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click to enlarge PASSING: KATV will show only six games.
  • PASSING: KATV will show only six games.

While there has been much grumbling among local Latinos and other sports fans on the Arkansas Times blog (www.arktimes.com) about the decision by KATV, Channel 7, to pre-empt ABC-provided coverage of the World Cup — the month-long international soccer tournament that is the most-watched sporting event in the world — KATV programming director Richard Farrester reports that all is not lost for non-cabled futbol fans. Farrester said the station will be showing six of the 12 World Cup games offered to them by ABC sports later this month and in early July. In addition, KATV has made arrangements with local Equity Broadcasting station KWBF, Channel 42, to show the ABC-offered games that will not be shown on KATV.

KATV will show two World Cup matches on Saturday, June 17, followed by games on June 18 and 24 and July 1 and July 9.

“It’s incorrect to say that we’re not carrying it,” Farrester said. “We’re not carrying six of the games that ABC is providing.”

Farrester said that the station hasn’t shown Saturday morning World Cup games so far because the station is one of the few ABC affiliates around the country that carries Saturday morning local news programming, a circumstance that requires the station to push ABC’s FCC-mandated three-hour block of children’s educational and informational programming to later in the day. While Farrester said the conflict between Saturday morning World Cup matches and KATV’s regular Saturday morning programming has been resolved, three more upcoming games scheduled for Sunday will be pre-empted because of the station’s prior commitments to local religious broadcasters. Farrester said arrangements have been made so that ABC-supplied World Cup games that do not show on ABC will air on KWBF, Channel 42.

“We’re not the only station that did that,” Farrester said.” There are several stations that are in the same boat that we are because of Saturday local news.”



Fans of the fast and free-thinking swirl of thought and culture that is the modern Internet might want to pay close attention to a little something called “Net Neutrality” in upcoming weeks and months, especially when it comes to the machinations of our duly-elected politicians. In fact, a call or e-mail to your senator on the issue this summer might well help save cyberspace as we know it.

In a nutshell, Net Neutrality is the idea that the bandwidth of the Internet should be doled out in equal measure to everybody — it’s what keeps the website for your favorite blog loading and running as fast as the website of multibillion-dollar corporations. Though the Internet has long operated on that wholly democratic principle — allowing companies thought up in somebody’s spare bedroom to become the next Google or eBay — that could soon change if the telecoms have their way.

See, there’s this bill that passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives called the COPE Act — the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act. COPE was born early this year, after a platoon of telecom lobbyists marched on Capitol Hill on behalf of broadband providers like AT&T and Verizon and started throwing around a lot of money. A House committee approved COPE in April.

Backed almost exclusively by Republicans (and derided by most Democrats and big-gun Internet companies like Google, Amazon.com and eBay), COPE basically allows the telecoms to decide how to allocate Internet bandwidth in order to create a for-pay “Internet Fast Lane.” That is: If you’re a big corporation like Wal-Mart or Texaco, you pay the telecoms extra money, and your website loads and runs really, really fast when somebody clicks on a link to it. If you’re Joe’s House of Left-Handed Spatulas and Right-Wing Political Thought, however, and can’t pay, you get stuck in the slow lane of the Internet, and your website loads and runs really, really slow.

Last Thursday in the House, debate on an amendment to COPE that would have made it illegal for broadband providers to give preferential treatment to one website over another — called the Net Neutrality provision, offered by Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon — was killed, and COPE was passed by a vote of 269-152, mostly along party lines. When it came down to the votes of the Arkansas House delegation, Reps. John Boozman, Marion Berry and Mike Ross voted against net neutrality (that is, they voted yea on killing debate on the Wyden amendment), while Vic Snyder voted for more debate.

Now the issue moves on the Senate, with a vote expected later this summer (Sens. Olympia Snow of Maine and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota have introduced the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2006,” a bi-partisan, pro-neutrality bill that can hopefully muster enough votes to pass).

A spokesman for Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln said the senator is waiting on the Senate Commerce Committee to take up the proposed legislation — possibly as soon as the end of this month — and that Lincoln would proceed in making her decision from that point. Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, meanwhile — who is on the Commerce Committee — also remains undecided. “He’s looking at both sides of the issue,” said Pryor spokeswoman Lisa Ackerman. “He just wants to make sure the Internet remains fast, innovative and informative.”

You can get a lot more info on Net Neutrality and the ramifications of the COPE Act at www.savetheinternet.com.



Slow ride. Take it easy.

david@arktimes.com


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