Lauren Frayer

Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults

A record 46 million seniors live in the United States today, and older Americans – those age 65 and older – now account for 15% of the overall U.S. population. Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are moving towards more digitally connected lives.

Around four-in-ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the internet – a 55-percentage-point increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home. Yet despite these gains, many seniors remain largely disconnected from the digital revolution. One-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the internet, and roughly half (49%) say they do not have home broadband services. Meanwhile, even with their recent gains, the proportion of seniors who say they own smartphones is 42 percentage points lower than those ages 18 to 64. And as is true for the population as a whole, there are also substantial differences in technology adoption within the older adult population based on factors such as age, household income and educational attainment.

President Trump talked of jailing journalists

Along with asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop the Bureau’s investigation of Michael Flynn, President Trump also talked about putting reporters in jail for publishing classified information. The information came to light after Comey wrote a detailed memo for his files about his conversation with Trump and the contents were provided to the Times. Whether it was more of Trump’s hyperbole or if he really believes that should be done is unknown. He often complains about the media and leaks and continues to tout his claim that much of what is broadcast and published is fake news. RTDNA agrees with the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press that no President has the right to jail journalists. Courts and judges exist to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. The Justice Department has generally widely honored the concept of a free press, including when addressing issues involving leaks. Trump’s comments are just another example of the need for journalists to stand up in defense of the First Amendment. That’s the reason why RTDNA formed its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force. We hope you’ll join with us and support our efforts.

President Trump Can’t Jail Journalists for Reporting Leaks – Or Can He?

Could reporters really go to jail for publishing leaks? The answer is probably not. But we don’t really know with 100 percent certainty because the federal government has never tried to jail reporters under such circumstances before.

The wild card is a federal law called the Espionage Act of 1917. The federal law was created to prosecute spies, but it is so broadly worded that some fear it could be used against journalists. The law makes it a felony for an unauthorized person to receive or “communicate” “national defense” information to others with reason to believe that it could harm the United States or assist a foreign enemy. The punishment ranges from a $10,000 fine to imprisonment. The law has never been used against a journalist. Some legal experts argue that the law, if applied to journalists, is unconstitutional because it is vague, overbroad, and allows censorship of the press for lawfully obtained, critically important information. Already, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice is weighing filing Espionage Act charges laws against members of the WikiLeaks organization for its 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents as well as the website’s disclosure of the CIA’s cyber-tools, the Post reported in April.

The press relies heavily on the landmark Pentagon Papers case from 1971 in which the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot block publication of classified federal documents without concrete evidence of immediate, irreparable harm, akin to publishing the location of US troops during war. The court rejected the Nixon administration’s request to stop the New York Times and Washington Post from reporting about secret documents revealing that the government knew the Vietnam War was fruitless. But three justices suggested that the Nixon administration could prosecute the Times and the Post for violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified documents. The Nixon administration, however, did not try to prosecute the newspapers. The two men who leaked the Pentagon Papers — including military analyst Daniel Ellsberg — were charged with a felony under the Espionage Act, but the case was thrown out by a Los Angeles judge due to misconduct by the Nixon administration.

Will Pai “Pull A Putin” And Hack the FCC Process? Or Will He Get Over Himself and Start Acting Like The Chairman?

[Commentary] In my 20+ years of doing telecommunications policy, I have never seen a Federal Communications Commission Chairman so badly botch a proceeding as Chairman Ajit Pai has managed to do with his efforts to repeal Net Neutrality. For all the fun that I am sure Chairman Pai is having (and believe me, I understand the fun of getting all snarky on policy), Pai’s failure to protect the integrity of the process runs the serious risk of undermining public confidence in the Federal Communications Commission’s basic processes, and by extension contributing to the general “hacking of our democracy” by undermining faith in our most basic institutions of self-governance. Yeah, I know, that sounds over the top. I wish I didn’t have to write that. I also wish we didn’t have a President who calls press critical of him “the enemy of the American people,” triggering massive harassment of reporters by his followers.

What both President Trump and Chairman Pai seem to fail to understand is that when you are in charge, what you say and do matters much more than what you said and did before you were in charge. You either grow up and step into the challenge or you end up doing serious harm not only to your own agenda, but to the institution as a whole. Worse, in a time when the President and his team actually welcomed Russia’s “hacking” of our election, and remain under suspicion for coordinating with Russia for support, Pai’s conduct creates concern and distrust that he will also “pull a Putin” by welcoming (or worse, collaborating with) efforts to de-legitimize the FCC’s public comment system and hack the public debate around net neutrality generally.

Why net neutrality needs a congressional solution

[Commentary] Net neutrality advocates and opponents alike have demonstrated their steady investment in a specific outcome that juxtaposes regulation over no regulation. These deep seated divisions are played out among members of Congress, industry leaders, activists, and even academics. Given the tumultuous history of net neutrality at the Federal Communications Commission, the future of internet regulations will remain uncertain in the US. Today’s decisions will be vulnerable to challenges from a possible Democratic administration and potentially overturned if argued before the Supreme Court. Congress may be the only entity that can offer a more permanent solution to what is driving the debate – adherence to the principles of an open internet and the application of the appropriate legal authority. As the FCC works on its repeal, Congress should exercise leadership to identify a legislative solution that marries – rather than polarizes – these two perspectives to reach bipartisan agreement. Clearly, a congressional solution cloaked in partisanship will not be the starting place for such negotiations. Congress cannot remain gridlocked on this issue given their constituents’ reliance on the digital economy. Citizens are increasingly leveraging the internet and other new technologies for employment, entrepreneurship, health care, education, civic engagement, and other critical functions. Elected officials must start the negotiations in radical agreement on internet openness, given that the digital economy will continue to face broadband capacity challenges (i.e., spectrum and infrastructure concerns) as demand for services rises.

As such, Congress should delve into the question of legal authority conditioned not on emotion or political party, but on the most appropriate and sustainable framework for its application. Under this scenario, a bipartisan agreement could abandon Title II based on its outdated and perfunctory application to the online economy and focus on codifying the bright line rules through statute. A compromise might also include an additional bright line rule that offers consumers a formal means for complaint and adjudication at the Commission. Or FCC authority can perhaps be shared with the FTC: making one agency the cop on the beat over behavioral and commercial practices (FTC) and the other over technical misgivings and other consumer concerns (FCC).

Only Congress, Not the FCC, Can Fix Net Neutrality

[Commentary] In 2006, House Republicans passed legislation empowering the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the Open Internet Policy Statement, but the bill died in the Senate. In 2010, a court blocked the FCC’s subsequent attempt to enforce the policy statement. Democrats wanted legislation, and Google and Verizon even negotiated a deal. Congressional Republicans wanted to negotiate after retaking the House. By then, the FCC had already issued its first net neutrality rules, which partially failed in court in 2014. The following year, Republicans offered a deal, and Democrats have stonewalled since. Lawmakers should enshrine rules against blocking and throttling, enforced by either the FCC or the Federal Trade Commission, and deny the FCC a blank check over the internet. Until Congress acts, telecom Groundhog Day will keep replaying over and over and over.
[Szóka is president of TechFreedom]

FCC Commissioner Clyburn: “Much rhetoric in [the Open Internet] proceeding is completely divorced from reality.”

[Commentary] One of the most unfortunate aspects of the net neutrality debate is its ability to bring out the worst sides of otherwise good people. Many friendships have been lost to the issue; many good people on both sides of the issue can no longer engage civilly with their counterparts on the other side. This is what came to mind when I saw Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s “fact sheet” that purports to show how FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has reversed his positions on the Open Internet Order between 2014 and today. Clyburn’s fact sheet is misleading, giving a false impression that the chairman’s views have changed in ways that they have not.

[Hurwitzis an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law]

Why a Dedicated High Speed Broadband Network to Connect the Unconnected is a Game Changer

[Commentary] Recently, DigitalC launched the Connect the Unconnected program. Here I offer details on the technical design, the solution architecture, and our hopes for America's first, dedicated gigabit network designed specifically to support the unserved and underserved members of our community. The Connect the Unconnected network aspires to connect the 50% of Cleveland residents with no wired broadband access. Designing and launching a reference architecture for a dedicated high speed broadband network and all the attendant wrap around services and support is my definition of civic technology. Connect the Unconnected is about making a small contribution to a simple idea. When history is written, our ability to extend access to the digital economy and all of its opportunities is the surest way to bet on a future of prosperity for all of us. Connecting the Unconnected is the promise of supporting those unserved and underserved to restart their dreams and hopes for a better tomorrow.

[Gonickis is Chief Executive of DigitalC, a civic tech collaboration that partners with the community to design technology-driven programs and services]

Georgetown Law’s New Institute for Technology Law & Policy Announces Appointment of Gigi Sohn as Distinguished Fellow

Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy today announced the appointment of Gigi Sohn as a Distinguished Fellow. A renowned public interest lawyer who has worked in communications and technology policy for nearly 30 years, Sohn recently concluded three years of service as counselor to then-Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler. During that time, Sohn played a central role as the agency formulated and adopted key policies relating to net neutrality, broadband privacy, broadband access and other matters. Sohn’s work at Georgetown Law’s Tech Institute will focus on the vital role of open, democratic, accessible and affordable communications networks, media and technology. During her appointment, Sohn will publish articles, convene public events and contribute to Georgetown’s academic community.

Kids can handle the truth

[Commentary] On May 13, The New York Times ran a special kid-focused news section that included a full page of “truths” about children. What a shame that the editors didn’t believe in their own statement. They would have given kids the news insights they deserved, rather than a condescending Fun Pages. There was no actual news in the section, nor any age-appropriate analysis of serious events in the world. Young people certainly worry about these things, having seen and heard about them in adult print, television and digital spaces. To be sure, the features were fun and interesting, especially a series of pieces on professions dubbed “How I Became a…” It was, however, disrespectful and showed a lack of trust in young people to give them chocolate pizza recipes and not cover an administration trying to return junk food to schools; or to suggest that they illustrate newspaper photos, but also show them kids their age living in refugee camps. With commitment and collaboration, we all can create balanced and nutritious feasts—not just chocolate pizza.