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FCC says fake comments won't delay its net neutrality repeal
The Federal Communications Commission rejected calls to delay ending network neutrality rules over a flawed public comment system, saying it had not relied on thousands of identical or suspicious submissions in its decision making. “We reject calls to delay adoption of this Order out of concerns that certain non-substantive comments (on which the Commission did not rely) may have been submitted under multiple different names or allegedly ‘fake’ names,” the commission said in its final order released late on Jan 4.
The FCC Cited Zero of the 22 Million Consumer Comments in its 218-Page Net Neutrality Repeal
Roughly 22 million people submitted comments during the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality regulatory proceedings. Though there was widespread fraud in the process (many dead people filed anti-net-neutrality comments), the vast majority of them favored the rules that protected the free and open internet. Jan 4, the FCC released its final rule repealing these protections: A grand total of zero consumer comments were cited. “The public can plainly see that a soon-to-be-toothless FCC is handing the keys to the internet over to a handful of multi-billion dollar corporations,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “Despite the millions of comments, letters, and calls received, this Order cites, not even one consumer comment. That speaks volumes about the direction the FCC is heading. That speaks volumes about who is being hard at the FCC.”
The leading lobbying group for Amazon, Facebook, Google and other tech giants is joining the legal battle to restore net neutrality
The Internet Association, a leading lobbying group for Amazon, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Twitter and other tech giants, said that it would be joining the coming legal crusade to restore the US government’s network neutrality rules. The Internet Association specifically plans to join a lawsuit as an intervening party, aiding the challenge to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vote in December to repeal regulations that required internet providers like AT&T and Comcast to treat all web traffic equally. Technically, the Internet Association isn’t filing its own lawsuit. That task will fall to companies like Etsy, public advocates like Free Press and state attorneys general, all of which plan to contend they are most directly harmed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision. As an intervener, though, the Internet Association still will play a crucial role, filing legal arguments in the coming case. And in formally participating, tech giants will have the right to appeal a judge’s decision later if Silicon Valley comes out on the losing end.
Parsing the FCC's Restoring Internet Freedom Order
The Federal Communications Commission has finally released the language of its controversial Restoring Internet Freedom order, which the Republican majority approved Dec 14 against visceral opposition from Democrats--edits to the item continued through this week. Here are some key passages of the final language of a decision that Internet services have celebrated, Democratic members of Congress are trying to overturn, and activists say spells the end of an open internet as we know it. That key language includes that case-by-case enforcement by other agencies of perceived non-neutral actions covers all of the 'net ecosystem--including the Googles and Facebooks and Twitters or the world--and that such an approach is preferable to "thou shalt not" mandates on ISPs alone because it does not nip "new innovative business arrangements" in the bud and allows the "ever-evolving internet ecosystem" to ever evolve. The order defines just what ISPs will have to disclose under enhanced rules that still manage to reduce the reporting requirements in the 2015 order.
Which Republicans could be swayed on net neutrality?
Which Republicans could be likely targets in garnering support for a Congressional Review Act resolution that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality? Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a swing vote who has said she does not support FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s moves; Dean Heller of Nevada; Orrin Hatch of Utah; John McCain of Arizona; and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) says he’s one co-sponsor away from the 30 sponsors required to discharge his Congressional Review Act resolution to undo the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, forcing a floor vote, though Republicans largely back the repeal and President Donald Trump could easily veto the resolution. Lawmakers can’t act until 20 calendar days after the Dec. 14 order is sent to Congress and published in the Federal Register.
What Happens When States Have Their Own Net Neutrality Rules?
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai spent 2017 dismantling Obama-era rules on network neutrality. A handful of lawmakers in liberal-leaning US states plan to spend 2018 building them back up. Even supporters of state legislation on net neutrality think this may go too far. CA State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced a bill that would only apply to behavior within the state, saying any other approach would be too vulnerable to legal challenge. “We're expecting that there will be litigation,” he said. State Sen Wiener said that the internet providers who backed Chairman Pai’s plan shouldn’t flinch at his bill. “They say that, as a matter of internal policy, they adhere to net neutrality.” The internet doesn’t lend itself cleanly to state lines. It could be difficult for Comcast or Verizon to accept money from services seeking preferential treatment in one state, then make sure that its network didn’t reflect those relationships in places where state lawmakers forbade them, said Geoffrey Manne, executive director of the International Center for Law & Economics, a research group.
The FCC Says Consumer Backlash Will Protect Net Neutrality
Instead of expressly banning internet service providers from blocking content or throttling it, Chairman Ajit Pai’s Federal Communications Commission will instead rely on a “consensus” among the general public and—presumably ISPs themselves—that blocking or throttling content is bad. “Most attempts by ISPs to block or throttle content will likely be met with a fierce consumer backlash,” the new rules state. But experts say that the policing after the fact (presumably by the Federal Trade Commission) isn’t going to work, and relying on consumer backlash to serve as a deterrent to a craven industry rife with regional monopolies that have shown little interest in pleasing its consumers does not seem to be a particularly effective way to make sure that companies are serving the interests of the people.
Most adults live in wireless-only households — and where that varies is important
Generally speaking, pollsters are ill advised to ignore cellphone users, if only because they’d be missing half of the country. But there’s another reason that pollsters need to include cell users: The demographics of those with and without access to landlines is stark. Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic adults in the United States live in households that are wireless-only. More than half of black adults and Asian adults do, as well. But fewer than half of white Americans do. Including only landlines in polling — which, we will note, is not common practice at this point — means you’re much less likely to reach Hispanic voters. Or younger ones. There’s a trend undergirding this. Those under the federal poverty level are much more likely to live in wireless-only households than those earning at least twice that level. Income, age and race all correlate to another factor: homeownership. If you own a house, you’re much more likely to have a landline in that house, both because older Americans still have landlines/are more likely to own houses and because people who rent are less likely to have a landline installed.
Why Uber Can Find You but 911 Can’t
Software on iPhones and Android smartphones help mobile apps like Uber and Facebook to pinpoint a user’s location, making it possible to order a car, check in at a local restaurant or receive targeted advertising. But 911, with a far more pressing purpose, is stuck in the past. U.S. regulators estimate as many as 10,000 lives could be saved each year if the 911 emergency dispatching system were able to get to callers one minute faster. Better technology would be especially helpful, regulators say, when a caller can’t speak or identify his or her location. After years of pressure, wireless carriers and Silicon Valley companies are finally starting to work together to solve the problem. But progress has been slow.
FirstNet and AT&T moving forward with IoT, smart city offerings
Following news that all of the nation’s states have opted in to FirstNet’s public-safety network, executives at FirstNet and AT&T are now moving forward with their network buildout plans. But, as FirstNet officials have pointed out, FirstNet is more than just a network. “FirstNet will not only solve today’s communications challenges, but it will create a new, public safety-focused marketplace that offers innovative, life-saving technologies that will help first responders do their jobs safely and more effectively, as well as connect them to the internet of things and smart cities infrastructure, as needed,” wrote FirstNet’s CEO Mike Poth. FirstNet advisor Bill Schrier provided additional details on FirstNet’s IoT and smart city efforts, explaining that FirstNet’s application ecosystem is intended to allow third-party developers to create a range of IoT services for police, firefighters and other first responders. Importantly, he said that FirstNet’s contract with AT&T calls for the company to deliver a portfolio of IoT devices by March, gadgets that could be used by police, firefighters and others to create monitoring and tracking systems, for example. A FirstNet representative couldn’t immediately provide details on the carrier’s FirstNet IoT device portfolio. Schrier pointed out that cities today are investing in a range of IoT-style technologies, from traffic cameras to connected lighting. “All of this has the potential for public safety use,” he said.
I’ve Studied the Trump-Fox Feedback Loop for Months. It’s Crazier Than You Think.
[Commentary] After comparing President Donald Trump's tweets with Fox's coverage every day since October, I can tell you that the Fox-Trump feedback loop is happening far more often than you think. There is no strategy to President Trump’s Twitter feed; he is not trying to distract the media. He is being distracted. He darts with quark-like speed from topic to topic in his tweets because that’s how cable news works. Here’s what’s also shocking: A man with unparalleled access to the world’s most powerful information-gathering machine, with an intelligence budget estimated at $73 billion in 2017, prefers to rely on conservative cable news hosts to understand current events. President Trump may not be trying to divert the media, but the media definitely gets distracted. President Trump’s morning tweets upend the news cycle, with cable news producers and assignment editors redistributing time and resources to cover his latest comments. Statements from the president are inherently newsworthy. But the result is certainly a positive one for Fox: The network’s partisan programming gets validation from the president, and forces the rest of the press to cover Fox’s obsessions whether they are newsworthy or not. [Matthew Gertz is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America.]
Twitter explains why it won’t block ‘world leaders’ — without naming President Trump
Some Twitter users have called, repeatedly, for the social network to block President Donald Trump's account — but a new statement from Twitter essentially says that is not going to happen. Twitter has previously responded to complaints about President Trump's account by saying that certain users' tweets have a “newsworthiness” value that makes it important to stay online and inform the network's global conversation. Its Jan 5 statement expanded on that idea, though this latest explanation did not mention President Trump by name. “Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society,” the post said. “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
Social Media Has Hijacked Our Brains and Threatens Global Democracy
[Commentary] The so-called social media revolution isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Sites like Twitter and Facebook exacerbate emotions like outrage and fear—and don’t help democracy flourish. Social media too easily bypasses the rational or at least reasonable parts of our minds, on which a democratic public sphere depends. It speaks instead to the emotional, reactive, quick-fix parts of us, that are satisfied by images and clicks that look pleasing, that feed our egos, and that make us think we are heroic. But too often these feelings come at the expense of the deep thinking, planning, and interaction that democratic politics are built from. This doesn’t mean reasoned debate can’t happen online; of course it can and does. It means that there is a strong tendency—what media and technology researchers call an “affordance”—away from dispassionate debate and toward strong emotions. Far too many of us have implicitly believed technology would solely be a force for good. But there is almost no reason to think this is true. Many scholars have argued that the world has grown less democratic since the internet was introduced. It is important at least to consider the possibility that these things are connected: That the internet’s democratic promise isn’t what it seems. [David Golumbia is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he teaches digital studies and theory.]
How to Curb Silicon Valley Power -- Even With Weak Antitrust Laws
Technology companies with unprecedented power to sway consumers and move markets have done the unthinkable: They’ve made trust-busting sound like a good idea again. The concentration of wealth and influence among tech giants has been building for years—90 percent of new online-ad dollars went to either Google or Facebook in 2016; Amazon is by far the largest online retailer, the third-largest streaming media company, and largest cloud-computing provider. Silicon Valley titans coasted to the top of the economy with little government oversight on the backs of incredibly convenient products, a killer backstory, shrewd lobbying, and our personal data. They were allowed to grow unfettered in part because of a nearly-40-year-old interpretation of US antitrust law that views anticompetitive behavior primarily through the prism of the effect on consumers. In that light, the tech industry’s cheap products and free services fell somewhere between benign and benevolent. Advocates and students of antitrust point to several strategies that could curb tech company dominance. Here are some:
- Sweat the Small Stuff: To revive competition, enforcers should get tougher on mergers, particularly when big companies buy small ones.
- Check Up on Past Promises: monitoring is particularly vital considering that consumer rights can be eroded in stages.
- Corporation, Split Thyself: Companies could be spin off divisions with user bases and infrastructure to stand alone before regulators come knocking.
- Change the Law, or the Interpretation of the Law.
Critical computer flaws set up security challenge in Washington
Two critical vulnerabilities that affect modern computer processing chips are about to become a huge headache for governments worldwide. The vulnerabilities could allow hackers to pilfer sensitive data from virtually all modern computing devices, ranging from computers to smartphones to cloud infrastructure. Experts believe that they may be the most dangerous computer processor flaws to date. The Department of Homeland Security issued guidance on the matter late Jan 3, noting that while operating system updates could help mitigate the issues, the only true solution would be to replace computer processing units' hardware. This means that mitigating the flaws will likely cost federal, state and local governments a significant amount of time, money and effort. The cyber-flaws, which were originally believed to only be in Intel chips, affect an array of chip vendors including, AMD, Google, Microsoft and Apple, and impacts millions of modern computing systems developed over the last decade.
Fewer Americans rely on TV news; what type they watch varies by who they are
Americans are relying less on television for their news. Just 50% of US adults now get news regularly from television, down from 57% a year prior in early 2016. But that audience drain varies across the three television sectors: local, network and cable. Local TV has experienced the greatest decline but still garners the largest audience of the three, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. From 2016 to 2017, the portion of Americans who often rely on local TV for their news fell 9 percentage points, from 46% to 37%. By comparison, reliance on network TV news declined from 30% to 26%. Cable TV news use remained more stable, with 28% often getting news there last year, compared with 31% in 2016. Even after these declines, local TV still has a wider reach overall for news than network and cable. Some demographic groups turn to each of the three television venues more than others, however. Younger adults are less likely than older adults to often get news via all three TV platforms. For example, just 8% of those ages 18 to 29 often get news from network TV, compared with 49% of those 65 and older.
As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout
Low-power nonprofit FM stations are the still, small voices of media. They whisper out from basements and attics, and from miniscule studios and on-the-fly live broadcasts. They have traditionally been rural and often run by churches; many date to the early 2000s, when the first surge of federal licenses were issued. But in the last year, a diverse new wave of stations has arrived in urban America, cranking up in cities from Miami to the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and especially in the Northwest, where six community stations began to broadcast in Seattle. At least four more have started in Portland. Some are trying to become neighborhood bulletin boards, or voices of the counterculture or social justice. “Alternative” is the word that unites them.
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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