Press Release Archives

Benton Urges Caution in Verizon Wireless-SpectrumCo Deal

On Monday, December 19, 2011, Verizon Wireless and SpectrumCo, the consortium of cable operators, officially asked the Federal Communications Commission to transfer the cable operators' 122 wireless spectrum licenses to the wireless cellphone provider. The following statement can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman and CEO Charles Benton:

"The Benton Foundation urges the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission to closely review the Verizon- SpectrumCo transaction and marketing agreements with a keen eye on the implications for competition, consumer choice, wireless and pay TV prices, and innovation in both wireless and wireline services. We are concerned that Verizon Wireless’s spectrum holdings may grow so concentrated as to prevent new competitors from entering the wireless marketplace."

For more on the proposed deal see “A Reordering of the Competitive Universe as We Know It

For more coverage of the transaction, see http://benton.org/headlines/verizon-spectrum

The Benton Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting communication in the public interest. This statement reflects the institutional view of the Foundation and, unless obvious from the text, is not intended to reflect the views of individual Foundation officers, directors, or advisors.

Study Shows Public’s Cable Channels at Greatest Risk

Contact: Barbara Popovic
(312) 738-1400
[email protected]

The Alliance for Communications Democracy (ACD) and the Benton Foundation released results of a nationwide study on public, educational and government (PEG) access showing that public access cable channels have been the hardest hit by a wave of funding cuts and closures across the country in recent years. The primary causes are new state franchising laws and decisions of local governments.

“These findings reflect an alarming trend,” said Rob Brading, ACD President. “The loss of Public Access channels closes the door on the local community, including health and jobs groups, housing advocates, small business, churches, and arts and civic groups. Immediate steps need to be taken to stop the erosion of the infrastructure devoted to public use.”

“Public access channels advance first amendment goals through inclusion of a diversity of people, ideas and issues,“ said Benton Foundation Executive Director, Cecilia Garcia. “That’s deserving of our government’s highest protections, particularly at a time of unprecedented media consolidation.” The study looked at results from over 200 PEG centers from around the country, as well as tracking closures of centers in the past five years. Findings show:

  • PEG Access Centers in at least 100 communities across the United States have been closed since 2005. A disproportionate number (93) exclusively served the public.
  • Hundreds more PEG Access Centers in six states affected by state franchising laws may be forced to close or experience serious threats to financial and in-kind support over the next three years.
  • Half of the 165 survey respondents providing financial information for 2005 and 2010 reported an average funding drop of 40% since 2005.
  • The primary reasons cited for reductions in funding and in-kind resources for PEG Access Centers were new state franchising laws and/or decisions by local governments.

The study was conducted by The Buske Group, a Sacramento, California based consulting firm.

The Benton Foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. It pursues this mission by seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity, and by demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications to improve the quality of life for all Americans.

The ACD was founded over twenty years ago to preserve and strengthen community access to media through participation in constitutional questions and court cases involving community media.

Complete study results are also available at www.theacd.org

Benton Foundation Welcomes Jim Kohlenberger to Board of Directors

The Benton Foundation is honored to announce that former White House staffer Jim Kohlenberger has agreed to join our Board of Directors. Most recently, Kohlenberger served as Chief of Staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) under Director Dr. John Holdren. While in the White House, he helped craft the President’s innovation strategy, advanced policies to help spur a mobile broadband revolution through spectrum reform, worked to secure cyberspace, helped put the U.S. space program on a bold new course for the future, and sought to harness innovation as an engine of economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.

From 2004-2008, Kohlenberger was a Senior Fellow at Benton. In that position, he guided Benton's media policy work and strengthened the foundation's collaborations in the field. Kohlenberger headed Benton's advocacy for universal, affordable broadband, tangible public interest obligations for digital broadcasters, diversified media ownership and open communications networks. Previously, Kohlenberger helped shape the Clinton Administration's approach to the Internet. He served as Vice President Al Gore's senior domestic policy adviser and worked to help pass and implement the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Before joining OSTP, Kohlenberger was executive director of the Voice on the Net (VON) Coalition, and ran his own innovation focused consulting practice.

In his new role, Kohlenberger will assist in the governance of the Benton Foundation. In addition, he will join the Board's Program Committee, headed by Elizabeth Daley, dean of the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California. This committee is charged with providing guidance and direction for the programmatic efforts undertaken by Benton staff. Also serving on the Program Committee are Henry Rivera, former FCC commissioner and partner, Wiley Rein, LLP, and Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corp., and president-elect of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA).

Benton Foundation Opposes Proposed AT&T Acquisition of T-Mobile USA

The following statement can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman and CEO Charles Benton:

After a review of the purported benefits and early analysis of the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T, the Benton Foundation urges the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission to reject a deal that offers no public interest dividend.

First and foremost, the acquisition will combine the 2nd and 4th largest wireless carriers in the US. Undoubtedly, this combination will reduce competition in this market and will result in fewer choices for consumers, higher prices, and less innovation.

Moreover, the deal may inspire other mergers and acquisitions in the very interdependent telecommunications and technology sectors.

Second, although the Benton Foundation is a strong supporter of the National Broadband Plan and President Barack Obama's goal of bringing next-generation wireless broadband to 95% of the country, we do not see that this merger is necessary for either AT&T or the nation to reach this goal.

Finally, we have grave concerns that the deal will result in the loss of thousands of jobs around the country.

Benton urges federal policymakers -- including the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Congress -- to focus on making the broadband marketplace more competitive. As recommended in the National Broadband Plan, policymakers should make more spectrum available for existing and new wireless broadband providers in order to foster additional wireless-wireline competition at higher speed tiers.

The proposed AT&T|T-Mobile deal is a distraction from our long-term, national broadband goals.

The Benton Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting communication in the public interest. This statement reflects the institutional view of the Foundation and, unless obvious from the text, is not intended to reflect the views of individual Foundation officers, directors, or advisors.

Broadband, Sputnik, and the State of the Union

During the state of the Union address tonight, President Obama recognized the vital importance of broadband infrastructure to our nation's long-term economic competitiveness. The following can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman and CEO Charles Benton:

"To sustain our economic recovery, our country must invest in the infrastructure that will be the foundation for free markets; lifelong education; improved healthcare; cleaner, cheaper energy; creative pursuits; a secure homeland; more responsive, effective emergency services; and an engaged democracy. Without doubt, broadband is a key platform for all these national priorities.

"In just two years, it is safe to say, President Barack Obama has done more to improve our broadband infrastructure than President George W. Bush did in two terms. Tonight, the President has renewed our national commitment to meet the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century -- filling troubling and persistent gaps in the deployment of broadband networks, encouraging adoption by people and businesses alike, and making the most of this powerful tool to further our national priorities.

"Our moment is now to revitalize the foundation of our economy and to regain our global competitive edge."

Related statements:

Our New Sputnik Moment (Op-ed published in The Hill 10.03.2007)
http://thehill.com/opinion/op-ed/7422-our-new-sputnik-moment

Sputnik 2: Time for Broadband (published 12.17.2010)
http://benton.org/node/46746