Daily Digest 2/13/2018 (Budget; Infrastructure)

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FTC nominees and Cybersecurity on today's agenda  https://www.benton.org/events

Budget and Infrastructure Plan

Building a Stronger America: President Donald Trump’s American Infrastructure Initiative

President Donald Trump released his legislative goals to rebuild our Nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The six principles include:

  • $200 billion in Federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments with partners at the State, local, Tribal, and private level.
  • New investments will be made in rural America, which has been left behind for too long.
  • Decision making authority will be returned to State and local governments.
  • Regulatory barriers that needlessly get in the way of infrastructure projects will be removed.
  • Permitting for infrastructure projects will be streamlined and shortened.
  • America’s workforce will be supported and strengthened.

The initiative recommends making $200 billion in federal funding available for infrastructure investment, including $50 billion targeted specifically for a new Rural Infrastructure Program. How much of that money might go toward a Trump rural broadband initiative is unclear.

President Trump: We'll Spend 'Great Deal' on Rural Broadband

President Donald Trump says rural areas are going to get broadband as part of his infrastructure plan as a way to address what he signaled was an "unfair" lack of such access. "[T]he rural folks have been left out, including broadband Internet access, which they don't have," President Donald Trump said in a meeting with state and local officials on his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. "And they want it, and the farmers want it.  It will create thousands and thousands of jobs, and increase training for our great American workers, and it returns power to the state and local governments who know best what their people need."

The 22 agencies and programs Trump's budget would eliminate

President Donald trump unveiled his budget proposal for the 2019 fiscal year. While lawmakers are unlikely to enact most of Trump's proposal, here’s a look at some of the centers and agencies the White House wants to abolish:

1. The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education, which donates agricultural commodities and financial assistance to carry out school feeding programs in foreign countries.

2. The Rural Business and Cooperative Service, which provides loans, grants and payments intended to increase opportunities in rural communities.

3. The Economic Development Administration, which provides federal grants to communities in support of locally-developed economic plans.

4. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which subsidizes advisory and consulting services for small and medium-size manufacturers.

5. 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which helps communities establish or expand centers to provide before- and after-school programs and summer school programs.

6. Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, an Education Department program that provides grants to support college preparation for low-income students.

7. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which researches ways to enhance the effectiveness of health services.

8. The Advanced Research Projects Agency, which provides support for Energy Department projects.

9. The National Wildlife Refuge Fund, which compensates communities for lost tax revenue when the federal government acquires their land.

10. The Global Climate Change Initiative, a proposal that reflects Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

11. The NASA Office of Education, which provides grants to colleges and universities, museums and science centers. The funding would be redirected within NASA.

12. The Chemical Safety Board, which is tasked with investigating accidents at chemical facilities.

13. The Corporation for National and Community Service, which funds service opportunities, promotes volunteering and helps nonprofit organizations find volunteers.

14. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds public television and radio stations including Public Broadcasting Service  and NPR.

15. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funds museums and libraries nationwide with grants.

16. The Legal Services Corporation, a nonprofit that provides civil legal assistance for low-income individuals.

17. The National Endowment for the Arts, which funds American artists and projects with grants.

18. The National Endowment for the Humanities, which provides grants to American humanities scholars.

19. The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which funds community development projects nationwide.

20. The Denali Commission, the Delta Regional Authority and the Northern Border Regional Commission, which fund infrastructure and economic projects in specified areas.

21. The U.S. Trade and Development Agency, which provides U.S. goods and services for foreign projects.

22. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a think tank focused on international affairs and foreign policy.

President Trump proposes eliminating federal funding for PBS, NPR

President Donald Trump's newly proposed budget includes a proposal to end federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), part of a package that includes $300 billion in new spending overall. CPB provides federal funding for PBS and National Public Radio stations. "The Budget proposes to eliminate Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) over a two year period," according to the proposal. "CPB grants represent a small share of the total funding for the PBS and NPR, which primarily rely on private donations to fund their operations," it continues. Patricia Harrison, a former top Republican party official and now CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was not pleased with the President's just-released FY 2019 budget and its cutting off all but $15 million for public media in 2019 and 2020. The allocation has been $445 million per year. “Americans place great value on having universal access to public media’s educational and informational programming and services, provided commercial free and free of charge. Since there is no viable substitute for federal funding that would ensure this valued service continues, the elimination of federal funding to CPB would at first devastate, and then ultimately destroy public media’s ability to provide early childhood content, life-saving emergency alerts, and public affairs programs," said Harrison.

Net Neutrality

FCC Commissioner Clyburn: net neutrality's end lets ISPs 'almost direct what you see'

Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn, who opposed the FCC's recent repeal of network neutrality rules, said she is "absolutely worried" about the change that she said allows internet service providers to “almost direct what you see." Commissioner Clyburn said, “I’m worried, I’m absolutely worried,” after the agency voted in December to rescind net neutrality regulations imposed in 2015 under President Barack Obama to govern how internet service providers treat content and data. “The world is watching everything we do ... People are watching. If they see that we’re allowing companies to do as they will, the FCC will no longer be the cop on the beat,” she said. 

Washington House Passes Bill to Protect Net-Neutrality Rules

The Washington House on Feb 9 passed a bill meant to ensure the state's residents don't see a disruption in internet service. House Bill 2282 passed on a strong bipartisan 93-5 vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Under the measure, internet providers are prohibited from blocking content or impairing traffic. The bill also would require providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state's Consumer Protection Act.

With internet neutrality rules changing, door opens for providers to raise rates

The Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality decision could affect everyone using the internet and the public’s access to knowledge, education and connection. “The libraries, schools, the public...all could feel this in the same way,” said Doug Harkness, technology manager at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport (PA).  For the public, that could mean paying higher fees for their everyday internet activities separately. Although any change to the way the internet service providers operate is hypothetical this early on, they could have some far reaching impacts aside from higher costs, Harkness said. “If the ISPs (internet service providers) are free to shape internet traffic anyway they want, that could be a scary thing,” Harkness said. “To me, in an extreme case, that could even mean changing the way we read news. As it stands now, there are so many specific viewpoints on any given topic. But if the ISP is a conservative or liberal, they can say, ‘We don’t want people reading about this,’ so they can start blocking sources.”

More Internet/Broadband/Telecom

FCC report finds almost no broadband competition at 100Mbps speeds

If you live in the US and want home Internet service at speeds of at least 100Mbps, you will likely find one Internet service provider in your area or none at all. The latest Internet Access Services report was released by the Federal Communications Commission the week of Feb 5. The report's broadband competition chart finds that 44 percent of developed Census blocks had zero home broadband providers offering download speeds of at least 100Mbps and upload speeds of at least 10Mbps. Forty-one percent of developed Census blocks had one ISP offering such speeds, for a total of 85 percent with zero or one ISP. The remaining 15 percent had two or three providers at that level as of the end of 2016. That's up a bit from June 30, 2016, when about 12 percent of Census blocks had at least two providers of 100Mbps services. At the 25Mbps/3Mbps level, 56 percent of developed Census blocks had at least two providers in the latest data. That's up from 42 percent, the percentage with at least two providers six months previously. Thirty percent had exactly one provider, and 13 percent had none.

Rural Call Completion Legislation Heads to President's Desk

Bipartisan legislation to improve rural call completion passed the US House of Representatives and now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature. The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act will direct the Federal Communications Commission to require providers that transmit voice calls to register with the agency and establish quality standards for transmitting voice calls. These reforms will help ensure small businesses, families, and emergency responders in rural America can once again rely upon their telephone calls being completed. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) issued the following statement: “Folks who live and work in rural communities throughout South Dakota don’t always enjoy the luxury of something as simple as phone call completion, a task most people in more urban areas might take for granted,” said Chairman Thune. “While significant improvements have been made over the years, too many rural business owners and customers are still facing challenges when they pick up a phone, dial a number, and hope to hear a voice on the other end of the line. This bipartisan legislation will make additional progress in improving rural telecommunications service, and I want to thank Sen. Klobuchar for her leadership on this important issue.”

AT&T forced to migrate copper to fiber in areas of fire-ravaged California

AT&T is going to replace copper wiring in parts of its California market damaged by fires due to drought conditions and high winds with fiber facilities. Major damage to public facilities was caused five counties of Northern California: Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino due to the result of 21 reported fires. AT&T filed an application for emergency authorization under Section 214(a) of the Communications Act and Section 63.63 of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules to suspend AT&T’s interstate telecommunications services until services can be rebuilt. AT&T determined that due to the Nuns, Tubbs, Redwood and Sulphur wild fires, the copper feeder plant to specific distribution areas were destroyed beyond repair in portions of Sonoma, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Lower Lake. In Florida, AT&T is also being forced to migrate its copper facilities in the Florida Keys to a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network infrastructure due to severe damage caused by last September’s Hurricane Irma. Like the California wildfires, AT&T determined that Hurricane Irma left its copper network beyond repair and that it would need to rebuild it with fiber facilities.

via Fierce

Verizon says it's locking its phones down to combat theft

Verizon said that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry. Verizon said it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones, often on route to retail stores or from the stores themselves. Unlocked phones make attractive targets because they can be resold on the black market or used overseas with different carriers. The move marks a broad reversal of its policy to offer all of its phones unlocked -- part of a deal with the Federal Communications Commission requiring it to unlock phones as part of its acquisition of the "C block" of 700 megahertz spectrum, which powers its 4G LTE network. While Verizon said it will unlock the phones eventually, there's concern that the company is reneging on its commitment. 

via C|Net

Sprint presses FCC to eliminate barriers to 4G, 5G deployments

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure paid a visit to the office of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and others to talk about eliminating barriers to Sprint’s 4G and 5G deployments, among other topics. Sprint referenced barriers that Sprint and others in the industry face as part of their efforts to deploy 4G and 5G services. Sprint urged the commission to quickly address the regulatory obstacles that make the densification of wireless networks so difficult. “Sprint noted the significant costs and delays it faces in deployment of both macro cells and small cells that are essential to providing more coverage and capacity to America’s mobile broadband customers,” the carrier said. By way of example, Sprint said it had received tribal review fee demands totaling $90,000 to review antenna modifications at six sites in Chicago.

via Fierce

AT&T front of the pack in nationwide real-world mobile video streaming test (Global Wireless Solutions)


AT&T CEO: Our proposed $85 billion Time Warner deal is aimed at competing with Netflix and Amazon

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said it makes no sense for the government to oppose the telecommunications giant's $85 billion buyout of Time Warner on the grounds that content distributors and content creators under the same umbrella would be anti-competitive.  He said major technology firms such as Netflix and Amazon are allowed to do the same thing. "Reality is, the biggest distributor of content out there is totally vertically integrated. This happens to be something called Netflix. But they create original content; they aggregate original content; and they distribute original content. They have 100 million subscribers," Stephenson said. "Look at Amazon. They're doing the exact same thing. Amazon Studios, creating, aggregating, distributing; Google, YouTube, Hulu, this thing is prolific."

via CNBC

Unilever, one of the world’s largest advertisers, threatens to pull its ads from Facebook and Google over toxic content

Unilever, one of the world's largest advertisers, is threatening to pull its ads from social sites such as Facebook and YouTube if the tech companies don't do more to minimize divisive content on their platforms.  Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed will call on Silicon Valley Feb 12 to better police what he describes as a toxic online environment where propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content that exploits children thrives. "Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us," according to prepared remarks by Weed. "It is in the digital media industry's interest to listen and act on this." Unilever in 2017 spent nearly $9.5 billion marketing its brands, including Dove, Lipton, Axe, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. One quarter of that budget, or about $2.4 billion, was spent on digital advertising.


Public broadcasting coalition withdraws request for relief from equal employment opportunity reporting

A coalition of top public broadcast organizations formally withdrew a recommendation that the Federal Communications Commission ease equal employment opportunity requirements for public stations. America’s Public Television Stations, National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service recommended the review in a joint response to the commission’s request for comments on its agenda to modernize media regulations. After supporters of the EEO rules objected last week, the organizations formally withdrew it. “Public Broadcasting has recently learned that some stakeholders are concerned that this filing represents a retreat from Public Broadcasting’s commitment to equal employment opportunities,” said the coalition in a letter to the FCC retracting their EEO rule review request. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” the letter continued. “Public Broadcasting’s commitment to diversity and inclusion remains strong and unwavering.”

Does TV bear some responsibility for hard feelings between urban America and small town America? (Brookings Institution)

Government & Communications

White House: Media puts national security at risk by publishing classified info

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused reporters of putting national security at risk by publishing classified information. Revelations that former staff secretary Rob Porter received an interim security clearance despite an FBI investigation that turned up allegations of past spousal abuse has led to questions about who at the White House is handling sensitive information. But Sanders suggested the media is feigning its concern about the handling of top secret information within the White House, while at the same time putting national security at risk by publishing leaked information from intelligence sources. “We're taking every step we can to protect classified information,” Sanders said. “Frankly, if you guys have such concern about leaking classified information, there's plenty of it that has leaked out of the Hill, out of other communities, well beyond the White House walls. If you guys have real concerns about leaking out classified information, look around this room. You’re the ones that publish classified information and put national security at risk. That doesn't come from this White House.”

Rep Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, “The California Republican” is classified on Facebook as a “media/news company” and claims to deliver “the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.” But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Chairman Nunes over the headline, “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.” The story, like many others on carepublican.com, largely excerpts other publications, including both conservative and mainstream sources. Headlines include “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!,” “California’s budget future isn’t as good as it looks” and “Billions of dollars later, Democrats and the LA Times start to see the light on high-speed rail.” 

Government Performance

FY 2017 FCC Performance Report

The Federal Communications Commission's FY 2017 Annual Performance Report reflects the strategic and performance goals included in the FCC's FY 2017 Budget proposal, which contained the FCC's FY 2017 performance plan, and which was submitted to Congress in February of 2016, prior to my tenure as the FCC's agency head. The FCC has updated its strategic and performance goals since the Presidential transition in January of 2017 to reflect the priorities of the administration of the FCC under my chairmanship. The new strategic goals, which can be found in the FCC’s Strategic Plan for FY’s 2018 to 2022, include: Closing the Digital Divide, Promoting Innovation, Protecting Consumers and Public Safety, and Reforming the FCC’s Processes. For additional information on the FCC's new goals, please see the FCC's Strategic Plan for FY’s 2018-2022. The FCC has already made significant progress in FY 2017 towards implementing these updated priorities. Furthermore, in FY 2018, the FCC continues to be productive and has taken additional action on several proposals first raised in FY 2017. The FCC’s new goals for FY 2018 and their corresponding accomplishments will be reflected in the FCC’s Annual Performance Report for FY 2018 next year.


Chairman Walden Announces Mike Bloomquist as House Commerce Committee Staff Director

House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced Mike Bloomquist, currently the committee’s Deputy Staff Director, will be named Staff Director effective immediately.  The committee’s previous Staff Director Ray Baum passed away Feb 9 after a years-long battle with cancer. Mike Bloomquist has served as the Deputy Staff Director of the House Commerce Committee under Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR).  Additional government service includes serving as the General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel of Energy and Commerce under then-Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), the General Counsel of the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the General Counsel of the Science Committee, and a member of the Solicitor’s office at the Department of the Interior.  Bloomquist’s private sector experience includes being a counsel and partner at Wiley Rein LLP and an associate and counsel at Patton Boggs LLP.  His most recent time in the private sector was with the consulting firm Kountoupes Denham. Bloomquist has a BA from Hamilton College, a JD from Washington University in St. Louis, and an LL.M. in environmental law from the George Washington University Law School. 

Company News

Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook -- and the World

This is the story of the two years [at Facebook since the runup to the 2016 election], as they played out inside and around the company. Wired spoke with 51 current or former Facebook employees for this article. The stories varied, but most people told the same basic tale: of a company, and a CEO, whose techno-optimism has been crushed as they’ve learned the myriad ways their platform can be used for ill. Of an election that shocked Facebook, even as its fallout put the company under siege. Of a series of external threats, defensive internal calculations, and false starts that delayed Facebook’s reckoning with its impact on global affairs and its users’ minds. And—in the tale’s final chapters—of the company’s earnest attempt to redeem itself.

via Wired
Stories From Abroad

Cyberattack Caused Olympic Opening Ceremony Disruption

A cyberattack caused the internet disruptions during the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb 9, Olympic officials and security experts said.  Jihye Lee, a spokesman for the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, confirmed Sunday that “the technology issues experienced Friday night were caused by a cyberattack.” Lee did not elaborate on the cause but said that the attack had been quickly addressed and that systems had been stabilized by Feb 11. The cyberattack took out internet access and telecasts, grounded broadcasters’ drones, shut down the Pyeongchang 2018 website, and prevented spectators from printing out reservations and attending the ceremony, which resulted in an unusually high number of empty seats.

Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court

Russia Threatens to Block YouTube and Instagram, After Complaints From an Oligarch (New York Times)

More Online

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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