Thursday, January 10, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Government & Communications
Stories From Abroad
Harvard Law School's Susan Crawford has written a new book, “Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution — and Why America Might Miss It.” She's assembled her concerns about US connectivity, along with her suggestions how to alleviate them. The data-carrying capacity of the next generation of fiber-optics, known as “5G” (as the fifth generation of wireless telecommunications technology), will give countries that invest in those advanced networks a huge advantage over those that don’t. It’s 100 times faster than the existing 4G technology and far more capacious, allowing simultaneous connections of billions of devices. Which countries are investing in the technology? For one, China, which is planning to cover 80% of its residences and businesses with 5G connectivity by 2025. While the leaders of the USA and China rant and rave at one another, Western companies continue to work closely with those in China, aware that 5G will be a global platform. “In the run-up to 5G, it has been China’s operators, especially China Mobile, which have been a driving force.” But America’s experience with trying to bring fiber to its homes and businesses isn’t auspicious.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) is eyeing a potential hearing on 5G wireless deployment and said bipartisan legislation from the previous Congress from Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) — the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act — could be a good starting point for the panel’s examination. “I would expect 5G and privacy to be among the first issues,” said Chairman Wicker. “I would hope that [5G] would be one of our first hearings.”
As technology evolves, new challenges invariably arise, including for policymakers. Establishing ill-conceived rules could stifle the high-tech economy, especially if lawmakers bow to pressure from influential business interests or self-proclaimed consumer advocates to saddle emerging technology markets with arbitrary regulations or draconian liability regimes. That does not mean that government officials should simply ignore disruptive innovations. To the contrary, newcomers who redefine existing markets—or create new markets—often merit a re-evaluation of existing rules to eliminate governmental obstacles to innovation. As history shows, most concerns about novel technologies eventually prove unfounded or overblown, especially given our capacity to adapt to a changing world without help from central planners. As lawmakers consider how to govern the technology and telecommunications sectors, new mandates or prohibitions should be avoided in all but the most exceptional circumstances. When new services or tools raise legitimate concerns about public health, consumer protection, or competition, lawmakers should resist the urge to act until they first observe how voluntary institutions—the marketplace and civil society—react to supposed market failures, if and when they arise. In the unlikely event that legislative intervention is necessary, Congress should change the law using a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. At the same time, lawmakers should break out the sledgehammer when it comes to tearing down convoluted statutory and regulatory schemes devised in earlier eras— especially schemes administered by independent agencies, which in recent years have pulled out all the stops to remain relevant in a world in which they may no longer have a useful role to play.
Increased investment from the E-rate program’s modernization is helping to improve school Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity. 69 percent of school system leaders are “very confident” in their wireless network’s ability to support one device per student. Ninety-two percent of school systems are meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term goal of broadband connectivity (100 Mbps per 1,000 students in a district), as well as making strides in the FCC’s long-term goals. School districts are still facing significant infrastructure challenges. Due to minimal broadband competition, many rural school districts do not have affordable broadband access. Fewer than 10 percent of districts nationwide report that every student has access to non-shared devices at home, limiting their ability to complete homework assignments outside of school – i.e., the “homework gap.” Furthermore, cybersecurity is a top challenge for technology leaders, and only 12 percent of districts have a dedicated network security employee to address cyber-threats. Additional findings:
- Broadband Momentum – Complementing the short-term gains, this year, more than one-third of districts achieved the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students for all schools – up nearly 100 percent from last year.
- The Cost Barrier – Costs of monthly-recurring, ongoing expenses continue to top the list of barriers to increased district connectivity. However, just 50 percent of respondents cited recurring cost as a top barrier, making 2018 the first year in the survey’s history that ongoing connectivity costs did not get named by a majority of respondents as a major hurdle. What’s more: Three-quarters of districts report paying less than $5 per Mbps for their internet – compared to 60 percent in 2017.
- Omnipresence of Cybersecurity – More than one-third of districts allocates 10 percent or more of their technology budget to network security. A majority of districts (52 percent) indicated that they are proactive or very proactive in maintaining their network security. Meanwhile, 23 percent of respondents report their districts are reactive or very reactive.
Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) has blasted US wireless carriers for continuing to sell their users' location data after they promised to end the practice in June 2018. Sen Wyden renewed calls for Senate to adopt his legislation to ban carriers from selling mobile subscribers' location after a Motherboard report revealed that T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint continue to sell location data to third-party aggregators that are allowing the data to be resold on the black market to anyone willing to pay.
People with disabilities affecting mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive function often move to cities to take advantage of their comprehensive transit systems and social services. But US law doesn’t specify how municipalities should design and implement digital services for disabled people. As a result, cities sometimes adopt new technologies that can end up causing, rather than resolving, problems of accessibility.
As reports emerged that President Donald Trump considered declaring a national emergency to fund a wall on the Southern border, Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wrote on Twitter such a move permits the president to “shut down or take over communications in war or emergency.” It's not clear just how expansive that little-tested power is — if, for instance, a president could use it to hijack TV broadcasts or disrupt Americans' internet service. The section of the Communications Act on “war powers of president” is “striking in its breadth,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said, adding that it’s important to understand what powers become available to the president across the board. “We should be asking the administration what authorities they intend to exercise if they make that declaration,” she said. During his prime time address Jan 8, the president declined to make a national emergency declaration.
The various committees of the House of Representatives are strange, human institutions. They are staffed by whoever holds the majority, which, since January of 2011, had been the Republicans, but is now the Democrats. And with that change, the committees must deal with important business, such as establishing new chairpeople, deciding on organizing principles, and … handling the committee Twitter account. A look at what happened to the @HouseScience account.
I thank my colleagues for their support in electing me chairman of the Commerce Committee. I would also like to thank Sen. John Thune, the committee’s former chairman, for his exemplary leadership these past four years. The chairmanship is a great responsibility given the committee’s broad jurisdiction across diverse sectors of our economy. I look forward to serving alongside our new ranking member, Sen. Maria Cantwell, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build on the committee’s successes and continue moving our economy forward.
Google and other search engines shouldn’t be forced to apply the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” beyond the bloc’s borders, an adviser to the EU’s top court argued. The recommendation—if followed by the EU’s Court of Justice—would be a major victory for Google, which has for three years been fighting an order from France’s privacy regulator to apply the EU principle globally. Maciej Szpunar, an advocate general for the court, argued in a nonbinding opinion that if the EU ordered removal of content from websites accessed outside the EU, there was a danger that other jurisdictions would use their laws to block information from being accessible within the EU. “There is a real risk of reducing freedom of expression to the lowest common denominator across Europe and the world,” Szpunar wrote.
A final decision is expected in coming months from the court, which isn’t obliged to follow an advocate general’s opinion, but often does. No further appeal is possible within the EU.
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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