Thursday, December 6, 2018
Headlines Daily Digest
Telemedicine sees a dramatic rise in Minnesota, with urban-rural contrast | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Stories From Abroad
Lawmakers are broadly receptive to concerns Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) is raising about the accuracy of Federal Communications Commission broadband maps. But most are not ready to commit to supporting Wicker’s attempt to hitch language to the year-end government funding bill to force the FCC to revisit the mapping. Congress is looking to wrap up its final fiscal 2019 funding measure by Dec. 21. Although Senate appropriator Jon Tester (D-MT) quickly endorsed the idea, others say they are still assessing. “Senator Wicker’s going to be the chairman of the Commerce Committee next year, and if I was the FCC, I’d be listening closely, and I would hope we could send a strong message and some ability to get the mapping to where it’s reliable,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a senior appropriator and member of GOP leadership. “It’s just so unbelievably unreliable.” Sen Blunt said he would want to talk to Sen Wicker about specifics but seemed potentially open to the right measure. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), another appropriator, “still has concerns” about the FCC’s initial mapping aimed at determining eligibility for Mobility Fund subsidies, “but he looks forward to seeing how the challenge process may have improved the map,” a spokesman said. House Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) will “certainly be reviewing the challenge process with my colleagues. The fact of the matter is we can’t just rely on carrier submitted data, which is why I supported mapping funds for NTIA in the appropriations package last spring.”
A Q&A with Mark Muro, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and lead author of the 2017 report "Digitalization and the American Workforce."
The geographic digital divide is as wide, and in fact even wider, than it ever was. The more digital your job is, the likelier you are to be paid well. But then places have very different digital work scales. At the top of the scale, you have these sort of coastal tech superstars that are filled also with highly skilled digital workers, highly educated workers. But then it really falls off and you have many places that have a third the level of digital skills. So we're faced with this spectacle of potentially widening divides between places as the digital "haves" pull away from the digital "have nots."
Public Knowledge joined 19 other public interest, rural, Native American, and consumer groups (including the Benton Foundation) in a letter urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to either issue a new Public Notice examining the classification of text messaging and short codes, or to classify both as Title II telecommunications services.
On December 12, the FCC will vote on a Declaratory Ruling in the “Text Messaging Classification” proceeding. As currently written, the FCC’s draft Order will formally classify text messaging as a Title I information service under the Communications Act. Doing so will enable wireless carriers to discriminate against short-messaging services (SMS) and short codes, the standard five or six-digit vanity numbers used by organizations such as Catholic Relief Services for disaster relief campaigns, or by political campaigns and marketing firms. Public Knowledge, which has long spearheaded efforts to classify text messaging as a Title II “common carrier” telecommunications service, believes this action undermines the public’s right to use text messaging without undue interference from wireless companies. In addition to these concerns, the letter expresses concern that the proposed Order does not address how the potential loss of billions of dollars in revenue will impact the federal Universal Service Fund (USF), the primary federal subsidy for affordable telephone and broadband access.
Other signatories include Communications Workers of America, Consumer Reports, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Tribal Digital Village Network.
Emails and other internal Facebook documents released by a British parliamentary committee show how the social media giant gave favored companies like Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix special access to users’ data. The documents shine a light on Facebook’s internal workings from roughly 2012 to 2015, during a period of explosive growth as the company was navigating how to manage the mountains of data it was accumulating on users. The committee said the documents show Facebook entering into agreements with select companies to allow them access to data after the company made policy changes that restricted access for others. Other emails show the company debating whether to give app developers that spent money advertising with it more access to its data. In other instances, Facebook discussed shutting off access to companies it viewed as competitors.
A series of emails from Oct 2012 reveal Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s keen interest in figuring out how to extract revenue from Facebook’s trove of user data -- and the app developers that relied on it. “There’s a big question on where we get revenue from,” Zuckerberg wrote to one of his executives. “Without limiting distribution or access to friends who use this app, I don’t think we have any way to get developers to pay us at all besides offering payments and ad networks,” he continued. Zuckerberg’s private statements appear to contradict a stance he had long maintained publicly, that app developer’s access was open and free.
With Democrats taking control of the House when the new session starts Jan 3, lawmakers and media players are re-adjusting their strategies and preparing for a slew of new hearings and investigations. Democrats have already started to circle their wagons around Nexstar’s proposed purchase of Tribune Media, with House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member David Cicilline (D-RI) saying that the merger “would undoubtedly lead to mass layoffs in newsrooms at a time when our free and diverse press is already under assault.”
There have been no hearings in the House to examine the effects of the merger of Sprint/T-Mobile. But, while the House can put pressure on regulators, it can’t actually prevent a merger, said Gigi Sohn, Benton senior fellow and former counselor at the Federal Communications Commission. “Sprint/T-Mobile is in front of the FCC and the Department of Justice and is going to get a hearing,” Sohn projected.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that roughly 500,000 comments submitted during the debate over the controversial repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules were linked to Russian email addresses. The disclosure was made in a statement in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by The New York Times and BuzzFeed. In the statement, Chairman Pai refers to "the half-million comments submitted from Russian e-mail addresses."
George H.W. Bush was president before the iPhone, before Netflix, before Facebook. But his imprint was felt on the telecom and nascent tech sectors. “I think the most consequential part of that period would be the leadership in transitioning from analog to digital technologies,” said Al Sikes, who served as Federal Communications Commission chairman under Bush from 1989 to 1993. “We were an all-analog world except for the computer sector.” Sikes counts carving out spectrum for emerging technologies, such as mobile digital devices, as one of the Bush administration’s key tech achievements. On matters of telecom regulation, President Bush favored “a light hand,” Sikes said, a philosophy evident in his veto of the 1992 Cable Act. The House and Senate later overrode the veto. The law required cable operators to carry local broadcast channels without charge and allowed for broadcasters to collect retransmission fees on content. “I can recall meeting with the president who pretty much in what I would call a conservative vein talked about the need to talk about opportunities, not regulating the past,” Sikes said of Bush’s thinking. Andrew Schwartzman, the Benton Senior counselor at Georgetown University, said the Bush-era FCC “largely continued the deregulatory policies” of the Reagan administration.
Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai offered up his own take on Bush’s “light hand” approach during an International Institute of Communicators forum. “In my view, regulators in the communications space would be well-served by President Bush’s prudence,” Chairman Pai said. “That means being skeptical toward preemptive regulation of new technologies — rules that try to predict market failures before they occur. Not gonna do it.” Microsoft President Brad Smith paid homage to Bush’s “thousand points of light” phrase — a message on volunteerism and nonprofit work in the U.S. — tying it to the tech giant’s Airband initiative to deliver wireless broadband to rural America.
A senior Apple security expert left for a much lower-paying job at the American Civil Liberties Union, the latest sign of increasing activity on policy issues by Silicon Valley privacy specialists and other engineers. Jon Callas, who led a team of hackers breaking into pre-release Apple products to test their security, started Dec 3 in a two-year role as technology fellow at the ACLU. Prior to his latest stint at Apple, Callas designed an encryption system to protect data on Macs and co-founded communications companies Silent Circle, Blackphone and PGP Corp. Famed cryptography author Bruce Schneier encouraged Callas to take the ACLU post. “Discrimination in the 21st century is algorithmic. Free-speech abuses in the 21st century are about platforms,” Schneier said. “It is no longer the case that these worlds are separate.”
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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