Digital Beat Blog

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The Trump FCC’s Toolkit For Deregulating Media and Telecommunications

Although there are many articles and blog posts discussing likely policy changes in the media and telecommunications space, it is far too early to know exactly when and what will happen at the Federal Communications Commission under the forthcoming Trump Administration. However, it is not too soon to identify the legal mechanisms available to Congress and the FCC to unwind many of the Obama era accomplishments. In light of the Democrats’ loss of the White House and failure to take control of the Senate, public interest advocates will have a very hard time protecting these and earlier regulatory requirements given the breadth of the power conferred by these statutes. From the moment he took office in late 2013, outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler operated from the premise that his tenure might not extend beyond January 2017. Even though he undertook an ambitious agenda as soon as he arrived, a number of his major initiatives were not completed until the latter part of 2016. As a practical matter, it is reasonably easy for Congressional Republicans and the incoming Republican majority at the FCC to derail at least some of these recently adopted regulations. Here’s how.

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Digital Denied: The Impact of Systemic Racial Discrimination on Home-Internet Adoption

Internet access is a necessity for engaging in our communities, searching for employment and seeking out educational opportunities — but too many people are still stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. And that divide disproportionately impacts people of color. Indeed, the racial divide in home-internet adoption — including both wired and wireless service — leaves people of color behind the digital curve. People of color comprise 32 million of the 69 million people in the United States who lack any form of home-internet access. Free Press research exposes this undeniable gap and explains how structural racial discrimination contributes to it. Systemic discrimination creates serious income inequality in this country. Whites have far higher average incomes than Blacks or Latinos. Low-income families are less able and willing to buy internet subscriptions. And many families who are willing to pay for service find they can’t due to racially biased barriers like credit scoring. Given how stark racial and ethnic income discrepancies are, it’s no surprise that people of color lag behind in internet adoption.

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Celebrating Chairman Wheeler’s Gift to the American People

In reviewing the successes of the last year, but, more broadly, the last three years, the person I keep returning to is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Chairman Wheeler has upheld the public interest, recognized the power of communications to strengthen communities, and acted to modernize and reform programs that bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all Americans. His legacy is the opportunities for all Americans to connect to jobs, education, healthcare, and family. As we enter this holiday season, I am thankful for Chairman Tom Wheeler’s gifts to the American people. To me, what is amazing about his many accomplishments can’t always be measured by the dockets he opened, the votes he won, or the initiatives he proposed. The day-to-day impacts of his actions can often be more readily seen in the child who can now reach a hand across a keyboard to access a whole new universe of knowledge thanks to gigabit connections to the school and Wi-Fi in the classroom. Or in the young mother who can now coordinate work and her child’s medical care thanks to her Lifeline connection. Or the small business owner who can now compete on a level playing field with its bigger business competitors thanks to a free and open Internet. Or the community that was once left behind, that is able to get ahead with new broadband options. In other words, it’s not the orders he voted or the computers he connected, but the lives he touched in ways both big and small. I expect they will be felt not just for a year, or a chairman’s term, but in the case of that little girl … it just may change her life.

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Innovators in Digital Inclusion: Ashbury Senior Community Computer Center

ASC3 serves four Cleveland neighborhoods (Glenville, Forest Hills, South Collinwood and East Cleveland) -- and anyone else who requests their services. These neighborhoods are economically-diverse and family-oriented with a strong representation of older, African-American adults and Case Western Reserve University students. The draw of important churches in these neighborhoods brings in traffic from elsewhere in Cleveland. All four neighborhoods have low home broadband adoption rates.

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Rural Broadband Programs and Community Anchor Institutions

In thinly-populated rural and tribal areas, community anchor institutions (CAIs) can be vitally important to connecting residents to the rest of the world. Schools, libraries, health clinics, and many other anchor institutions rely upon high-capacity broadband to provide education, health, and information services to rural consumers. Unfortunately, because of the economic factors described below, anchor institutions in rural and tribal areas have an especially difficult time obtaining high-capacity broadband connections at affordable rates. Ensuring every rural community has access to high-capacity Internet access through their anchor institutions will often require financial support and other government initiatives to stimulate deployment and promote competition. Connecting rural CAIs to high-capacity broadband can be a catalyst for further investment; when CAIs serve as the “anchor tenant” on a rural network, they improve the business case for community-wide network upgrades or further network expansion. When implementing programs designed to increase access to broadband service in rural areas, federal, state, and local efforts should give high priority to the broadband needs of rural community anchor institutions.

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AT&T-Time Warner: Is Bigger Badder?

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy & Consumer Rights held a hearing on AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner, a deal that would combine one of the nation’s largest phone and internet providers with a media entertainment titan that among other things, owns HBO, CNN, TBS, TNT and Warner Brothers studios. A fun time was had by all.

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Community-Led Broadband Agendas and Issues to Watch in the Next Administration

Although Donald Trump will be our next President, we are not sure who will occupy key positions in broadband policy. We can, however, know what some of the agendas and issues will be and their potential direction. As discussed below, several can impact the economics and options related to network deployments.

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The Next Generation Connectivity Handbook

This is a handbook for city officials seeking the affordable, abundant bandwidth their communities will need to thrive in the decades ahead. Designed for local decision makers, it reviews the current landscape of broadband networks, including next generation, gigabit capable networks, outlines best practices, summarizes existing models, and presents a framework through which community leaders might begin preliminary project steps given their city’s specific strengths and circumstances. Our purpose is to lower the initial, daunting information barrier that exists between cities already immersed in these Internet infrastructure issues and those just beginning to navigate them.

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Getting to Know Mark Jamison, President-elect Trump’s FCC Transition Team Co-Leader

On November 21, 2016, President-elect Doonald Trump named Mark Jamison and Jeffrey Eisenach to his “agency landing team” for the Federal Communications Commission. Jamison is a Visiting Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He is also the Gunter Professor of the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) at the University of Florida and serves as its director of telecommunications studies. Since, as a candidate, Donald Trump did not offer a telecommunications agenda, many are trying to read the tea leaves to understand how these appointments will impact how the FCC will operate over the next four years. As a professor and visiting fellow, Jamison is a prolific writer. We've been reading through his works looking for hints of what Trump Administration priorities may be.

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Broadband Subsidies for Community Anchor Institutions

Studies show community anchor institutions (CAIs) often cannot afford to purchase the broadband capacity they need to serve their communities. While the E-rate and Rural Healthcare programs have been enormously helpful, many schools, libraries, and healthcare providers still report that they cannot purchase sufficient broadband because of the high cost or because robust broadband networks are not available. Many other anchor institutions—such as public media, public housing, community colleges, community centers, and other community-based organizations—do not receive federal subsidies for broadband connectivity and have even more trouble finding the resources to pay for high-quality broadband. Federal, state, and local governments need to address the connectivity challenges of tomorrow by providing additional financial resources and incentives to CAIs so that they can afford to purchase high-capacity broadband services.

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The Homework Gap and Libraries

Even as policymakers and technology companies laud the transformations broadband enables in education, when it comes to accessing the Internet to distribute homework and grades, to collect and grade assignments, and to enable parents to interact with their children’s school, a stark divide is apparent. Pew statistics suggest about five million households, mostly lower income and skewed to Black and Hispanic families, are on the wrong side of this divide.

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Libraries and Rural Broadband

In many rural areas, quality, affordable home Internet access is tough to come by. So what do people do? They go to the library.

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Feeling Access Pains

While we don’t usually think of cities as lacking broadband services, what they often lack is affordable broadband. Go to a local library in a city and you often see waiting lists for using their computers, or you see many people with their own devices using library-provided Wi-Fi. The New York Public Library program was prompted, in part, by a New York Mayor’s Office 2015 report noting that 36 percent of the city’s households with incomes below the poverty line lacked home Internet service.

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Access, Diversity, and Equity are More Important Now Than Ever

If I learned anything during this election, it is that opposing sides are not speaking with each other. And because we are more disconnected, we need to focus on ways to connect. We should be thinking about the fundamental power of communication as a way to bring us together, not further divide us.

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2016 As Prologue, Not Aberration

How do we hold the powerful accountable when media decimates its Washington, statehouse, and overseas bureaus? How do we dig up the difficult-to-unearth facts when reporters are spread so thin? And, importantly, how do we free journalism from the Wall Street-Madison Avenue mentality that subordinates news to the bottom line? Information is coin of the realm if a society is to be self-governing; it is a public good that must be nourished and spread over the land. If the media industry itself is not interested in making this happen, then we must have an urgent national discussion to make it happen in spite of big media. I’m not given to rhetorical extravagance, but I’ll say this: big media is strangling our democracy, and it can only get worse on its present course. It’s "wake up" time in America.

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Government Funding for Broadband Network Providers Serving Community Anchor Institutions

Governments can play an important role in funding broadband infrastructure deployment to ensure robust, affordable access for anchor institutions beyond what the market is able to do. Failing to take action to spur broadband deployment creates risks for the community – losing businesses, jobs, services, and population.

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Options for Accelerating Great American Broadband

How can we best utilize the bi-partisan consensus that we need better infrastructure, including broadband networks?

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Stronger Together For and With Great Broadband

Last week, I gave a speech in Wilson, North Carolina, at a conference on Expanding the Gigabit Ecosystem. I wasn’t there to make a partisan statement but began by agreeing with 75 percent of an assertion of one of the presidential candidates: that it is time—because it’s always time--to Make America Great. I suggested the real topic of that conference is how we make America great with great broadband. That is also the topic today, though in the spirit of bi-partisanship, I would like to title this speech, Stronger Together for and with Great Broadband.

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This Changes Nothing; This Changes Everything

Expecting, perhaps, a wave of new Members of Congress, we had an eye on the elections of Members of key Congressional committees with jurisdiction over telecommunications. We found, again, however, that most Members will be returning for another 2 or 6 years. But, this time, to an entirely different political landscape.

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Make America Great—with Great Broadband

We come together at the time of the final at bats in what feels like both the longest and most painful presidential election in our collective memory. I’m not here to make a partisan statement. But I’ll start by agreeing with 75% of an assertion of one of the candidates: that it is time—because it’s always time--to Make America Great. Indeed, I’d like to suggest the real topic of today’s conference is how we make America great with great broadband.

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