Press Release Archives

Trumping Academic Legitimacy in Push for Telecom Deregulation

Professors Jeff Pooley and Dwayne Winseck examine claims that the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission failed to ground its regulations in economic reasoning – and find the idea preposterous. What they unearth instead is AT&T-sponsored ‘research’ -- and Pooley and Winseck show how the FCC has been working in earnest to bolster, not sideline, economic analysis.

Instead of a rebuttal, Pooley and Winseck, the University of Southern California, and the International Journal of Communication have received legal threats from AT&T-backed CALinnovates.

See Information Laundering, Economists and Ajit Pai’s Race to Roll-Back the Obama-era FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules at

Lifeline Advocates Urge FCC Chairman Pai to Stand by his First Statements as Chairman and Safeguard the only Federal Program Targeting the Digital Divide

Contact: Jackeline Stewart at [email protected] or Karley Kranich at [email protected], 202-448-0239

The Lifeline program gives affordable access to broadband and telephone services in rural and urban areas alike. It provides a lifeline for working families to employment opportunities, elderly people to health care, veterans to critical services, children to education and everyone to 911. Low-income households across the country should not be punished for recently discovered discrepancies that do not reflect the behavior of the vast majority of program participants. The following are statements from advocates in support of the Lifeline program:

Michael Copps, Former FCC Commissioner; Special Adviser, Common Cause:
“The bottom line is the FCC must fix what little needs repair and get on with the job of making broadband accessible to those who cannot afford the high prices providers charge for something everyone must have.”

Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:
“In today’s America, broadband is as essential as electricity was during the last century. But cost remains a serious barrier to internet access for millions of Americans. The Lifeline program has helped alleviate this burden for the most vulnerable and chronically underserved communities, bridging the digital divide by supporting low-income households’ access to high speed broadband Internet. We welcome efforts to root out fraud in the Lifeline program, but urge that any changes do not take away this vital program from the people who need it the most. Indeed, we encourage more carriers to participate, so that more low-income families can tap into the job opportunities, health care, social services, and education that access to broadband enables.”

Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel, Public Knowledge:
“The Lifeline program was established during the Reagan-era and has helped make critical communications services more affordable for low-income families for more than thirty years.

“In 2016 the FCC recognized that the internet is the essential communications service of the 21st century, and that families rely on broadband access for communicating with loved ones, as well as education, employment, health care, news, and civic engagement. As a result, the FCC modernized the Lifeline program to meet the needs of low-income families that could not afford broadband services -- to help close the affordability gap that limits the economic and educational opportunities for millions of families.

“Historically, the improper payment rate of the Lifeline program has been significantly lower than the corresponding rate across the federal government. Since 2012, the Commission has repeatedly taken action to protect the integrity of the Lifeline program. As GAO reported in 2015, the FCC has demonstrated significant progress implementing its reforms to address problems with duplicates and ineligible participants.

“Today’s GAO’s report reflects the need for the FCC and USAC to fully build out the National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier established by the 2016 Lifeline Modernization Order. The National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier will help ensure that subscribers are eligible to participate in the Lifeline program; that service providers can focus their resources on serving consumers; and that ratepayers to the Universal Service Fund have confidence their contributions are increasing the affordability of broadband access for low-income households and promoting universal service.”

Adrianne B. Furniss, Executive Director, Benton Foundation:
“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. 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 Lifeline program brings the many benefits of reliable, robust 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.

“In 2016, the FCC outlined plans for a Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier that would relieve from carriers the responsibility of checking on households’ Lifeline eligibility. We urge the FCC to move swiftly to implement those plans and ensure the program’s financial health.”

Debbie Goldman, Telecommunications Policy Director Communications Workers of America:
“The Communications Workers of America has long supported Lifeline, a vital program that reduces the economic barriers to modern communications services. The FCC’s recent Lifeline modernization order shifts program eligibility verification away from service providers to the new National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier. This significant change will ensure program integrity moving forward. What’s important now is to implement the modernization order and encourage robust participation – from customers and carriers – in the Lifeline program. Too many families across the country remain without access to modern communications services like broadband. Closing the digital divide by providing affordable broadband is essential to achieving the full social and economic participation of all Americans.”

Paul Goodman, Telecommunications Senior Legal Counsel, The Greenlining Institute:
“The Lifeline program helps low-income households of color can stay connected to the services they need, the friends and family they love, and critical employment, education and civic engagement opportunities. Lifeline helps ensure that every child can do their homework, every adult can search for a job and every family can stay in touch no matter how far apart they are. In California, which has implemented a robust statewide eligibility verification system, the Lifeline program has been an unqualified success.”

Cheryl Leanza, Policy Advisor, United Church of Christ, OC Inc.:
“Since 1997, the United Church of Christ has formally recognized we risk becoming a society of "information rich" and "information poor" -- with dramatic consequences for exacerbating inequities that already exist in our midst. Communications is a human right -- a tool that connects us to our communities, helps to disclose injustice, and facilitates innumerable aspects of modern life. Lifeline is the only program that assists households with the cost of broadband internet. Fortunately, last year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modernized the Lifeline program and established new, more rigorous safeguards. We insist that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai move ahead swiftly to ensure the new eligibility verification process will be implemented as quickly as possible.”

John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC):
“Lifeline and similar programs provide a critical service to families that could not otherwise afford broadband access. This includes many Asian Americans who live at or below the poverty line. Lifeline's broadband access helps to level the playing field and is a critical piece of the policy puzzle to close the digital divide. We need programs like Lifeline in the fight to ensure no community is marginalized because access to technology is lacking.”

Benton Supports Lifeline Program

On June 29, 2017, the Government Accountability Office released a report on the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

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. 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 Lifeline program brings the many benefits of reliable, robust 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.

In 2016, the FCC outlined plans for a Lifeline National Eligibility Verifier that would relieve from carriers the responsibility of checking on households’ Lifeline eligibility. We urge the FCC to move swiftly to implement those plans and ensure the program’s financial health.

Benton Welcomes Rosenworcel Renomination

On June 13, 2017, President Donald Trump announced his intent to renominate Jessica Rosenworcel to be a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

“Benton is happy to hear that Jessica Rosenworcel could return to the Federal Communications Commission. As a commissioner, Rosenworcel was a leader on a number of issues. She worked to give new meaning to the FCC’s public safety mandate in the Digital Age. She helped modernize the E-rate program to ensure that all students have access to the latest education tools made possible by fast, affordable broadband. She recognized that those students also need reliable, robust broadband access at home so they can complete school assignments. Rosenworcel’s experience and leadership make her an ideal candidate to help shape the future of telecommunication policy.”

Benton Joins Racial Justice, Civil Liberties and Digital Rights Groups to Urge FCC Not to Harm Lifeline Program

Racial Justice, Civil Liberties and Digital Rights Groups Urge FCC Not to Harm Lifeline Program

On May 18, 2017, 21 racial justice, civil liberties and digital rights groups signed on to the following statement:

“Today the FCC voted 2–-1 to initiate a notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to its Net Neutrality rules. We are concerned about the possible impact of this rulemaking on the Lifeline program’s support for broadband service. We care deeply about the Lifeline broadband program because it mitigates the affordability barrier to broadband services in our homes — which is particularly acute for low-income people and people of color — and because broadband access removes barriers to educational, emergency, and civil services and job opportunities. We strongly support the FCC's recent Lifeline modernization order, which added stand-alone broadband internet service to Lifeline. We urge the Commission to ensure that nothing in this rulemaking will harm, impair, or weaken the ability of the Lifeline program to help low-income families to afford broadband service so that they can take part in the modern economy. We also urge the Commission to avoid any shift in Lifeline resources or policy that distracts from the program's core goal of defraying the cost of communications services.”

The organizations that signed the statement are: Benton Foundation, Center for Accessible Technology, Center for Media Justice, Center for Rural Strategies, Common Sense Kids Action, Communications Workers of America, Free Press, Media Mobilizing Project, NAACP, National Consumer Law Center ( on behalf of its low-income clients), National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America's Open Technology Institute, OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates, Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative), OpenMedia, Public Knowledge, Public Utility Law Project of New York, The Greenlining Institute, TURN–The Utility Reform Network, and United Church of Christ, OC Inc.

National Digital Inclusion Alliance Names the NTIA’s Emy Tseng the 2017 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion

Angela Siefer
National Digital Inclusion Alliance

National Digital Inclusion Alliance Names the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s
Emy Tseng the 2017 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) announced that this year’s recipient of the Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award is Emy Tseng, a Senior Communications Program Specialist at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Since joining the NTIA in 2009, Tseng has worked to increase broadband access and adoption in underserved communities throughout the United States. From 2009 to 2014, she managed a portfolio of local government and K-12 education grants for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. She was a major contributor to the Broadband Adoption Toolkit published by NTIA in 2013. She continues her work with NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program providing technical assistance to local and state governments that foster digital equity. Throughout her career, Tseng has demonstrated the ability to combine policy, practice, and data to create a holistic approach to digital inclusion.

Before joining NTIA, Tseng served as the Digital Inclusion Director for the City of San Francisco, where she shaped one of the earliest local government digital inclusion programs and served on the first California State Broadband Task Force. Her work in San Francisco not only promoted computer ownership, digital skills, and Internet access, but also paid special attention to the needs of marginalized communities, showing that it is in the best interest of cities to bridge the digital divide. Tseng additionally served as a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where her work on “inclusive innovation” analyzed how vulnerable communities use, adapt, and shape technology to address their needs and goals.

Tseng’s other experience includes positions as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Community Technology Foundation of California, as a Program Associate for communications policy at the Ford Foundation, and as a software engineer in various technology companies. Ms. Tseng holds a Master's degree in Technology and Policy from MIT and a Bachelor's degree in Math/Physics from Brown University.

Anne Neville-Bonilla, Director of the California Research Bureau and a longtime colleague of Emy, states, “Whether working at the Ford Foundation, the City and County of San Francisco, or NTIA, Emy consistently asks the tough questions about what works and why. She approaches problems methodically, and is guided by passion and a commitment to digital equity. She knows that what works in San Francisco may not look the same in Hartford, but she always thinks about what could be applicable so that we are not reinventing the proverbial wheel. As a colleague and a friend, Emy is always available to brainstorm, talk through a challenging project, or give advice. She is a champion in the truest sense.”

The Digital Equity Champion Award will be presented on May 17, 2017 at Net Inclusion 2017: The National Digital Inclusion Summit, hosted in Saint Paul, Minnesota. NDIA introduced the award, named for the founder of the Benton Foundation, in 2016 to celebrate commitment and leadership in furthering digital inclusion. The inaugural award was given to David Keyes, the Digital Equity Manager for the City of Seattle.

The 249 affiliates that make up NDIA are on the frontlines of national and international efforts to close the digital divide. The expertise and experience of its these local governments, libraries, and nonprofit organizations allow NDIA to identify and share the best options for digital literacy training and public access programs, as well as advances in in-home broadband adoption.

NDIA formed in the spring of 2015 to serve as a unified voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs. The organizations that comprise NDIA work together to create, locate, and share financial and operational resources for digital inclusion programs while serving as a bridge to policymakers and the general public.

Benton, a 36-year old operating foundation, humanizes communications policy, helping people understand how it directly impacts their ability to live and thrive in our democracy. The foundation realizes its goals by:

  • Providing the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to communications and media policy through the lens of democracy and public interest issues;
  • Connecting communications policy stakeholders by sharing information and analysis to frame and promote conversation and a more inclusive debate; and
  • Supporting legal and policy experts who create and defend important communications policies.

For more information, visit

Emy Tseng

Benton Committed to Fast, Fair, Open Internet

Earlier today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai outlined a plan to reverse course on the Commission’s 2015 open Internet rules. The following statement may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

It is always a sad day when government regulators choose commercial interests over the public interest. When the FCC’s net neutrality rules were adopted in February 2015, the Benton Foundation proclaimed them “the greatest commitment ever made to preserve and protect an open and free Internet.” Today, FCC Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly celebrated their latest moves to favor large Internet service providers over the American values of access and equity, democracy and diversity, opportunity and innovation.

The message I heard from the commissioners and other speakers: “No one is against net neutrality; we’re just against any rules to ensure it.”

Chairman Pai’s plan is not what the American people want or are asking for. Americans want to employ any legal applications, content, devices, and services of their choosing on the broadband networks they rely on. Americans want the Internet to remain a platform for all consumers, content creators, and innovators, regardless of their ability to pay infrastructure owners special fees for special access.

I am sure the American people will tell Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly what they want. I hope the commissioners will listen.

Pai's Lifeline Statement is Anti-competition and Anti-consumer

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement today on the future of broadband in the Lifeline program. The following may be attributed to Kevin Taglang of the Benton Foundation:

In 2016, the FCC created a streamlined federal Lifeline Broadband Provider (LBP) designation process working within statutory limitations. The process allowed for broadband-only provision of service and flexibility in service areas to encourage new entrants into the Lifeline marketplace. A federal designation process encourages more companies to enter the field because it streamlines the application/designation process and reduces administrative costs for Lifeline broadband providers. This was an innovative way to help close the digital divide.

Since his designation as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the Benton Foundation has noted Ajit Pai’s dichotomous nature: he’s the folksy, down-to-earth populist, but also a Washington insider; he’s for a light regulatory touch and closing the digital divide – just not when it comes to Lifeline. On one hand, Chairman Pai has proposed streamlining local rules for improving broadband infrastructure deployment, but, in today’s announcement, he seems fine with creating more hoops for potential Lifeline broadband providers to jump through.

Here’s what today’s announcement means: less competition in the Lifeline marketplace and less choice for Lifeline consumers.

The FCC is short two commissioners, so it seems the chairman is trying to occupy two chairs or, at the least, talk out of both sides of his mouth. But if you’re really listening, the message is clear: Ajit Pai is anti-competition and anti-consumer.

FCC Chairman Pai Vows to Stand Up To Trump Administration

Responding to a letter from 13 U.S. Senators today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai promised to alert the public of any attempt by the Trump Administration to influence FCC decision-making or direct the independent agency to take or not take any action with respect to media interests. The following may be attributed to Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

“I am glad to read Chairman Pai’s recognition that free media is vital to our democracy. While the Trump Administration continues to treat the press as the ‘opposition,’ Chairman Pai says he will respect the First Amendment. I hope that additional federal officeholders and Members of Congress also live up to their oath to defend and protect the Constitution.”

Benton Stands With Toby to Say "Don't Delete Big Bird"

Benton Stands With Toby: "Don't Delete Big Bird"
On March 16, 2017, President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal, which calls for the elimination of federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The following is an excerpt of a statement from Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss:

A couple weeks ago, an adorable seven-year-old boy named Toby complained that President Donald Trump is “deleting PBS kids” just to pay for the wall. Toby told U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), “he shouldn’t do that.” The young boy received massive applause for standing up to his Senator, the President, and for what’s right. At this town hall, Senator Cotton said you could have both – a Mexican wall and PBS.

But today it turns out that Toby was right. President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal, titled, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Disturbingly, the plan calls for the elimination of federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Trump's budget makes citizens pay for the wall while eliminating CPB and the shows that millions of kids like Toby depend upon every day. The elimination of federal funding, which wouldn’t even make up a fraction of the costs of the President’s border wall, would “initially devastate and ultimately destroy public media’s role in early childhood education..." said CPB President Patricia Harrison.

The White House’s budget director justified proposed cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by saying that it’s not fair to ask a “single mom in Detroit” to pay for it. But these are the citizens who benefit most from early childhood education programs.

My grandfather, former U.S. Senator William Benton who founded the advertising firm Benton and Bowles, once said, “If [we] do not develop … broadcasting in the cause of education, it will, perhaps, be permanently left in the hands of the manufacturers of face powder, coffee and soap, with occasional interruptions by the politicians."

It’s time to push back hard against any proposal that threatens public broadcasting and the vital services it delivers throughout the country.

Let’s not take Big Bird away from kids like Toby.