Digital Beat Blog

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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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CenturyLink Buys Level 3

On October 31, 2016, telecommunication company CenturyLink announced plans to buy Level 3 Communications, an Internet “backbone” company that runs infrastructure that connects businesses to the Internet. CenturyLink will acquire Level 3 in a cash and stock transaction valued at approximately $34 billion, including the assumption of debt. The tie-up with Level 3 will provide CenturyLink, which has historically focused on phone networks, the ability to increase its fiber-optic capacity, something that is especially important as it works to bring broadband Internet to rural areas.

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Community Anchor Institutions Served by Government and Non-Profit Fiber Networks

State and local governments have been providing anchor institutions with high-speed data connections using fiber-optic networks for several decades. Indeed, tens of thousands of schools, libraries, community centers, and public health and safety providers obtain their broadband connectivity from local government and state non-profit networks, including state research and education networks. Policymakers should strongly consider developing or augmenting their municipal or statewide governmental or non-profit networks to ensure that their anchor institutions have the highest-quality broadband connectivity, to establish a foundation for economic growth, and to meet fundamental societal needs. Government and non-profit anchor networks generally do not require short-term profits and, in most cases, can focus on long-term and community-based goals. These networks enable anchors to benefit from high bandwidth and reliability at reasonable per-unit pricing. These networks also benefit the private sector; many anchor networks lease excess capacity to and from commercial providers. While some criticize municipal broadband providers that serve residential customers, there are very few objections to networks that focus on serving anchor institutions.

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FCC Acts to Increase Consumer Privacy Choice

In today's digital world, consumers deserve the ability to make informed choices about their online privacy. On October 27, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules to ensure that broadband customers have meaningful choice, greater transparency, and strong security protections for their personal information collected by Internet service providers (ISPs). The rules give consumers greater control over their ISPs’ use and sharing of their personal information, and provide them with ways to easily adjust their privacy preferences over time. The rules are designed to evolve with changing technologies and encourage innovation.

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What Do We Mean When We Say ‘Digital Equity’ and ‘Digital Inclusion’?

In May 2016, digital inclusion practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers gathered in Kansas City at Net Inclusion: The National Digital Inclusion Summit and a funny thing happened on our way to the library: we discovered we were speaking different languages. We were gathered to discuss current and potential local, state, and federal policies aimed at increasing digital equity. But we realized there were a number of working definitions of ‘digital equity’ and ‘digital inclusion’ being used by summit attendees. In the weeks since meeting face-to-face in KC, a working group of us affiliated with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance began meeting online in an attempt to reach consensus definitions for these terms.

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A Telecom/Broadband/TV/Wireless/(and now) Entertainment Behemoth: AT&T Buys Time Warner

On October 22, 2016, AT&T and Time Warner announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which AT&T will acquire Time Warner for $85.4 billion. If the deal is approved, AT&T would become the second-largest wireless carrier, the largest pay-TV provider, and the largest U.S. entertainment company. This blockbuster deal has huge implications for telecommunication, broadband, television, wireless, and the entertainment marketplaces. Concerns over market consolidation, vertical integration, and privacy will all be discussed in the months ahead. We give an overview of the deal and what to expect going forward.

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