Digital Beat Blog

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Benton Partners With SHLB to Nourish Communities With Broadband

The Benton Foundation is publishing the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition’s Connecting Anchor Institutions: A Broadband Action Plan because our top priority for 2016 and beyond is affordable broadband access and adoption for all Americans.

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Platforms Without Media?

Party platforms can be sleepy affairs. In recent years, platform writing too often became an exercise of box-checking to “reach out and touch” as many interest groups as possible so everyone felt involved, with an anodyne sentence or two thrown in so these interests felt included. Long on generalities and short on specifics, platforms in recent years were routinely adopted at the party’s convention—and then promptly forgotten. So far 2016 has defied conventional wisdom and political history on many fronts. There are signs that even platform drafting might be affected. Just last week, Mrs. Clinton came forward with a technology agenda strongly promoting universal, affordable broadband and an open internet. We in the public interest community have been fighting for support on both these issues for years, so it is gratifying to see one of the major parties responding. But so far we haven’t heard much on media policy. We ignore media policy at our own peril. An informed electorate is the essential foundation for successful self-government, and media are responsible for providing us with the news and information we need to make intelligent decisions for the country’s future. Media are a public good, as necessary to democracy’s life as oxygen is to an individual’s life.

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Clinton Puts Forth a Tech Plan. Trump Doesn’t.

In what some have described as a “love letter to Silicon Valley”, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton unveiled her Technology & Innovation Agenda. Published on her website June 28, Clinton’s 14-page tech plan provides a detailed and ambitious policy agenda that covers a wide swath of critical telecom policy issues. The plan is organized around five major categories: the Economy, Digital Infrastructure, Advancing US Global Leadership, Privacy, and Smart Government. Below we examine the plan through our lens: broadband access, adoption, and use.

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Livestreaming Shines Bright When House Cameras Go Dark

On June 22, Democrats staged a sit-in in the House of Representatives, demanding a full vote on gun measures. After House Republicans shut-down C-SPAN cameras, several lawmakers began livestreaming the protest via Periscope and Facebook Live. Whatever your thoughts about gun control, the live-streamed sit-in highlights the importance of open government, an open Internet, and access in this digital age.

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Network Neutrality: Now What?

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality rules. So what does that mean, and what will happen now?

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Let Me Hear Your Yawp

I was at my desk when I received news that the US Court of Appeals in Washington had upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality rules. Before issuing my “barbaric yawp” of joy, I closed my eyes for a moment of thanks. When I opened my eyes, my gaze was on a painting displayed in the Benton Foundation’s office, Jack Levine’s “Witches’ Sabbath.” Levine is best known his satires on modern life and “Witches’ Sabbath” was his commentary on one of America’s scariest moments, the age of McCarthyism.

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Net Neutrality: A Historic Decision

June 14, 2016: a historic day for network neutrality. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia released its decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality rules. The FCC’s rules, adopted February 2015, reclassified Internet service under Title II of the Communications Act, essentially ruling that Internet service providers are common carriers. The Benton Foundation has described those rules as the “greatest commitment ever made to preserve and protect and open and free Internet.” The Appeals Court has spoken: net neutrality is here to stay.

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Net Inclusion 2016: Addressing the Digital Divide From Miami to Kansas City

The following is a Guest Blog by Romina Angelelli, a student at Florida International University. In May, Romina attended the 2016 Net Inclusion Summit at the Kansas City Public Library. In the post below, she discusses key insights from the summit and how it connects to her work addressing the digital divide in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

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As Clinton Wins Nomination, Her Tech Circle Gets In Formation

On June 6, the Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton would be the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee. She is now the first women to lead a major political party in the U.S. With the 2016 field now essentially down to Clinton and Donald Trump, both major parties are drafting their platforms for the November election. Which tech policy issues will get attention as we move to the general election? Who are the key players?

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The Keyes to Digital Inclusion: An Interview with David Keyes, Digital Equity Manager, City of Seattle

The following is an edited interview with David Keyes, Digital Equity Manager of the City of Seattle. The conversation took place during the Net Inclusion Summit May 18-19, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. At the summit, Keyes was the first recipient of the Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award for his work championing a holistic approach to closing the digital divide. In this interview with the Benton Foundation’s Robbie McBeath, Keyes discusses his career path, the digital equity work being done in Seattle, and highlights best practices that policymakers can adopt to increase digital inclusion.

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Untold Stories Matter, Too

Billions of dollars are being funneled into anonymous, misleading, special-interest TV political advertisements that fill our living rooms with politics at its ugliest. These ads are aimed at influencing and winning your vote while distorting both the issues and the personalities of the candidates running for office. People, long-since sick of these ads, are also convinced that there is no solution, with Congress unwilling to legislate and an Administration unlikely to pursue the matter on Capitol Hill.

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Lessons from the 2016 Net Inclusion Summit

On May 18th and 19th, I had the pleasure of attending the first (and hopefully annual) Net Inclusion Summit, hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), at the beautiful Kansas City Public Library. Policymakers, academics, city officials, librarians, advocates, citizens, and corporate representatives came together to discuss one of the most important and growing topics in the field of telecommunications policy: digital inclusion. Through their conversations, there emerged several lessons learned and many important questions raised, over how to best promote digital inclusion.

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Digital Inclusion Heroes

We all fully expect the FCC’s decision to impact millions of lives, extending the benefits of broadband to people who, frankly, have faced the very real choice between an Internet connection or being able to put food on the table. I don’t discount that; I ask that, just for a moment, we consider the policy impact of the FCC’s Lifeline order.

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Cities, Technology, the Next Generation of Urban Development, and the Next Administration

My topic today is Cities, Technology, the Next Generation of Urban Development and the Next Administration. It’s a challenge, as we cannot know who will be the next President. One could look to prediction markets or polls but this campaign is as predictable as a game of basketball pitting the best offense in baseball versus the best defense in football. Both major party candidates will be playing in a different game than the one that got them to the final round. Further, not in my lifetime has there been an election in which the political variation is so great. The Presidency, Congress and the Courts could all shift, with a wide ideological delta. Nonetheless we can know some things about the next four years related to this conference.

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A New Charter

Nearly a year after the deal was announced, Charter Communications this week won final regulatory approval to buy Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse Partnership (the parent of Bright House Networks, LLC). The resulting company will be named “New Charter,” which will be the second-largest cable company (after Comcast), and third-largest pay-TV company (after AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast), with over 17 million video subscribers.

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FCC's Lifeline Reform Makes Digital Inclusion A National Priority

The Federal Communications Commission recently voted to modernize its Lifeline program, beginning to shift the program, which has traditionally made telephone service more affordable, to focus on increasing broadband adoption among low-income consumers. The key purpose of the FCC's actions is to increase the affordability of broadband service, which remains the chief impediment to broadband adoption among low-income consumers. In its Lifeline decision, the FCC concluded that low-cost broadband -- coupled with strategic, effective digital inclusion efforts -- will significantly impact the lives of millions of consumers, particularly those with lower incomes and in key demographic groups, such as seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities, rural communities, and those living on Tribal lands, many of which may also have an increased need for access to educational, public health and /or public safety services. The FCC encourages Lifeline providers to work with schools, libraries, community centers and other organizations, such as food banks and senior citizen centers, that serve low-income consumers to increase broadband adoption and address non-price barriers to adoption. The FCC's decision marks the beginning of an ongoing campaign at the agency to build its digital literacy capacity and to keep apprised and abreast of the state of digital inclusion across the country. The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) is charged with developing, within six months, a comprehensive plan for the FCC to better understand the non-price barriers to digital inclusion and to propose how the FCC can facilitate efforts to address those barriers. This plan will address promoting digital inclusion generally and also as it particularly relates to the new Lifeline program.

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Tom Wheeler In The Home Stretch

Last June, this blog noted that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler was at the halfway point of his tenure and that he understood that “[t]he template for an effective chairmanship is to identify major priorities and get them underway as quickly as possible.” The Wheeler era is nearing its end. [Even if a Democrat is elected President, she will appoint her own Chair soon after Inauguration Day.] Although the verdict of history will depend to a considerable degree on whether the courts uphold his decisions, Chairman Wheeler has successfully completed FCC action on several of his major priorities. And, far from letting up, Chairman Wheeler continues to press existing and new initiatives on a schedule that might allow action on them before the end of the year. As has been the case all along, he faces powerful opposition to almost everything he wants to accomplish. And, as the sand empties out of Wheeler’s hour glass, opponents are increasingly resorting to delay tactics in the hope that Wheeler’s successor may not wish to pursue the same goals – or may not do so as effectively.

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Telecom Policy Potpourri

It was a busy week for telecommunications policy. The Federal Communications Commission held its April Open Meeting, and Congress had some legislation move along, including the E-mail Privacy Act. Below, we take a sampling of this week’s potpourri.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

Today marks the first anniversary of Charles Benton’s death. You may have known Charles because you met him at a conference or you spoke on the phone or you read one of his articles. Tall, large of voice, possessed of dazzling grin and intractable hair, Charles naturally drew considerable attention. He was the Benton Foundation for many people. Over the past 12 months, there has been an incredible outpouring of love, support, and fond memories of Charles. My colleagues and I have had the pleasure of traveling around the country to be part of many celebrations of Charles’ – and the foundation’s – contributions. Although one might be tempted to call all this the Charles Benton Memorial Tour, for me, it has actually been a listening tour – hearing not just about what various people and groups admired about Charles, but also about their concerns and priorities as the country considers who will be leading us in the years to come. This year, I’ve been thinking about "Digital Deserts." Despite great gains in achieving universal broadband, a number of “Digital Deserts” persist in the U.S. Many communities and households still do not have broadband service. We want to offer policy recommendations that will transform these deserts into oases of opportunity, and connect them to affordable, reliable, high-capacity broadband. I’m so encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to expand Lifeline support to include broadband service, making sure that millions of American families will no longer have to choose between buying groceries or paying for the connectivity that, for instance, allows their children to complete their homework assignments. But much more work needs to be done. I believe that broadband is a key instrument in addressing economic insecurity.

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Libraries Support Lifeline as Important Step on the Path to Digital Equity

When Benjamin Franklin created the first lending library in America almost three hundred years ago, he established an institution committed to letting loose the transformational power of knowledge. To this day, public libraries stand committed to the principle that information should be available to all, regardless of where you live, how much you earn, or when you were born. Increasingly libraries provide some of that information online, through free access to ebooks, original documents like the New York Public Library’s high-definition scan of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and even software that you can borrow virtually through the Kansas City Public Library. All of these efforts depend on affordable, accessible Internet service.

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