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

I Read the National Broadband Plan So That You Don't Have To.

In its 360-page National Broadband Plan [PDF], set to be handed over to Congress today, the FCC was kind enough to provide a Cliff Notes version of the document in the form of one literary footnote at the text's beginning: In Shakespeare’s Henry IV , Welsh rebel Glendower tells his co-conspirator Hotspur : “I can call spirits from the vasty deep.” Hotspur responds, “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?” "Will they come when you do call for them?" is another way of saying that all the good policy proposals in the world don't mean all that much if there's not a good strategy behind bringing them into being. Is this long-awaited document going to call AT&T, Verizon, and wireless-ISPs-of-the-future into action, and actually provide a strategy for bringing more and better broadband choices to Americans? I registered my initial skepticism yesterday. If you'll bear with me, let's take a deeper look at the ideas contained within the actual plan...

More of a National Broadband To-Do List, Really.

As Monica mentioned below , tomorrow was slated to be the day that the Federal Communications Commission would, finally, put out some version of a National Broadband Plan, the first of its kind for the United States. I happened to get a copy at a pen-and-pad briefing at the FCC this morning, and we were told that the midnight embargo had already been broken, so bombs away. At first read, this 350-page-plus planning document is probably going to disappoint many people. The critical question of how the FCC and/or Congress is going to encourage provider competition was largely punted on. As we already knew, the FCC is pushing forward with a wireless auction that would reward licensees for selling back the slices of the national airwaves they no longer need. But when it comes to wireline services -- fiber in the ground, for example -- this strategy doesn't have all that much to offer. There's a bit in there about making use of federal "conduits, poles and rights-of-way" to make the math...

Short-Line Liberalism Has Its Limits.

In the latest issue of Democracy , Time 's Joe Klein suggests that the way to reinvigorate liberalism as an appealing political doctrine is to celebrate its comforting efficiencies, its unwavering competence, its you-can-leave-your-house-keys-with-me-ness: Liberals are congenitally disposed to thinking grand thoughts, and that’s a good thing -- in the long run. In the short term, however, liberalism has to embrace -- and work to markedly improve -- the quotidian ceremonies of governance, the places where the public meets the government every day. Liberalism has to prove that it will be hard-headed in spending public money, that it will not go wobbly in defending the country’s security, that it stands for change that is humane and truly progressive rather than simply aggrandizing its traditional allies. I am not pessimistic that this can happen, but it requires discipline and vigilance. It requires a steady accretion of benign interactions between the government and the public. A...

Consider the Possibility that Congress Isn't Very Smart.

Matt Bai has a piece in this weekend's New York Times Magazine riffing off of Larry Lessig 's important work in correcting both the perception and practice of Congress being horrifyingly warped by the money that flows into campaign coffers. Lessig's work to reform Congress deserves more attention and debate, for sure. So that's good. But Bai takes issue with what he reads to be Lessig's inordinate focus on the corrupting role of lobbyists all while giving Congress' members a pass despite some or all 535 of them being, well, dirty crooks: The problem with Lessig’s indictment and others like it isn’t that they are too hard on lobbyists who try to influence the system. It’s that they’re too easy on the politicians who cave to the pressure. Those who denounce the recent Supreme Court ruling and call for radical reform of the campaign-finance system tend to present a picture of Washington as a modern Gomorrah, in which irresistible temptation lurks around every marble column. If you vote...

Reading Yahoo Mail in Tehran.

The New York Times ' Mark Landler reports that the Treasury Department will today announce an affirmative policy freeing U.S. tech companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, Twitter, and Google to distribute their products in places like Sudan, Cuba, and in particular Iran. Here's Landler: The decision, which had been expected, underscores the complexity of dealing with politically repressive governments in the digital age: even as the Obama administration is opening up trade in Internet services to Iran, it is shaping harsh new sanctions that would crack down on Iranian access to financing and technology that could help Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. You might be wondering why, since the focus is on Web-based connective technologies like e-mail and IM that are freely available online, an announcement like this is necessary. Those companies, it seems, have shied away from making their programs downloadable in places where U.S. embargoes and trade restrictions apply. There's a tension here...

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