterActivism Is Easy
A Grassroots Perspective on Privacy
How to Help NetAction

Just Say No to Telcom "Reform"

On February 8, the first anniversary of the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996, NetAction and the Center for Educational Priorities (CEP) are launching a month-long Internet demonstration to call attention to the wide gap between the rhetoric and reality of this sweeping legislation. (For more about CEP, visit

President Clinton and Congress promised the American people that enactment of the Telecommunications Reform Act would lead to a cornucopia of technological innovations that would change the nation's cultural frontiers, expand our choices, dazzle our eyes, and inform our minds. Instead, we've been censored in cyberspace, subjected to TV ratings systems, and prevented from experiencing the benefits of a truly competitive marketplace by the emergence of "cartels" created by mega-mergers in the telecommunications and media industries.

This is not reform! And it's not too late to demand that our decision makers deliver on what they promised us last year: more competition, more consumer choices, more widespread access to information technology.

NetAction and CEP are spearheading this demonstration in an effort to pressure the Federal Communications Commission and other state and national regulatory agencies to ensure that the Act is implemented in a way that truly benefits the public.

The site is currently under development at (this link is no longer active 05/23/2001). When completed, it will feature brief summaries of the impact the Act has had in its first year on telecommunications and technology policy, media ownership and content, and censorship, along with suggested actions to help ensure that implementation of the Act truly benefits the public. We are also creating extensive links to other other organizations working on these issues, as well as to other sites with current information on censorship, mega-mergers, universal service, school hook-ups, and the v-chip.

NetAction and CEP invite other organizations and activists to join this effort by linking to the site for one month beginning on February 8. By linking, you will be adding your voice to a united demand for true telecommunications reform.

Please let me know if you will participate in the demonstration by contacting NetAction at , or 415-775-8674.

InterActivism Is Easy

Becoming a Virtual Activist is easy if you visit InterActivism's eclectic Web site at (NOTE: this URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001.) The site includes alerts on a wide range of issues, including environmental justice, reproductive rights, homelessness, human rights, and more.

Right now, activists who visit the site can send a free fax directly to Congress in support of funding for international family planning programs, which are urgently needed by women in developing nations. According to InterActivism's alert, extremists in Congress are blocking funds for programs that provide health education, training, and contraception services for women in the developing world and the former Soviet Union.

The fax is distributed automatically to leaders in the House and Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. To participate, visit www.interactivism .com/docs/familyplan.html. (NOTE: this URL is no longer valid as of 05/23/2001.) It doesn't get much easier.

A Grassroots Perspective on Privacy

Earlier this month, I attended an annual briefing on privacy issues sponsored by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),, a Washington D.C.-based public interest advocacy organization working to ensure that citizens have the right to privacy of personal information.

At EPIC's request, I invited representatives of several community-based organizations and labor unions that haven't previously been involved in advocacy work on privacy issues. The effort was intended to bring grassroots groups into the privacy debate and in the process give citizens a greater voice in decisions that effect their personal privacy.

One of the community activists who attended was Phil Shapiro, Washington, D.C., Coordinator for Community Technology Center's Network (CTCNet), at , which is an umbrella organization for community-based technology centers throughout the United States. Phil prepared a report on the conference for the CTCNet affiliates that does a good job of explaining why grassroots activists should be concerned about privacy.

The following is an excerpt from Phil's report:

When I first heard about this conference, I wasn't clear about how "privacy rights" intermesh with the kinds of community-building, technology-training work that CTCNet affiliates are doing. Having heard what people at this conference had to say, I'm convinced that there is an overlap in our work.

In the opening hours of the conference we heard various people talk about what "privacy rights" are. Privacy is a legal term that encompasses a broad range of rights centering around the concept of personal dignity and personal control of information.

For example, privacy rights include the right not to have your personal space invaded by telemarketing phone calls, and preventing businesses from selling personal information about you. Privacy rights also are involved in "identity theft," which occurs when someone assumes your identity and starts applying for credit cards in your name. Privacy rights are involved when someone asks you for your Social Security number without having a good reason to need to know your Social Security number. (For example, the state of Virginia no longer uses Social Security numbers on their driver's licenses, to help protect the privacy rights of the residents of Virginia.) Privacy rights are involved with employee surveillance (when employers monitor employee's every action).

Privacy rights are very important for people to know about, because if you're not knowledgeable about these rights, somebody someplace is surely going to take them away.

How to Help NetAction

Membership in NetAction supports continued publication of NetAction Notes, as well as a wide range of organizing and training activities. NetAction projects include helping grassroots organizations harness the power of the Internet as a tool for outreach and advocacy; helping activists who are already using the Internet do a more effective job of building a base of grassroots support for technology-based social and political issues; and promoting more widespread access to information technology by organizing hands-on demonstrations of the Internet.

Please join NetAction today by sending a check payable to NetAction/Tides Center to: NetAction, 601 Van Ness Ave. #631, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Regular membership is $50 per year; student/senior/low-income membership is $25 per year; sustaining membership is $100 per year; non-profit organization membership is $125 per year; and corporate membership is $250 per year.

NetAction brochures are available for distribution at conferences and other events. If you would like a supply of brochures to distribute, send email to , and include your name and the mailing address where you would like the brochures sent.

Thanks for your support!

Copyright 1997 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source.

NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. NetAction is dedicated to promoting effective grassroots citizen action campaigns by creating coalitions that link online activists with grassroots organizations, providing training to online activists in effective organizing strategies, and educating the public, policymakers and the media about technology-based social and political issues.

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