Thursday, January 24, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
Look for the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet to be active on the network neutrality front now that it is in Democratic hands, according to Subcommittee Chairman Hank Johnson (D-GA). "The internet is a ubiquitous tool in our lives, and as the Trump Administration tries to kill net neutrality, I am eager to take on the challenge of ensuring that the internet remains open to all content regardless of source," he said following his election to the post. "Content must be available without discrimination and accessible to all."
You'll recall that one of the top reasons for killing popular network neutrality rules was that they had somehow supposedly crushed broadband industry network investment. You'll be shocked to learn this purported boon in investment isn't happening. A few months ago, Verizon made it clear its capital expenditure (CAPEX) would be declining, and the company's deployment would see no impact despite billions in tax cuts and regulatory favors from the Trump Federal Communications Commission. Both AT&T and Verizon have similarly announced massive workforce reductions as well. Some investment growth is happening in wireless as carriers prepare for fifth-generation (5G) wireless service (which they would have deployed regardless of the attacks on net neutrality). But even that's a bit lower than Wall Street and sector analysis expected. And according to the latest analysis from MoffettNathanson, both fixed-line telcos and cablecos are expected to see notable declines in CAPEX and investment:
[Karl Bode is a freelance journalist]
For most consumers and businesses, 5G is still an intangible technology that appears to be driven more by marketing than actual results, but Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr tried to synthesize the opportunity in remarks at the European 5G Conference in Brussels. Carr was unable to travel to the event due to the ongoing partial government shutdown, so he recorded a video to share his vision for 5G and the actions regulators need to take to make it a reality. From his perspective, the opportunity presented by 5G will come in three parts: better and faster performance on smartphones, more competitive home broadband and a new wave of innovation and entrepreneurship. “With 5G networks, consumers will be able to see fiber-like speeds at their home delivered wirelessly. That’s going to make it a lot easier and lower the regulatory barriers and the costs for multiple operators to compete for your home broadband dollars, and that’s going to be a very good thing for consumers.”
Wireless carriers would benefit if the Federal Communications Commission were to conduct an incentive auction for the 2.5 GHz airwaves that were allocated years ago for educational purposes, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The FCC in 2018 adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking to consider updating the framework for licensing Educational Broadband Service (EBS) spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. Even though Sprint touts a boatload of 2.5 GHz spectrum, there’s a lot of EBS spectrum that lies fallow across about half of the U.S., mostly in rural areas. Rosenworcel is most interested in closing what she calls the “homework gap,” where many students don’t have access to broadband to do their homework, a problem she hopes the 2.5 GHz band will help fix. “It is the largest contiguous swath of spectrum below 3 GHz,” she said. “It’s ideal for new 5G uses, so let’s make the way that we distribute it across this country transparent. Right now, it’s anything but, and if we were to develop an incentive auction here, we could make these airwaves available on a more uniform basis for lots of carriers. I think that’s a good thing.”
In comments to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association said the Trump Administration's National Spectrum Strategy should recognize that Wi-Fi is the primary delivery mechanism for broadband and promote additional unlicensed spectrum and critical to any spectrum strategy. It also says the framework should acknowledge that a "balanced" approach recognizes both fixed and mobile technologies and that incumbent users of C-band spectrum--notably cable operators--are important to hundreds of millions of Americans. NCTA has a three-point plan for insuring the strategy accounts for the above "realities": "(1) put unused spectrum to work; (2) increase efficiency and intensity of use of underutilized spectrum; and (3) create careful solutions to enable additional uses, while protecting consumers’ use of existing services in bands where there are intensive incumbent operations."
2019 is likely to see many debates on possible regulatory strategies for social media platforms. We offer several ideas to help shape those debates. First, it’s necessary to prohibit the data-intensive, micro-targeted advertising-dependent business model that is at the heart of the problem. Second, it’s vital that countries craft rules that are appropriate to their particular domestic social, legal, and political contexts. Third, and most provocatively, it’s time to consider non-commercial ownership of social media entities–including nonprofit or some form of public ownership.
[Natasha Tusikov is assistant professor, criminology, Department of Social Science at York University in Toronto. Blayne Haggart is associate professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.]
Facebook has announced changes to how it handles and communicates violations of its policies around the publishing of fake news and misinformation, with the goal of preventing publishers that operate large networks of pages and groups from skirting bans. Starting Jan 23, Facebook says it will reserve the right to take down pages and groups that are simply affiliated with those that have violated the company’s community standards, even if those pages or groups haven’t technically broken any rules. Facebook says this is specifically to prevent users from using an adjacent or other existing page and group as a replacement once another has been flagged and taken down. While it appears the change is focused on preventing people from continuing to peddle fake or purposefully inflammatory content, it also applies to violations of Facebook’s rules on spam and clickbait, copyright-infringing material, hate speech, graphic violence, harassment and bullying, and nudity.
Earlier in Jan it was reported how T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint were selling cell phone users’ location data that ultimately ended up in the hands of bounty hunters and people unauthorized to handle it. That data trickled down from the telecommunications giants through a complex network of middlemen and data brokers. One of those third parties was Zumigo, a company that gets location data access directly from the telecom companies and then sells it for a profit. A presentation that Zumigo gave to the Federal Communications Commission in late 2017 shows it asked the agency to place even fewer restrictions on how some of the data it sells can be used, and specifically asked for the agency to loosen user consent requirements for data sharing. “As breaches become more prevalent and as consumers rely more on mobile phones, there is a tipping point where financial and personal protections begin to equal, or outweigh, privacy concerns,” one of the slides reads. Another slide titled “solutions” suggests that the FCC loosen current consent requirements that are included in cell phone providers’ terms of service, allowing carriers to use vaguer, “more flexible” language.
Apparently, Verizon's beleaguered media group is laying off 800 employees -- 7 percent of its staff -- and is focusing on fewer areas to revive its fortunes. Verizon CEO K Guru Gowrappan said in an email to staff that the business would focus on mobile and video-focused products. Yahoo-branded entertainment and news platforms are particularly important to the unit’s strategy.
The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting regarding Commission announcements on Jan 30. Due to the current partial lapse in appropriations, the items previously set forth in the Jan 3 Tentative Agenda will not be considered at the meeting. If the lapse in appropriations continues through Jan 29, the Open Meeting will be conducted via a conference call. If the lapse in appropriations ends prior to Jan 29 and the Commission resumes normal operations, the Open Meeting will commence at the FCC. As stated above, the meeting will consist of announcements only, and the items set forth in the Jan 3 Tentative Agenda will not be considered.
Leaders of Japan, South Africa, China and Germany issued a series of calls for global oversight of the tech sector, in a clear signal of growing international interest in seizing greater regulatory supervision of an industry led by the United States. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said his country would use its chairmanship of the Group of 20 nations to push forward a new international system for the oversight of how data is used. Data governance will be the theme when the group’s presidents and prime ministers gather in June 2019 in Osaka for their annual summit meeting. The emphasis will be on expanding World Trade Organization rules to encompass trade in data as well as goods and services, he said.
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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