Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Bipartisan Tech Policy and Bill Barr on today's agenda
- Sens Markey (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT) aren’t buying ITIF's proposal for big tech to write its own privacy rules | Vox
The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit said that oral arguments scheduled for January and now February will take place, partial government shutdown or not. That means the court will hear arguments in the Mozilla et al. challenge to the Federal Communications Commission's Restoring Internet Freedom order. Various groups including the Benton Foundation joined Mozilla in suing the FCC over the decision of the Republican majority to repeal rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, as well as to reclassify both wired and wireless broadband as Title I information services.
[more at the link below]
A majority of the new Democrats in the House have made public statements supporting network neutrality, giving advocates hope that the new members of Congress will have the issue in mind moving forward. Past statements from all 64 new Democrats indicate that at least 45 of them publicly supported net neutrality. Several new lawmakers criticized the Federal Communications Commission‘s decision to rescind the rules in 2017 while others tried to drum up support for the efforts to the use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the agency’s decision that ultimately was unsuccessful. But the effort to use the CRA failed to garner enough support in the last session of Congress. Now lawmakers are unable to use it again. This means legislative options—or waiting out the clock with the hopes of a Democrat taking the reigns of the FCC after the 2020 election—remain the most viable congressional options.
Because the presence of robust broadband and improved digital connectivity in tribal areas could play a significant role in revitalizing many tribal communities, the federal government continues to provide some financial assistance to tribal lands for broadband deployment. Tribal entities and projects in tribal areas are eligible for virtually all federal broadband programs. With a few exceptions, however, there are no carve-outs or dedicated funding streams specifically for tribal applicants or nontribal entities proposing to serve tribal lands. Thus, annual amounts of federal financial assistance vary, depending on the number and quality of tribal-related applications received, and the number of tribal-related broadband awards subsequently made by the funding agencies. Debate has centered on whether federal funding for tribal broadband is sufficient, and the extent to which portions of federal funds available for broadband should be specifically targeted for tribal broadband. In the 115th Congress, bills were introduced to direct federal funding specifically for tribal broadband. Notwithstanding whether federal broadband funding programs target tribal lands, whether or not tribal lands will receive additional funding for broadband in the 116th Congress will likely be determined by the ongoing trajectory of overall federal funding for broadband.
A free texting service used by teachers, students, and parents may stop working on the Verizon Wireless network because of a dispute over texting fees that Verizon demanded from the company that operates the service. As a result, teachers that use the service have been expressing their displeasure with Verizon. Remind—the company that offers the classroom communication service—criticized Verizon for charging the new fee. Remind said its service's text message notifications will stop working on the Verizon network on Jan 28 unless Verizon changes course. "To offer our text-messaging service free of charge, Remind has always paid for each text that users receive or send," Remind said in a notice to users. "Now, Verizon is charging Remind an additional fee intended for companies that send spam over its network." Verizon says the fee must be charged to fund spam-blocking services. Remind statement continued, "The fee will increase our cost of supporting text messaging to at least 11 times our current cost—forcing us to end free Remind text messaging for the more than 7 million students, parents, and educators who have Verizon Wireless as their carrier."
The Federal Communications Commission will move the 28 GHz auction to stage three beginning Jan 14. It will stay with the same number of six rounds per day, and the same half-horu duration, but instead of bidders having to bid on 95% of the licenses for which it is eligible, they must now bid on 100% of those licenses. Unless the bidder has a waiver it can use, if it does not meet the 100% activity level, its eligibility will be permanently reduced. As of round 123, the total aggregate provisionally winning bids (PWBs) totaled $695,103,710 for 2,939 licenses, with the FCC still retaining 133 licenses that had no PWBs. While much of the FCC is shuttered due to the government shutdown, the auction will continue since it is funded through auction proceeds rather than the appropriation process.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused to brief House Commerce 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.
Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai refused to brief Energy and Commerce Committee staff on the real-time tracking of cell phone location, as reported by Motherboard last week. In a phone conversation today, his staff asserted that these egregious actions are not a threat to the safety of human life or property that the FCC will address during the Trump shutdown. The safety of first responders and consumers should be a top priority for the Chairman and the FCC. Commissioner Rosenworcel was available for a briefing but, as a minority member of the FCC, she does not have the authority to direct resources at the Commission. There’s nothing in the law that should stop the Chairman personally from meeting about this serious threat that could allow criminals to track the location of police officers on patrol, victims of domestic abuse, or foreign adversaries to track military personnel on American soil. The Committee will continue to press the FCC to prioritize public safety, national security, and protecting consumers.
There is a growing chorus of voices calling for national data privacy legislation in the United States. Not surprisingly, stakeholders have offered competing visions for what such a law should look like. Designing data privacy legislation involves a complex process that must address a wide array of legal and regulatory issues. To help policymakers understand and evaluate these issues, this report compares how different laws and frameworks around the world address various data privacy issues; describes 30 components included in existing laws, frameworks, and legislative proposals; and explains each one’s likely impact on consumers, businesses, and the digital economy. On the basis of this analysis, the report calls for a bold new privacy framework that expands and simplifies consumer data privacy rights, reduces compliance costs from existing state and federal regulations, and paves the way for more data-driven innovation. Specifically, the report calls for comprehensive data privacy legislation to repeal and replace existing federal privacy laws with a common set of protections, preempt state laws, improve transparency requirements, strengthen enforcement, and establish a clear set of data privacy rights for Americans based on the sensitivity of the data and the context in which it is collected.
The question we face in the digital age is not how to have it all, but how to maintain valuable activity at a societal price on which we can agree. Just as we have made laws about tolerable levels of waste and pollution, we can make rules, establish norms, and set expectations for technology. Perhaps the online world will be less instantaneous, convenient, and entertaining. There could be fewer cheap services. We might begin to add friction to some transactions rather than relentlessly subtracting it. But these constraints would not destroy innovation. They would channel it, driving creativity in more socially desirable directions. Properly managing the waste of millions of Londoners took a lot more work than dumping it in the Thames. It was worth it.
[Judy Estrin is an Internet pioneer, business executive, technology entrepreneur, the CEO of JLabs, and the author of Closing the Innovation Gap. Sam Gill is a vice president at the James S. and John L. Knight Foundation.]
Fight for the Future is taking issue with Democratic leaders’ proposal to develop a “technological wall” to counter Trump’s demand for a physical barrier along the southern US border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) proposed that funding on border security would be best spent investing in technology to scan cars for drugs and other contraband at legal points of entry into the country. “The positive, shall we say almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing,” she said. In an online petition, Fight for the Future said the Democratic position “may seem appealing in light of Trump’s bizarre plan to build a costly and unnecessary wall, but in reality — increasing border surveillance is a nefarious move that widely threatens the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.”
WordPress is excited to announce funding for a new platform, Newspack by WordPress.com, aimed at small- and medium-sized news organizations. Google, through the Google News Initiative, is taking the lead in backing the project and has committed $1.2 million. Other funders include The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which is contributing $400,000; ConsenSys, the venture studio backing Civil Media, which is contributing $350,000; and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is contributing $250,000. An additional $200,000 from a fifth source is expected to be contributed toward the project later this month. Our hope with Newspack is to give them a platform where they can continue to focus on what they do best, while we focus on providing world-class technology and support across their editorial and business operations.
Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss announced that Dr. Christopher Ali is the foundation’s new Faculty Research Fellow and Dr. Ryland Sherman is Benton’s new Research Associate. As the Benton Faculty Research Fellow, Dr. Ali will continue his work on a systematic and comprehensive assessment of rural broadband policy, technology, markets, and stakeholders. In his forthcoming book Farm Fresh Spectrum: Rural Interventions in Broadband Policy, he investigates the relationship between farming communities, communication technologies, and communication policy in the United States. Dr. Sherman is Benton’s lead researcher on broadband accessibility and affordability in underserved communities, working closely with Benton Senior Fellow Jon Sallet on a report to address the challenges in promoting broadband access in America.
FTI Consulting announced the appointment of Frederick Hill as a Managing Director in the Strategic Communications segment. Hill joins FTI Consulting following 17 years of service on Capitol Hill, most recently as the Communications Director for the Senate Commerce Committee where he was the leader of Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD) communications and media outreach team. In this role, he managed communications strategy surrounding the Committee’s priority issues, including efforts to update internet and electronic communications laws, consumer safety, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, and federal space and science programs. Hill will lead the Telecom, Media, & Technology (“TMT”) sector in FTI Consulting’s Public Affairs practice, and will report to Jackson Dunn, who leads the Public Affairs & Government Relations practice in the Americas.
Patrick Halley is USTelecom’s new Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs, the broadband group announced. He joins the association from leading communications law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP (WBK), where he was a partner advising communications providers and trade associations on strategic, policy, and legal matters. Halley will lead the association’s advocacy efforts before the White House and Executive Branch, regulatory agencies, courts, and other government entities in Washington, DC and beyond. Halley has been working in a range of senior roles at the intersection of communications policy and advocacy, including serving at the Federal Communications Commission as Associate Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau. He also served as Acting Director of the Commission’s Office of Legislative Affairs and as a legal advisor to two Wireline Competition Bureau Chiefs and a Chair of the FCC. Before joining the FCC, Halley spent over five years as the Director of Government Affairs for NENA – The 911 Association where he served as the association’s liaison with Congress, the FCC, and other government agencies.
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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