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Website offers tools to change media, phone and internet markets

Thursday, Dec. 16, 2004
Susan Herold
Morgan Jindrich
(202) 462-6262

Consumers Now Have Latest Advice, Analysis and Tools to Change Media, Phone, Internet Markets
www.HearUsNow.org puts full array of telecom information at consumers’ fingertips; empowers them to change media marketplace

(Washington, D.C.) – Consumers Union today unveiled a groundbreaking Website that offers consumers the latest information, advice and developments in the media world – from digital TV to Internet privacy to cell phone company mergers – as well as a means to directly change the marketplace by harnessing the power of consumers.
Consumers Union’s new site, www.HearUsNow.org, follows the organization’s long tradition of promoting a fair and just marketplace by explaining to consumers the latest technology and developing policy, as well as providing insight into how those changes affect them as they communicate each day. The site provides consumer tips and advice on traditional phones, wireless service, the Internet and broadband, radio-TV-cable, and digital content.
In addition, the Website is a portal to hundreds of community and national groups working on media and telecom issues, allowing users to link to local organizations and get the latest on what’s happening in their communities. The site also offers ways consumers can make change – direct actions they can take to make a difference.
“This Website addresses the explosion of activist groups and energized consumers who are frustrated by the government’s hands-off approach when it comes to dealing with their concerns over higher bills, poorer service and the fact a handful of companies control their communications,” said Gene Kimmelman, senior director of public policy for Consumers Union.
“It’s important consumers have one place to go where they can understand how policies affect their pocketbooks, such as the proposed Sprint-Nextel cell phone company merger, which could lead to less competition and higher prices,” Kimmelman said. “HearUsNow.org not only explains these issues, it gives consumers the tools to fight for their interests.”
Through www.HearUsNow.org, consumers can find dozens of tools to get their voices heard, including:
• Sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission and the phone companies demanding they stop adding misleading charges to phone bills.
• Joining a coalition to stop the spread of SPAM e-mail, and learning ways to fight it.
• Getting cable companies to offer customers channels on an a la carte basis to lower skyrocketing bills. (MORE)
• Pushing for technology funding for schools and seed money for innovative projects in rural, urban and Native American communities.
• Convincing city and state officials to create open wireless Internet networks – WiFI – for all residents.
• Learning from other expert groups how to host public meetings to improve diversity in media ownership.
Hundreds of nonprofit, consumer and community organizations are linked within the site, as are how-to guides on tackling problems and issues. Consumers can find everything from how to take on their local cable company to advocating for more local and diverse media organizations. The site also includes consumer tips – in both English and Spanish – for practical advice on shopping, fixing bad service and more. And individuals and nonprofits can post their techniques for tackling issues in their communities, helping consumers throughout the country learn from those with experience.
“Our goal is to have success stories, where a consumer in San Francisco can learn from someone in Philadelphia the methods and challenges of creating an open wireless network in their community,” said Morgan Jindrich, director of HearUsNow.org. “We want to link consumers throughout the nation so they have the power to take on these major issues and big corporations. We want to put the power back in consumers’ hands.”
HearUsNow.org was made possible by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation and significant assistance from the Open Society Institute.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers. We are a comprehensive source for unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health and nutrition, and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public, and protect consumers. Our income is derived solely from the sale of Consumer Reports and our other services, and from noncommercial contributions, grants, and fees.