Thursday, October 22, 2020
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Representatives from AT&T met with Federal Communications Commission staff to answer a Common Cause, Public Knowledge and Next Century Cities letter sent to the FCC claiming AT&T’s decision to grandfather copper-based DSL services – services the groups maintain should not even be considered broadband – somehow underscores the need for full-fledged public utility regulation of broadband. The groups assert that the reclassification of broadband as a Title I service deprives the FCC of oversight of broadband, allowing AT&T “to remove some unknown number of existing DSL connections and replace them with an unknown wireless connection of unknown quality and capacity.” The claim that customers will lose access is patently false. AT&T is grandfathering, not withdrawing copper-based DSL, so existing DSL customer can continue receiving their existing services if they so choose. Beyond that, consumers have, and will continue to have, a variety of fixed and mobile broadband alternatives offering faster speeds – including cable, satellite, mobile, and fixed wireless broadband from AT&T and others.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Minnesota. Consolidated Telephone Company will use a $3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network, which will connect 819 people, 34 businesses and 25 farms to high-speed broadband internet in Morrison County, Minnesota. The grant is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.
Moody’s Investors Service raised its rating on the cable television sector to “positive” from “negative,” fueled mainly by expected growth in broadband. Moody’s expects cash flow in the sector to rise more than 5% over the next 12-to-18 months, based on the continued rise in broadband customers due to the pandemic. Moody’s noted that cable broadband subscribers grew by about 2.5% (3.5 million customers) in Q2, and market penetration rose to 50% in the period, compared to 48% in the prior year. This despite video and voice customer declines in the 4-6% range annually. Moody’s estimated that broadband is replacing video at a 1.9 times clip, rising to 2.2 times in Q2 for the first time in five quarters, a sign of future strength. Moody’s expects broadband subscribers to rise by at least 4% over the next 12-to-18 months, driven by demand for greater capacity and speed. Video customer losses are expected to rise beyond 5% over the same period.
Verizon Communications reported third-quarter results highlighted by increases in total Fios Internet net additions and wireless service revenue. The company reported 139,000 Fios Internet net additions in third-quarter 2020, an increase from 30,000 Fios Internet net additions in third-quarter 2019. Including both business and consumer segments, the company reported 144,000 total Fios Internet net additions, the most Fios Internet net additions since fourth-quarter 2014. Verizon reported 61,000 Fios Video net losses in third-quarter 2020, reflecting the ongoing shift from traditional linear video to over-the-top offerings.
The end-user rarely has to worry or even think about a lot of what domain name systems companies do to keep things humming along. Working primarily in the background, infrastructure companies provide a critical yet completely overlooked service, unless something out of the ordinary, like abuse of the domain name system, or general downtime, happens.
During the pandemic, the Internet’s infrastructure has not only endured, but thrived. The opportunity and ability to scale and support increased work has been fundamental to the increased load the Internet has to bear, and yet most end-users take this fantastic technical undertaking as a given. While it is important to make sure that the world is being protected from malicious attacks and evil actors, it’s just as important to acknowledge the tremendous work being put into making the internet not just safer, but faster, stronger and more accessible.
Senior officials throughout various departments and agencies of the Trump administration are alarmed at White House pressure to grant what would essentially be a no-bid contract to lease the Department of Defense's mid-band spectrum -- premium real estate for the booming and lucrative 5G market -- to Rivada Networks, a company in which prominent Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump have investments. The pressure campaign to fast track Rivada's "Request for Proposal" (RFP) by using authorities that would preclude a competitive bidding process intensified in September, and has been led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was acting at Trump's behest. To push his case, Meadows has sometimes used as his proxy an individual identified by sources in the telecommunications industry as a top financial management official in the US Army.
The policy issues raised by the debate over Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 may be complex, but the Federal Communications Commission’s legal authority is straightforward. Simply put, the FCC has the authority to interpret all provisions of the Communications Act, including amendments such as Section 230. This authority flows from the plain meaning of Section 201(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, which confers on the FCC the power to issue rules necessary to carry out the provisions of the Act. By expressly directing that Section 230 be placed into the Communications Act, Congress made clear that the FCC’s rulemaking authority extended to the provisions of that section. Two seminal US Supreme Court cases authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia—AT&T Corp. v. Iowa Utilities Bd., 525 U.S. 366 (1999) and City of Arlington v. FCC, 569 U.S. 290 (2013)—confirm this conclusion. Based on this authority, the FCC can feel confident proceeding with a rulemaking to clarify the scope of the Section 230 immunity shield. Ultimately, the five commissioners of the FCC must decide whether this legal framework should be adopted in any future rulemaking. But in my own judgment, the FCC’s legal authority to interpret Section 230 is straightforward: Congress gave the FCC power to interpret all provisions of the Communications Act of 1934—including amendments—and Section 230 is an amendment to the Communications Act. The FCC therefore may proceed with a rulemaking to clarify the scope of the Section 230(c) immunity shield.
Reps Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7) introduced the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act, legislation to hold large social media platforms accountable for their algorithmic amplification of harmful, radicalizing content that leads to offline violence. The bill narrowly amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove liability immunity for a platform if its algorithm is used to amplify or recommend content directly relevant to a case involving interference with civil rights (42 U.S.C. 1985); neglect to prevent interference with civil rights (42 U.S.C. 1986); and in cases involving acts of international terrorism (18 U.S.C. 2333). 42 U.S.C. 1985 and 1986 are Reconstruction-era statutes originally designed to reach Ku Klux Klan conspirators, and are central to a recent suit alleging Facebook facilitated militia violence in Kenosha, WI. 18 U.S.C. 2333 is implicated in several lawsuits, including an earlier suit against Facebook, alleging its algorithm connected terrorists with one another and enabled physical violence against Americans. The bill only applies to platform companies with 50 million or more users.
A growing number of legal experts and economists have started questioning whether traditional antitrust is up to the task of addressing the competitive concerns raised by today’s digital behemoths. Further help, they said, is needed. Antitrust cases typically proceed at the stately pace of the courts, with trials and appeals that can drag on for years. Those delays, the legal experts and economists said, would give Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple a free hand to become even more entrenched in the markets they dominate. A more rapid-response approach is required, they said. One solution: a specialist regulator that would focus on the major tech companies. It would establish and enforce a set of basic rules of conduct, which would include not allowing the companies to favor their own services, exclude competitors or acquire emerging rivals and require them to permit competitors access to their platforms and data on reasonable terms.
The 2020 election is less than two weeks away. One of the biggest questions that remain unanswered is whether or not our U.S. election infrastructure is prepared for any potential cyberattacks from hackers, both foreign and domestic. In part 1 of our two-part episode: Rage Against the Machines: Is our Election Technology Safe and Secure? Gigi chats with computer scientist and law professor Matt Blaze to assess the biggest challenges and threats to state and county election systems. While Matt relayed some of his biggest concerns, he also pointed to some potential bright sides unique to holding a general election during a major health crisis. Tune in for Matt’s perspectives on this critical topic, in this episode of Tech on the Rocks!
Months before COVID-19, the Federal Communications Commission voted to loosen broadcasters’ obligations to carry core “educational and informative” content across their networks. The National Association of Broadcasters thanked the FCC profusely, touting that obligations to carry “low-rated children’s programming” would have serious economic consequences when stations were already dealing with shrinking profits. Little did they realize that in just a matter of months, schools across the country would morph into remote learning modalities, placing television and public airwaves in the role of providing educational content for many American families. As a content creator and advocate for children’s and family programming, I was inspired by this watershed moment and wondered if our FCC policymakers and media stakeholders might reconsider their recent changes to the Children’s Programming rules? Spectrum and broadband are here to stay, and both should be scaled to leverage the growing need for quality, outcome-driven children’s entertainment. We are at a pivotal moment in broadcasting and media. Let’s harness the power of media to help close the digital divide and provide quality educational creative programming for kids. COVID-19 may have brought us here, but the zeitgeist was already whirling with new stories, beseeching media to support positive outcomes for children and families.
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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