Press Release Archives

One Hundred Years After AT&T's Kingsbury Commitment, Benton Calls for a New Network Compact in Report

One Hundred Years After AT&T's Kingsbury Commitment, Benton Calls for a New Network Compact in Report

In The New Network Compact: Making the IP Transition Work for Vulnerable Communities, released today, the Benton Foundation identifies 10 interrelated principles to help policymakers guide the transition from traditional telephone service to emerging broadband networks. In sum, these principles are intended to guarantee that all Americans will have access to Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled networks that are: 1) fairly priced; 2) offer a high quality of service with the capability of running essential applications; and 3) allow people -- regardless of age, ability, location, or economic status -- the chance to receive, develop and share content as well as use and create new technologies.

The report highlights the concerns of vulnerable communities through the eyes of the individuals and organizations who work on a daily basis with children, people with disabilities, low-income families, communities of color, rural residents and senior citizens. As an integral part of their jobs, these advocates must understand the struggles of these vulnerable populations to help them overcome the obstacles they face. As such, they are well-suited to help the regulators make better, more-informed decisions about this transition.

“On December 19, 1913,” said Amina Fazlullah, the foundation’s Director of Policy, “AT&T Vice President Nathan Kingsbury sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General George McReynolds in hopes of putting AT&T’s business practices ‘beyond fair criticism’ of anticompetitive behavior. In the letter, AT&T promised to sell its stake in Western Union Telegraph, resolve interconnection disputes, and refrain from acquisitions if the Interstate Commerce Commission objected. The letter became known as the 'Kingsbury Commitment.' One hundred years later, AT&T and other landline telephone carriers seeks to retire the copper-based phone system. But the nation cannot retire the commitment Attorney General McReynolds understood to create ‘full opportunity throughout the country for competition in the transmission of intelligence by wire.’”

“As we embark on what’s being called the IP transition, we need a new network compact for the 21st century that guarantees that the public, not just industry, benefits from the migration to digital networks,” said Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton. “The Federal Communications Commission needs to consider a wide array of vulnerable communities that could be unfairly disadvantaged during this conversion. Depending on how this transition is done, these communities stand to benefit immensely or be disproportionately harmed. Only by fully understanding the possible pitfalls and opportunities of such a change can the FCC develop a set of ‘rules of the road’ that will best serve all of the country’s residents.”

“If the IP Transition is to be successful for all Americans,” Fazlullah added, “broadband networks must be available, accessible, affordable, trustworthy, and relevant to new adopters.”

Benton’s Ten Principles for the IP Transition

  1. Ubiquity: Every American needs to have affordable access to high-speed fixed and mobile broadband networks.
  2. Accessibility: The 54 million Americans with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations, must be able to make full use of broadband networks and the video and voice services that run over these networks.
  3. Diversity: In addition to ubiquitous availability, Americans must have the ability to access and distribute content that reflects the country’s diversity of viewpoints.
  4. Openness: Consumers must retain their rights to utilize any legal applications, content, devices, and services of their choosing on the broadband networks they use.
  5. Competition: Policies should encourage new entrants into the emerging IP-enabled network market.
  6. Interconnection: Regulators must ensure that competing network providers are able to interconnect in areas where there is legacy market power. Subscribers must be able to reach subscribers on any other network.
  7. Trustworthiness: As technology moves forward, consumers must retain key protections that ensure a fair and safe experience.
  8. Robustness and Resiliency: To ensure public safety, consumers need to be able to rely on networks in emergencies.
  9. Speed: Consumers need fast networks that allow them access to and choice of a full range of services to meet their needs.
  10. Innovation: For consumers, the promise of the IP transition is new services and ways to collaborate and communicate that are better and more advanced than current basic telephone communications.

To read The New Network Compact: Making the IP Transition Work for Vulnerable Communities and for more on the IP Transition, see: http://benton.org/initiatives/ip_transition

Contact:
Amina Fazlullah
Director of Policy
Benton Foundation
[email protected]
202.638.5770

Benton Foundation Welcomes FCC's IP Transition Presentation

December 12, 2013

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission heard a status update on the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force’s work to make near-term recommendations related to the Commission’s expectations and role in what is referred to as the IP transition: the ongoing transitions from copper to fiber, from wireline to wireless, and from time-division multiplexing (TDM) to all-Internet Protocol (IP). The following can be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Benton Foundation commends the work of the Technology Transitions Policy Task Force. Today’s presentation is an important, positive step on a long road to transitioning to all-IP networks. We are glad to see the emphasis the FCC is placing on the universal deployment of broadband networks, promoting public safety, protecting consumers, and preserving and enhancing competition and interconnection. There’s strong consensus that the transition must embrace these core values. As the Commission considers the next steps in managing the transition, Benton asks that it also include in a new Network Compact additional values that are dear to consumers and crucial if vulnerable communities – children, seniors, low-income and minority households, and people and businesses in rural and remote areas – are to enjoy the full benefits of IP networks:

  • Affordability: Since enactment of the Communications Act of 1934, the availability of world-class networks at affordable rates has been a key policy goal.
  • Accessibility: The 54 million Americans with disabilities must be able to make full use of broadband networks and the video and voice services that run over these networks.
  • Diversity: In addition to ubiquitous availability, Americans must have the ability to access and distribute content that reflects the country’s diversity of viewpoints.
  • Openness: Consumers must retain their rights to utilize any legal applications, content, devices, and services of their choosing on the broadband networks to which they subscribe.
  • Speed: Consumers need fast networks that allow them access to, and choice of, a full range of services to meet their needs.
  • Innovation: For consumers, the promise of the IP transition is new services and ways to collaborate and communicate that are better and more advanced than current basic telephone communications.

While there’s no doubt that the nation is on the verge of a bold digital opportunity, smart policy decisions, not just capital investments, are needed if every American -- regardless of zip code, race, disability or income – is to get a chance to tap into a world where voice, video and information are available faster and in more and better ways than ever before. The Task Force advanced us on that path today; now is the time for the full Commission to act.

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

Benton Welcomes Full FCC

On May 1, 2013, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Tom Wheeler to be the chairman of the Federal Commutations Commission. On October 29, 2013, the US Senate voted unanimously to confirm Mr Wheeler as chairman and Michael O’Rielly to be FCC commissioner. The following statement can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton:

The Benton Foundation welcomes the Federal Communications Commission’s new commissioners and congratulates Mignon Clyburn for her exceptional leadership as acting chairman over the past few months. Benton looks forward to working with Chairman Wheeler and Commissioners Clyburn, Jessica Rosenworcel, Ajit Pai, and O’Rielly.

We are heartened by Chairman Wheeler’s statement that “the Internet is the greatest communications revolution in the last 150 years. We must all dedicate ourselves to encouraging its growth, expanding what it enables, and assuring its users' rights are respected." Too many people in the U.S. – including people of color, people living in rural areas, seniors, people with disabilities and people with low-incomes – are not yet participating fully in America’s economic, civic, and cultural life because they are not able to adopt the communications tools many of us take for granted. We believe that the important industries regulated by the FCC play a vital role in improving the country’s economy and quality of life. The Benton Foundation will continue to advocate for affordable broadband access for all, diversity of voices in media, and pragmatic communications-related policies that favor the public interest.

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

Benton Foundation Moves to Expand Communications News and Analysis Service

The Benton Foundation announces that Rebecca Ellis has joined the organization as Writing Associate for the foundation’s Headlines service. Ellis will report directly to Kevin Taglang, who has recently been promoted to Executive Editor. Since 1996, the Benton Foundation has provided free, daily summaries of articles from the consumer and trade press concerning the quickly-changing communications policy landscape. Taglang will focus on creating new content and resources for Benton’s readers.

Ellis has worked as a freelance international correspondent, writer, producer and content strategist with a background in investigative reporting, business accountability research, broadcast journalism, and translation/website localization. She obtained her M.S. degree in Journalism at Columbia University. Prior to Columbia, she completed a graduate program in Media Communications at the Polytechnic University of Berlin in Germany, interned at Democracy Now!, and worked for six months as a senior research consultant in Mexico City. In 2009, she traveled to Chile to write her master’s thesis on the topic of dissenting news media and telecommunications in Chile during and after the Pinochet dictatorship. Rebecca is fluent in German, Spanish and her native language, English.

With over 18 years of experience in the field, Taglang has led Benton’s work monitoring, analyzing and articulating the public interest stake in telecommunications legislation, regulation, and policymaking. Previously, Taglang was Senior Policy Analyst at the foundation, working on educating and engaging the nonprofit sector in communications policy debates. Taglang holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and, from Northwestern University, a Master of Arts in Communication Studies with a focus on Telecommunications Science, Management and Policy.

Just last month, the Benton Foundation unveiled a service to track the debate about modernizing the Federal Communications Commission’s E-rate program, which discounts communications services for schools and libraries. Benton offers a convenient, “one stop shop” for links to the latest news, research, analysis, events, and FCC filings surrounding this new initiative. The service mirrors an ongoing effort by Benton to track implementation of the National Broadband Plan released by the FCC in 2010. Taglang also writes a weekly roundup aimed at nonprofit executives which capsulizes the most important developments in the field.

As manager of Benton’s Digital Beat blog, Taglang will expand the number of voices participating in debates on what communications “in the public interest” means in the Digital Age. Former Federal Communications Commissioner and current Common Cause executive Michael Copps writes a monthly op-ed. Benton will soon add new, regular contributors to its blog.

To help guide Benton’s effort to expand its communications news and analysis services, the foundation announced that Robert A. Cohen recently joined its Board of Directors. Cohen is a leading media management consultant with extensive executive and operations experience. He specializes in developing profitable business strategies for existing digital and print businesses, launching and repositioning media brands, integrating print and digital media, and improving subscription, membership, and retail sales for websites, magazines, newspapers, newsletters and other properties. Cohen has particular expertise with early-stage print and digital businesses, as well as in-depth knowledge of entrepreneurial companies’ approaches to sharpening their competitive edge and reaching their next level of growth through the design and implementation of new content, ad sales, and circulation strategies. Over almost 40 years, he has worked with Rodale Press, Scientific American, Esquire, American Heritage, Scholastic, Audubon, Mondadori (Milan), Groupe Expansion (Paris), International Herald Tribune, New England Journal of Medicine, and Harvard Business Review. He has also held executive positions at LPI Media, the publishing arm of PlanetOut, Inc., Primedia Consumer Magazines, and The New Republic, among others.

“The Benton Foundation now has the right people and the right tools in place,” said Executive Director Adrianne Furniss, “to deliver to communications policymakers and advocates the news and analysis they need to advance discussions that ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy.”

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

Letter to FCC Draws Attention to Need for Post-Disaster Communications Policies

On July 25, the Benton Foundation, Public Knowledge and 16 other organizations sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Clyburn. The letter asks the FCC to take the lead role in defining acceptable post-disaster changes to Title II services. This comes in the wake of Verizon’s implementation of Voice Link on Fire Island. The premature rollout threatens to raise a precedent that puts Americans at risk after natural disaster situations.

The letter explains why the FCC’s guidance on what responsibilities carriers have to rebuild in the aftermath of disasters is critical to carriers, who need certainty, and consumers, who need reassurance.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“Because there is currently no developed framework for post-disaster recovery, the response by Verizon and state, local, and federal policymakers has been improvised. This should not be the template for post-disaster recovery in the future, and should not serve as a model for the future of the telecommunications network. Rather, the Commission should provide guidance to carriers and communities on appropriate responses when the physical network for providing Title II services is destroyed or severely damaged and the network operator does not intend to eventually replace the network with a substantially similar network offering the same Title II services.

“At the same time, the Commission should create a more developed framework for post-disaster recovery. Many months have passed since Sandy, and damaged communities still do not have any certainty as to the future of their communications services. This should be unacceptable going forward.”

Read the letter

Read a Public Knowledge blog post on this topic

Benton Foundation Announces Reorganization of Leadership

Contact:
Charles Benton
847-328-3040
[email protected]


Adrianne Benton Furniss Becomes the Executive Director, Amina Fazlullah Director of Policy

The Benton Foundation today announced the reorganization of leadership to strengthen the organization’s core work advocating for universal, affordable broadband and begin a transition to a new generation of Benton stewardship.

Effective July 1, 2013, Adrianne Benton Furniss becomes the foundation’s Executive Director. Cecilia Garcia, the foundation’s Executive Director since 2007, will continue with the foundation as Senior Advisor. Amina Fazlullah has been promoted to Director of Policy, leading the foundation’s policy advocacy.

Adrianne Furniss is no stranger to the Benton Foundation. While she pursued a 20-year career in media marketing, distribution and management at Sesame Workshop and Home Vision Entertainment (HVE), she served the foundation as Board Member; Secretary, then Vice Chair; and member of Benton’s finance committee. In addition to her new staff duties at the foundation, Furniss will continue to serve as a Trustee of the Benton Foundation, Chair of the Board for Kartemquin Films, the not-for-profit documentary film and media arts company based in Chicago, and as board member of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.

“It is with great pride,” Chairman Charles Benton noted, “that we announce this transition between Cecilia Garcia, who has served with great distinction, and our daughter, Adrianne. We are lucky that Cecilia eased the family into addressing the issue of succession proactively so we can continue the legacy begun by my father, William Benton. I look forward to working with Adrianne and our Board to maximize the foundation's impact and grow our programs and outreach.”

As a Senior Advisor, Cecilia Garcia will explore opportunities for Benton to collaborate on projects that address relevance and accessibility of 21st Century communications technologies for low-income senior citizens. “I appreciate Cecilia’s leadership over the past 7 years and her support during the management transition,” said Furniss. “I look forward to her continued leadership advocating for policies and projects that connect one of our country’s most vulnerable community’s to the promises of the Digital Age.”

“Communications in the public interest is what drew me to Benton,” Garcia said. “It is an honor to participate in this grand purpose. I am particularly pleased to be able to focus my efforts on the challenges related to broadband adoption by low-income elderly consumers.”

Amina Fazlullah is now Benton’s Director of Policy. Since 2010, Fazlullah has led the foundation’s federal telecommunications and media policy efforts in Washington (DC). She has concentrated the foundation’s work on Universal Service Fund reform with a specific focus on the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline and E-rate programs which make telecommunications services more affordable for low-income households, and schools and libraries respectively. Fazlullah also helps develop and support important consumer protection policies which help vulnerable communities access, adopt and utilize broadband and voice services.

“In this new role,” said Furniss, “Amina will explore new opportunities for advancing the foundation’s mission in the months and years ahead. Through her expanding network, she will promote policy solutions that ensure affordable broadband networks are available to all, extending opportunities to those who can benefit most.”

“I look forward to continuing the collaboration with Benton’s Board and colleagues in the field to press federal policymakers for equitable policies for all Americans, especially our most vulnerable populations,” said Fazlullah.

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

Benton Applauds ConnectED Initiative

At an event in Mooresville, North Carolina June 6, 2013, President Barack Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission to revamp the Schools and Libraries program, known as E-rate, to help provide institutions with Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second and wireless networks throughout their buildings and campuses. The following can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton:

“If the U.S. is to lead the world in 21st century educational innovation, we must invest now in the networks that connect our schools and libraries. Since the mid-1990s, the Benton Foundation has been examining the role of the Internet in the classroom. We know that with next-generation wireline and wireless networks, students and teachers can expand instruction beyond the physical classroom and traditional school day. With broadband networks, schools can provide more customized learning opportunities for students to access high-quality, low-cost and personally relevant educational material. And use of these networks can also improve the flow of educational information, allowing teachers, parents and organizations to make better decisions tied to each student’s needs and abilities.

“I commend the President on his commitment to education and his understanding on the vital role of telecommunications in expanding educational opportunity and improving educational outcomes. This is just the kind of bold proposal our country needs to realize the National Broadband Plan goal of bringing gigabit broadband service to every community in the U.S."

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

Benton Applauds NTIA Broadband Adoption Toolkit

On May 2, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released its Broadband Adoption Toolkit, a document aimed at sharing best practices developed from broadband adoption and digital literacy projects funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). The following can be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Cecilia Garcia:

In addition to promoting jobs and economic development, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's broadband stimulus programs were meant to develop community-based models for broadband deployment, adoption and meaningful use in unserved and underserved populations. Today, access to healthcare, educational resources, job training, potential employers, local/state/federal government services, and sources of news all depend on robust access to and regular use of broadband. The private sector alone has not gotten us to universal broadband, a requirement for everyone to be able to participate fully in our economy and civic life. Four years after passage of the ARRA, the successes of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) must be used to shape both pragmatic policy and best practices for broadband rollout and adoption.

In our research and convenings, the Benton Foundation has found that BTOP-supported projects targeting low-income seniors can greatly inform how to structure the most effective programs to get seniors online:

  • Barriers to adoption for the elderly include anxiety. Projects reported that many seniors fear that they’ll break the computer or otherwise do something wrong.
  • The elderly experience greater socio-economic disparities than other age groups.
  • Effective approaches consider age tiers, rather than lumping seniors into a “65 years+” category.
  • Isolation – contrary to popular opinion, use of computers and the Internet by the elderly helps fight off isolation, rather than increase it.
  • Trust issues: public libraries are cited as trusted places for seniors.
  • It is critical to include the elderly in planning successful program: “Do with, not for.”
  • Seniors make great peer coaches

NTIA’s toolkit collects valuable lessons learned and best practices from BTOP computer centers and adoption projects – representing a federal investment of $450M - in one reference manual. It includes chapters on outreach, discount offerings, program planning, training and curriculum. This is a most welcome resource!

Benton Congratulates Clyburn, Wheeler

On May 1, President Barack Obama announced his intention to nominate Tom Wheeler to be the chairman of the Federal Commutations Commission. President Obama also named, current FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn the Interim Chair of the FCC. The following statement can be attributed to Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton:

Too many people in the U.S. – including people of color, people living in rural areas, seniors, people with disabilities and people with low-incomes – are not yet participating fully in America’s economic, civic, and cultural life because they are not able to adopt the communications tools many of us take for granted. The Benton Foundation congratulates the Federal Communications Commission’s new leadership and looks forward to working with them to help bridge this unfortunate and costly divide. We believe that the important industries regulated by the FCC play a vital role in improving the country’s economy and quality of life. The Benton Foundation will continue to advocate for affordable broadband access for all, diversity of voices in media, and pragmatic communications-related policies that favor the public interest over the special interest.

Statement of Charles Benton on Passing of Bob Edgar

The Benton Foundation mourns the loss of Bob Edgar, the President and CEO of Common Cause, who died prematurely on Tuesday. He was a gentle and determined advocate for justice and human rights. I first met him in connection with his leadership in fighting for the victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam, both our soldiers and the Vietnamese people. It was one of his proudest accomplishments as a Congressman from Pennsylvania.

We applaud his understanding of the interrelationship between media and democracy and his commitment to Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner between 2001 and 2011, as the leader of a new unit at Common Cause to advocate for a deeper public understanding of the relationship between media reform and democracy reform. Bob created a new vision for Common Cause and leaves a great legacy for the organization.

We will miss Bob and send our condolences to his family.