This is a historic time for broadband investment. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the high costs of being offline. In response, Congress, over the past year, passed two laws—the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan—with an unprecedented amount of funding devoted to promoting digital equity. Communities should be engaged now to help craft long-term connectivity goals and ensure that diverse voices are part of the discussion—and that’s our job.
High-Performance Broadband delivers opportunities and strengthens communities. In the Digital Age, open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for — and achieving — the American Dream. But since the mid-1990s, the U.S. has struggled with a persistent dilemma called the digital divide — the unfortunate reality that for too many people, meaningful connectivity is out of reach.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
On Friday, May 31, the Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding to seek comment on establishing an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF programs provide subsidies that make telecommunications and broadband services more available and affordable for millions of Americans. The NPRM asks a lot of questions over how to cap the programs. But a crucial one we ask: Does this NPRM actually move the U.S. closer to closing the digital divide?
Over the past few years, news of 5G – fifth generation wireless technologies – has grabbed too many headlines to count.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai joined President Donald Trump at the White House for an announcement about action to “ensure that America wins the race to 5G.” In addition to promoting fifth generation wireless technology, Chairman Pai announced a new $20 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund at the FCC. That sounds like a huge step forward for expanding rural broadband -- so why was it tacked on to the 5G news? 5G is really a fiber network with antennas at the end.
In the last Weekly Digest, I presented a retrospective of a major policy story from 2018: The democratic harms of “Big Tech.” This week, a polar vortex accompanied a vortex of more privacy abuses from Big Tech, and further concerns about the very bigness of Big Tech.
Earlier this month we examined how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission impedes progress towards closing the digital divide. Now, we review another big telecom policy story from 2018: the democratic harms of “Big Tech”. In 2018, we got a better, but more disturbing, understanding of the size and influence of large technology companies (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft), and particularly how social media platforms affect our democratic discourse and elections.
The 116th Congress is underway. In the background of a partial government shutdown, lawmakers are getting their committee assignments. At Benton, we keep a close eye on two key Congressional panels because of their jurisdiction over many telecommunications issues and oversight of the Federal Communications Commission: 1) the House Commerce Committee's Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and 2) the Senate Commerce Committee. Here's a look at some key telecom policymakers -- and their priorities -- in the 116th Congress.