Digital Beat Blog

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How the FCC is Bringing Broadband to Rural America

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission found that broadband deployment in the United States – especially in rural areas – is failing to keep pace with today’s advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings. Over half of all rural Americans lack access to broadband service with 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Moreover, rural America continues to be underserved at all speeds, the FCC found: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.

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What Is “Advanced Telecommunications Capability” And Why Does The FCC Examine It?

On August 6, the Federal Communications Commission voted on a seemingly routine notice initiating its statutorily mandated annual inquiry into the state of broadband deployment in the United States. (Actually, as explained below, it is measuring something somewhat different.) Collection and analysis of data is essential to effective policymaking, and Congress has directed that many agencies compile reports of one kind or another. Solicitation of public comment on data collection for a wonky report might not seem to be controversial, but the issuance of the notice generated vociferous reactions from the two Republican Commissioners.

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What Is ‘Unfair’ Competition?

Benton’s Headlines mainly track developments at the Federal Communications Commission, but major telecommunications and media policy news also comes from the Federal Trade Commission. That was true when the FTC released the Statement of Enforcement Principles Regarding “Unfair Methods of Competition” Under Section 5 of the FTC Act on August 13. This is just the kinda summer reading that DC wonks long for.

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Benton Foundation Accepts The Dirk Koning-George Stoney Award

Personally, as you can imagine, and for all of us at the Benton Foundation, 2015 has been a rough year. But the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from all corners has been amazing. Charles Benton would have been so thrilled to realize how many lives he touched and impacted. And I am so honored to be here with you all to accept The Dirk Koning – George Stoney Award.

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Helping Seniors Bridge the Digital Divide

Pew Research Center recently issued a report on who is online and who is not. As we’ve discussed in previous articles for the Digital Beat Blog, demographic factors such as age, income and educational attainment characterize the 15 percent of Americans who remain offline. Seniors are most likely to be offline, with 39% reporting they do not use the Internet. Yet, there has been significant progress in getting seniors online. In 2000, 86% of adults age 65+ were offline. This progress is due in part to baby boomers entering the age 65+ group, but also to the work of many organizations across the country working diligently to help seniors overcome the obstacles they face in broadband adoption. Here are just a few of them.

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The California Lifeline Reform Case Study - Overview

California is the only state that has a Lifeline program with greater support provided to low income households than the federal program. Why is California’s Lifeline program the most substantial state program? How did that happen? What has the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) learned? We’ll review the history and explore the issues in hopes that the FCC and other states can take some lessons from the California experience to help inform the “modernization” of Lifeline going forward.

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Questioning Federal Broadband Spending

Millions of Americans still are not online – many in rural areas. Did the broadband stimulus fail them?

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Celebrating 20 Years at the Benton Foundation

It was 20 years ago today...

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Net Neutrality – An Update

The Federal Communications Commission’s Network Neutrality rules became effective on June 12. Since then, contrary to the warnings of some opponents, the digital world has not stopped turning. On the other hand, while Net Neutrality supporters were jubilant, there has been little visible change for the good, either. That should not be surprising, since the most important impact of the new rules is in shaping future conduct. Even so, for those interested in preserving an open Internet, there are a number of developments worth noting.

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Taking Care of America: Whose Job Is It?

We live in an exceptional country, we like to tell ourselves. If that’s really so, why are we letting it crumble around us? Let’s take a quick and random look around.

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The Next Generation Network Connectivity Handbook: Top Ten Overall Lessons

On July 21, 2015, Gig. U and the Benton Foundation published a comprehensive guide for communities who want better broadband for their residents and businesses. The Next Generation Connectivity Handbook: a Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable Abundant Bandwidth is an indispensable tool in lowering the initial, daunting information barrier for cities just beginning to navigate critical Internet infrastructure issues. Today we share the Handbook’s Top Ten Overall Lessons drawing on the experiences of 25 Gig.U communities who have worked on this issue for many years.

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U.S. Addresses the Digital Divide Where it Lives

The biggest news of the week was, of course, the historic accord reached by Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. But there was big news in telecommunications, too, as President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet service providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation.

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A Human Rights Debate Reaches the FCC

Over the past two weeks, a debate at least three years old has reached the Federal Communications Commission: Does everyone have a fundamental right to access the Internet? That is – Is Internet access a human right?

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FCC Moves Toward Making Broadband More Affordable Through Its Lifeline Program

On June 18, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposed to again reform modernize its Lifeline program, seeking public input on restructuring the program to better support 21st Century communications while building on existing reforms to continue strengthening protections against waste, fraud and abuse. Established in 1985, the Lifeline program has made phone service – first landline service and now supporting wireless service as an option -- affordable for low-income Americans. Last year, Lifeline some 12 million people. Now, a majority of the five FCC commissioners believe it is time for a fundamental, comprehensive restructuring of the program to meet today’s most pressing communications needs: access to broadband.

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Tom Wheeler - The Halftime Report

Tom Wheeler’s tenure as Federal Communications Commission Chairman is at the halfway point. This is a good time to assess what he has accomplished and what is to come.

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What Just Happened to NSA Reform?

On June 2, 2015, the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act of 2015. This week’s actions been both celebrated and damned by all points, it seems, along the political spectrum. Is it time to celebrate? Or move to Canada?

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Federal Funding Fosters Senior Digital Learning

Concern about seniors being left behind in the digital divide is not a recent phenomenon. Some efforts date back to the mid-1990s. Others emerged when the federal government began to pay serious attention about a decade ago. A small number of BTOP projects focused on seniors. Here are a few highlights.

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A Most Unvirtuous Circle

It’s shaping up as a great political year ahead—if you are a billionaire with an axe to grind or a broadcast or cable operator. In recent years, special interests and ideologues of both the right and the left have dumped billions of dollars of unaccountable advertising onto the airwaves and cables that we rely on for our news and information. In fact, by most estimates, the majority of campaign money nowadays goes into advertising. It’s great for broadcast and cable. When I was a Commissioner at the FCC and I would ask these industry execs how business was doing, they always had an extra-wide grin as we were entering a new election cycle. For many of them, these ads comprised their largest revenue stream. It’s a virtuous circle for them and the billionaires, but not so virtuous for the rest of us—or for our democracy.

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FCC Moves to Make Broadband More Affordable

Cost. Literacy. Relevance. Time and again research identifies these three barriers to broadband adoption. On May 28, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed to modernize the FCC’s Lifeline program to address the first great barrier: cost. Here’s what the proposal looks like.

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Lifeline – Where Is It Going? A Community Perspective

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is comprised of local community organizations, public libraries and other institutions that are working hard to increase broadband access and digital skills among our neighbors. To improve the daily lives of all community members, we call for public policies for digital inclusion that reflect what we've learned from experience. We offer this expertise to the Federal Communications Commission to aid the reform and modernization of Lifeline.

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