Remember the Fight Against Radio Consolidation? Is Net Neutrality the New Consolidation Battleground?

Net Neutrality… This is the make or break issue of our generation much the same way the Telecom Act of 1996 was the make or break issue of the last generation..

Back in ’96, we heard all the same arguments being made by the corporate radio companies like Clear Channel that we are hearing from the telecoms like AT&T and Comcast. We heard people say that it was going to be better for the consumer. Radio companies made the case that if they were allowed to consolidate they would be able to diversify their content because there would be less competition. In other words they could have lots of niche stations that explored various genres of music because they wouldn’t be competing with other stations.

They also made the case that consolidation would be good for people of color because it would allow minority owners to better compete. The reason cited was that it would be easier for minority owners to sell ads when they had more than one station in a market vs one or two. Some of the larger stations came up with a scheme where they would help sell ads for small minority stations. This was done to get these small groups to go alone with the 96 Act. We now know back room deals were cut where small stations agreed not to adapt certain formats and be competition to the mega giant radio companies in the market. For example in LA the Black owned station would agree not to play too much Hip Hop or not go too deep into an oldies format.

Those minority owned stations that tried to tough it out were either brought out or smashed on. The most glaring case of this occurred in the Bay Area which is dominated by Clear Channel. When a small upstart station opened up in Oakland Power 92.7 FM they decided to fill a void and dwell deeper in the urban format. The first thing that happened was Clear Channel executives called the banks and tried to block the small station from getting financing.

Next my old boss Michael Martin sent out letters to the Black/urban departments of all the major labels threatening that if they supported this new station with servicing them new music,  artist interviews or even station ID drops that he would see to it they would not get any airplay on the other Clear Channel properties in this part of the country. The same message went out to local Bay Area artist. Many were scared to come on board and help out for fear of long term, far reaching reprisals. Eventually the station was shut down with a former Clear Channel executive purchasing the station.

I would encourage folks to read this article called Fighting the Power (Upstart rap station Power 92.7 had its eyes on big, bad KMEL, but didn’t watch its back)  written by fellow Bay Area journalist Eric Arnold. It gives you keen insight of what happens when consolidation in an industry we all engage is allowed to happen. Getting rid of Net Neutrality is the equivalent to media consolidation. Just like Clear Channel controls the airwaves as this article bares out, AT&T and Comcast will control the net.. Mark my words.

Back in 96, many of the corporate radio stations who were lobbying for consolidation approached some of the very same Civil Right leaders who the telecoms are approaching now. They promised them radio shows and syndication for shows that existed and assured us people of color would be more visible. President Bill Clinton also championed this bill for increased consolidation. The nations so-called ‘First Black President’  assured us this was needed in order for the Radio industry to grow…

Well since 96 what has grown? We know Clear Channel grew? We know Fox news grew. Meanwhile diversity and people’s satisfaction for radio has shrunk tremendously. By 2003 there were calls for boycotts against radio. The reason being was radio both White and Black owned were pushing a narrow corporate agenda and not responding to the widespread dissatisfaction people had with these outlets.

There were boycotts called for stations ranging from Hot 97 in NY to WJLB in Detroit to WGCI in Chicago to KUBE in Seattle to KMEL in San Francisco. etc. A tribunal addressing concerns about Urban radio in NY drew more than 2000 people to a church in Harlem where people launched blistering complaints for over 6 hours. People complained about the dumb down content, the same 10 songs being played day in and day out to lack of access for community voices and local artists. Many also complained about the increasing politically conservative ideals being pushed out. We saw news depertments shrink as consolidation meant that one person would handle duties over 3 or 4 different stations.

The FCC held hearings all over the country to standing room crowds when the industry attempted to get even more consolidation.. The radio companies made the claim that they needed to be allowed to own newspapers and more radio station in a market in order to grow.

Former FCC Chair Michael Powell

When I ran into FCC chair Michael Powell, at a Rainbow Push Conference in 2003, I told him about the tribunal that was held in Harlem the night before. His response was if people don’t like whats taking place on radio then they should go to the Internet. He felt the internet allowed for all those unhappy voices to be heard.

Fast forward to 2010, we now have the telecoms making the same claims as the radio giants from 13-14  years ago. We have some of the same ‘minority’ groups trying to curry favor with the telecoms just like they did with radio corps back in 96. We also have a public that finds the issue boring or extremely complicated just like in 96..If this Net Neutrality is allowed to be deaded on behalf of three telecom companies and the Civil Rights groups they been paying off, were gonna be moaning about the constrictions placed on the internet the same way we do radio.

-Davey D-

Telecom firms’ donations to minority groups criticized as FCC considers net neutrality rules

Key minority organizations are backing the carriers’ efforts to thwart net neutrality proposals. Critics say the millions of dollars and in-kind help the firms pour into the groups is a factor.

By Jennifer Martinez, Los Angeles Times

Some leading minority advocacy groups long have supported AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp. and other major telecommunications firms in the industry’s efforts to win approvals for mergers, get rid of old regulations and avoid new government rules.

And the telecom firms, in turn, have poured millions of dollars of donations and in-kind services, including volunteer help from the carriers’ executive suites, into charitable groups in the communities they serve.

Consumer and public advocates used to whisper about the possibility of conflicts of interest, but now they are openly critical as the battle heats up over proposed federal regulations over net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers should not restrict content, programs and other uses on their networks.

Key minority groups are backing the carriers’ efforts to thwart the net neutrality proposals, which would, for instance, prohibit carriers from charging more to give some residential and corporate customers priority in delivering online content.

“When you give national civil rights groups millions of private dollars, there’s no firewall strong enough to keep that money out of their policy,” said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

Cyril and other consumer and public advocates have been buoyed by comments from Federal Communications Commission member Mignon L. Clyburn, a prominent African American and daughter of Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.).

She said in a speech in January that she was surprised that most statements and filings by “some of the leading groups representing people of color have been silent on this make-or-break issue” of net neutrality.

continue reading..http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-net-neutrality-minorities-20101005,0,5480002,print.story

Obama, FCC Poised to Cave to Telecoms & Turn Backs on Net Neutrality

Just getting word that after millions of dollars spent in intense lobbying efforts the FCC and Obama may finally be giving into the big telecom companies in particular AT&T & Comcast…I think this article below from Alternet explains it best, but I will add a couple of things to think about.

One of the strategies used by AT&T was to go to communities of color, find Civil Rights organizations and in my humble opinion and pay for their silence or advocacy. The list ranged from LULAC to the Urban League which filed briefs siding with the FCC. It makes no sense why organizations which have long spoke about not having voice their voices heard and a seat at the table would go along with any sort of policy that strip that away from the average person who found such an opportunity via the Internet.

Was having sponsorship dollars for the next awards banquet payment enough? Or a some computers for an after school program payment enough? We’re talking about intelligent people here. It would be absolutely trifling to sell out for something that low and glaringly obvious…

As organizations they too stand to benefit if their voices go unfiltered. Meaning that perhaps they along with handful of others will be placed free of charge on the soon to be unveiled Internet fast lanes while the rest of us will be left trying to raise money or get position to be on par as we escape the toll lanes and slow lanes these telecoms say they need to have in order to be viable..

The whole scenario reminds of the scenario that mad so many of us rush off to the internet in the first place. No one liked having to go through the one or two anointed media gate keepers to get the word out to the masses. Its kind of like having that one cat on the radio and everyone has to go kiss his/her ass to get they record played or PSA read.  The internet freed a lot of that up and made many of those gatekeepers irrelevant. In the age of information and social media its to the advantage of those in power to become gatekeeper and set up a new class of folks who will have unfettered access and serve that purpose.

For those who are still confused let me explain what is soon to come.. Lets say you have a website that houses your blog or music.. You will have the Herculean task of figuring out who is on what system and making sure your website isn’t in the slow lane. I’m sure some of the big telecoms will announce that for X amount of dollars a month you can be assured that your website will load up just as quick as some of the larger/ mainstream sites. So this means I have to figure out who is on AT&T, who is on Comcast, who is Direct TV and 50 other Internet service providers. They may all have a fee to make sure my site or information loads quickly to their customers. Thats what Net Neutrality was preventing from happening.

Glenn Beck smashed on Net Neutrality as a way to ensure he has an unobstructed voice on the net. he will be in the internet fast lane as a media gatekeeper while the rest of us will be tolled

So those of you who listened to the Glenn Becks of the world just note he was protecting his own ass when speaking out against NN.. It was a way to make sure he was one of a handful of voices to routinely have access to the masses. Same with many of the other folks who were waving the flag for AT&T.. it was all about HNIC.. being the Head Negro in Charge … being the new media gatekeeper.

Indy Artists who enjoyed duking it out with the majors and handing them their hats, you will have the hardest times, because the main gripe that Comcast was making was they wanted to charge those who use a lot of bandwidth, that comes with streaming, downloading  etc.. Its easy for a big company like Universal or Sony to cut deals and make sure their product is readily accessible, but what about the small time artist who has good material but no budget..Sad part to all this is no matter how much you pay there will always be an inner circle including companies and individuals that work for these telecoms who will have the fastest of lanes thsu always having a clear advantage over the average person or the small business looking to make a come up. This is what net neutrality was protecting us from.

Below is a list of Civil Rights orgs that submitted files to the FCC saying they wanted to have the internet DEREGULATED. When your shit starts slowing down, your message filtered or censored ,your music hard to access you and more importantly your fees go up, give these esteemed organizations and people a call and ask them how they intend to correct what will go down as a egregious error. Maybe they can let you use their accounts cause I’m certain in exchange for siding with these big telecoms they got a few perks including unfettered and fast lane access.

Here are recent anti-Network Neutrality filings by organizations of color..

There are more and I will post them later..

Urban League Chapter

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408309

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400790

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400568

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408157

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400510

National Lesbian and Gay Chamber of Commerce

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408718

Hispanic Federation

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408716

LISTA

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408720

Latino community Foundation in San Francisco

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408354

Native Americans

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408711

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408291

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408712

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408704

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408709

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408717

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408708

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408713

NAACP in California

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408307

Rainbow Push

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408211

Texas State Rep. Robert Alonzo

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020408179

MANA, A National Latino Organization

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400566

100 Black Men of South Metro

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400798

100 Black Men of Mobile

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020401015

100 Black Men of Greater Mobile

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020401015

ASPIRA

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400339

100 Black Men of Tennessee

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400506

100 Black Men of Orlando

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400502

HTTP

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400970

Hispanic Interests Coalition of Alabama

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020401020

SER: Jobs for Progress

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020400060

NAACP Mar-Saline Branch

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020399888

Japanese American Citizens League

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020399819

Organization of Chinese Americans

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020399334

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies

Rep. Yvette Clarke

http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7020399667

Obama, FCC Poised to Cave to Telecoms and Turn Backs on Net Neutrality

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/05/03/obama-fcc-poised-to-cave-to-telecoms-turn-backs-on-net-neutrality/

by Daniela Perdomo

Obama, FCC Poised to Cave to Telecoms and Turn Backs on Net Neutrality

Among the young, forward-thinking demographics with whom Obama, the presidential candidate, was incredibly popular were the digital rights crowd. Obama’s campaign platform promised to ensure net neutrality — the principle that all Internet content must be treated equally by internet service providers, where no content is given preferential treatment by ISPs — if he were elected.

Oh, how things change!

Currently, net neutrality finds itself hanging by a thread, and the Obama administration and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appear to be ready to cave to the mighty telecommunications industry, sacrificing a fair Internet for all.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a court ruling which had net neutrality activists in a frenzy. A federal judge ruled that the FCC had overstepped its authority in demanding that Comcast, one of the nation’s largest internet service providers (ISPs) treat all content equally. (Comcast had been throttling, or slowing down, certain content — particularly file-sharing sites.)

From that story:

The FCC, in enforcing net neutrality, was trying to ensure the Internet remains a level playing field, where no sites are on a “fast lane,” and no sites are on a “slow lane.” ISPs like Comcast have argued that controlling certain sites’ load times will prevent high-bandwidth users — like file-sharers — from clogging the web for everyone else. But it’s a slippery slope. (…)

Beyond preventing the FCC from enforcing equal load times for all websites, the court’s ruling could hamper the FCC’s ability to ensure that internet policy providers comply with digital privacy laws. Further, it could adversely impact the White House’s efforts to increase Americans’ access to high-speed Internet networks. Currently the United States lags far behind other developed nations in broadband speed and reach.

Net neutrality activists, however, were hopeful that if the FCC chose to reclassify internet services as as a telecommunications network — like telephones — they’d be able to regulate ISPs. And there was reason to be hopeful this would happen — the FCC chair, Julius Genachowski, is credited as a contributor to Obama’s tech platform, which included net neutrality, greater media diversity, and increased broadband access.

The best part of reclassification is that it only requires a simple-majority vote from the FCC’s board members — and would neatly sidestep all the bureaucratic red tape and telecoms’ big lobbying dollars in Congress.

Sadly though, a Washington Post article today indicates that Genachowski is expected to leave the broadband industry deregulated — as if under-regulation has ever proven itself a good idea. (Hello, recession of 2008?)

Josh Silver, head of Free Press, a media reform non-profit, put out the following statement on what this means: “If Chairman Genachowski fails to re-establish the FCC authority to protect Internet users, he will be allowing companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to slow down, block or censor content at will. They can block any website, any blog post, any tweet, any outreach by a political campaign — and the FCC would be powerless to stop them….If the FCC fails to stand with the public, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it.”

Given that the Internet is either set to replace or already has replaced the telephone as the most important medium of communication, this is a very scary, Orwellian prospect.

Court Rule For Comcast Net Neutrality Falls on Our Watch-That’s a Damn Shame!

Just getting word about the FCC being defeated in court against Comcast over the issue of Net Neutrality. The courts ruled that the FCC has no authority to enforce Net Neutrality principles. This now opens the doors for any of the large telecoms like AT&T and Verizon who have spent millions of dollars  lobbying politicians, paying off traditional Civil Rights groups for their silence or advocacy and hand picking ‘pundits to murky the issue by setting up all sorts of distracting debates, to start regulating content. In short, the doors are now open for these telecoms to create toll lanes on the web where the more you pay the faster and more accessible your website, home page etc, to the masses. Here’s the actual decision  http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/201004/08-1291-1238302.pdf

The Internet was attractive to so many of us because it leveled the playing field. It allowed the little guy with a good idea to have voice right alongside the mediocre, slow-moving big guy with lot so f money. The net allowed a lot of folks to come up. The principles around Net Neutrality allowed a small outfit like Pandora to smash on the staleness of a Clear Channel. It allowed scores of Indy artists who we got to enjoy at last week’s Paid Dues concert in LA to be just as relevant and accessible as the corporate backed auto-tune drones that made so many of us thankful we could escape via the internet.

The principles of Net Neutrality have allowed scores of grassroots organizations to put up good fights and organize effectively. One example, is Basta Dobbs, the campaign against former CNN host Lou Dobbs that saw 32 cities simultaneously hold press conferences demanding his removal from the airwaves because of his constant racialization of immigrant communities. Organizers acknowledged  that a lot of their success was owed to their ability to reach the masses online.  Today there is a current campaign against CBS and comedian Adam Coralla making disparaging remarks against Filipinos got legs thanks to online efforts and the principles governing Net Neutrality. 

Many of us found out about the Troy Davis case through the Internet

Awareness around death penalty cases like the one involving  Troy Davis  owe much success to the internet spreading. The same with the plight of the Jena 6. Imagine if the students protesting election corruption in Iran were prevented from reaching us here in the US because Comcast or AT&T decided to restrict content? many of us got to know and support their plight because Net Neutrality was in tact. The current student protests here in the US around tuition hikes became known to many thanks to online organizing efforts. There’s a long list of how the little guy was able to make some headway against money, power, position and corporate privilege, thanks to the internet and the Net Neutrality allowing us to reach the masses.

Today’s ruling allowing Comcast and other telecoms to get around Net Neutrality  is bad news on a number of levels. First, it again underscores the power of judges and why we must pay attention in each election to make sure who is in position to appoint and who is actually running to sit on a bench. In this case these were appointed judges. Not sure of their backgrounds as of yet. But we do know the last few unfavorable police rulings like Sean Bell’s killers being acquitted came at the hands of a Bush appointed judge. What were finding is that as elected officials or in this case the FCC do the people’s bidding against the interest of corporations, these companies are running off to the courts which have been stacked over the past 8 years and getting favorable rulings. We can dwell deeper into judgeships on another day.

Second, is that we go through Congress to craft a law specifically protecting Net Neutrality or to grant the FCC authority to regulate and oversee this provision. The challenge is thanks to intense lobby efforts  by the telecoms we may have huge problem. For years, the telecoms have tried everything they could to get things deregulated so they could rush in and start setting up shop. In  previous attempts to allow Congress to grant the FCC such powers to govern Net Neutrality, Congress was stifled by the telecoms…

Sadly former Mayor Shirley Franklin has been among the handful of Black and Brown Civil Right icons doing the bidding of the telecoms who want to get rid of Net Neutrality

AT&T and their lobbying efforts have been a bit more insidious, with them taking advantage of the technological ignorance of many, they’ve been able to exploit the economic hardships experienced in many poor Black and Brown communities by showing up with money in hand to sponsor events, people and needy politicians in exchange for silence or outright advocacy by newly minted handpicked, artificial experts. In other words folks who have been brought off and are now in the pocket stomping for the telecoms. One keen example of this is former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin as outlined in this report Shirley Franklin fronting for the Big Telecoms . The angle Franklin and others of her ilk take around the buzz word ‘digital divide’, making it seem like that if we demand the telecoms back off from this Net Neutrality fight they in turn would not continue to help provide access to marginalized communities.

 This is akin to me showing up at a conference on drug sentencing talking about in order for us to have this discussion we must address the issue of domestic violence. In other words they have very little to do with each other unless we wanna get creative and draw colorful lines to connect the dots as directed by the telecoms or we have a personal financial or political and now increasingly social stake in this.  Some of these big time telecoms have enticed folks by working behind the scenes and elevating their profile of their hand pick pundits making sure they get to be on talk shows or start being seen prominently in the blogasphere.

What’s most frustrating with todays ruling is that after writing, explaining and doing radio shows on this important topic for more than 5 years  there are many within this Hip Hop / urban community who I routinely engage who seem to know more about Ice Cube’s latest dis than they do about the Internet’s governing principles that allowed them to get the information in the first place.

For example, this past weekend in Washington DC there was a Hip Hop Bloggers conference and from what I saw Net Neutrality was mentioned only once  and only by someone from the Future of Music Coalition which has been fighting to preserve it.   While many of my peers waxed poetic about how they garnered fame and followers at a date and time when this important principle was at stake, it was sad NOT to see this as a front a center issue. The irony here is that many of us know a Dallas Penn, Okayplayer  or 2 Dope Boyz more than we know the news reporters working the local beat at a corporate owned newspaper. We know AllHipHop or HipHopDx better than we know the NY Times or Washington Post..

As I long explained, non corporate self-styled journalist, Hip Hop heads, urban youth and snarky college kids gaining a foothold to the masses without going through a high-priced, media gate-keeper was problematic.  Many of us laughed at and took glee over hearing how the local papers were unfolding and how local radio stations were crumbling. We looked at our Iphones,  Ipads and other gadgets and arrogantly proclaimed we were the new kings and queens on the block. We did that while ignoring two basic facts which is 1) power concedes nothing without a vicious fight and many of us were blogging but not fighting. We weren’t fighting by educating ourselves on this issue and we weren’t educating our readers on the importance of preserving the new media arenas that they come to love and depend on while escaping the doldrums and oppressive nature of traditional outlets. Voice was given to the Voiceless on the Internet and Net Neutrality   was and has been the main pillar why.

Second, many of us have long shunned politics. It’s an ugly business. It’s corrupt. It’s far from fair. Many of you have had the privilege to get on an unimpeded internet and share all sorts of theories and perspectives on why politics should be avoided. We know about the Obama Deception movie. We know about the Bildenberg group, We know about Illuminati etc.  All of these perspectives and many more have been freely delivered to the masses of people because of Net Neutrality. However, it’s this corrupt political arena where rules are made and policy shaped. As I remind people daily, many of us live in communities, where street politics, workplace politics are just as ugly yet we take time to know and understand them. We learn when we can wear red and blue. We learn what side we can tip our cap. We learn who is backbiter, ass kisser and saboteur in the office. Engaging politics is not beyond us. But to avoid the politics around something we didn’t build and essentially don’t own in terms of infrastructure, but use everyday is as foolish as going to a neighborhood in LA and not know ‘what time it is’..  

When it comes to Net Neutrality, I realize it’s a boring, complex issue. There is no easy soundbite that adequately explains it, but some of the most important things impacting our lives can’t be explained in a tweet or a Facebook status update.  Us being a headline news society will be the demise of us if we’re not careful. We should never trade away aor allow basic principles to be removed even if we had a work around or alternatives.  Somebody told me they wasn’t tripping off the ruling cause they had enough money to sustain themselves and they knew other work-arounds. That shortsighted thinking of ‘I got mine you better get yours’ is what has wrecked havoc on far too many of us… Hell I could call it a day and not trip my damn self.. I’m good on a number of levels as well. In fact maybe this latest ruling might eliminate a bunch of people and I can be one of the few destination places free of technological impediments. It could be all good until I’m the one being smashed on.

It’s kinda like the Fox News mouthpiece Glen Beck who uses a platform granted by his employer Rupert Murdoch to talk crazy, mislead people and basically try to blow up the spot around Net Neutrality. It’s easy for him be dismissive and hostile, because he’s one of the few privileged folks in the world who has a daily TV talk show. He works for a powerful media mogul who spent the past two or three years buying up all sorts of newspapers and could stand to benefit handsomely if all these ‘pesky’ blogs and upstart news sites suddenly disappeared or simply weren’t able to be as accessible on line as his offerings.  

So what should we be doing? For starters call your Congressperson and tell them you want Net Neutrality. the same way you want clean water coming out your tap.  You can stay up on some of this by checking out my website daveyd.com. You can also go to the Center for Media Justice . You can also check out Kurthanson.com,  FreePress.org and Future of Music Coalition

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