Thursday, October 11, 2018
Headlines Daily Digest
Communications & Democracy
Communications & Democracy
A staple of President Donald Trump’s rallies is criticism of the news media, which he has often labeled as “enemies of the people.” What do the people think? Asked if President Trump’s words were an example of his expressing frustration or whether he was issuing a serious warning when he makes those kinds of remarks, 45% said they believed he was serious compared to 55% who said he was expressing frustration, according to a recent USC-Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. The public also split closely on whether President Trump’s remarks are potentially harmful. A 56% majority called Trump’s language “dangerous,” while 44% called it “harmless.”
A potential blue wave coming for Capitol Hill could leave Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai drowning in time-consuming congressional oversight sessions. House Democrats, who question Pai’s actions on everything from his repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules to his deregulation of the media marketplace, say they would pick up the pace of oversight hearings and make document requests of the high-profile agency head. Pai's headaches could come from various House panels, from Commerce to Judiciary to Oversight. “We’re going to require a lot more transparency than we’ve had under Republicans for sure,” said senior House Commerce Committee member Yvette Clarke (D-NY). She said she expects “a lot more inquisitiveness about some of the unilateral decisions that he’s made,” singling out the net neutrality repeal in particular. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a senior Judiciary Committee member, said her committee "would be warranted in taking a look at" Pai's revival of the regulatory loophole known as the UHF discount, which lets broadcasters substantially exceed federal ownership limits.
The whole multitrillion dollar promise of 5G — millions of jobs and new businesses — is just a pipe dream without infrastructure. Unlike 4G, which can be delivered through a relatively small number of tall towers, 5G wireless service relies on lots and lots of small receivers placed fairly close together. And installing all those little 5G cells is turning into a big fight. Pete Holmes is Seattle's city attorney. Seattle is one of several cities fighting a new order from the Federal Communications Commission that puts a cap on how much a city can charge when a company wants to put a 5G receiver on public property. "This is being done at the expense of cities that are already overburdened trying to deal with homelessness and a host of problems across the country," Holmes says. "We have to essentially give up our property rights, our property values, to benefit private companies that will be doing the expansion."
The Federal Communications Commission is changing the rules for an upcoming spectrum auction in a way that will make it harder for small carriers to buy spectrum for deploying rural broadband. The change—requested by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon—will help the big carriers deploy nationwide 5G networks, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal.
In 2015, the Obama-era FCC set aside spectrum between 3550MHz and 3700MHz for a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and ruled that 10MHz licenses would be auctioned off in individual Census tracts, which are small areas containing between 1,200 and 8,000 people each. Selling spectrum licenses in such small areas was meant to give small companies a shot at buying spectrum and deploying wireless broadband in underserved areas. But big carriers pushed the FCC to increase the size of the license areas, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is complying. Chairman Pai's proposal, scheduled for an FCC vote on Oct 23, would increase the size of license areas from census tracts to counties. Pai's FCC says making the license areas bigger will help carriers use this spectrum for large 5G mobile networks. But small ISPs that would use the 3.5GHz band to deliver Internet service to rural homes say the change could prevent them from buying spectrum. To get a license covering an area smaller than a county, small ISPs would have to buy it from one of the winning bidders.
Sens Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) put pressure on IT company Super Micro, asking in a letter that it cooperate with law enforcement and explain more about the potential breach. Super Micro, Apple and Amazon have all refuted the Bloomberg report that detailed how the Chinese government was able to take advantage of vulnerabilities in Super Micro's supply chain, with the companies saying that their own investigations have not found evidence of a hack or of being compromised in the way described in the report. Sens Rubio and Blumenthal acknowledged the denials, but say that given the severity of the report, they still want further explanation. “The nature of the claims raised alarms that must be comprehensively addressed,” the two wrote. “We are alarmed about the dangers posed by backdoors, and take any claimed threat to the nation’s networks and supply chain seriously. These new allegations require thorough answers and urgent investigation for customers, law enforcement, and Congress.”
On Oct 10, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing titled "Consumer Data Privacy: Examining Lessons From the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.” The hearing provided the opportunity for Sens to hear from privacy advocates about the types of consumer protections to consider in future legislation. Witnesses included: Dr. Andrea Jelinek, Chair, European Data Protection Board; Alastair Mactaggart, Board Chair, Californians for Consumer Privacy; Laura Moy, Executive Director and Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology and; Nuala O’Connor, President and CEO, Center for Democracy & Technology.
The Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said in his opening statement that following the Oct 8 reporting on Google+, “it is increasingly clear that industry self-regulation in this area is not sufficient.” CDT's O'Connor said, "As with many new technological advancements and emerging business models, we have seen exuberance and abundance, and we have seen missteps and unintended consequences. International bodies and US states have responded by enacting new laws, and it is time for the US federal government to pass omnibus federal privacy legislation to protect individual digital rights and human dignity, and to provide certainty, stability, and clarity to consumers and companies in the digital world." One emerging area of consensus among privacy groups and some industry officials is the need for legislation to grant state attorneys general greater authority to enforce privacy restrictions. “Employing their expertise will be necessary for a new federal privacy law to work,” O’Connor says. And Laura Moy said she plans to call for legislation to “enable robust enforcement both by a federal agency and state attorneys general, and foster regulatory agility.” Mactaggart, describing the intent of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), said, "CCPA puts the focus on giving choice back to the consumer, a choice which is sorely needed."
Today’s commercial practices have grown over the past decades unencumbered by regulatory constraints, and increasingly threaten the American ideals of self-determination, fairness, justice and equal opportunity. It is now time to address these developments: to grant basic rights to individuals and groups regarding data about them and how those data are used; to put limits on certain commercial data practices; and to strengthen our government to step in and protect our individual and common interests vis-à-vis powerful commercial entities. We call on legislators to consider the following principles:
- Privacy protections should be broad: Set the scope of baseline legislation broadly and do not preempt stronger legislation.
- Individual privacy should be safeguarded: Give individuals rights to control the information about them.
- Equitable, fair and just uses of data should be advanced: Place limits on certain data uses and safeguard equitable, fair and just outcomes.
- Privacy legislation should bring about real changes in corporate practices: Set limits and legal obligations for those managing data and require accountability.
- Privacy protection should be consequential and aim to level the playing field: Give government at all levels significant and meaningful enforcement authority to protect privacy interests and give individuals legal remedies.
Google’s plan to lower the risk of another privacy gaffe is likely to disrupt business for scores of app developers that build services using the wealth of data generated by the world’s most popular email service. The Alphabet unit said it is reining in the data it makes available to outside developers of Gmail apps as part of a broader effort to secure the privacy of its users. Apps that don’t fall into categories of either email or productivity services will be cut off from all Gmail data, and other developers will be restricted from selling data they collect or using it to target advertising or market research, Google said.
The rule changes, which take effect Jan 9, threaten to choke off the main source of revenue for a cluster of companies in the email data business. Hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who have signed up for email-based services in areas like finance, travel, and scheduling—and often collect information about these users’ buying habits and sell it to marketers. Google’s shift illustrates the tradeoffs tech giants face as they try to maintain an ecosystem of apps offering potentially attractive services and to ensure ironclad data protections for users.
We’re all falling for Alexa, unless we’re falling for Google Assistant, or Siri, or some other genie in a smart speaker. Privacy concerns have not stopped the march of these devices into our homes, however. Amazon, Google, and other tech corporations have grand ambitions. They want to colonize everyday space. The company that succeeds in cornering the smart-speaker market will lock appliance manufacturers, app designers, and consumers into its ecosystem of devices and services, just as Microsoft tethered the personal-computer industry to its operating system in the 1990s.
Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?
As many of you know, since Chairman Ajit Pai took the helm at the Federal Communications Commission, the Commission has been focused on eliminating archaic regulations that no longer make sense. These actions have taken many shapes, from eliminating the main studio rule to eradicating duplicative or non-useful forms at the Commission. In the coming months, I hope that we can bring to order many of these proceedings that we launched in 2017 and earlier in 2018. This list includes rules on how broadcasters inform the public about certain broadcast applications, the delivery of retransmission elections, and ways to streamline reauthorization procedures for assigned or transferred satellite stations. And, I look forward to teeing up the next round for consideration!
I believe we are heading in the right direction throughout our media modernization proceedings. And, it is my hope that we can finally eliminate our siloed approach to regulation in our upcoming quadrennial. If I could find a common theme among these proceedings, it is the need for greater flexibility. That will certainly be my focus in the upcoming months.
The Federal Communications Commission should let phone companies get more aggressive in blocking robocalls, 35 state attorneys general told the commission Oct 9. The FCC in 2017 authorized voice service providers to block more types of calls in which the Caller ID has been spoofed or in which the number on the Caller ID is invalid. But the FCC did not go far enough, and robocallers have "evolved" to evade the new rules, the 35 attorneys general wrote in an FCC filing. The attorneys general said they "encourage the FCC to adopt rules authorizing providers to block these and other kinds of illegally spoofed calls." The industry can also make progress simply by using existing frameworks to authenticate legitimate calls and identify illegally spoofed calls, the attorneys general wrote.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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