Monday, January 14, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Government & Communications
Stories From Abroad
The Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) Order reclassified mobile broadband Internet access service from a commercial mobile service to a private mobile service, largely by ignoring the integration of the Internet with the telephone network. This reclassification gave the FCC the license to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules for mobile broadband service. How did this FCC get to the conclusion that the most important public mobile service of our time is a private mobile service? It did so by choosing to ignore the entire history before 1994 of classification of mobile services as public or private, and by adopting an implausible interpretation of Congress’s 1994 definitions.
[Scott Jordan is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. He served as the Chief Technologist of the Federal Communications Commission during 2014-2016.]
Upon reflection, it is easy to see that 2018 was a year of widening divides. Communications policy was no exception. In the midst of a partial government shutdown, we take a look at how partisan division at the Federal Communications Commission is shutting down progress towards closing the digital divide. While we expect partisan division to persist, the change in House leadership means we are likely to see more scrutiny of Chairman Pai's deregulatory agenda.
Regional efforts to develop broadband infrastructure are becoming more common.
- In Maine, Calais and Baileyville, two small towns at the eastern tip of the state, are collaborating to create the Downeast Broadband Utility. The dark fiber network will belong to the regional utility, a nonprofit corporation formed for public benefit.
- A group of coastal, rural Virginia communities are enjoying better connectivity. Two counties, along with a nearby NASA facility, launched an effort to fund a fixed wireless and fiber-to-the-home network that is incrementally expanding to more premises.
- In Skagit County (WA), north of Seattle, the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington own and operate fiber optic networks, and Anacortes is building out infrastructure. Public entities in Skagit County are now collaborating to develop a countywide infrastructure and provide a boost to economic development.
[Lisa Gonzalez is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance]
Underserved communities can provide broadband for themselves through nonprofit, cooperative entities. Many co-ops that were originally set up to provide phone service and distribute electricity now deliver broadband as well. Rural electric and telephone cooperatives are fiberizing rural America. Following are a few examples of the hundreds of successful cooperative projects.
- Taylor Electric Cooperative in the Abilene (TX) region, started building Fiber-to-the-Home adjacent to an office it used for network electronics. This allowed it to deliver quickly and at a low cost.
- For decades, Paul Bunyan Communications has found ways to connect people in northern Minnesota. The cooperative started as a telephone carrier, and over the years, it expanded coverage and services. It now offers gigabit FTTH to around 30,000 premises within a 5,000-square-mile area that reaches into six counties.
Although telephone cooperatives have the authority to provide broadband services, electric co-ops’ authority varies from state to state. Rural cooperatives that want to provide high-quality internet access to subscribers in their service areas can be assisted by state and local laws.
[Lisa Gonzalez is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance]
California, Washington and Indiana recently enacted legislation to help facilitate community broadband networks:
- In Sept 2018, Gov Jerry Brown (D-CA) approved AB 1999, which eliminated state restrictions on publicly owned options for rural internet access, clearing the way for rural California communities to develop, fund and operate broadband networks.
- In spring 2018, Gov Jay Inslee (D-WA) signed HB 2664, affecting port districts, which are used to boost regional economic development. Before Gov Inslee signed HB 2664, state law allowed ports to develop and use fiber optic infrastructure for their own purposes within and beyond their geographic borders. If they wanted to serve other entities, they were limited to providing wholesale services within their borders. HB 2664 removed the geographic restriction for wholesale services, allowing ports to work with private-sector partners to bring better connectivity to surrounding regions.
- In 2017, Indiana state lawmakers eased the way for electric cooperatives interested in bringing better connectivity to rural areas. Gov Eric Holcomb (R-IN) signed SB 478, known as the Facilitating Internet Broadband Rural Expansion (FIBRE) Act. The new law facilitates fiber optic deployment by reducing the need to obtain separate easements for fiber lines if cooperatives already possess easements for electric lines.
[Lisa Gonzalez is a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance]
With the recent release of the American Community Survey’s five-year (2013–2017) rolling average data for small areas, new figures show that broadband access rates differ significantly among American Indian reservations but are, on average, low relative to national norms.The Census Bureau has shown that counties’ rates of broadband access are positively correlated with income. We have found the correlation between income and broadband access for reservations is very similar as to counties. This implies that the lower average levels of broadband access in reservations is likely attributable to lower median incomes on average, rather than a fundamentally different relationship between income and broadband access than in counties.
However, the relatively low rates of broadband access in reservation communities may also add to their economic development challenges. Enhanced Internet access may not boost all types of reservation economic activity. For example, if reservation residents increasingly purchase consumer goods online from remote suppliers, employment at local retail outlets may fall. However, the net effects of enhanced access are generally considered positive for economic vitality, including through channels such as increased productivity at local businesses, increased sales to consumers outside the reservation, improved life-style and government services that attract residents, improved medical and educational services, and more. For these types of reasons, tribes and tribal organizations are taking steps to enhance Indian Country’s broadband access.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) offered up an early look at how Democrats in the House may approach net neutrality legislation in the new Congress. "One of the things our committee can do and one of the things we’re going to be taking a look at is introducing a net neutrality bill in the House of Representatives and try to do it in such a way that it sort of concurs with what the  senators voted for so that we have a chance to get this through in the Senate,” Rep Doyle said, referring to the measure to restore the Obama-era rules that won the support of three Republican lawmakers in the chamber in 2018.
Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr praised a US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit decision not to stay the FCC's Sept 2018 5G order. That was the order, motormanned by Commissioner Carr, that took various steps to speed wireless infrastructure deployment. “Yesterday’s court decision is more good news for U.S. leadership on 5G," said Commissioner Carr, issuing his own press release since staffers have been furloughed during the shutdown. "The commonsense reforms the FCC adopted will help ensure that every community sees the benefits and economic opportunities that 5G will enable. And it ensures that needless regulatory roadblocks will not prevent our country’s hard-working telecom crews from building the next-generation networks needed to support 5G. I look forward to continuing our efforts to bring more broadband to more Americans.”
A hundred bucks. That’s what the Federal Communications Commission recently decided is adequate compensation to your locality for processing a small cell application. In many cases, it’s not going to be enough. And if your actual costs are indeed higher than $100, you will effectively be forced by the new FCC rules to subsidize the telecommunications industry—unless you can build a strong and reasonable case for why your actual, documented costs are higher and should be recovered by your community.
Lately we’ve been documenting exactly what “reasonable” looks like. This means sitting down with clients to detail what a proper application and review process consists of, and how long each task consumes in staff time and other expenses. (And no, we aren’t including consulting in the calculation.) We’ve built highly detailed spreadsheets documenting all this. Bottom line: We have found that in some cases a new siting might cost north of $1,500 for a proper review.
[Shawn Thompson is principal engineer at CTC Technolgy & Energy.]
[Joanne Hovis, President of CTC Technolgoy & Energy, is a board member of the Benton Foundation]
It is time to move past the political and marketing talking points to consider both the promise of 5G and the challenge to its realization. First of all, to call 5G a “race” is a deceptive metaphor. A “race” connotes a contest along a common course with a start and finish. The reality is that 5G networks will be built piece-by-piece, area-by-area, and application-by-application over a protracted period of years. The national strategy for 5G needs to move beyond slogans and press releases. We need a laser focus on the two factors most essential to the success of American 5G: ubiquitous coverage and network security. Unfortunately, in lieu of leadership for such a strategy, we are being fed slogans and told to go to races.
[Tom Wheeler is the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission]
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai requesting he provide an emergency briefing to Committee staff on why the FCC has yet to end wireless carriers’ unauthorized disclosure of consumers’ real-time location data and what actions the FCC has taken to address the issue to date. Chairman Pallone wrote that an emergency briefing is necessary in the interest of public safety and national security, and therefore cannot wait until President Donald Trump decides to reopen the government.
“Bad actors can use location information to track individuals’ physical movements without their knowledge or consent,” Chairman Pallone wrote to Chairman Pai. “If recent reports detailing the cheap, accurate, and easy accessibility of legally protected, real-time location data are true, we must work expeditiously to address these public safety concerns. If we don’t, the privacy and security of everyone who subscribes to wireless phone service from certain carriers—including government officials, military personnel, domestic violence victims, and law enforcement officials—may be compromised.”
“The FCC once again appears to have dragged its feet in protecting consumers. While some carriers have now recommitted to stopping such unauthorized disclosure, the public can no longer rely on their voluntary promises to protect this extremely sensitive information,” Pallone continued in his letter to Pai. “The FCC must take immediate action to ensure no wireless carrier is allowing the rampant disclosure of real-time location data and take enforcement action against carriers that violated the Commission’s rules and the trust of their customers.”
Despite the failures of our current online privacy ecosystem, some lawmakers are considering doubling down on policies that do not work. But no matter how much control companies give us over our data, it will never work online. That’s because control and transparency place the burden on consumers to protect themselves and understand where their data is going. And they must do this for every one of the dozens (or more) online accounts they may have.
So let’s try something different. Consider the newly introduced legislation from Sen Brian Schatz (D-HI) called the Data Care Act of 2018, for which we provided feedback in its draft form. The bill, one of the first and most significant moves to establish a new American privacy identity, favors three key non-waivable obligations for companies that use the Internet to collect personal information: duties of care, loyalty and confidentiality. These duties are modeled on the privacy requirements for any fiduciary, such as doctors, lawyers or accountants — all of whom are legally required to act in good faith on behalf of their patients or clients and are bound to keep our disclosures safe and confidential. By embracing trust, the United States can become a leader on privacy instead of following the path of false promises and diminishing returns. Call it legal innovation, if that’s what it takes. But whatever we call it, the United States can pave the way for a safe, sustainable and profitable digital future.
[Woodrow Hartzog is a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University. Neil Richards is the Thomas and Karole Green Professor of Law and director of the Cordell Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.]
For several years it has made sense, in some quarters, to lump together the tech giants — chiefly Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, sometimes also including Netflix or Microsoft. But talking about "big tech" is beginning to offer diminishing returns. Many of these companies banded together in 2012 for lobbying purposes as the Internet Association, and they have long shared a set of common regulatory interests in managing their platforms and services with little government oversight. But as privacy regulation of some kind looks more inevitable, their interests are more likely to diverge. And other social media brands like Twitter and Snapchat aren't interested in being lumped into the "big tech" nomenclature. As different pressures come to bear on each of these companies, they are likely to end up taking roads that differentiate them from their competitors — and make "big tech" less useful as an idea or a category.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) announced the Committee’s six subcommittees for the 116th Congress. The jurisdictions of the subcommittees are unchanged from the previous Congress, but two of the subcommittees have new names – the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce (previously the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection), and the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change (previously the Subcommittee on Environment).“I’m confident these six subcommittees will allow us to focus on our priorities of strengthening the economy, reducing costs for consumers, combating climate change and conducting vigorous oversight,” Chairman Pallone said. The six subcommittees are:
- Subcommittee on Communications and Technology -- Jurisdiction: Electronic communications, both Interstate and foreign, including voice, video, audio and data, whether transmitted by wire or wirelessly, and whether transmitted by telecommunications, commercial or private mobile service, broadcast, cable, satellite, microwave, or other mode; technology generally; emergency and public safety communications; cybersecurity, privacy, and data security; the Federal Communications Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Emergency Communications Division in the Department of Homeland Security; and all aspects of the above-referenced jurisdiction related to the Department of Homeland Security.
- Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce
- Subcommittee on Energy
- Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change
- Subcommittee on Health
- Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) announced the committee’s six subcommittees and the respective chairmen. “In an effort to exercise oversight more effectively and develop policy in the many agencies and departments covered by Commerce’s broad jurisdiction, the six subcommittees have been reconfigured,” said Chairman Wicker. “For example, the new Subcommittee on Security will address the intersection of economic and national security. I look forward to working with all of the chairmen on the committee’s agenda for the 116th Congress.” The subcommittes and chairmen are:
- Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet – Sen John Thune (R-SD)
- Subcommittee on Aviation and Space – Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety – Sen Deb Fischer (R-NE)
- Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection – Sen Jerry Moran (R-KS)
- Subcommittee on Security – Sen Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
- Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather – Sen Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Attorney General nominee William Barr, a former board member of Time Warner, has agreed to recuse himself from the Justice Department's challenge to the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Currently, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is considering DOJ's appeal of a district court decision that the merger did not violate antitrust laws. Barr made the promise to Seante Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). "[I]t is critically important that the Justice Department is able to complete an unbiased review of the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger,” Ranking Member Klobuchar said. “Given Mr. Barr’s ties to Time Warner, this commitment from Mr. Barr to recuse himself from the Department’s review is necessary.” Barr will face the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearings on Jan 15.
Former Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has been tapped to join tech execs, academics, national security officials and others on a new National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Clyburn joins representatives from Amazon, Google, Oracle and Microsoft on the committee, which was created by the National Defense Authorization Act and charged with reviewing the impact on national security on advances in AI, artificial learning and related fields. The commission is tasked with producing a report to the White House by August 2019.
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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