Robbie's Round-Up (September 21-25, 2015)

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Robbie’s Round-Up
Week of September 21-25, 2015

Roundin' Up The Week's Top Telecommunications and Media Policy Stories

Broadband Opportunity Council Releases Report and Recommendations

In March, President Obama launched the Broadband Opportunity Council (BOC) with the goal of producing specific recommendations to increase broadband deployment, competition, and adoption through executive actions within the scope of existing Agency programs, missions, and budgets. On September 21, the Council released its Report and Recommendations, a summation of the BOC’s five month review, in addition to public input, of every major Federal program that provides support for broadband.

So what did the Council recommend?
In total, the Council's report highlights 36 actions that federal agencies are committing to taking, with timelines set out for each of them that stretch across the next 18 months. Broadly, the recommendations focus on modernizing funding programs to allow for investments – perhaps as much as $10 billion in Federal grants and loans -- in high-speed Internet, expanding access to federal lands and resources, and collecting new data on broadband deployment. Notably, the report promotes the idea of “dig once” -- the policy of laying a single tube in the ground through which all Internet wires can go, making it unnecessary to tear up the streets every time a company wants to reach new homes with its underground network. Once the tube is there, any company that wants to add fiber can just route their cables through that existing conduit -- cutting the cost of broadband deployment by up to 90 percent.

For a thorough analysis, I highly recommend reading Kevin Taglang’s four-part review of the report. (You can find the four-part analysis at the bottom of this article, in our ICYMI section)

The report is a tremendous step forward in the effort to increase broadband deployment and adoption across the United States. You can be sure that Benton’s Headlines service will be reporting on the implementation of all the Council's recommendations.

Legal Briefs in Defense of Net Neutrality Were Filed

Numerous tech companies, organizations, and lawmakers filed briefs this week at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on the FCC’s Open Internet Order (the ruling that enforces principles of network neutrality). We saw briefs from the Open Internet Civil Rights Coalition, First Amendment Scholars, Writers Guild of America, Future of Music Coalition, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, and 30 members of Congress, including Presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Internet Association, a trade group that represents Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and other companies, pushed back against critics' claim that the rules will hamper business development. "The open Internet fuels a virtuous circle of innovation," their brief reads. Notably, law professor Tim Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality”, submitted a brief disputing a telecommunications carriers’ misrepresentation that Congress unambiguously intended that broadband Internet service be an “information service.”

Oral arguments are set to be heard December 4, 2015, and a decision could come as early as spring 2016.

Also this week, Republican presidential candidate John Ellis Bush promised to roll back major Obama Administration rules, including net neutrality rules if elected. Bush says he’s protecting small broadband providers who assert the rules caused them to cut back on investments to upgrade and expand their networks. See also Quartz' "What's Jeb Bush got against net neutrality, anyway?"

Marvin Ammori also wrote a great piece on the women who won net neutrality.

China’s President Xi Visits the US

On September 23, Chinese officials and top American tech executives met in Seattle for an annual summit, the US-China Internet Industry Forum, which coincided with a US visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Before the event, the Obama Administration urged businesses to come forward with details about cybersecurity and other challenges they face in China. President Xi pushed back against concerns that new Chinese regulations and restrictions are meant to censor online speech and keep foreign business out of the country. “We will continue to build a law-based business environment, an open environment,” President Xi said during brief remarks at the US-China Business Roundtable. A Chinese official also said that on cybersecurity, the US must not rock the boat.

The forum illustrates the delicate role the US tech community must play when doing business in China. US business leaders must navigate competing incentives to expand their business with the opportunities China provides, while respecting the requests of the Obama Administration to stand up to cybersecurity and censorship practices enforced by the Chinese government.

The issue of US-Chinese tech business relations will receive more attention, particularly during the 2016 election cycle, as the need for economic expansion squares off against cybersecurity, censorship, and human rights violations abroad.

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)

Events Calendar for the Week of September 28 - October 2, 2015

ICYMI from Benton
Kevin Taglang’s four-part review of the Broadband Opportunity Council Recommendations:

  1. How to Modernize Federal Programs to Expand Program Support for Broadband Investments
  2. Obama Administration Aims to Empower Communities to Attract Broadband Investment and Promote Meaningful Use
  3. How Can Expanding Access to Federal Assets Improve Broadband’s Reach?
  4. Improving Data Collection, Analysis and Research on Broadband

Benton Foundation Welcomes Administration's Broadband Action Plan (Press Release)

By Robbie McBeath.