Lauren Frayer

What to do with public TV’s ‘spectrum auction’ windfall

[Commentary] The biggest potential hazard [for public stations in the aftermath of the incentive auction] is that some stations might not even get the money they’ve won. Remember that half of public TV stations are licensed to some bigger organization, like a university or government, which presents a number of editorial conflicts of interest. Here, it also presents a financial conflict: The license-holder gets the spectrum auction money, not the station. In the best-case scenario, a handful of organizations that were lucky enough to own expendable spectrum in electromagnetically crowded places will be able to use their proceeds to permanently endow their existence. That presents one more hazard: complacency.

[Adam Ragusea is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.]

FCC's O'Rielly Hopes To Block State Privacy Laws

Congress's decision to repeal the nationwide broadband privacy rules appears to have spurred lawmakers in at least a dozen states to introduce new measures that would protect residents' online privacy. Now, at least one Republican on the Federal Communications Commission wants the agency to enact regulations that would prohibit states from enacting their own privacy rules.

"I believe states should be ... barred from enacting their own privacy burdens on what is by all means an interstate information service," Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said earlier in May in a speech delivered to the American Legislative Exchange Council. "It is both impractical and very harmful for each state to enact differing and conflicting privacy burdens on broadband providers, many of which serve multiple states, if not the entire country."

Hidden in Plain Sight: FCC Chairman Pai's Strategy to Further Concentrate the US Wireless Marketplace

[Commentary] While couched in noble terms of promoting competition, innovation and freedom, the Federal Communications Commission soon will combine two initiatives that will enhance the likelihood that Sprint and T-Mobile will stop operating as separate companies within 18 months. In the same manner at the regulatory approval of airline mergers, the FCC will make all sorts of conclusions sorely lacking empirical evidence and common sense.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s game plan starts with a report to Congress that the wireless marketplace is robustly competitive. The Commission can then leverage its marketplace assessment to conclude that even a further concentration in an already massively concentrated industry will not matter. Virtually overnight, the remaining firms will have far less incentives to enhance the value proposition for subscribers as T-Mobile and Sprint have done much to the chagrin of their larger, innovation-free competitors AT&T and Verizon who control over 67% of the market and serve about 275 million of the nation’s 405 million subscribers.

[Rob Frieden serves as Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law at Penn State University.]

FCC security guards manhandle reporter, eject him from meeting for asking questions

A veteran Washington reporter says he was manhandled by security guards at the Federal Communications Commission, then forced out of the agency’s headquarters as he tried to ask a commissioner questions at a public meeting May 18. John M. Donnelly, a senior writer at CQ Roll Call, said he was trying to talk with FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly one-on-one after a news conference when two plainclothes guards pinned him against a wall with the backs of their bodies. Commissioner O’Rielly saw the encounter but continued walking, Donnelly said in a statement through the National Press Club, where he heads the Press Freedom Team. After Commissioner O’Rielly passed, the statement read, one of the guards asked why Donnelly hadn’t brought up his questions while the commissioner was at the podium. The guard then made him leave the building “under implied threat of force,” the statement read.

A Trump FCC advisor’s proposal for bringing free Internet to poor people

One of the most immediate changes with the Chairman Ajit Pai Federal Communications Commission was that the FCC leadership now fully supports zero-rating, the practice in which Internet service providers exempt some websites and online services from data caps, often in exchange for payment from the websites. Zero-rating is controversial in the US and abroad, with many consumer advocates and regulators saying it violates the net neutrality principle that all online content should be treated equally by network providers. But some zero-rating proponents believe it can serve a noble purpose—bringing Internet access to poor people who otherwise would not be online.

That's the view of Roslyn Layton, who served on Presidnet Trump's FCC transition team, does telecommunication research at Aalborg University in Denmark, and works as a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Layton believes that zero-rating should be used to get poor people on the Internet in the US, similar to the "Free Basics" program that Facebook has implemented with mobile carriers in developing countries.

Senator Harris (D-CA) Statement on FCC Vote to Repeal Net Neutrality

Nearly fifty years ago, California researchers embarked on a bold experiment to devise an interoperable computer network. Today, that network is the internet. It is an engine of unprecedented innovation and creativity, in California and throughout the world. The genius of the internet is that it enables entrepreneurship on a level playing field. That openness is particularly important for historically disadvantaged communities. On the internet, anyone can become an overnight sensation based on the quality of their work, regardless of their gender, the color of their skin, who they love, or where they were born. As a Senator, I will fight to protect the net neutrality rules. I intend to submit my comments to the Federal Communications Commission urging that it retain the net neutrality rules. I urge all Americans to add their voices to this important conversation.

FCC Is Honoring Fake Anti-Net Neutrality Rants Left By Bots

Conservative commenters have complained that pro-network neutrality groups, including internet startups, online civil liberties organizations, and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, have encouraged people to comment on the Federal Communications Commission’s site. But these advocates support leaving personalized comments, and there’s no evidence any of them have instructed supporters to file comments under anyone else’s name.

The FCC didn’t respond to repeated requests to specifically say whether it would filter out the astroturfed comments. Speaking to reporters after announcing a step toward rolling back existing net neutrality protections, FCC Chair Ajit Pai admitted “a tension between having an open process where it’s easy to comment and preventing questionable comments from being filed.” “Generally speaking, this agency has erred on the side of openness,” he said. Chairman Pai said the agency wouldn’t consider comments with obviously fake names, like Wonder Woman and Joseph Stalin, but declined to go further. Reached for comment after Pai’s statement, an FCC official declined to comment specifically on astroturfed comments.

Rep Blackburn bill would extend privacy rules to Google & Facebook

House Communications Subcommittee Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill that would apply privacy rules to internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast and web companies such as Google and Facebook. The bill would require the companies to get their users' permission before sharing their sensitive information, including web-browsing history, with advertisers.

Chairman Blackburn's proposal differs from the FCC's rules (which she voted to overturn) in two important ways: 1) The legislation would also apply to web companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Snap — known as "edge providers" — which were not subject to the FCC's rules. 2) The Federal Trade Commission (as opposed to the FCC) would be the enforcer of the rules. They would require internet providers and the web firms to make users opt-in to the sharing of "sensitive information" such as the content of communications, "precise" location data and web-browsing and app-usage history, with some exceptions.

President Trump weighs downsizing Spicer’s public role

Apparently, President Donald Trump is considering scaling back White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s public role, as President Trump also weighs a broader shakeup of his communications shop in the wake of several scandals. The press secretary, who has turned into a household name over the past five months and garnered sky-high television ratings for his daily press briefings, has also drawn the ire of the president. He is no longer expected to do a daily, on-camera briefing after President Trump’s foreign trip, which begins May 19.

Roger Ailes: The Man Who Mined a Divided America

Before Donald Trump rode the anger of forgotten (white) America to an “America First” presidency, before Breitbart News became a “platform for the alt-right” and before there were “alternative facts” and dueling versions of reality, Roger Ailes saw a divided country but an undivided news media. And he set out to change it.