Friday, January 25, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
- Farhad Manjoo: The controversy over the Covington students shows why American journalism should disengage from Twitter | New York Times
Stories From Abroad
Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to President Donald Trump who has spent decades plying the dark arts of scandal-mongering and dirty tricks to help influence American political campaigns, was arrested after an indictment was unsealed in the special counsel investigation. Stone was charged with seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, making false statements and witness tampering, according to the special counsel’s office. Three senior Trump campaign officials have told Mueller’s team that Stone created the impression that he was a conduit for inside information from WikiLeaks. Stone not only seemed to predict WikiLeaks’ actions, but also that he took credit afterward for the timing of its disclosures that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Stone indicated that he had advance knowledge that a trove of information damaging to Clinton’s campaign might be about to spill into public, and even suggested that he had personally spoken to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. Stone has acknowledged exchanging messages during the 2016 campaign with Guccifer 2.0, a Twitter persona that U.S. intelligence officials say was a front operated by Russian military officers who conspired to hack Democratic emails.
In the months leading up to the Federal Communications Commission assault on net neutrality, big telecom and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told anybody who’d listen that killing net neutrality would boost broadband industry investment, spark job creation, and drive broadband into underserved areas at an unprecedented rate. As it turns out, none of those promises were actually true. Despite the FCC voting to kill the popular consumer protections in Dec 2017, Comcast’s latest earnings report indicates that the cable giant’s capital expenditures (CAPEX) for 2018 actually decreased 3 percent. The revelation comes on the heels by similar statements by Verizon and Charter Spectrum that they’d also be seeing lower network investment numbers in 2018.
It’s not expected to get any better in 2019. “The cornerstone of Ajit Pai’s net neutrality repeal order has quickly crumbled,” said Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. “The broadband industry's reduction in investment and CAPEX in the wake of Ajit Pai’s repeal of the net neutrality rules proves what advocates for Internet openness have known all along—neither the rules nor Title II authority had any effect on broadband investment.”
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai requesting information about what communications may have taken place between FCC and FCC licensees relating to legal challenges of the Commission’s Accelerating Wireless Broadband Deployment by Removing Barriers to Infrastructure InvestmentDeclaratory Ruling and Third Report and Order. It has come to Pallone and Doyle’s attention that the FCC may have sought to stack the deck against local governments by directing carriers to challenge the Order in separate circuit court jurisdictions, with the goal of moving the case out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Democrats requested that Chairman Pai provide answers to the following questions and provide the requested documents within three weeks of the FCC receiving normal operational funding:
- Did the FCC have communications with an FCC licensee relating to the legal challenges or potential legal challenges of the Order?
- If so, identify every person(s) and/or FCC employee(s) involved in the communication(s), describe in detail the communication(s), and provide all documents in your possession, custody, or control relating to such communication(s).
- Did any person at the FCC and/or FCC employee at the FCC urge an FCC licensee to challenge the Order?
- To the extent that an FCC licensee refused to challenge the Order, has any person at the FCC and/or FCC employee threatened or taken adverse action against such FCC licensee, including but not limited to delaying consideration of items or issue of interest to such person?
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and the Office of Economics and Analytics report that there were no bids, withdrawals, or proactive activity rule waivers placed in round 176 of Auction 101, the FCC’s auction of licenses in the 27.5–28.35 GHz (28 GHz) band. Therefore, bidding in the FCC’s first auction of Upper Microwave Flexible Use Service (UMFUS) licenses has concluded under the simultaneous stopping rule. Auction 101 raised (in gross bids) a total of $702,572,410 with a total of 2,965 28 GHz UMFUS licenses won.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said:
The successful conclusion of our nation’s first high-band 5G spectrum auction is a significant step toward maintaining American leadership in 5G. But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels—and won’t. The FCC will continue to aggressively push more spectrum into the commercial marketplace. Our 24 GHz auction will begin soon, and we will then hold an auction of three more spectrum bands later this year. By making more spectrum available, promoting the deployment of wireless infrastructure, and modernizing our regulations—the three components of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan—we’ll ensure that American consumers reap the substantial benefits that will come from the next generation of wireless connectivity.
California’s Public Advocates Office, a nonpartisan and publicly funded agency that advocates on behalf of California residents with respect to energy, water, and communications regulations, strongly recommended a denial of T-Mobile’s proposed merger with Sprint. In testimony given to California’s Public Utilities Commission, the office said the proposed transaction should be blocked “because of the irreparable damage to competition in the wireless market and the low-income customer markets as well as the absence of specific, measurable and verifiable benefits attributable to the merger.” Losing a competitive player in these markets “would create significant risk of parallel conduct and higher pricing for consumers,” particularly if, as proposed, the “New T-Mobile would rival or exceed [AT&T and Verizon] in market share, creating a strong incentive for oligopolistic behavior,” the office testified. The combined company would also “comprise nearly 60% of the wireless prepaid market that predominantly serves low-income customers, placing excessive market power under the control of a single company and creating a virtual monopoly over these services.”
You’ve likely heard of 5G, the next-generation wireless network, and how it will change broadband, the economy, and society in massive ways. Companies have even been falling over one another to say that they’ll be the first to offer this new, “life-changing” technology. The problem? These claims are, as yet, untested, and they could be used to justify actions that would hurt not only the broadband market, but also consumers. This kind of hype isn’t new. The prospect of new technology will always fuel excitement from enthusiasts who believe that it will radically transform the space. Still, it’s important to maintain realistic expectations. 5G may change society in ways that we can’t imagine. But these benefits are years from actually happening—and it shouldn’t be a factor in whether to permit a merger that would harm the US wireless industry and consumers.
[Amir Nasr is a policy program associate at New America’s Open Technology Institute]
Cell carriers claim that you should be able to stream online video on your cellphone almost anywhere in Vermont. But in some places in the state, it's not even possible to make a phone call. A Vermont Department of Public Service official spent about six weeks proving that point to the federal government. Corey Chase, the department's telecommunications infrastructure specialist, drove around Vermont with six cellphones, each connected to a different carrier. The result is the first independent map of Vermont cell service that's rooted in experience. The new map shows that cell carriers have overstated their coverage in large swaths of Vermont.
Open Markets Institute calls on Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to immediately investigate how to protect America’s independent news media from the power and predatory business models of Google and Facebook. The two corporations routinely exploit their position as essential information platforms to divert vital advertising revenue away from the free press into their own pockets. What America’s journalists and citizens need is a regulatory environment that empowers publishers to deal directly with readers and advertisers, and to experiment with new subscription models without moment-to-moment meddling and manipulation by Google and Facebook. As Congress already knows, the Facebook and Google monopolies pose many other immediate and fundamental threats to our democracy, especially the role they play in broadcasting the lies and misinformation that disrupted the 2016 elections and that continue to tear at American society.
Fifteen years ago, I realized you could find almost anything on the internet—music, books, information—except the thing that matters most: people. So I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other. I’ve heard many questions about our business model, so I want to explain the principles of how we operate. I believe everyone should have a voice and be able to connect. If we’re committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone. The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do. People consistently tell us that if they’re going to see ads, they want them to be relevant. That means we need to understand their interests. So based on what pages people like, what they click on, and other signals, we create categories and then charge advertisers to show ads to that category. We give people complete control over whether we use this information for ads, but we don’t let them control how we use it for security or operating our services.
[Zuckerberg is founder and CEO of Facebook]
Google has been quietly urging the US government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online. During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board broadened employees’ rights to use their workplace email system to organize around issues on the job. In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent and a George W Bush-era precedent—allowing companies to ban organizing on their employee email systems—should be reinstated.
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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