Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Government & Communications
Stories From Abroad
There is a new judge hearing oral argument in the Feb 1 challenge by Mozilla et al. to the Federal Communications Commission's recent rollback of network neutrality rules. Judge Judith Rogers is out and Judge Robert Wilkins is in, according to the oral argument calendar on the court's site. There was no explanation for the switch. The original panel had been Judges Rogers, Patricia Millett and Stephen Williams, with Judge Rogers presiding. With Judge Rogers out, Judge Millett will be presiding.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce filed an investigative report on Frontier Communications with the Minnesota Public Utilities Committee. The report says it found Frontier has failed to provide adequate, reliable phone and internet service to its Minnesota customers. The report, which the Connecticut-based company disputed, recommends Frontier be required to refund or credit customers for service outages and unauthorized charges, add staffing to improve customer service and increase investments in infrastructure and equipment.
The world’s biggest social-media companies, under fire for failing to police content on their sites, have invited an array of outside groups to help them figure out who should be banned and what’s considered unacceptable. That solution is creating a new set of problems—public fights, complaints and legal battles. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have made a concerted push to seek out input from hundreds of groups, a growing number of which lean to the right. The companies have become receptive to behind-the-scenes lobbying as well.
Among the initiatives, Facebook has privately sought advice from the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian public-policy group, and its president Tony Perkins, according to people familiar with those meetings. Twitter’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey recently hosted dinners with conservatives, including Grover Norquist, the founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, which advocates for lower taxes. Advisers on the left include the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights group that keeps a list of hate groups.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg pledged to hold public discussions in 2019 “about the future of technology in society,” a reflection of mounting apprehensions — among regulators and web users alike — with the social-networking giant and its peers in Silicon Valley. In a note posted to his personal Facebook page, Zuckerberg said he plans to convene experts and others every few weeks, with the goal of exploring “the opportunities, the challenges, the hopes, and the anxieties” posed by the tech industry. Some of the early issues he identified include the arrival of artificial intelligence, which could displace workers from their jobs, and the role of Web companies to serve as “gatekeepers” of online speech.
The airing of President Trump's address on border security has sparked a debate amongst journalists about whether networks should carry Trump's remarks live, if the president has a tendency to twist facts and lie in these types of situations. Some operatives have suggested that networks ask for a copy of the speech ahead of time, so that they can prepare to fact-check the president's comments in real-time or decide to pull the address from the air altogether. The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty said, "Journalists are going to fact-check every word of Trump's nationally televised speech. And it won't mean a thing to his supporters. Which tells you everything you need to know about 2019."
The decisions by networks to go all-in on Donald Trump in 2016 may sound a distant echo today. But it’s one that is still being heard and felt in the wake of the networks’ decision to air President Donald Trump’s Jan 8 speech about a border crisis that doesn’t exist and a wall that the vast majority of US taxpayers don’t want to pay for. News outlets need to have a deeper reckoning about their role in enabling President Donald Trump’s lies and spreading his racist propaganda. If it’s customary to legitimize a president who seeks to discredit facts and cast truth seekers as “enemies of the people,” then those customs need to change. If it’s traditional to enable the destruction of democratic norms and of policies offering sanctuary to those fleeing political violence, then those traditions are wrong. Journalism serves a higher purpose in a democracy. The networks must work harder to achieve it.
Two years ago I wrote that community broadband builders have two options for network deployment: they could use the problem-solving approach or the creation orientation approach. The problem-solving approach is typical when people deal with the government. The goal is often to make something go away. “Make my taxes go away.” “Make this pothole problem go away.” "Our broadband costs too much, coverage is iffy and customer service sucks!" When community leaders treat broadband only as a problem to be solved, they likely shortchange the technology’s value. Once the network buildout is done, innovative uses for the network become someone else's problem. Luckily, solving the problem of poor broadband availability has justified the investment for many communities. But how much money - figuratively or literally - have they left on the table in terms of subscriber fees, economic benefits, etc.?
[Craig Settles is a broadband business planner who helps communities get more from their broadband investment]
The newly-released 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) Community Report shows a strong correlation between Indigenous connectivity and the well-being and sustainability of rural and remote Indigenous communities, especially when solutions are local. The report summarizes outcomes of the 2018 Indigenous Connectivity Summit that brought nearly 140 Indigenous leaders, policy makers, network operators, and community members to the Arctic community of Inuvik, Nrthwest Territories last Oct. Like most New Year’s resolutions, connectivity solutions are neither quick nor cheap. This is especially true in northern rural and remote regions of the US and Canada with geographic hurdles that make it hard for Internet service providers to achieve economies of scale. It’s one of the main reasons today in 2019, millions of people across North America – yes, millions – still don’t have access to reliable broadband Internet.
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