Adrianne Furniss

How regulating the internet preserves Americans' freedom

[Commentary] It's hard to know what is sadder — that the Tribune’s Editorial Board believes that cat videos are the best thing about the internet or that it picks the interests of fat-cat internet service providers over its readers. Net neutrality is not “a new concept promulgated by the Obama administration,” but a consumer protection concern that dates back at least as far as the George W. Bush administration when then-Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell outlined four “internet freedoms”:

The Public’s Advocate

We’re here to celebrate former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s public service, and discuss protecting the Open Internet, the most critical communications issue of our time. We’re here today to recognize Tom’s many efforts on behalf of the American people: to uphold the public interest; use the power of communications to strengthen communities; and to modernize and reform programs that bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all Americans. Tom, your work as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission created opportunities for all Americans to connect to jobs, education, healthcare, and family. And in the years to come, you and your team’s many accomplishments will not be measured by the initiatives you proposed, the dockets you opened, or the votes you won. The day-to-day impacts of your work will be seen in the community that was once left behind, that is now able to get ahead with new broadband options; 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; in the young mother who can now coordinate work and her child’s medical care thanks to her Lifeline connection; and in 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. In your first major address as Chairman, you stressed that the FCC is the public’s representative in the ongoing network revolution, and you promised to use the Commission’s full authority to protect competition, accessibility, interconnection, public safety, and security. Thank you for delivering on that promise. You are truly .

Presentation of Charles Benton Digital Equity Award to Emy Tseng

I am so honored today to present the second annual Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award. Charles’ life was a testament to the principle that real change is the result of sustained effort. He saw in communications a tool that can and should be employed to make communities better, to help people thrive, and to improve our democracy. He was a consistent champion for digital inclusion and the idea that every member of a community should have affordable access, and the required skills, to make use of the latest communications technologies. From MIT to the Ford Foundation; from Zero Divide to the City and County of San Francisco; from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband USA to the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, Emy Tseng’s work embodies a “sustained commitment to digital inclusion programs, practices, and policy work.” Practitioner, policy leader, researcher, funder, program partner: these are the varied roles Emy has played. Her impact stretches from the San Francisco Bay area, throughout the United States, and to many countries abroad. Near and dear to my heart is Emy’s service to the nation through the Broadband Opportunities Technology Program.

Benton Committed to Fast, Fair, Open Internet

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.

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"

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 US 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. 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.

Chairman Pai, Tell Us What You're Thinking About Freedom of the Press

[Commentary] Concerned with a “lack of full transparency,” all of the Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on March 10 asking him six questions on his views on the media and whether he will uphold the First Amendment rights of journalists and media outlets..Senate Democrats have asked Chairman Pai for a reply by Friday, March 17. As the nation's lead communications regulator, it is imperative Chairman Pai affirm his commitment to free speech and freedom of the press and publicly post his answers to the senators this week. He should also address Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)'s request and release any information related to the March meeting with President Trump. The American people have a right to know what the FCC Chairman believes about freedom of the press – if he will stand up and speak out -- and we deserve to know now.

When the Pai FCC Abandons the Public Interest, Who You Gonna Call?

On February 6, 2017, Andrew Jay Schwartzman – the Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation – appeared before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in an unusual role. The Federal Communications Commission was scheduled to defend its rules to lower the predatory prices inmates and their families pay to make prison phone calls. But with new FCC leadership in place, the FCC decided to not defend the rules, thus abdicating to Schwartzman the protection of the public interest.

Make America First in Broadband Again

I sent a letter to President Donald Trump and leaders both in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission. Just as ten years ago when Benton Foundation Founder Charles Benton called on then-President George W. Bush to develop a national broadband strategy, I am asking for Federal leadership to create a Plan and ensure that we will extend the benefits of broadband – and the opportunities it delivers – to all Americans. The Plan should:
Extend broadband to Americans too long ignored and left behind.
Use broadband infrastructure investment as a catalyst for middle-class job growth.
Giving schools’ choice of broadband options to ensure no child is deprived of knowledge.
Deregulate local broadband.
Serve the veterans who have served America.
Ensure big media companies can’t bias news by putting mainstream media in the broadband fastlane ahead of unaffiliated independent content.