Monday, January 7, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
The Federal Communications Commission’s 2018 Restoring Internet Freedom (RIF) Order reclassified broadband Internet access service from a telecommunications service to an information service, largely on the basis of an interpretation of broadband service that is fundamentally incorrect. This reclassification gave the FCC the license not only to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules, but to abdicate its role overseeing the broadband market. The most basic tenets of Internet architecture, which remain in place to this day, are that: (1) the transmission of data is provided by the Internet Protocol, (2) applications are provided by application providers which are usually not broadband providers, and (3) the transmission of data is separable from the applications that ride over it. The expert agency that regulates communications should understand these fundamentals of Internet architecture. And the “the factual particulars of how Internet technology works and how it is provided” should matter; even the Supreme Court said so.
[Scott Jordan is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. His current research interests are Internet policy issues, including net neutrality, interconnection, and device attachment. He served as the Chief Technologist of the Federal Communications Commission during 2014-2016.]
Initial Free Press research shows that of the nearly 100 new House members, 70 percent of first-term Democratic Reps have already publicly stated their support for real network neutrality. Some of them fought for net neutrality in previous elected positions — like Rep Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), who as an assemblyman in New York pushed for a state bill to restore open-internet protections after the FCC’s misguided repeal.
Net neutrality isn’t the only bright spot. Nearly a quarter of the incoming class has raised closing the digital divide as a key issue. Rep Deb Haaland (D-NM) named expanding broadband access as a priority in her platform. Rep Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) highlighted the importance of internet access to local business, and Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) called it an essential service for free speech and everyday people.
High-speed internet access is now a critical part of life, but a lack of reliable internet access is hurting rural communities. That’s the case in parts of Washington County, Hyde County, Beaufort County and many other rural areas in eastern North Carolina. Greg Coltrain, the vice president for business development at TriCounty Broadband in Belhaven (NC), said technology isn’t the issue. "We've put people on the moon,” said Coltrain. “But we're still trying to get rural broadband developed across our country. And the reason for the delay is the sheer cost of getting it out." TriCounty, a cooperative, was formed in 1952 to serve areas that had been left without phone service. Now, it’s internet access that tops the list of the cooperative's customer's needs. "It will take assistance,” Coltrain said. “It's going to take the federal government getting involved to help some of these underserved areas. Because they're just so far out."
Some residents and businesses in rural America face a perplexing problem: They know people are trying to call their phones and sometimes failing, but they don’t know why. Landline customers have logged hundreds of complaints with the Federal Communications Commission in recent years about calls that don’t reach them. When a call is dropped, the caller hears a phone ringing endlessly or gets dead air. Telecom experts say the failed calls are most often bound for landlines served by small rural phone companies, though the calls’ origin can be a cellphone, office line or automated system. Efforts by the FCC and lawmakers in Washington, DC, to address the problem have focused on low-cost carriers that route calls through the internet. Big telephone companies like Verizon often use the cheapest available middleman to get long-distance calls to numbers in a local exchange. Critics say some calls are dropped by the middlemen carriers to avoid connection fees that local phone companies charge for accessing numbers in their network, though proving that is difficult. The fees are higher in less-densely populated rural areas than in urban centers.
Tech giants are facing a barrage of tough, negative coverage, with some of the same dynamics that drive saturation coverage of President Donald Trump. Many major news organizations — including The Washington Post, The Atlantic and CNN — are staffing up for greatly expanded tech coverage because: 1) Tech is the new politics. 2) This is partly in reaction to the techlash and partly in preparation for a post-Trump world, when websites can't count on politics to drive massive year-round traffic. 3) Just as in politics, there's going to be overwhelming coverage of the same few actors — in this case, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. So Big Tech will be covered like a presidential candidate — everyone piling on the same story.
Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss announced that former Federal Communications Commissioner and Acting Chair Mignon L. Clyburn has joined the foundation’s Board of Directors effective January 1, 2019.
Nominated by President Barack Obama, Clyburn served as an FCC Commissioner from August 2009 until June 2018, and as Acting FCC Chair from May 20, 2013 through November 4, 2013. While at the FCC, Clyburn was a champion of diversity in media ownership, an advocate for the reform of Inmate Calling Services, and a staunch defender of a free and open internet.
“Mignon Clyburn’s dedication to closing the digital divide makes her the perfect fit for the Benton Foundation,” Furniss said. “Mignon’s experience, passion and guidance will be critical as we consider new ways to provide all people in the US access to advanced communications in a time of both new technologies and social needs.”
Clyburn said, “I am drawn to Benton’s steadfast commitment to access, equity, and diversity. Fast, fair, and open broadband for all people in the U.S. would support better educational, employment, local economic development, civic engagement, and health outcomes. I am excited to join a team committed to creating a new framework for broadband policy in the 2020s.”
Clyburn is currently an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow. Previously, she served 11 years on the South Carolina Public Service Commission and was the publisher and general manager of the Coastal Times, a family-founded, Charleston-based weekly newspaper focusing on issues affecting the African American community.
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.
© Benton Foundation 2019. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org
The Benton Foundation All Rights Reserved © 2018