Digital Beat Blog

How do we define “in the public interest” in the Digital Age? Here’s unique perspectives on communications policy debates. We invite you to comment on these original posts; start by registering for a benton.org account. Interested in sharing your own article? Contact our Executive Editor, Kevin Taglang at [email protected]

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American Hate Radio: How A Powerful Outlet For Democratic Discourse Has Deteriorated Into Hate, Racism and Extremism

For over a century we have used the radio waves to communicate with our neighbors. Even today radio remains the primary way that Americans consume media, reaching 93% of the American population on a weekly basis. Radio can be an excellent outlet for news, democratic discourse, community engagement and even life-saving emergency information, and, in many instances, it is just that. However, something sinister is happening over many of our public airwaves. Something that many would like to ignore: hate, racism and extremism. And as mega media companies have consolidated over the past decade, this hate has grown even more prevalent, and is often syndicated through nationwide station clusters. NHMC’s latest report, American Hate Radio, sheds light on the prevalence and the dangers of American hate radio, chronicling how hate groups and hate crimes have spiked while hate radio’s popularity and reach have risen.

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A Look at Lobbying in the Wake of SOPA/PIPA

Last week, we devoted lots of digital ink highlighting the unprecedented online activism that derailed both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate. This week we look at the flip side of citizen engagement: lobbying.

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FCC Must Reach Out On Upcoming Changes to Lifeline Telecom Program

By the end of this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to issue new rules aimed at reforming and modernizing the low-income Lifeline telephone program. The rules are expected to include many changes to the application process. It will also update the annual check-in which determines continued eligibility for the program. Whether the FCC succeeds in this effort will depend on whether the reform order includes an extensive education and outreach component to explain the changes. Planning must start now.

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Biggest Day Ever of Online Protest in English

Daily Headlines readers know we devoted lots of digital ink this week to the ongoing debates over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) [#SOPA and #PIPA, if you’re Tweeting at home]. Last week, we ended our weekly round-up saying, “The developments on these two bills are likely to be one of the most-watched issues as Congress returns to Washington.” We’re proud to announce we are an early nominee for “Understatement of the Year.”

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FCC’s Low-Income Phone Reform Needs to Connect and Tie Eligibility to People, Not Housing

The Federal Communications Commission is poised to reform and modernize the Lifeline phone program that was created to help low-income household afford phone service. The reform and modernization is expected to move the program beyond traditional landline service to better accommodate wireless phone service and to set a foundation to move to broadband access for poor people. Yet, the reform could also discriminate against the very people the program was designed to help. How so? The FCC is considering limiting the Lifeline benefit to people with a unique residential street address

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Lifeline and Link Up Programs for the 21st Century

After years of consideration, the Federal Communications Commission is going to update its Lifeline and Link Up programs for the 21st century. Chairman Julius Genachowski, in a speech January 9, announced his plan to significantly reform the program to include broadband-focused elements and to streamline the legacy voice service program to ensure that it performs efficiently.

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Holidays Over – Back to Work (Updated)

The holidays must be over, cause there certainly was a lot going on in telecommunications policy this week.

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Debating Internet Rights

On January 5, the New York Times published an op-ed by Vint Cerf, a co-creator of the TCP/IP standard the Internet is built on and now a Google employee. Cerf’s headline -- Internet Access Is Not a Human Right. Back in June, a lengthy report released by the United Nations argued that disconnecting individuals from the Internet is a violation of human rights and goes against international law.

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Looking Back at 2011

As the Benton Foundation closes out our 30th year as an organization dedicated to the ideal of media and telecommunications serving the public interest and enhancing our democracy, here are some thoughts on our major activities during these past twelve months.

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PEG Access Centers Closing at Alarming Rate

Benton and our friends at the Alliance for Communications Democracy (ACD) wanted to get a feel for the state of public, educational and government (PEG) Access across the nation. The results of their study are in and are disheartening to say the least.

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Local TV News & Joint Services Agreements

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Notice of Inquiry for the 2010 Quadrennial Review of Broadcast Ownership Rules (NOI), there were 1,130 commercial television stations with 450 owners in 1996. In 2010, there were 1,302 commercial television stations and 303 owners, representing a 33 percent drop in the number of owners.

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Benton Foundation Opposes Proposed AT&T Acquisition of T-Mobile USA

After a review of the purported benefits and early analysis of the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T, the Benton Foundation urges the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission to reject a deal that offers no public interest dividend.

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Tracking the National Broadband Plan -- Universal Service

March 16 marks the one year anniversary of the release of the National Broadband Plan, a multi-year strategy for increasing broadband deployment, adoption and meaningful use throughout the country. Over the last year, the Benton Foundation has been tracking the implementation of the plan and its over 200 recommendations.

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Too Much Power in One Company’s Hands

Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps was the only FCC commissioner to dissent from the order allowing Comcast and General Electric to enter into a complicated joint venture that will give Comcast control of NBC Universal. Here is his statement.

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Sputnik 2: Time for Broadband

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said our generation’s Sputnik moment is upon us. President Obama likened our recent economic setbacks to a key moment in October 1957 when Americans saw our scientific leadership in the world fall from first to second as a small beeping sphere sped through the night sky. I strongly agree. And I see broadband as a key element in our response to Sputnik 2.

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Key Factors for Successful Community Media Initiatives

The ongoing need for community media programs has much to do with the dearth of diverse voices and representation within mainstream media outlets.

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On Defining the Third Way

On June 17, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking public comment on a new legal framework for broadband regulation. This move is intended to reestablish the FCC's authority over broadband overcoming a legal setback presented by the U.S. Court of Appeals - D.C. Circuit and laying a strong legal foundation for transforming the National Broadband Plan into effective policy. Specifically, the FCC is considering reclassifying the transmission component of broadband Internet access—this is only the communications path that facilitates the transfer of data from one point to another—as a telecommunications service. This proposal, called the "Third Way," separates the transmission component and the computing functionality of broadband Internet access service.

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Evaluating BTOP - A Step in the Right Direction

On Thursday, July 30th, the federal government indicated it's in the market for a rigorous examination of its investment in broadband. A Request for Quote was issued for an evaluation study of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Benton and our allies in academia and the public interest sector have been encouraging the NTIA and other agencies to evaluate our investment in broadband networks for some time now.

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Bringing Broadband to People with Low Incomes

For years, the Lifeline program has provided qualified consumers with a discount on monthly charges for their primary home phone line, even if it's a cell phone. And the

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Overcoming Comcast and Paving the Way for Universal Service Reform

Yesterday, during a Senate Commerce committee hearing, focused on the important task of modernizing the Universal Service Fund, Senators and FCC Commissioners again called into concern the FCC's current authority over broadband and what that lack of authority may mean for improvements to the Universal Service Fund.

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