Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

Why Net Neutrality's All the Rage.

To piggyback on Jamelle 's argument that the more bombastic conservative arguments that we're hearing against net neutrality are symptomatic of a reflexive anti-liberalism , it's worth keeping in mind that the historical record of communications debates in particular in this country made it fairly easy to predict that this is how this policy debate would shape up. Liberals, the thinking holds, are anti-free speech. It's a tenet of conservative thinking, and just about every discussion in this space gets slotted into that framework. The Fairness Doctrine , for example, holds a place in the conservative imagination that's completely out of proportion with how much support the idea -- that government should try to encourage viewpoint diversity on the airwaves -- actually has amongst liberals. It's such a useful bogeyman that it gets trotted out year after year after year. Julian Sanchez accurately points out via Twitter that there are more reasonable conservative arguments against net...

Community Radio's Lazarus Moment.

On Saturday, the Senate finally passed the Local Community Radio Act , a bill I'd written about here . (The House has passed it before, and passed it again on Friday.) This is a tweak to communications law in the U.S. that's been ten years in coming, since big broadcasters pushed the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act through Congress because they objected to how the Federal Communications Commission was handing out licenses to small, low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations. This isn't a perfect bill. In fact, the National Association of Broadcasters' lobbyists might want to use the concessions in it to justify their holiday bonuses. But LPFM's passage holds the possibility of bringing a greater diversity of voices to the airwaves, particularly in urban areas where the radio dial is too crowded for new full-power stations. From here, things go to the FCC, and it's up to them to start actually licensing LPFM stations. And those aforementioned NAB-won concessions do place some real limits...

Radio for the People

The lame-duck Congress has a chance to restore the use of media for the public good.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Local Community Radio Act , despite its eminent sensibility and bipartisan support (Sens. John McCain and Maria Cantwell were its original co-sponsors), remains mired in the Senate. The bill would give the Federal Communications Commission back the freedom to issue licenses for small, community-based radio stations operating at a strength of 100 watts. It floated around Capitol Hill for five years and passed the House by voice vote last December but is now trapped in that other chamber after a series of anonymous and semi-anonymous holds. As much as the Local Community Radio Act's failure to make it out of Congress is yet another example of a well-organized industry's outsized influence, the battle over low-power FM, or LPFM, represents a larger, decades-old struggle over whether government has an interest in cultivating an American media environment that serves the people, rather than one that simply advances the interests of big business. Where it does exist, LPFM has proved a...

We're All the Wireless Internet.

To second what Monica said below about what seems to be Federal Communication Commission chair Julius Genachowski 's intention to adopt an approach to net neutrality that exempts wireless Internet connections: She's absolutely right that that the exemption is extra worrisome when it comes to communities where smartphones are how people access the Internet, which in the United States includes communities of color and poorer communities. For many people, the Internet is wireless and mobile, and a neutrality exemption that allows Internet providers to discriminate on what sort of content and services they see potentially hits them extra hard. But to extend the point, it's worth keeping in mind that the Internet as we know it is trending mobile for many, many, many people. Just under 30 percent of iPad users, for example, now use that Apple device as their primary computer , according to a small Business Insider survey. (We'll leave aside for the moment the fact that making a distinction...

Hot, Sexy, Fundable Cyber War.

Whenever somebody uses the phrase "cyber war" to talk about a pair of Russian teenagers unleashing a computer worm on the world just to prove that they can do it, much clapping abounds at both the National Security Agency and defense contractors' offices, reminds Seymour Hersh : Cyber security is a major growth industry, and warnings from [fromer White House national security aide Richard] Clarke, [Bush-era director of National Intelligence J. Michael] McConnell, and others have helped to create what has become a military-cyber complex. The federal government currently spends between six and seven billion dollars annually for unclassified cyber-security work, and, it is estimated, an equal amount on the classified portion. In July, the Washington Post published a critical assessment of the unchecked growth of government intelligence agencies and private contractors. Benjamin Powell, who served as general counsel for three directors of the Office of National Intelligence, was quoted as...