Press Release Archives

Benton Foundation Applauds FCC’s Big Broadband Boost for Education

On December 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission voted to close the school and library connectivity gap by adjusting E-rate program rules and support levels in order to meet long-term program goals for high-speed connectivity to and within all eligible schools and libraries. The following was written by Charles Benton, Chairman of the Benton Foundation, and Amina Fazlullah, the Benton Foundation's Director of Policy:

“We cannot always build the future for our youth,” said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “but we can build our youth for the future.” Today, the Federal Communications Commission improved education for all our young people by providing the tools to connect every school and library to high-capacity broadband -- and Wi-Fi connectivity that delivers critical education tools right to students’ desks.

This is a huge win for U.S. education.

By modernizing and funding the E-rate program for the 21st century, we will connect even the smallest, the poorest and the most rural classrooms and libraries to the world through the Internet.

The FCC is providing every child a key to unlock their potential. To develop the skills needed today and into the future, every American child must have access to the most cutting-edge learning tools, tools that can best be delivered by high-capacity broadband and Wi-Fi. Schools will now have the capacity to offer interactive and individualized learning, utilize high-definition streaming video, take advantage of the most innovative digital teaching tools, and provide modern science, technology, engineering, and math -- STEM – instruction. In libraries, patrons will be better able to participate in lifelong learning, seek jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities, and access government services.

The actions the FCC takes today are exactly what’s needed to ensure our country’s competitiveness in the 21st century. Connecting all schools to high-speed broadband will help re-establish the U.S. as a global leader in education — setting an example for other countries that are struggling to improve their educational systems. Today’s students are not just competing with kids across the hall, across town or across the country; they are competing with students around the globe whose countries have made high speed access to gigabit speed broadband in their schools a priority.

Make no mistake – the FCC’s decision today is not about dollars and cents or about bits and bytes – it is about opportunity. The FCC is closing the gap of access to high capacity for schools and libraries. The FCC is closing the affordability gap that has prevented many of these community institutions from handling the recurring costs of these connections. And the FCC is closing the funding gap that prevented investment in our educational infrastructure. Now all students will have the opportunity to develop the skills they need to succeed and prosper, and to realize the American Dream.

FCC Puts Consumer First in Tech Transitions

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve two items to protect consumers and encourage technology transitions in the phone network.

In one item, the FCC proposed rules to establish how the agency will evaluate carriers’ proposals to transition their networks to new technologies. In the second item, the FCC proposed rules to ensure reliability and accountability in 911 service in response to frequent interstate 911 outages due to technology transitions. Public Knowledge joins the Benton Foundation and the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients, in commending the FCC for using its authority to put consumers first in technology transitions.

The following can be attributed to Jodie Griffin, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:

“Public Knowledge applauds the FCC’s decision to begin the process of establishing rules that protect consumers and give certainty to all stakeholders in the technology transitions. Strong rules that ensure the transitions will be a true step forward for everyone will encourage people to adopt new technologies, safe in the knowledge that new technologies will be as good or better than what customers had before.”

The following can be attributed to Amina Fazlullah, Director of Policy at the Benton Foundation:

“We are also glad to see the FCC solicit comment on reports from customers across the country of carriers forcing people off existing services or upselling them to more expensive packages. As the FCC unanimously confirmed in January, universal access to affordable, basic service is a fundamental value of our phone network, and customers should not lose access to basic service as a result of network upgrades.”

The following can be attributed to Olivia Wein, Staff Attorney at the National Consumer Law Center:

“We have already seen too many examples of technology transitions that unexpectedly make our network start fraying at the edges. IP technologies have led to business practices that leave rural customers unable to send or receive phone calls. Software glitches have caused millions of people to lose 911 access for hours at a time. Fixed wireless services have left behind people dependent on heart monitors and small businesses using credit card processors. The FCC is now taking steps to ensure these network transitions are handled responsibly, and that the transitions will be a true step forward for everyone.”

Benton Welcomes Investment in Our Children's Future

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler outlined a proposal to increase funding for the E-rate program which reduces the telecommunications costs of schools and libraries. The following statement may be attributed to Charles Benton, the Chairman of the Benton Foundation:

The Benton Foundation welcomes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to increase investment in high-speed connections to better education. Our children’s future is worth every penny.

One of the most important challenges of our generation is to ensure that every child in every classroom — no matter how rural or isolated that classroom — has a chance to succeed and win in the global economy. Poverty, discrimination, isolation and ignorance hold our country back. But investments in education, infrastructure and technology spur economic growth, creating more good jobs and wealth for all of us, and these investments are especially needed in rural areas. It is in our national interest to ensure that every child — no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from — has the opportunity to succeed.

And we cannot forget about the integral part libraries play in supporting 21st century learning. Their access to advanced technology and the supporting bandwidth needed to deploy this technology is imperative. Children and adults who do not have access at home rely on libraries to supplement their educational efforts. After school, libraries are the place children go to complete their homework. And for many adults who also do not have high speed access to the Internet, the library is the only place with the technology needed to seek adult education opportunities, apply for a job, access government services or stay in touch with relatives throughout the world. Providing critical E-rate funding for libraries will ensure that all communities have equal access to information and lifelong learning.

For more, see Mr. Benton's Who Will We Leave Behind? on the importance of equitable broadband connections for all students.

Benton Foundation Applauds President Obama's Net Neutrality Plan

Earlier today President Barack Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act in order to have sound legal footing to protect the Open Internet. He also encouraged the FCC to apply the rules to wireless broadband networks. The following statement may be attributed to Amina Fazlullah, the Benton Foundation's Director of Policy:

“President Obama’s statement on network neutrality is his strongest and clearest yet: the Open Internet is vital to America’s economy and American’s way of life. The Benton Foundation and approximately four million commenters to the Federal Communications Commission strongly agree with the President that the agency must act to ensure cable and telephone companies do not act as gatekeepers, restricting how we can use the Internet. We need rules that will withstand court challenges while banning blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic. As a candidate for the presidency, then-Sen Obama promised to take a back seat to no one when it came to net neutrality. Now it is time for the FCC to protect the Internet with the strongest rules possible and ensure a first-class online experience for all Americans.”

Benton Welcomes FCC Proceeding on Measuring Broadband Progress

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on measuring broadband deployment. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The primary goal of the national Broadband Plan is for 100 million U.S. homes to have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second by 2020. In today’s NOI, the FCC is using its broad powers under Section 706 of the Communications Act to ask the right questions and take the right measurements to ensure the U.S. reaches our stated goal. The Benton Foundation welcomes the FCC action and its potential positive impact on advancing other national priorities including civic participation, public safety and homeland security, healthcare, and education.

FCC Moves IP Transition Forward

On July 11, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report and Order establishing a budget and a methodology for selecting winning applications for the Connect America rural broadband experiments adopted by the Commission in its 2014 Technology Transitions Order. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

Today the Federal Communications Commission took another important step in modernizing the nation’s phone network. As the public switched telephone network makes a complex transition to Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled networks, regulators must protect the nation’s core values to ensure the newest technologies benefit all Americans. Universal service, consumer protection, competition, and access to emergency services must be part of communications networks whether they be copper, fiber, or wireless. The FCC’s experiments to bring broadband to rural areas are needed and welcomed.

In December 2013, the Benton Foundation released The New Network Compact: Making the IP Transition Work for Vulnerable Communities which highlights the concerns of vulnerable communities as the nation navigates this transition. The nation must remain committed to guaranteeing that all Americans will have access to communications 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.

FCC Delivers Victory For Students and Communities

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Report & Order to modernize the E-rate program and expand support for Wi-Fi connectivity for schools and libraries. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Federal Communications Commission delivered a huge victory for America’s students and communities today when it adopted a Report and Order that modernizes and improves the nation’s largest investment in education technology, the E-rate program. Benton views broadband connections as a critical tool in improving education and preparing students for the 21st century. Specifically, the FCC’s action means:

  • 10 million more students will be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, facilitating more one-to-one learning in schools throughout the country beginning in the 2015-16 school year;
  • The buying potential of E-Rate dollars will be maximized through consortia and bulk purchasing; and
  • New transparency rules will guarantee the public knows how E-rate dollars are spent and what broadband providers charge schools and libraries.

Today’s action is a great first step in bringing world class broadband connections to U.S. schools and libraries.

The Benton Foundation is a long-time advocate of E-rate reform. In June 2014, Benton wrote to the FCC about ways to enhance the program and deliver high capacity broadband to schools and libraries. We are pleased so many of our recommendations are addressed in today’s action.

Benton Statement on Network Neutrality Proceeding

On April 24, 2014, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement, “Setting the Record Straight on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules,” saying that a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking follows the roadmap established by the D.C. Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Benton Foundation welcomes the Federal Communications Commission’s continued efforts to preserve a free and open Internet. However, we are concerned to read that the Commission may consider crafting rules which allow for content companies to pay Internet service providers for special access to consumers. If we move to a “pay for play” Internet, who pays for access for school homework assignments and distance learning, e-government services and databases, job-training videos and job applications? The people who can least afford to pay – low-income families – are the most at risk.

Any net neutrality proposal must ensure the same quality access to online educational content as to entertainment and other commercial offerings. We need to ensure that the Internet remains a medium for opportunity not just an opportunity for Internet providers to increase profits.

For more on what is being proposed by the FCC, see The Next Chapter in the #NetNeutrality Saga

Michael Copps: A Time For "No!"

In his latest op-ed published in the Benton Foundation's Digital Beat blog, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps says the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is bad news all around -- "bad for consumers, competition, and our very democracy." He focuses on three key facts:

  1. The merged company would further diminish competition.
  2. Consumers, long hurting from over-priced cable and from scarce and costly broadband, would face even higher bills.
  3. This proposal, if approved, would wreak significant harm on our civic dialogue and, indeed, on our democracy.

Copps concludes:

I don’t believe that, apart from the cable barons themselves, anyone would welcome the cableization of the Internet. Yet that is precisely the danger here. And who better to cableize it than the biggest cable company? What a tragic denial of the promise of the Internet this would be! Let’s get rid of this threat right now with clear and straight-from-the-shoulder denials of the merger by the Department of Justice and the FCC. This is a time for “No!”

Read the op-ed at http://benton.org/node/180659

Benton Welcomes New Effort to Protect the Open Internet

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission released a Public Notice seeking public input on how to proceed in light of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s guidance in the Verizon v. FCC opinion which vacated and remanded parts of the Commission’s Open Internet rules. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released several steps the Commission will take to ensure an open Internet. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Benton Foundation salutes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s continuing commitment to and leadership in preserving a free and open Internet. It is important to remember that transparency, “no-blocking”, and non-discrimination rules represent more than how commercial content and transport entities interact. These rules ensure that non-commercial content and services like education, health, civic discourse, emergency communications and the like receive the same treatment as commercial content and services.

Benton looks forward in participating in the Commission’s new proceeding and thanks Chairman Wheeler for keeping reclassification of Internet service as a telecommunications service an option moving forward. We appreciate the Chairman’s understanding that enabling community-based options can spur investment, innovation, and opportunity to help more Americans benefit from competitive broadband networks. With the Commission’s invitation for public input, Benton will be working with groups that represent vulnerable communities, asking them to remind the FCC how much they have at stake in the net neutrality debate.