Daily Digest 11/12/2020 (Marylin Sloan Bender)

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society
Table of Contents


House Democrats Demand Trump FCC and FTC Stop Work on Controversial Items in Light of Election Results  |  Read below  |  Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA)  |  Letter  |  House Commerce Committee
Commissioner Rosenworcel Statement on FCC Activity During Presidential Transition  |  Read below  |  FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Commissioner Starks Statement on the Presidential Transition  |  Read below  |  FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
Bye-Bye, Ajit Pai: FCC Boss Will Soon Lose Top Spot  |  Read below  |  Karl Bode  |  Vice
These are the experts who will lead Biden’s transition at federal agencies  |  Read below  |  Lisa Rein  |  Washington Post
Why Biden tapped several Big Tech staffers for his transition team  |  Ars Technica
Biden Names Ron Klain as White House Chief of Staff  |  New York Times
Who Are Contenders for Biden’s Cabinet?  |  New York Times
With a Biden Administration, Broadband Advocates Have Hope for Lifeline Reform  |  Read below  |  Sam Sabin  |  Morning Consult
Top Tech Companies Begin Pushing Priorities for Biden Administration  |  nextgov
Restoring the Federal Communications Commission’s Legal Authority to Oversee the Broadband Market  |  Read below  |  Gigi Sohn  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Creating a Broadband Data Dashboard to Support Federal Communications Commission Decision-Making  |  Read below  |  Blair Levin, Gregory Rosston, Scott Wallsten  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Supporting Equitable Access to Education by Closing the Homework Gap  |  Read below  |  Amina Fazlullah  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Using Online Tutoring to Address COVID-19 Learning Loss and Create Jobs  |  Read below  |  Hannah Levin, Blair Levin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Section 230: A Reform Agenda for the Next Administration  |  Read below  |  Matt Perault  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Establishing a White House Taskforce to Promote Digital Market Competition  |  Read below  |  Gene Kimmelman, Erik Martin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Increasing Public Engagement and Transparency at the FCC by Holding a Second Monthly Meeting  |  Read below  |  Blair Levin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project
Have Your Data and Use It Too: A Federal Initiative for Protecting Privacy while Advancing AI  |  Day One Project
A National Strategy on Privacy and Civil Liberties  |  Day One Project
What Biden means for Big Tech—and Google in particular  |  Technology Review


We Do Not Have the Internet We Deserve  |  Read below  |  Ernesto Falcon  |  Op-Ed  |  TechDirt
Vendor chatter for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund heats up on earnings calls; service providers are mum  |  Read below  |  Mike Robuck  |  
Voters Overwhelmingly Back Community Broadband in Chicago and Denver  |  Vice
Everstream strikes $135 million fiber asset deal with Uniti  |  Fierce


FCC Announces More Tribal Spectrum Applications Accepted for Filing  |  Read below  |  Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission
Boingo ‘very engaged’ with Department of Defense and 5G on military bases  |  Fierce
Qualcomm Ventures invests in four tech startups to build 5G ecosystem  |  Fierce
5G’s Early Business Adopters Explore New Generation of Wireless Applications  |  Wall Street Journal
Everything You Need to Know About 5G  |  Wall Street Journal


Bridging the digital divide for students with disabilities  |  Read below  |  Tom Ridge  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The
A Signal Failure: Education, Broadband, and Our Children’s Future  |  Read below  |  Christopher Mitchell  |  Op-Ed  |  Nonprofit Quarterly
‘Telepresence’ robots are making virtual school feel a little more like real school  |  Washington Post
Op-Ed: Remote Education is Rife with Threats to Student Privacy  |  nextgov
Traveling Turtles, Cardboard Playgrounds, and Bear Puppets: How Early Childhood Educators are Ensuring Joyful, Engaged Learning  |  New America
Op-ed: 3 essentials for building an inclusive online school  |  eSchool News


How the Internet Changed Chronic Illness  |  JSTOR Daily
When Kids Watch a Lot of TV, Parents May End Up More Stressed  |  University of Arizona

Elections & Media

Warnock campaign calls Facebook, Google extending ad bans 'irresponsible' ahead of Georgia runoff  |  Hill, The
Voters Overwhelmingly Back Community Broadband in Chicago and Denver  |  Vice
Facebook ‘Shredding’ Fabric of Democracy, Biden Spokesman Says  |  Read below  |  Sarah Frier  |  Bloomberg
Sacha Baron Cohen to Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook Spreading ‘Lies About Voter Fraud': ‘History Will Judge You’  |  Wrap, The
How Big Tech ‘Dodged a Bullet’ With a Biden Victory  |  Wrap, The
Republicans spent millions on last-minute voting ads on Facebook  |  Technology Review
Tech companies brace for the long haul with Trump’s unrelenting attacks on election outcome  |  Washington Post
YouTube Election Loophole Lets Some False Trump-Win Videos Spread  |  Bloomberg
MSNBC’s Jon Meacham problem  |  Washington Post


Facebook and Google Extend Bans on Political Ads  |  Wall Street Journal
Social-Media Companies Took an Aggressive Stance During the Election. Will It Continue?  |  Wall Street Journal
Podcast: Online Free Speech and Section 230  |  Technology Policy Institute
Fact-Checked on Facebook and Twitter, Conservatives Switch Their Apps  |  New York Times

COVID Response

Los Angeles Film Shoots at 47% of Pre-COVID Levels, FilmLA Says  |  Wrap, The
COVID-19 Is Pushing School Tech Departments to Their Limits — and Then Some  |  EdSurge
Digital Cities 2020: IT Foundation Key to COVID Response  |  Government Technology
Is social media ready for a Covid-19 vaccine?  |  Vox


Four Ways to Promote Digital Inclusion for California's Workers  |  Read below  |  Brooke Derenzis, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, India Heckstall  |  Analysis  |  National Skills Coalition


Comcast says demand for streamed content up 80% on its platform  |  Fierce
‘Survivor’ and Other Reality Shows Will Feature More Diverse Casts, CBS Says  |  New York Times


FCC Confirms November 18 Meeting Agenda  |  Federal Communications Commission

Stories From Abroad

Amazon Faces Antitrust Charges From European Regulators  |  National Public Radio
Today's Top Stories

Sample Category

House Democrats Demand Trump FCC and FTC Stop Work on Controversial Items in Light of Election Results

Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA)  |  Letter  |  House Commerce Committee

House Commerce Committee leaders wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons demanding that the two commissions stop work on all partisan or controversial items currently under consideration in light of the results of the presidential election. “We note that you have previously welcomed calls from congressional leaders for the FCC to ‘halt further action on controversial items during the transition period.’ We hope you will respect this time-honored tradition now.”

Commissioner Rosenworcel Statement on FCC Activity During Presidential Transition

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

I welcome the letter from Chairman Pallone and Chairman Doyle. Historically, the [Federal Communications Commission] has honored the transfer of power from one Administration to the next by pausing any controversial activity. I urge FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to follow this past practice in order to ensure an orderly transition of agency affairs. I look forward to continuing to work on the routine and consensus matters currently before the agency.

Commissioner Starks Statement on the Presidential Transition

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

As two of my Republican colleagues observed in 2016, it is long-standing Federal Communications Commission practice that, upon a presidential transition, the agency suspends its consideration of any partisan, controversial items until the transition period is complete. Our congressional leaders have called for Chairman Pai to respect this precedent, and I expect that he will abide by their request.

Bye-Bye, Ajit Pai: FCC Boss Will Soon Lose Top Spot

Karl Bode  |  Vice

His trademark grin. The giant, oversized coffee mug. The time he ignored the public, killed net neutrality at the request of telecom lobbyists, then gleefully danced with a pizzagater thinking it made him look good. But with a Joe Biden win, Ajit Pai’s controversial tenure as head of the Federal Communications Commission will soon be coming to an end. Traditionally, the party in control of the presidency enjoys a 3-2 majority over the FCC and the chairman spot. With a Biden win, the FCC majority reverts to Democratic control next January. As such, Chairman Pai will lose his top spot at the FCC, and experts say he’s likely to leave the agency altogether. Pai’s tenure was a minefield of controversy. In no small part due to Pai’s repeal of net neutrality, which not only eliminated rules preventing ISPs from behaving anti-competitively, but much of the FCC’s authority to police widely-disliked telecom monopolies at all. Instead, that responsibility fell to the FTC, an agency experts say lacks the authority or resources to hold telecom giants accountable (the entire point of the telecom industry gambit).

These are the experts who will lead Biden’s transition at federal agencies

Lisa Rein  |  Washington Post

Even as the Trump administration blocks his access to the government, President-elect Joe Biden forged ahead with a key milestone in the transition of power, naming teams that will begin gathering information about federal operations. Biden’s transition team has assembled a list of 500 experts in federal policy from diplomacy to space exploration who will form the backbone of his preparations to lead the federal government in January, learning from the workforce what to expect at every agency on personnel, technology, policy and program matters. Geovette Washington​ will head the transition team looking at the Department of Commerce. Washington serves as senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer at the University of Pittsburgh. She was general counsel and senior policy adviser for the Office of Management and Budget and deputy general counsel for the Department of Commerce. Also on the team:

Joshua Berman Clifford Chance US, LLP  
Colleen Chien Santa Clara University  
Tene Dolphin Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce  
Michelle DuBois Values Partnerships  
Anna Gomez Wiley Rein, LLP  
Ellen Hughes-Cromwick Third Way  
Karen Hyun National Audubon Society  
Charmion Kinder CNKinder, Inc.  
Paul A. Laudicina Global Counsel, LLC  
Nancy Potok Self-employed  
Pravina Raghavan Empire State Development  
Denice Ross National Conference on Citizenship  
Kris Sarri National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  
Mary Saunders American National Standards Institute  
Patrick Schaefer State of New Mexico  
Kathryn Sullivan National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Retired)  
Atman Trivedi Hills & Company  
Todd Tucker The Roosevelt Institute  
Arun Venkataraman Visa, Inc.  
Kathryn de Wit The Pew Charitable Trusts  





With a Biden Administration, Broadband Advocates Have Hope for Lifeline Reform

Sam Sabin  |  Morning Consult

With President-elect Joe Biden and his to-be-determined administration preparing to take office in January, broadband and consumer advocates are optimistic about the prospects of modernization reforms for Lifeline and other federal programs aimed at making internet and phone services more affordable under a potentially Democratic-led Federal Communications Commission. “In light of the pandemic and the pressure on internet use and the needs for internet access — for schools and for health care and lots of other critical needs — there’s more light on the issue of the digital divide,” said Amina Fazlullah, digital equity counsel at Common Sense Media, an advocacy group that focuses mostly on children’s media and internet issues. “A new administration would take that up and take it on more seriously.” “If we’re looking at economic recovery across the country, everybody needs to be connected to broadband. That’s why we have these Universal Service programs,” said Olivia Wein, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center who focuses on Lifeline and other utility and energy issues. “And we know that cost is a barrier and that it is a solvable problem.”

Restoring the Federal Communications Commission’s Legal Authority to Oversee the Broadband Market

Gigi Sohn  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

The next leadership team of the Federal Communications Commission must prioritize restoring the agency’s authority to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market. Under the next administration, FCC leadership should quickly commence a proceeding proposing to reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This reclassification puts the FCC on the firmest legal ground to

  1. Restore or strengthen the 2015 network neutrality rules that prohibit providers of broadband Internet access from blocking, throttling, or otherwise discriminating against certain Internet traffic
  2. Fund broadband through the FCC’s four universal service programs
  3. Protect consumers from fraud and privacy violations
  4. Promote broadband competition, and
  5. Protect public safety.

FCC leadership should simultaneously work with Congress to develop legislation to codify this authority as law, thereby protecting against potential future reversals.

Creating a Broadband Data Dashboard to Support Federal Communications Commission Decision-Making

Blair Levin, Gregory Rosston, Scott Wallsten  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

The next administration should launch a concerted broadband data-collection and analysis effort to support smart, timely, and informed decision-making by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other agencies that work on broadband, such as the Rural Utilities Service. Specifically, the FCC should collect (or work with others to collect) comprehensive data on the following eight indicators:

  1. Broadband deployment
  2. Broadband adoption
  3. Broadband performance
  4. Competition
  5. Pricing
  6. Anchor institutions
  7. Specialized networks
  8. International benchmarks

These data should be centralized on a “broadband data dashboard” to support informed decision-making by the FCC as well as analysis and application by stakeholders in government and industry as well as the general public. The dashboard would also support the FCC in developing and assessing progress towards clear, quantifiable goals for each indicator.

Supporting Equitable Access to Education by Closing the Homework Gap

Amina Fazlullah  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

The next administration should maximize the use of all available policy tools to close the homework gap and keep it closed. First, the Federal Communications Commission should update the existing E-rate program to allow schools to ensure home access to broadband for every student and teacher (Pre-K to Grade 12). Second, the FCC, in coordination with the Department of Education, should launch a one-to-one device program for students and teachers (Pre-K to Grade 12). Third, the FCC should incentivize the deployment of “future-proof” networks that are capable of at least 100/100 mbps to meet the needs of distance learning. Fourth and finally, the FCC should provide schools and states clear guidance on the key data needed to assess their homework gap and include this data in a public facing dashboard for broader stakeholder analysis.

Using Online Tutoring to Address COVID-19 Learning Loss and Create Jobs

Hannah Levin, Blair Levin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

The next administration should create a plan for a public, online platform to connect teachers with college students and recent graduates to serve as tutors for K-12 students. One-on-one tutoring is a proven intervention that improves children’s educational competencies and increases students’ self-confidence. Along with supporting students, this platform could provide needed employment for young adults and enable teachers and students together to produce improved educational outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of more than 124,000 schools with the majority of students now learning online. Meanwhile, millions of college students have lost part-time work or are graduating into a historically difficult job market that does not have positions for them to fill. Just as the New Deal created work programs that both created employment and improved our national landscape, our country requires creative solutions that can meet the urgent needs of our time, can be quickly scaled up using modern technology and can adjust to the changing needs dictated by the cycles of the coronavirus.

Section 230: A Reform Agenda for the Next Administration

Matt Perault  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

Section 230 has been the subject of bipartisan criticism in Washington, with both President Trump and former Vice President Biden arguing that the controversial law should be revoked. As the election has approached, a flurry of legislative proposals have taken aim at the law. This paper argues that the next administration should take a more targeted approach, focusing on changes that will deter some of the most harmful forms of speech while also preserving the features of tech platforms that are essential to online expression. Specifically, the next administration should modernize federal criminal law for the digital age to prohibit problematic online speech like voter suppression and incitement to riot, require platforms to comply with court orders to remove illegal content, define what it means for a platform to “develop” content, work with platforms on reporting options that will facilitate individual accountability, and incentivize platforms to share data that will inform future product design and policymaking.

Establishing a White House Taskforce to Promote Digital Market Competition

Gene Kimmelman, Erik Martin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

In the last two decades, the digital marketplace has transformed the majority of the economy and the daily lives of billions of people worldwide. This transformation has delivered great gains to consumers and unlocked whole new technological opportunities for society to thrive. However, amidst these gains, palpable consumer harms and anti-competitive behaviors have also become clearer, and the bottom-up innovative dynamism that ushered forth the digital marketplace is increasingly under threat. The next administration should establish a White House Taskforce focused on promoting digital market competition. This executive memo supports its establishment on day one of the next Presidential term.

Increasing Public Engagement and Transparency at the FCC by Holding a Second Monthly Meeting

Blair Levin  |  Analysis  |  Day One Project

This proposal outlines a series of actions to introduce a second monthly meeting of the five commissioners who comprise the Federal Communications Commission. During the additional meeting, FCC staff should present on major items that might be brought before the Commission for a vote in the next several months. This forward-looking monthly meeting gives the public information needed to provide meaningful input to the Commission prior to its decision-making. The meeting would also improve the Commissioners’ own ability to respond to policy recommendations.

We Do Not Have the Internet We Deserve

Ernesto Falcon  |  Op-Ed  |  TechDirt

Nothing that currently exists can compete with fiber. Nothing replicates the future growth fiber networks will deliver, simply because nothing that moves data has the inherent capacity of a fiber wire. It isn’t even close by any technical measurement. However, barely 30 percent of Americans have access to fiber infrastructure, despite the fact that 100 percent of Americans have become dependent on high-speed access during the pandemic. If we break down the barriers that are suppressing the parties most ready to deploy fiber, 21st century infrastructure will come. First, if the large private ISP model has failed (and it has), we need to start exploring our alternatives. One such alternative is simply having the government build the infrastructure and make it open to all comers. The only way we are going to get everyone connected to 21st century ready access is the same way we did it with the roads, electricity, and water: the government needs to lead. Internet access needs to be part of its infrastructure policy, especially light of the private sector failing to deliver to all people.

[Ernesto Falcon is Senior Legislative Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation]

Vendor chatter for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund heats up on earnings calls; service providers are mum

Mike Robuck  |  

While carriers were tight-lipped about their Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) prospects during the recent round of earnings reports, vendors talked openly about their opportunities. While the first phase of reverse auctions will run until the bidding stops, vendors are seeing piles of money in the not-too-distant future. While all-fiber is obviously the fastest, best option for reaching rural areas, it's costly. There are also fiber-fed copper access options on the table, but fixed wireless may emerge as a winning formula for bidders such as Windstream and Verizon. 

FCC Announces More Tribal Spectrum Applications Accepted for Filing

Public Notice  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission Wireless announced that a second group of 2.5 GHz band spectrum license applications received as part of the Rural Tribal Priority Window have passed initial review and are accepted for filing. The Tribal applicants that filed these 57 applications are now one step closer to obtaining access to this prime mid-band spectrum to help address the connectivity needs of their rural communities. This follows Oct’s announcement that 154 Tribal applications received final approval and were granted licenses in the 2.5 GHz band through the FCC’s firstof-its-kind Rural Tribal Priority Window.

During the priority window, the FCC received over 400 applications to obtain overlay licenses for unassigned 2.5 GHz band spectrum. Successful Tribal applicants will receive licenses for exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz spectrum which can help serve rural Tribal communities with broadband and other advanced wireless services, including 5G.

Bridging the digital divide for students with disabilities

Tom Ridge  |  Op-Ed  |  Hill, The

The unexpected shift to the remote workplace and classroom brought on by COVID-19 has left many families across the country with inequitable access to devices and technology infrastructure, a problem known as the digital divide. For students with disabilities, the digital divide is not only an issue of access to broadband and technological devices, but also about ensuring that the technology is inclusive for their needs. Remote learning is especially challenging for students with disabilities who require specialized instruction and accommodations to access high-quality education, and the digital divide exacerbates this challenge. We must address the digital divide for students with disabilities, and make sure they are receiving the services they require and deserve. Congress has allocated $13.23 billion in CARES Act funding to help school districts manage challenges brought on by the pandemic, and more federal stimulus dollars must come. Schools and policymakers can start by evaluating their current practices for working remotely with students with disabilities. They must also ensure that families have access to the resources and services they need to help their child be successful and pursue their passions. Barriers must be removed to ensure that students with disabilities have access to high-quality instruction that meets their unique learning needs. There is no time to waste.

[Tom Ridge was the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; he serves as board chairman of the National Organization on Disability.]

Facebook ‘Shredding’ Fabric of Democracy, Biden Spokesman Says

Sarah Frier  |  Bloomberg

Bill Russo, a Biden campaign spokesman,  lashed out at Facebook, alleging that the social media giant is “shredding the fabric of our democracy” in the aftermath of the election. “In the days after Election Day, Facebook is flooded with thousands of calls for violence,” Russo said in a tweet. “Some of them are taken down, but many are left up for hours, if not days.” Russo also cited theories about a fraudulent U.S. election going viral on Facebook, despite no evidence of widespread fraud. In most cases where users post false or misleading election-related content, Facebook applies a label with a link to its voter information center, instead of directly saying whether the posting is false. Often that’s because the company’s third-party fact checkers haven’t yet been able to review the content, according to Facebook.

A Signal Failure: Education, Broadband, and Our Children’s Future

Christopher Mitchell  |  Op-Ed  |  Nonprofit Quarterly

Solving the problems of internet access goes well beyond throwing billions of dollars at the companies with the best lobbyists or most convincing executives. There is no single policy to solve the broadband problems faced by the nation. In most cases, better networks and lower prices would really help, but achieving that would require different strategies in rural or urban areas. Challenges around literacy and online safety/security will be more difficult.,Building rural infrastructure requires a long-term focus on what helps the community to flourish rather than how much profit a network can extract from it. The first step to getting everyone connected is to remove barriers. Allow nonprofit and public approaches to at least compete on a level playing field for state and federal subsidies. Embracing nonprofit and public business models may be politically more challenging, but it offers far greater benefits. These approaches do not stop or even degrade if future governments cease appropriating funds—the networks will generate sufficient funds for operation and perhaps even modest growth.

We face a choice. In the wake of the racial justice uprisings, is it time to demonstrate a commitment to real equity by building better networks using nonprofit and public business models? Doing so will allow communities to permanently solve connectivity challenges, improving equity in education, healthcare, and far more.

[Christopher Mitchell is Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).]

Four Ways to Promote Digital Inclusion for California's Workers

Brooke Derenzis, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, India Heckstall  |  Analysis  |  National Skills Coalition

To support workers and industries now and in a Future of Work transformed by technological changes, policymakers should invest in digital skill building for quality jobs, as well as access to broadband and digital devices. Recommendations for promoting digital inclusion for California's workers:

  1. Create a new digital equity grant program for those most impacted by the pandemic economy.
  2. Expand the use of existing adult education funds to support digital skill building.
  3. Ensure that digital skill building is an explicitly permitted use of existing workforce development grant programs.
  4. Utilize federal funds to provide digital skill building, device access, and digital support for workers in workforce development programs.

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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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