Analysis

Why The Public’s Love Affair With Silicon Valley Might Be Over

Technology products, services, and sites are now where we get our news, debate topics of the day, and encounter what seems like an increasingly scary world. And people do tend to shoot the messenger. While the benefits of AI, algorithmic content filtering, and consumer electronics are easily taken for granted, technopanic will be driven by fear-mongering reports, fiction, and grandstanding politicians looking for someone else to blame.

The truth is that Silicon Valley is a shiny engine of innovation–and a bit of a frat house. Technology can both save and threaten the world; above all, it’s having an ever-growing impact on everyone’s lives. To use an old Facebook phrase, the public’s relationship status has officially and permanently changed from “friends” to “it’s complicated.”

On Jared Kushner’s emails, the real problem is the media’s hypocrisy

[Commentary] The truth is that there are very few things that each party won’t condemn when the other side does it but defend when their own side does it. But it’s the job of the press to sort out what’s meaningful from what isn’t. In the context of a campaign, both sides will toss any criticism of their opponent that’s handy up against the wall to see what sticks. And in that metaphor, the media is the wall. Something sticks when the individuals who make decisions at newspapers, television networks and other media outlets decide that the story in question deserves extended coverage. Kushner’s e-mails are probably going to get the appropriate level of attention — which is to say, about 1/1000th of the coverage Clinton’s e-mails got. The story will be around for a couple of days, it’ll be a little embarrassing for him, and then everyone will move on. Which is exactly what should have happened to the Clinton e-mail story, given everything we know now. It was at worst a misdemeanor, but it was treated by the media like the Crime of the Century.

The real lesson that the story of Kushner’s e-mails carries is about the media’s mistakes in 2016. We live with the consequences of those mistakes every day.

How Facebook fought to keep political ads in the shadows

It’s easy to see Facebook’s changes to political ads as an attempt to self-impose regulations before the government can force its hand. The change may be a belated one, considering how Facebook has argued for so long that restrictions like disclaimers are impractical. “For political committees, the Internet has become ‘the most accessible marketplace of ideas in history,’” Facebook wrote in its 2011 Federal Elections Commission filing. In light of the news about Russian advertisements, it seems Facebook underestimated just how accessible their platform has become.

Crying Wolf on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse for Low-Income Americans

While the Lifeline program was a crucial step toward providing low-income Americans with internet access, it’s also become the target of uproarious criticism. The reason? A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study recently reported waste and fraud in Lifeline, and the immense backlash even prompted two Congressional hearings on the matter, both of which largely served as opportunities for senators to publicly tear into the program for alleged “waste, fraud, and abuse.”

Thing is, these claims are based on outdated data, given that the Federal Communications Commission has implemented several significant and targeted reforms to root out fraud in the time since the agency collected its data. Weakening the Lifeline program poises the vicious cycle of wealth and opportunity disparity to be passed onto the next generation—and potentially beyond. We shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Top 5 and bottom 5 US metro areas for broadband subscription

In “Signs of digital distress: Mapping broadband access and subscription in American neighborhoods,” the authors also examine broadband subscription, and find that in 2015, nearly a quarter of Americans lived in “low subscription neighborhoods,” where fewer than 40 percent of households subscribed to broadband (here defined per FCC data as 10Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload), and which contain nearly 18 million children.
Top 5 Performers: 1) Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (FL) 2) Honolulu (HI), 3) Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk (CT), 4) New YOrk, Newark-Jersey City (NY,NJ,PA), 5) Boston-Cambridge-Newton (MA,NH)
Bottom 5 Performers: 1) Jackson (MI), 2) Augusta-Richmond County (GA, SC), 3) Birmingham-Hoover (AL), 4) Tulsa (OK), 5) Fresno (CA).

Adoption Persistence: a longitudinal study of digital inclusion impact

The survey effort recontacted 429 past participants of the Connect Your Community project that had participated in a 2012 impact survey and produced findings that show the long-term and continuing impact of high-touch digital inclusion efforts 5 years after project completion. Highlights:
76 percent of all respondents maintained their home internet subscription.
65 percent of those without a home internet connection say cost is the primary reason for them not maintaining their service. 18 percent say it is their lack of a computer.
Only 10 percent of respondents report a lack of interest or need for home internet, preferring to rely on community resources.
43 percent of connected respondents use patient health record (PHRs) portals to manage their health online.
69 percent of connected and 60 percent of unconnected respondents report that they use a computer for their job.
82 percent report that their participation in the Connect Your Community project resulted in a positive workforce-related impact.
Half of the population (50.47 percent) said that they shared what they learned in the CYC project with others outside of the community centers; in their own personal networks.
Only 17 percent of respondents were aware of data caps on their service. Of these, 51 percent report having an unlimited internet plan, while the rest report data caps as low as 20gb or less per month

How big tech became the new titan of television

The geeks are raiding their digital vaults to transform themselves into lords of entertainment – or at least owners of content – and in the process shape what we watch and how we watch. Traditional broadcast and cable networks, giants which for decades shaped popular culture, are scrambling to keep up.

For traditional broadcast and cable networks it’s no longer enough to make hit shows. They must make them available for streaming and downloading on multiple platforms or risk losing advertising and subscription revenues. And to grab a share of those revenues, and to differentiate their products and services, technology companies must own content – either by buying or making it.

A critical survey of the literature on broadband data caps

Proponents and opponents of data caps make conflicting claims about the effect of data caps on prices, network capacity and speeds, subscription, congestion, and consumer surplus. In this paper, we survey the academic literature on data caps and analyze the relationship between the characteristics of each paper's model or data and the paper's results.

We find that model or data assumptions about service differentiation, purpose of the data cap, and amount of competition strongly influence each paper's results. Consequently, conclusions about the effect of data caps are often limited to certain types of service providers (fixed or mobile) and/or to certain types of data caps (heavy-users or profit-maximizing). We find that most proponents' claims about data caps in fixed broadband service are incorrect, and that most proponents' claims about data caps in mobile broadband service are likely to be correct if and only if data caps increase competition. We also discuss how data caps may be evaluated under the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. We find that heavy-users caps on mobile broadband service are likely to satisfy the Order's rules, that profit-maximizing caps on mobile broadband service may or may not satisfy the rules, and that caps on fixed broadband service are unlikely to satisfy the rules.

[Scott Jordan is associated with the University of California, Irvine]

What is the Open Internet Rule?

[Commentary]

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai plans to reverse the agency’s open internet rules passed in 2015.
  • The Open Internet Rule makes sure that the internet, the most important network of the 21st century, is open and available to everybody, and not controlled by a handful of companies.
  • More than half of American consumers don’t have a choice when signing up for internet service, allowing monopolists to make the rules.
  • The Open Internet Rule, as it currently stands, ensures that there is oversight in the internet marketplace.
  • There are four companies, cable and telephone, that provide three-quarters of the access to the internet for American consumers, and they would prefer to be unregulated.
  • The Open Internet Rule is the law of the land that protects consumers. If Congress or the Trump administration’s FCC eliminate the rule, consumers will lose their current protections. Without the Open Internet Rule, cable and phone companies will pick what you see, what you pay, and what you have to pay extra for. Congress plays an important role in the oversight of the FCC and in how the internet is regulated.
  • The Open Internet Rule has been successful in protecting consumers, in stimulating innovation, and in providing good returns for those who provide internet service. If it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed.

[Wheeler is a visiting fellow in Governance Studies. Wheeler is a businessman, author, and was Chairman of the Federal Communication Commission from 2013 to 2017.]

How The FCC is Using Legal Gymnastics to Excuse Itself From Getting Americans Internet Access

The Federal Communications Commission is currently in the process of redefining much of rural and low-income America in reverse when it comes to internet access. The good news: There is still time to tell them that’s a bad idea. In fact, just recently, the FCC listened to calls from stakeholders, as well as 12 members of the US Senate, to extend the time allotted for people to weigh in.

So let’s all get cracking! Let’s not let the agency change the rules for its own homework assignment so it doesn’t have to do the project. Congress told them in no uncertain terms to get real, high-functioning connectivity to all Americans, to every corner of our nation. No one should have to settle for less.