Press Release Archives

Benton Foundation Grateful for Chairman Wheeler's Service

On December 15, 2016, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, after more three years at the helm of the agency, announced he intends to leave the Federal Communications Commission on January 20, 2017. The following is an excerpt of a statement from Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

In reviewing the successes of the last year, but, more broadly, the last three years, the person I keep returning to is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.

To me, what is amazing about his many accomplishments can’t always be measured by the dockets he opened, the votes he won, or the initiatives he proposed. The day-to-day impacts of his actions can often be more readily seen in the child who can now reach a hand across a keyboard to access a whole new universe of knowledge thanks to gigabit connections to the school and Wi-Fi in the classroom. Or in the young mother who can now coordinate work and her child’s medical care thanks to her Lifeline connection. Or the small business owner who can now compete on a level playing field with its bigger business competitors thanks to a free and open Internet. Or the community that was once left behind, that is able to get ahead with new broadband options.

In other words, it’s not the orders he voted or the computers he connected, but the lives he touched in ways both big and small. I expect they will be felt not just for a year, or a chairman’s term, but in the case of that little girl … it just may change her life.

Benton Foundation Updates Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Next Generation Broadband

Benton Foundation Updates Guide for Community Leaders Seeking
Affordable, Next Generation Broadband

Today, the Benton Foundation published a handbook for city officials seeking the affordable, abundant bandwidth their communities will need to thrive in the decades ahead. Designed for local decision makers, The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook: A Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable, Abundant Bandwidth reviews the current landscape of broadband networks, including next generation, gigabit capable networks, outlines best practices, summarizes existing models, and presents a framework through which community leaders might begin preliminary project steps given their city’s specific strengths and circumstances.

“Our purpose,” said co-author Blair Levin, “is to lower the initial, daunting information barrier that exists between cities already immersed in these Internet infrastructure issues and those just beginning to navigate them.” From 2009-2010, Levin oversaw the development of the National Broadband Plan while at the Federal Communications Commission. Now Levin is as a non-resident Senior Fellow of the Metropolitan Policy Project of the Brookings Institute and the Executive Director of Gig.U: The Next Generation Network Innovation Project, an initiative of three dozen leading research university communities seeking to accelerate the deployment of next generation networks. The Handbook is an outgrowth of the many discussions between Gig.U and others deeply knowledgeable on municipal issues, in which it became clear that cities would benefit from a guide to stimulate new investments in 21st century information infrastructure.

A key insight offered by city officials is the important linkages between deploying next generation information networks and other municipal policies, including those affecting construction, transportation, housing, and economic development. As a result, the Handbook identifies two critical and related tasks for cities: understanding how its practices affect the economics of deploying and operating next generation networks, and organizing its assets, practices and people to improve its ability to negotiate with third party providers or deploy these networks themselves.

“Many communities are tackling 21st Century information infrastructure challenges themselves, regionally, or with private partners. We have a lot to learn from their approaches.” said co-author Denise Linn, Program Analyst for the Smart Chicago Collaborative. “In the second edition of the Handbook, we’ve incorporated new cases and resources from 2016. This field is a moving target with emerging best practices and shifting players — tracking new broadband initiatives has never been more important.”

“While cities have led in the efforts to date,” said Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss, “most still have not yet started down this path. As they do, we hope this Handbook helps them, and in turn, that their collective experiences will improve this resource, and ultimately bring all closer to affordable, abundant bandwidth now and for generations to come.”

The Benton Foundation works to ensure that media and telecommunications serve the public interest and enhance our democracy. It pursues this mission by: 1) seeking policy solutions that support the values of access, diversity and equity; 2) demonstrating the value of media and telecommunications for improving the quality of life for all; and 3) providing information resources to policymakers and advocates to inform communications policy debates. For more information, visit benton.org.

Benton Foundation Welcomes Broadband Privacy Protections

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules that apply the privacy requirements of the Communications Act to broadband Internet access service providers. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

“The Benton Foundation welcomes the FCC’s move to guarantee broadband subscribers the privacy protections that traditional telephone subscribers have relied upon. As technology moves forward, consumers must retain key protections that ensure a fair and safe experience.

“All Americans know privacy is important in their daily lives. The FCC’s broadband privacy protections will provide vulnerable communities with increased confidence as they go online, ensuring every American has access to the full promise of the Internet.

“Benton looks forward to working with the FCC as they implement the rules adopted today. We thank Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel for their leadership on this issue.”

Benton Publishes Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition's "Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan"

Policy Recommendations Designed to Help Federal, State and Local Policymakers Close the Digital Divide

WASHINGTON D.C. (Wednesday, July 13th, 2016) -- Connecting our nation’s schools, libraries, health clinics and other community anchor institutions (CAIs) to next generation high-speed broadband is an important national priority. In an effort to provide federal, state and local leaders with policy options to ensure that all anchor institutions have high-speed connections to the Internet, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition is releasing “Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan.” The report is published by the Benton Foundation.

SHLB is the leading advocate for open, affordable, high-capacity broadband for our nation’s community anchor institutions and their communities. The recently launched Grow2GiG+ Initiative is a campaign designed to help bring gigabit speed-and-beyond networks to all anchor institutions in America by 2020.

“Anchor institutions are the lifeblood of our communities, and access to high-speed Internet at our nation’s anchor institutions is the first rung on the ladder to success,” said John Windhausen, Jr., Executive Director of SHLB. “The SHLB Action Plan gives policymakers a road map for designing a broadband strategy that promotes education, health care and community enrichment.”

"The Benton Foundation is publishing the Action Plan because our top priority for 2016 and beyond is affordable broadband access and adoption for all Americans," said Adrianne B. Furniss, the foundation's executive director. "I can think of no better partner than the SHLB Coalition and its diverse members. Community anchor institutions, as is so well-articulated in the report released today, are on the front lines ensuring that the benefits of the Internet are widely available to everyone, promoting equity for all."

The SHLB Action Plan includes ten policy papers that outline several paths to success, identifying problems and providing solutions that improve access, funding and infrastructure, so that all communities, urban and rural, rich and poor, can access more affordable, next generation broadband services.

The papers share three common themes:

  1. Sharing, such as aggregation and public-private partnerships that eliminate silos and reduce costs;
  2. Promoting competition to incentivize growth and bring more affordable options; and,
  3. Funding strategies that help communities meet up-front build-out and deployment costs, and ongoing monthly fees.

The SHLB Action Plan expands and integrates several of today’s leading policy topics -- including dig once, spectrum allocation and the Federal Communications Commission’s special access/business data service reform -- to illustrate how these policies can help improve education and lower heath care costs.

Find the paper online at www.shlb.org/action-plan and www.benton.org/SHLB-broadband-action-plan

SHLB is releasing the report today at an event in Washington D.C. held at the Alliance for Excellent Education featuring several of the papers’ authors and industry leaders who will gather to discuss their recommendations. Watch the event online at www.shlb.org/action-plan

For additional information, contact Jeff Sharp, [email protected], 202 285 7040

Open, affordable,
high-capacity broadband for
community anchor institutions
is an attainable goal,
but only if we reach together.

Appeals Court Upholds FCC's Network Neutrality Rules

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet/Network Neutrality rules which are essential for preventing blocking or degrading Internet traffic. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne Furniss and Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

Today, as in February 2015, the Benton Foundation celebrates the greatest commitment ever made to preserve and protect an open and free Internet. The winners in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision are traditional American values: access and equity, democracy and diversity, opportunity and innovation.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means access. An Open Internet means consumers can make their own choices about which applications and services to use and are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition. This openness also enables a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle of investment and innovation in which new uses of the network lead to increased adoption of broadband, which drives investment and improvements in the network itself. This, in turn, leads to further innovative uses of the network and further investment in content, applications, services, and devices.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means diversity. By aiding broadband adoption, an Open Internet will benefit diversity as new users seek and make available content that is relevant to their lives. This will increase: 1) the availability of media content reflecting a greater variety of perspectives and 2) the number of independently owned content outlets. Unimpeded access to Internet distribution allows, for example, new video content creators to create and disseminate programs without first securing distribution from broadcasters and pay TV companies.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means equity. At its core, net neutrality is about fairness in the way all users and creators are treated. By treating Internet traffic equally, Open Internet rules recognize that, on the Internet, we are all receivers, producers and sharers of information. Each of us has the potential and – under net neutrality rules – the ability to create the next eye-witness report, the next viral video, the next online movement.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality will enhance our democracy. The Internet offers a forum for diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity. Local, state, and federal government agencies, for example, use the Internet to communicate with the public, provide information, and deliver essential services. Due to the lack of gatekeeper control, the Internet has become a major source of news and information, which forms the basis for informed civic discourse. Many Americans now turn to the Internet to obtain news, and its openness makes it an unrivaled forum for free expression.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality rules are crucial for our most-vulnerable communities. People of color, low-income consumers, seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities are traditionally-marginalized voices that rely on the Internet as a critical — and unique — tool for communication and empowerment. The Open Internet provides a means for these communities to dispel misperceptions and stereotypes that restrict their political, social, and economic participation. It enables them to connect with others, express their viewpoints, and obtain basic information and resources. Equal access to Internet content thus means equal access to opportunities that are vitally important to vulnerable populations in light of the disadvantages and discrimination they face.

Strong, enforceable net neutrality means innovation. With the rules upheld by the court today, everyone – regardless of where they live or how much they earn – will continue to benefit from the exponential innovation that has continued to drive new solutions to almost everything and everyone the Internet touches. An Open Internet means that new services and applications, new processes and ideas, and the freedom to create will continue on the Internet unimpeded.

The Benton Foundation commends the D.C. Circuit Court for it’s wise decision. Under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC acted to ensure the continued value and viability of the Internet. Today, the courts endorsed the FCC’s courageous action.

Benton Applauds the FCC as It Considers Broadband Privacy Protections

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commissions voted to launch a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking public comment on a proposed framework for ensuring that consumers have the tools they need to make informed choices about how their data is used and when it is shared by their broadband providers. The following statement may be attributed to Amina N. Fazlullah, Policy Director at the Benton Foundation:

We welcome the FCC's exploration of privacy protections for broadband consumers. Year after year, privacy concerns have been cited by digital inclusion experts as a barrier to robust broadband adoption. Unsophisticated consumers are most vulnerable to problems caused by a lack of strong and clear privacy protections. Benton looks forward to engaging in a robust public dialogue on broadband privacy led by the FCC.

FCC Vote Brings Broadband to Digital Deserts

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to modernize its Lifeline program. The FCC order will update the Reagan-era telephone subsidy program and refocus it on making broadband service affordable for low-income Americans. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss and Policy Director Amina Fazlullah:

The Federal Communications Commission voted today to modernize its Lifeline program, refocusing it on bringing affordable broadband to millions of low-income Americans. This marks the largest commitment ever to address the number one barrier to broadband adoption: cost.

And it will fulfill for generations a promise that dates back to 1934: to make available to all people of the United States, a worldwide telecommunications service at reasonable charges.

Although there has been great progress extending broadband’s reach to more and more Americans, there remain too many households and communities that are not enjoying the benefits of broadband. We call these places Digital Deserts. Research shows, for example, that families earning under $25,000 a year are about half as likely to have the Internet at home as families that are the most well-off.

The FCC’s reforms adopted today will reduce administrative burdens so more providers will participate and compete for new subscribers. This competition will create new options for broadband subscribers. Adding a National Eligibility Verifier also advances the fight against fraud, waste and abuse of the program.

But most importantly, today’s decision means Lifeline subsidies will bring all the many benefits of reliable Internet access to low-income households. That means better access to job listings and workforce training, to education and healthcare, and allows people to fully engage in today’s society.

Bringing broadband to these people is like bringing water to a desert. The FCC’s irrigation will transform deserts to oases of opportunity.

Congress, in 1996, directed the FCC to ensure all Americans have affordable access to the Internet. Today, the FCC makes good on that promise.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel have led the way on Lifeline reform. The Benton Foundation commends their leadership.

Benton will continue to work with the Commission as the Lifeline order is implemented and we look forward to helping the FCC build a robust digital inclusion plan.

Benton Foundation Supports ConnectALL

Today President Barack Obama unveiled ConnectALL, an initiative to connect 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020. The following may be attributed to Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director of the Benton Foundation:

The Benton Foundation welcomes President Obama’s ConnectALL initiative and the goal of connecting 20 million more Americans to broadband by 2020. Some segments of the U.S. population have reached near-100 percent broadband adoption rates. For these populations, market forces have been sufficient to get us toward our goal of universal adoption. But there are nagging, persistent divides in broadband deployment and adoption. These divides hold us all back – witnessed in the economy, in education, in public health and safety, and in civic discourse.

At Benton, we call these communities on the wrong side of the divide digital deserts. Until we connect them, we will not be a truly inclusive digital society. We salute the Obama Administration for focusing on connecting the last of the digital deserts that exist in this country – so we can bring the richness of the Internet to all our nation’s diverse groups of people, who will then enrich the network even further.

To go from desert to oasis, you need water. To go from digital desert to oasis of opportunity, we need broadband. The ConnectALL initiative provides irrigation so we can start to grow digital opportunity where the rain has yet to fall.

Benton Foundation Applauds FCC’s Latest Step to Increase Broadband Adoption

Earlier today Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that the Commission will consider a report and order on modernizing the Lifeline program at the March 31 FCC meeting. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Director of Policy Amina Fazlullah:

The Benton Foundation applauds the Federal Communications Commission on taking another step to reform and modernize the Lifeline program.

Broadband has a crucial impact on our economy – creating efficiencies, improving productivity, and accelerating innovation. And it is an essential service for education, public health, and public safety. Some segments of the U.S. population have reached near-100 percent broadband adoption rates. For these populations, market forces have been sufficient to get us toward our goal of universal adoption. But there are nagging, persistent divides in broadband deployment and adoption – what we at Benton call “digital deserts.” As recent research makes clear, the cost of service remains the biggest barrier to broadband adoption.

Modernizing the Lifeline program for the 21st Century is the most effective way we can make broadband service affordable for low income consumers across the nation. And there is no better time for the FCC to act than right now.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel have led the way on Lifeline reform. The Benton Foundation thanks them for their leadership and will continue to work with them as the Lifeline order is finalized and implemented.

For more on the issues related to Lifeline reform, see Lifeline Reform Reaches the Home Stretch by Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation.

New Benton Research Identifies Four Essentials for Digital Inclusion Efforts

On the anniversary of the launch of the Great Society, the Benton Foundation released new research, conducted by Benton Faculty Research Fellow Dr. Colin Rhinesmith, that identifies four essential activities that are necessary for efforts aimed at a more inclusive digital society. In conversations with and observations of eight digital inclusion organizations across the U.S., Dr. Rhinesmith, an Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Oklahoma, found that in order to help low-income individuals and families adopt broadband in ways that are most appropriate to their personal needs and contexts, local organizations focus on: 1) Providing low-cost broadband, 2) Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services, 3) Making low-cost computers available, and 4) Operating public access computing centers.

“Today, digital inclusion organizations in low-income communities across the United States are working to address gaps in broadband adoption. Many of these inclusion organizations have been working for the past twenty years to help low-income people connect to the Internet and use the content and services found there to make their lives better,” said Dr. Rhinesmith. “Rather than focusing solely on the human-to-computer interactions, these meaningful broadband adoption efforts emphasize the human-to-human interactions that are most helpful to individuals and families.”

Adrianne B. Furniss, Benton’s Executive Director, said, “As policymakers examine the nagging divides in broadband adoption, this new research highlights the challenges we face in realizing a truly inclusive digital society.”

Poverty is intimately connected to the challenges facing low-income people in adopting broadband Internet at home. The research can help policymakers gain a deeper understanding of the important role that community-based and social service organizations, as trusted community assets, play in helping people gain access to technology in meaningful ways that reflect their everyday experiences with poverty.

Digital Inclusion and Meaningful Broadband Adoption Initiatives is available at benton.org/broadband-inclusion-adoption-report