Digital Beat Blog

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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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On Day 100, A New Tool To Track The National Broadband Plan

It has been 100 days since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) delivered "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan" to Congress. To mark this early milestone for the Plan, the Benton Foundation, a longtime advocate for a comprehensive broadband strategy for the US, has launched a new tracker to make it easier to follow implementation of the Plan -- and to hold policymakers accountable for reaching the Plan's goals. Fueled by Benton's daily Communications-related headlines service the tracker provides updates for each individual recommendation as well as a timeline of progress made so far.

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The National Broadband Plan Needs the Third Way

On June 17, the Federal Communications Commission took the first major step towards reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service. Among other issues, the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) opened on Thursday seeks comment on a new legal framework for broadband called the "Third Way," a proposal that reaches a compromise between Title I ancillary authority and full Title II authority under the Communications Act. The Commission developed the "Third Way" to overcome a legal setback in Comcast v. FCC and establish a solid legal foundation for the effective protection of broadband consumers and the timely implementation of the National Broadband Plan.

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Day 1 of the National Broadband Plan

For weeks, the National Broadband Plan team at the Federal Communications Commission has operated under a clock counting down the days to today. But today, for all of us, is Day 1 of the National Broadband Plan. We will all scurry to absorb the conclusions and recommendations of the plan. And, tomorrow, we will -- we must -- roll up our sleeves to make sure we all enjoy the promise of truly universal, affordable broadband.

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Why We Must Measure the Results of the $7.2 Billion in ARRA Broadband Funding

We must act now to capitalize fully on the billions of dollars the stimulus law is investing in broadband deployment and adoption. These investments represent the most significant direct public funding of broadband projects ever made by the U.S. government. The success or failure of these projects is likely to be a huge factor in whether or not the federal government and other levels of government attempt to supplement private sector investment or correct for market failures in the future. Those are incredibly high stakes that will impact our nation's ability to compete economically against global competitors, to improve educational outcomes, and to achieve the promise of high-quality, affordable healthcare. To evaluate these investments honestly, we need to act now to ensure we collect the right data, organize it and make it publicly available.

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Think People

People are the "killer app." From e-mail, to digital pictures, to today's social media, connecting people to people has always been a motivating force for getting people on and keeping them on the Internet. And the value of the network grows and grows with each additional person on it.

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Circle of Knowledge

Jim Baller asked Charles Benton to speak on behalf of "Consumer and Public Interest Organizations." Benton offers the perspective of an operating foundation working on communications in the public interest. "We've built our programs over the past 28 years on the 4 words in the will of my father, William Benton, to do 'Good Works in Communications. We are, in part, a legacy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, of which he was both the Publisher and owner. Back in 1973, when my father passed away, the Encyclopedia, or 'circle of knowledge,' was embodied by the Britannica's publications. More recently that circle has been expanded by the Internet, making possible the free Wikipedia, created by volunteers, and Google, as the massive index to everything. We come from a proud heritage."

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Consumers and Broadband

The September 9th National Broadband Plan workshop -- moderated by John Horrigan, the Consumer Research Director for the Federal Communications Commission's Omnibus Broadband Initiative -- focused on the Internet consumer. Academics, policy experts and industry participants discussed the challenges and opportunities for Internet consumers as the Internet becomes the focal point of commercial transactions, social networking, and a host of other activities involving information gathering and exchange. Although consumers generally benefit from electronic commerce and online health information, the prospect of sharing financial and personal information with unknown entities raises some serious security concerns. The workshop examined the broader context of the consumer experience from the perspective of the benefits it confers to consumers, the risks that may be associated with the benefits, and the obligations broadband connectivity may impose on consumers and institutions in an environment of pervasive data sharing and availability.

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Big Broadband Ideas

On September 3rd the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan workshop included two distinguished panels of academics and policy experts to focus on "Big Ideas," specifically the future of the Internet and broadband video content. The moderator, John Peha, the Chief Technology Officer of the FCC, framed the panels as discussions about the benefits the future might hold and the downfalls we might encounter as we move forward with the National Broadband Plan. The panelist spoke of the future of the Internet, the weaknesses and architecture of the Internet, and new trends in mobility, video and applications that will lead to further adoption.

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Broadband Benchmarks

The September 2nd Federal Communications Commission National Broadband Plan workshop featured a panel of academics, policy directors and telecom executives that came together to discuss the role of metrics and benchmarks for evaluating the various dimensions of broadband across geographic areas and across time. The Benchmarks considered included variables such as broadband deployment and adoption, affordability and prices, quality of broadband services and levels of competition.

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How State and Local Governments are Addressing Broadband Deployment and Adoption

On September 1, state and local telecommunications officials gathered at the Federal Communications Commission to discuss their roles in a National Broadband Plan. The FCC wanted to hear from state and local governments that have proactively addressed broadband deployment and adoption issues in their communities. On the table for discussion: identifying gaps in existing broadband policy, developing necessary infrastructure, securing support from key stakeholders, encouraging adoption, funding broadband initiatives and evaluating the effectiveness of enacted policies.

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Broadband and Job Training

On August 26, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop focused on the potential impact of increased broadband access on job training and job placement. Topics of discussion included: Online and remote job training, Access to jobs, Adult education, The future of job searches, and Digital literacy for adults.

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The Smart Grid, Broadband and Climate Change

On August 25, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop focused on broadband and communications infrastructure potentially transformative role in meeting our national energy, environmental, and transportation goals, including energy independence, greenhouse gas emissions reductions and clean energy generation. Nick Sinai, the Energy and Environment Director for the FCC's National Broadband Taskforce, led the discussion. The first panel explored smart grid technology. A second panel addressed broadband and climate change.

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Broadband, Public Safety and Homeland Security

On August 25, the Federal Communications Commission held a National Broadband Plan workshop covering public safety and homeland security. Split into two panels, the first part of the discussion examined how the National Broadband Plan should reflect the current and potential uses of broadband to improve public safety communications and operations, including the utilization of the Internet and web-based applications. On the FCC's agenda is how best to promote interoperable, wireless-based communications; the relationship between the broadband plan and the FCC's ongoing 700 MHz spectrum auction proceeding; what services are most needed; how to ensure physical diversity and redundancy, and improve hardening of network assets; and how can existing spectrum allocations(e.g.4.9 GHz) meet the needs of public safety. In addition, the FCC hopes to estimate costs for public safety to obtain broadband service, applications, or devices; what funding sources are available; which broadband networks are used for mission-critical communications; what models (e.g.statewide networks) have been successful and what are their limitations; what policies would best promote Next Gen 9-1-1, cybersecurity, pandemic preparedness; and how the FCC can coordinate with other federal agencies, state, local and tribal entities. The purpose of the workshop, in part, is to fill holes in the present record. The FCC believes comments filed earlier this summer are too focused on aspirational goals and not enough on ways of getting there.

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Education and the National Broadband Plan

On August 20, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a discussion on identifying the potential impact of increased broadband access on education outcomes and how broadband policies can help improve those outcomes. The National Broadband Plan workshop included panels on: 1) Innovation, Research and Development, 2) Viewpoints from Media and Society, and 3) the Future of the E-rate. The FCC is seeking ways in which broadband can impact education at the early childhood, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels in a cost-effective manner.

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