Lauren Frayer

How the US can hold Erdogan’s brawling guards accountable — and keep it from happening again

On May 16, a brief but violent altercation erupted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador on Washington’s Embassy Row. At least nine people were injured in the fighting. Video taken at the scene would indicate that most of the injured were protesters standing across the street from the ambassador’s residence. At least some of those involved in causing the injuries were guards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time that Erdogan’s bodyguards have been implicated in harassing or assaulting people on American soil. When Erdogan visited Washington in March 2016, Turkish journalists charged his guards with verbally attacking them and, in at least one instance, kicking a journalist hard enough to make him bleed. But the incident on Tuesday was of another scale entirely. In the video, a group of men, many in suits and wearing badges, charge into the group of demonstrators, who were protesting Erdogan’s policies in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, according to a Facebook video. Turkey’s state news agency said the security team sought to disperse the protest because D.C. “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene” — sensibly, since American police are expected to allow peaceful protests to continue. After the fighting begins, D.C. police are seen trying to break up the brawl but appear outnumbered. At a news conference, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said that several of the guards involved in the melee were armed, making intervention “dicey.” He also noted that applying legal remedies might be tricky because some of those involved might have diplomatic immunity.

Small but Powerful: Despite Objections, Small ISPs Need Net Neutrality Too

As we gear up to defend and protect the net neutrality rules, parties on both sides are speaking up. One particular group, small Internet Service Providers, claim that the Federal Communication Commission’s 2015 Open Internet Order has been a death sentence for them, hindering their ability to invest and compete in the market. These small ISPs have taken to advocating against net neutrality rules but there is something missing from their claims: substance.

Usually represented by trade groups like the Competitive Carriers Association, US Telecom Association, and the American Cable Association, to name a few, small ISPs generally serve a customer base in the hundreds or thousands. Compare that to the likes of Comcast, Verizon, Charter, and AT&T, which control 70 percent of the market, with consumer counts in the millions. Given their comparatively small size, these small ISPs don’t believe the net neutrality rules should apply to them. Citing regulatory burdens of complying with the Open Internet Order and the uncertainty of the newly minted rules, they believe the rules put them in a high cost/low benefit situation because they don’t have the same market power or incentive to make deals with edge providers. But these claims are hollow. First, the idea that these companies don't have "market power" is wrong. Additionally, none of the small ISPs or trade associations that represent them actually point to or identify the particular regulations that are oh-so-burdensome to their businesses.

Cable Operators Reaffirm Commitment to an Open Internet

As providers of broadband internet access service in many communities across America, we’ve always been committed to an open internet that gives you the freedom to be in charge of your online experience. And that will not change. An open internet means that we do not block, throttle or otherwise impair your online activity. We firmly stand by that commitment because it is good for our customers and good for our business.

Gigabit Broadband Availability Reaches Over 200M Globally, 56 Million in the US

Just shy of 220 million people worldwide have gigabit broadband availability, according to the latest Gigabit Monitor from test and measurement vendor Viavi. That’s roughly 3 percent of the world population.

Seventeen percent of the population – 56.4 million people – have gigabit broadband access in the U.S. That’s the highest number of people in any country in the world. Overall, there are 603 gigabit broadband deployments up and running in a total of 41 countries worldwide –72 percent more than there were in June 2016 by Viavi’s count.

House Commerce Democrats Unveil Comprehensive Infrastructure Package

Democrats on the House Commerce Committee introduced a broad 21st Century infrastructure package that includes key areas within the Committee’s jurisdiction, including broadband, drinking water, healthcare, the electric grid, brownfields and renewable energy infrastructure. The Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act (H.R. 2479), sets out five years of funding for essential infrastructure improvements, job growth, and greater protections for public health and the environment. The LIFT America Act includes investments in several key areas including $40 billion for the deployment of secure and resilient broadband to expand access for communities nationwide while promoting security by design.

The LIFT America Act will invest in programs with proven records of job creation. The legislation requires the payment of prevailing wages. The bill will also spur new high-paying technology jobs by supporting deployment of smart buildings, smart grid, and Smart Communities technology.

The LIFT America Act is sponsored by Reps Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Gene Green (D-TX), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI).

Schools, Libraries, and Companies Urge Trump Administration to Invest in Broadband Infrastructure

Connecting our nation’s schools, libraries, health clinics, and other community anchor institutions (CAIs) to affordable high-speed broadband needs to be a national infrastructure priority, especially in rural markets. In an effort to accomplish this goal, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition released a letter to President Trump signed by 30 companies and anchor institutions urging the Trump Administration to include funding to deploy high-capacity broadband to and through anchor institutions in rural markets in the upcoming infrastructure package.

The term “anchor institution” refers to any large community institution that serves the needs of the general public, and includes community colleges, public housing, community centers, public media, and local government offices in addition to schools, libraries, health clinics and hospitals. These community anchor institutions are crucial to closing America’s digital divide. The letter stresses that deploying high-capacity broadband to all rural anchor institutions is a cost-effective model to connect entire communities and stimulate economic growth. Unfortunately, the needs of anchor institutions are not addressed by existing funding mechanisms like the FCC’s Connect America Fund because anchor institutions need much greater bandwidth than the 10 Mbps service provided to residential consumers. The letter emphasizes the importance of an open application process for federal funding to spur competition, networking sharing to promote public-private partnerships, and coordinated and streamlined deployment, such as “dig once” and “make ready” policies. The digital divide is most acutely felt in rural America. The costs of deploying high-speed broadband in rural areas can be two to three times higher than in urban markets which makes it difficult for commercial companies to invest without financial support.

[Editor’s note: Benton is a member of the SHLB Coalition and signed the letter.]

House Passes IT Modernization Bill

Next stop for Rep. Will Hurd’s Modernizing Government Technology Act: the Senate. The bill passed the House in a floor vote, highlighting the bipartisan concern lawmakers share regarding the nation’s aging federal technology, which includes at least 10 critical systems more than four decades old.

The MGT Act’s journey through the House was swift, sailing through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee only days after its April 28 introduction. Companion legislation in the Senate, however, is moving slower. The bill, a bipartisan effort that included input from the White House, the Government Accountability Office and top Democrats, would create two new ways for agencies to modernize their IT systems. First, it would allow CFO Act agencies to create working IT capital funds. Hurd has referred to these funds as “the meat” of the bill, and it would allow agencies to recoup savings from existing modernization efforts rather than give cash back to the Treasury Department. Hypothetically, an agency that realizes savings from moving to the cloud could hold on to the savings for up to three years, so long as it uses those savings for further modernization efforts. In addition to agency-specific working capital funds, the MGT Act creates a central modernization fund and authorized appropriators to fund it up to $250 million per year for two years. Agencies strapped for cash could then make their cases to borrow against the fund to modernize certain systems. The final say for what agencies get money will come down to the commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service, an office within the General Services Administration.

President Trump Taps David Redl to Head NTIA

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate David J. Redl of New York to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information, Department of Commerce.

Redl is currently Chief Counsel at the US House of Representatives Commerce Committee. He serves as principal legal advisor to the Chairman and Members of the Commerce majority on communications and technology matters. Prior to his time with the Commerce Committee, Redl was Director of Regulatory Affairs at CTIA - The Wireless Association, where his work focused on spectrum policy, wireless broadband, and reducing regulatory mandates. Redl earned a BA in Journalism and a BA in Political Science from the Pennsylvania State University and a JD from the Catholic University of America. Redl is admitted to the New York and District of Columbia bars.

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 US 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.

Fight for the Future Seeks Net Neutrality Docket Investigation

Fight for the Future is asking the Federal Communications Commission and state attorneys general to investigate what it says is potential fraud related to the filing of comments in the FCC's network neutrality docket.

Campaign Director Evan Greer said the group has been collecting evidence that "a large number of anti-net neutrality comments have been submitted to the FCC using real people's names and addresses without their knowledge or permission." Greer argues that the FCC needs to investigate that potential fraud before it votes on its plan to roll back Title II classification of ISPs, which is scheduled for the May 18 public meeting. Greer cited reports of people confirming that they knew nothing about the anti-net neutrality comments filed under their names and said Fight for the Future had interviewed a dozen people itself who said that was the case.