Lauren Frayer

President Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

President Donald Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

President Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the President. President Trump sought the assistance of Coats and Rogers after FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that the FBI was investigating “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

Ensuring every community in America has access to high-quality broadband

[Commentary] Broadband infrastructure legislation has been building momentum in recent weeks. Several bills have been introduced, Infrastructure Week created a buzz, and the Trump administration says that an infrastructure plan will be released soon. What does this all mean for America’s invisible broadband infrastructure and our digital future?

There are many solutions to broadband deployment – tax credits, direct funding, public-private partnerships, state matching, “Dig Once,” etc. No one solution is the answer. Connecting Americans coast to coast requires coordination and a combination of funding and best practices. Broadband is a bipartisan issue, and Republicans and Democrats are both developing proposals to connect our nation. Now is the time to GO, to LIFT, and to ACT to build future-proof networks that will boost our nation into the digital age.

[John Windhausen is the Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition]

$2.3B Wave Broadband Acquisition by RCN Will Create Sixth Largest Cable Broadband Operator

In its latest deal, TPG Capital is backing RCN’s $2.3 billion Wave Broadband acquisition. Wave Broadband will join TPG Capital’s cable and broadband portfolio, which also already includes RCN and Grande Communications – two operators that, like Wave, are focused on multi-play offerings including broadband and video in competition with incumbent telcos and cable companies. The combined company will be the nation’s sixth largest internet and cable operator. Bringing Wave, RCN and Grande together will create a regional market leader in next-generation, high-speed data services for residential and business customers with a presence spanning the West Coast, East Coast, Chicago and Texas. The $2.36 billion deal is expected to close in the second half of 2017.

What a potential T-Mobile-Sprint merger means for you

Speculation that T-Mobile and Sprint might pair up is mounting thanks to comments from both wireless carriers' executives, raising questions about what such a merger might mean for consumers who have largely benefited from the fierce competition that has come to define the business. Apparently, the nation’s third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers—and/or parent companies Deutsch Telekom and SoftBank— are already engaged in such informal discussions. Mobile users have been the beneficiaries of price wars surrounding "unlimited" data plans, among other goodies competition has thrust their way. Prices for various plans could rise, or at least not fall as much, if a deal goes through. But getting bigger is attractive for these companies and their parents because of the scale and potential synergies that they bring.

These are the arguments against net neutrality — and why they’re wrong

1. Title II is a depression-era rule intended for regulating the AT&T/Ma Bell monopoly. TL;DR: A law from another time, yes, but a strong one that’s been updated

2. The 1996 Telecommunications act says the internet should be unfettered by state or federal regulation. TL;DR: It was “fettered” for years and did great — plus, that part of the law isn’t law, and it’s about porn

3. The rules have discouraged investment. TL;DR: No company claims this and the numbers are inconclusive at best

4. It stifles small businesses with reporting and restrictions. TL;DR: Potentially, but there are already allowances for this

5. The “general conduct rule” is vague and open-ended. TL;DR: So change it

6. We’re not trying to remove net neutrality rules, just Title II. TL;DR: Removing the rules is literally in the proposal

7. The rules work without Title II anyway. TL;DR: Nope, we tried this already

8. The internet wasn’t broken before 2015 and ISPs don’t block or throttle. TL;DR: It remained unbroken because of constant vigilance, not because ISPs didn’t try

Reclassification and Investment: An Analysis of Free Press’ “It’s Working” Report

Free Press recently released a report on the capital expenditures of broadband service providers entitled, It’s Working: How the Internet Access and Online Video Markets are Thriving in the Title II Era. The Free Press Report, authored by S. Derek Turner, claims that capital spending by Broadband Service Providers (“BSPs”) “accelerated” following the Federal Communications Commission’s reclassification of broadband Internet access connections as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service in its 2015 Open Internet Order, increasing by 5.3 percent between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016. The Internet Alliance, a trade group representing the interests of companies supporting reclassification, appears to use the Free Press’ data to support the same claim.

Free Press’ analysis, as usual, fails to meet the most basic of professional standards, and involves nothing more than the adding up of nominal total capital expenditures for a sample of BSPs and comparing the sums between two periods. Such simple-minded analysis is incapable of measuring the effect of a policy change. The relevant question is not whether capital spending rises or falls in any given year or pair of years, but whether such expenditures are below the levels they would have been “but for” the regulatory intervention. To answer that question, we need a counterfactual. That is, if absent a regulatory intervention capital spending was scheduled to rise by 10 percent next year (the counterfactual), but rises by only 5 percent due to an intervention, the intervention reduces investment despite the fact expenditures were higher. Unlike recent research finding sizable harmful effects from reclassification, the Free Press Report offers no counterfactual, so their Report adds nothing serious to the analysis of Net Neutrality and reclassification.

Senators Seek Hearing on Fake News, Trump Media Hostility

Sens Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tom Udall (D-NM) have asked the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the state of the media.

The senators cited Trump Administration hostility toward the press, plus the proliferation of "fake news," for wanting the committee to hold the hearing—they said the last committee hearing on the state of journalism was in 2009 and that a new look was needed to "refresh the record."

“The journalism industry is grappling with a changing media landscape: from the changing dynamics of how people access news, to changing financial calculations, to the proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ (both actual disinformation campaigns and the use of the term to slander legitimate news reporting), to a challenging relationship between news media and the Executive branch,” the senators wrote in a letter to Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL) “There have been a series of recent incidents in which hostility has been exercised against members of the press by members of the Administration, including just last week when a reporter was allegedly manhandled and threatened by security guards after a news conference at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters.”

Trump Aides Pressing for More Restraint on Twitter

President Donald Trump’s aides have also been pressing for more restraint by the president on Twitter, and some weeks ago they organized what one official called an “intervention.”

Aides have been concerned about the president’s use of Twitter to push inflammatory claims, notably his unsubstantiated allegation from March that his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, had wiretapped his offices. In that meeting, aides warned President Trump that certain kinds of comments made on Twitter would “paint him into a corner,” both in terms of political messaging and legally, one official said. Ken Duberstein, a former chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan, said President Trump should not “take the bait of a shouted question or the shiny silver dollar of being able to tweet. Because then the rest of the agenda gets left on the cutting room floor.”

How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election

One of the most powerful players in the British election is also one of the most opaque. With just over two weeks to go until voters go to the polls, there are two things every election expert agrees on: what happens on social media, and Facebook in particular, will have an enormous effect on how the country votes; and no one has any clue how to measure what’s actually happening there.

“Many of us wish we could study Facebook,” said Prof Philip Howard, of the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, “but we can’t, because they really don’t share anything.” Howard is leading a team of researchers studying “computational propaganda” at the university, attempting to shine a light on the ways automated accounts are used to alter debate online.

Sinclair’s TV deal would be good for Trump. And his new FCC is clearing the way.

Sinclair Broadcast Group has struck a deal with Tribune Media to buy dozens of local TV stations. And what Fox News is for cable, Sinclair could become for broadcast: programming with a soupcon — or more — of conservative spin.

Already, Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. If the $3.9 billion deal gets regulatory approval, Sinclair would have 7 of every 10 Americans in its potential audience. “That’s too much power to repose in one entity,” Michael Copps, who served on the FCC from 2001 to 2012, told me. Sinclair would have 215 stations, including ones in big markets such as Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, instead of the 173 it has now. There’s no reason to think that the FCC’s new chairman, Ajit Pai, will stand in the way. Already, his commission has reinstated a regulatory loophole — closed under his predecessor, Tom Wheeler — that allows a single corporation to own more stations than the current 39 percent nationwide cap. And Pai has made no secret of his deregulatory fervor. The former Verizon lawyer, an FCC commissioner for five years, is moving quickly. The stakes are high — and not just for Sinclair’s business interests. There’s evidence that when Sinclair takes over, conservative content gets a powerful platform.