Daily Digest 10/27/2020 (Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


Electric Cooperatives Pitch Georgia Solution to Help Spur Rural Broadband Deployments  |  Read below  |  Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor
How One Tennessee County Plans to Reach Universal Broadband Access  |  Read below  |  Ry Marcattilio-McCracken  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Ohio City Hopes to Spur Competition with New Internet Infrastructure  |  Read below  |  Ry Marcattilio-McCracken  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Are Broadband Prices Declining? A Look at the FCC’s Price Survey Data  |  Phoenix Center


Rural Texas School Deal Will Be a Key Test for SpaceX Starlink Satellite Broadband  |  telecompetitor
Comcast to put 12 WiFi hotspot 'lift zones' in Detroit by end of 2020  |  WXYZ
Safety in Name, Commercial in Fact: The Auto Industry Spectrum Squatting Campaign on 5.9 GHz Widens the Digital Divide  |  Harold Feld

Election 2020

Joe Biden Win Could Curb Deals, Revive Net Neutrality in FCC Pivot  |  Read below  |  Todd Shields  |  Bloomberg
How the 2020 elections will shape the federal privacy debate  |  Read below  |  Cameron Kerry, Caitlin Chin  |  Analysis  |  Brookings Institution
What Does the 2020 Election Mean for Space Policy?  |  Via Satellite
Facebook election 2020: Mark Zuckerberg online registration drive signs up record 4.4 million voters  |  USA Today
Campaigns Rush to Submit Facebook Ads Ahead of Limits  |  Wall Street Journal
The weirdly specific filters campaigns are using to micro-target you  |  Technology Review
How politicians target you: 3,000 data points on every voter, including your phone number  |  Washington Post
Twitter sticks 'misleading' label on Donald Trump's tweet about problems with mail-in ballots  |  USA Today
Twitter launches 'pre-bunks' to get ahead of voting misinformation  |  NBC
Former Facebook moderators worried for the upcoming US election  |  Vox
Google says it will ban political ads following election  |  Washington Post
TV Stations, Networks Eye Boom in Political Ad Spending  |  Broadcasting&Cable


US Agency for Global Media Targets Its Own Journalists' Independence  |  Read below  |  David Folkenflik  |  National Public Radio, US Agency for Global Media
Local Journalism: America’s Most Trusted News Sources Threatened  |  Read below  |  Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA)  |  Research  |  Senate Commerce Committee
2 models for regulating social media giants, explained. We could treat them like phone companies, or TV networks. But not both.  |  Vox
Salt Lake Tribune to stop printing daily newspaper, ending a 149-year run  |  Los Angeles Times


Remarks of Commissioner Starks at ABA/FCBA Privacy and Data Security Symposium  |  Read below  |  FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission
Zoom’s end-to-end encryption has arrived  |  Vox


Two Bay Area counties halt COVID-19 test program run by Google offshoot due to data harvesting  |  Los Angeles Times


Commissioner Rosenworcel Releases New Podcast Episode With Kimball Sekaquaptewa  |  Federal Communications Commission

Stories From Abroad

Tech Lobby Asks for European Union Liability Cover to Tackle Hate Speech  |  Bloomberg
Today's Top Stories


Electric Cooperatives Pitch Georgia Solution to Help Spur Rural Broadband Deployments

Joan Engebretson  |  telecompetitor

Electric cooperatives in Georgia have proposed policies aimed at spurring rural broadband deployments. The cooperatives call the proposed policies the Georgia Solution. Although some Georgia electric cooperatives have proposed to build broadband networks in the rural communities they serve, those deployments are not the focus of the Georgia Solution. Instead, the solution is aimed at encouraging rural broadband deployments by cable companies and other providers. The Georgia Solution was filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission as part of a rate case underway at the commission that involves the fee that cable companies pay to connect to the electric cooperatives’ utility poles.

How One Tennessee County Plans to Reach Universal Broadband Access

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance

More than a year and a half of planning and negotiation will culminate in fiber infrastructure laid to every household in one Tennessee county over the next few years. West Kentucky & Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative (WK&T), using its own funds along with money from the Henry County Commission and the state of Tennessee, will extend its existing network to cover the entire county and give residents access to its broadband network and services. The county commission has joined the effort to commit $3 million of its own funds to reach as many as 1,400 homes in what County Mayor Brent Greer explained is the first phase of a countywide build that will take shape over the next 24-26 months. The cost of the first phase will be approximately $8 million, with $3 million coming from the county commission, $3 million from WK&T, and $2 million from the state. By the time it’s through, though,  the project will total $20 million and bring WK&T infrastructure to every home, business, and farm.

Ohio City Hopes to Spur Competition with New Internet Infrastructure

Ry Marcattilio-McCracken  |  Institute for Local Self-Reliance

After years of fielding complaints from residents about the speed, reliability, and poor customer service of the city’s single wireline broadband provider, Springboro, Ohio (pop. 19,000) has decided enough is enough. Over the next year, the city (situated ten miles south of Dayton) will build a 23-mile fiber loop for municipal services and, at the same time, lay five additional conduits to entice additional Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to come in and offer service, stimulating competition and economic development in the region moving forward. Springboro’s model represents something of a middle ground, with the city firmly committing to fiber infrastructure for its own services but also leveraging that investment to build the conduit that will attract additional providers to town.

Election 2020

Joe Biden Win Could Curb Deals, Revive Net Neutrality in FCC Pivot

Todd Shields  |  Bloomberg

A victory by Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election could usher in an abrupt change in the nation’s telecommunications policy, restoring so-called net neutrality regulation and shifting the Republican drive to rein in social media outlets, among other things. Biden hasn’t talked much about the Federal Communications Commission during the campaign, but his party’s platform is specific. It calls for restoring net neutrality rules put in place under then-President Barack Obama when Biden served as vice president and taking a harder line on telecommunications mergers.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was appointed to the post by President Donald Trump, has taken up a Trump administration demand for a tougher social media policy. Earlier in his term he reversed Democratic policies on net neutrality and waved through T-Mobile’s bid to buy Sprint. If Biden wins, the FCC, which currently is at full five-member strength, could begin the new presidential term with a 2-to-1 Democratic majority, allowing it to move quickly. Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly is leaving at the end of the current Congress and chairmen traditionally depart as a new administration arrives. Chairman Pai hasn’t indicated what he’ll do. He can stay on as a commissioner but a new president could strip him of the chairmanship and its power to control what policies advance to a vote. If Pai stays after a Biden win, “he’s denuded of power to do much of anything except to block things,” said Benton Senior Counselor Andrew Jay Schwartzman.

How the 2020 elections will shape the federal privacy debate

Cameron Kerry, Caitlin Chin  |  Analysis  |  Brookings Institution

The 116th Congress opened with great energy and promise for federal privacy legislation across both houses and parties. By the end of 2019, though, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) each released separate proposals, respectively the draft US Consumer Data Privacy Act (USCDPA) and the Consumer Online Privacy Rights Act (COPRA). Despite sharp differences when it came to federal preemption of state privacy laws and individual rights to sue, these bills showed promising agreement on significant issues, including data minimization, individual privacy rights, transparency, and discriminatory uses of personal data In the end, these efforts fell short. The pandemic took up most of the legislative energy and made it more difficult to overcome partisan polarization.

As for whether USCDPA or COPRA will emerge as the main vehicle for privacy legislation in 2021, that will depend on who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee come January. If Republicans hang on to the Senate next year, the SAFE DATA Act will serve as a focal point for negotiations with Senate and House Democrats—and potentially with the White House. But if Democrats take the Senate, COPRA will be the focal point. Whoever sits in the White House will also play into the prospects for privacy legislation. The process will also be influenced by the result of California’s Proposition 24 ballot initiative, which could harden preemption positions by expanding the California Consumer Privacy Act, and by what could be a federal legislative agenda packed with initiatives to address economic recovery, pandemic management, and other crisis responses. While the need for privacy legislation will remain fundamentally the same in 2021, the political situation could look vastly different.


US Agency for Global Media Targets Its Own Journalists' Independence

A regulatory "firewall" intended to protect Voice of America and its affiliated newsrooms from political interference in their journalism was swept aside by Michael Pack, a Trump appointee who assumed leadership of the US Agency for Global Media in June. He wrote that he acted to eliminate policies that were "harmful to the agency and the US national interest." And Pack argued they had interfered with his mandate "to support the foreign policy of the United States." The move set off a firestorm.

Local Journalism: America’s Most Trusted News Sources Threatened

Sen Maria Cantwell (D-WA)  |  Research  |  Senate Commerce Committee

Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released a  report showing the impact of the transformation of news online and the accompanying loss of revenue. The report shows one factor of the revenue loss is the unfair and abusive practices by tech platforms. The impact of these practices indicates the need for Congress to provide the Federal Trade Commission new authority to protect the local news industry. The report closely examines the unfair and abusive practices by major tech platforms that have contributed to the drastic revenue declines. The biggest online platforms unfairly use content, take local news consumer data and divert customers away from local news websites, while providing little in return.  The Congress and the FTC should act to address these unfair and abusive practices to help sustain the competition that local news provides. The report highlights the important role local news and journalists play in communities of all sizes throughout the country.  The report shows innovative new models already being used by publishers and broadcasters based on their value as a trusted brand. However, COVID-19 is also having an adverse impact.  The report shows a 45% decline in print ad revenue in 2020. 


Remarks of Commissioner Starks at ABA/FCBA Privacy and Data Security Symposium

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

We won’t fully bring the benefits to all Americans if we’re advocating for bringing a connection into their homes that is insecure or unsafe. That means we cannot allow data security and privacy to become luxury goods available only to the elite. On the security side, I’ve been vocal about the need to secure our communications networks. In particular, my Find It, Fix It, Fund It initiative brought national attention to the urgent need to support small and rural companies as they work to make their networks more secure by addressing the problem of equipment from untrustworthy vendors in our wireless networks. We need a similar commitment to addressing privacy issues. 

The Federal Communications Commission also needs to do more to protect Americans who benefit from the Lifeline program, the only federal program specifically designed to connect low-income people to the modern communications networks many of us take for granted. I was outraged to learn that some Lifeline customers have received phones loaded with malware that allows outside parties  to install programs without the owners’ knowledge or consent. The FCC needs to do a better job of ensuring that Lifeline recipients get the same level of privacy protections as other

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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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Kevin Taglang

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Benton Institute
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