Daily Digest 2/18/2019 (Happy Washington’s Birthday)

Benton Foundation
Table of Contents


Trump Administration Update on the American Broadband Initiative  |  Read below  |  Robbie McBeath  |  Analysis  |  Benton Foundation
Senate bill would create rural broadband office at FCC  |  Read below  |  Benjamin Freed  |  StateScoop
How Tim Berners-Lee's Inrupt project plans to fix the web  |  Read below  |  KG Orphanides  |  Wired
Chairman Pai Response to Three Reps Regarding Rate Floor Rule in the USF High-Cost Program  |  Federal Communications Commission


The Need to Connect: Students in Rural US Struggle Accessing Technology, Hurting Their Abilities to Learn  |  Read below  |  Michelle Croft, Raeal moore  |  Research  |  ACT Center for Equity in Learning
Debunking the Myth That Rich Parents Don't Want Tech for Their Kids  |  Education Week


USDA Prioritizes Investments in Telemedicine to Address Opioid Crisis in Rural America  |  US Department of Agriculture


Karl Bode: 5G Has Become The Magic Pixie Dust Of Tech Policy Conversations  |  TechDirt


Data privacy bill unites Charles Koch and Big Tech  |  Read below  |  Kiran Stacey  |  Financial Times
Partisan Rift Threatens Federal Data-Privacy Law  |  Read below  |  John McKinnon  |  Wall Street Journal
Don't Hold Your Breath on Privacy  |  Read below  |  Cristiano Lima  |  Politico
The Market for Privacy Lemons. Why “The Market” Can’t Solve The Privacy Problem Without Regulation.  |  Read below  |  Harold Feld  |  Analysis  |  Tales of the Sausage Factory
Letter to the Editor from Internet Association: Privacy on the Internet  |  New York Times
The Wired Guide to Your Personal Data (and Who Is Using It)  |  Wired
Microsoft, NewsGuard, and Towards Trustworthiness by Design and Default  |  Public Knowledge


Lawsuits Surge Over Websites’ Access for the Blind  |  Read below  |  Sara Randazzo  |  Wall Street Journal


Chinese and Iranian Hackers Renew Their Attacks on US Companies  |  New York Times
'We're doubling down.' DHS insists it's not reducing election security efforts  |  Washington Post


FCC's Media Bureau Prepares To Mail Out 2019 Equal Employment Opportunity Audits  |  Federal Communications Commission

Emergency Communications

Remarks Of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai At "911 Goes To Washington"  |  Read below  |  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission


Chris Cuomo Calls Sean Hannity ‘Without Question the Most Powerful Person in the Media’  |  Wrap, The
Student Journalism Classes Going Strong, Poll Finds  |  Education Week


Barry Diller, the former CEO of Paramount and Fox: “Hollywood is now irrelevant”  |  Vox

Government & Communications

President Donald Trump reposts video from winner of Infowars meme contest  |  Vox
Analysis: President Trump said conservative pundits don’t decide policy — then praised his favorite talk-show hosts  |  Washington Post
Here’s What Technology Modernization Fund Dollars Are Doing Now  |  nextgov


So Much for 'Senator Pai'  |  Read below  |  Cristiano Lima  |  Politico
FCC Commissioner O'Rielly Hires Joel Miller as Chief of Staff and Media Legal Advisor  |  Read below  |  Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission
FCC Renews, GSA Approves Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee Charter Until 2021  |  Federal Communications Commission

Stories From Abroad

UK MPs slam Facebook for data abuse, call for social media regulator  |  Read below  |  Patricia Nilsson, Hannah Murphy  |  Financial Times, Guardian, The, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post
UK says Huawei is manageable risk to 5G  |  Financial Times
Nigeria’s first WhatsApp election. Here’s what we’re learning about ‘fake news.’  |  Washington Post
Pearson agrees sale of US school textbook business to private equity group Nexus Capital Management  |  Financial Times
Australia Says Foreign Government Behind Cyberattack on Parliament  |  Wall Street Journal
Australian TV industry calls for Facebook news feed transparency and journalism tax breaks  |  Guardian, The

Company News

Google reaped millions in tax breaks as it secretly expanded its real estate footprint across the US  |  Washington Post
Amazon made an $11.2 billion profit in 2018 – and its federal tax bill is $0  |  Guardian, The
Today's Top Stories


Trump Administration Update on the American Broadband Initiative

Robbie McBeath  |  Analysis  |  Benton Foundation

On February 13, 2019, the White House released the American Broadband Initiative Milestones Report, an update on the Trump Administration’s signature inter-agency strategy to stimulate increased private investment in broadband infrastructure and services to fill broadband connectivity gaps in America. The Trump Administration is making it clearer that the billions needed to connect everyone to broadband will come from private investment facilitated by cutting red tape and access to federal assets. The Administration stands ready to serve the broadband industry better. The question remains: will the broadband industry serve rural America better?

Senate bill would create rural broadband office at FCC

Benjamin Freed  |  StateScoop

A recently introduced Senate bill would create a dedicated office for rural-broadband expansion inside the Federal Communications Commission. If enacted, the legislation would order the FCC to create an Office of Rural Broadband. That new agency would coordinate with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service and the Universal Service Administrative Company — an FCC-backed nonprofit that distributes broadband funds to underfunded areas — to maintain information on federal rural broadband programs.

The bill is sponsored by Sens Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Hoeven (R-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

How Tim Berners-Lee's Inrupt project plans to fix the web

KG Orphanides  |  Wired

Tim Berners-Lee wants to change the face of the internet he created. In Sept 2018, the father of the world wide web announced the launch of startup Inrupt, co-founded with cybersecurity entrepreneur John Bruce, which has as its mission “to restore rightful ownership of data back to every web user.” Since 2015, Berners-Lee has been working on a new web infrastructure called Solid, which rethinks how web apps store and share personal data. Inrupt aims to drive the development of the Solid platform and transform it from an innovative idea to a viable platform for businesses and consumers. The big idea behind Solid is that, instead of a company storing all your personal data on their servers, you would keep it on your own personal data “pod”, located on a Solid server. You could run your own server or host it with a provider, much like a personal website. You could then give individual apps permission to read and write to your pod. When you want to stop using an app, you just revoke its access. The data remains on your pod, and businesses making apps never have to worry about storing it, deleting it, or making it easily exportable.


The Need to Connect: Students in Rural US Struggle Accessing Technology, Hurting Their Abilities to Learn

Michelle Croft, Raeal moore  |  Research  |  ACT Center for Equity in Learning

High school students in rural parts of the US face significant challenges accessing technology that may adversely affect their learning — access that students in more populated parts of the country and policymakers may take for granted, according to surveys of students who took the national ACT test. A new report, “Rural Students: Technology, Coursework and Extracurricular Activities” found that rural students were less likely than non-rural students to claim that their home internet access was “great” (36 percent vs. 46 percent). Similarly, rural students were almost twice as likely as non-rural students to state that their internet access was “unpredictable” (16 percent vs. 9 percent). At school, however, there were no substantive differences in reported internet quality between rural and non-rural students. Given that rural students lack access to rigorous coursework, this lack of technological access may impede their course-taking success and their ability to participate in online courses and other opportunities for personalized learning.


Data privacy bill unites Charles Koch and Big Tech

Kiran Stacey  |  Financial Times

Organisations run by Charles Koch have begun to lobby US politicians on data privacy, as the American billionaire and conservative donor deepens his unlikely alliance with Silicon Valley, and Google in particular. Koch-affiliated organisations, including the Charles Koch Institute and Americans for Prosperity, have identified privacy as one of their top political priorities for the year, as politicians prepare the first drafts of a bill that could, for the first time, place national limits on how technology companies use data, including banning companies from passing on customer data to third parties.  The issue has brought together the Republican power broker and major players in the technology industry, including Google. 

Billy Easley, senior technology policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity, said, "It is essential to protect privacy without destroying Americans’ ability to create groundbreaking technology.  Heavy-handed measures can choke off innovation while doing little to protect consumers and unleashing unintended consequences.” 

Partisan Rift Threatens Federal Data-Privacy Law

John McKinnon  |  Wall Street Journal

In 2018, Congress set the stage to pass a sweeping consumer data-privacy law in 2019, but prospects for legislation are dimming amid sharpening divides among lawmakers over how far the federal government should go in reining in Big Tech. Silicon Valley and its Republican allies are pushing for a national standard that would override state regulations—including California’s landmark 2018 law, which broadens the definition of personal information and gives consumers the right to prevent their data from being sold. They are running up against fierce resistance from Democrats, especially the party’s ascendant young progressives and its large California delegation. Many of these lawmakers are wary of the expanding influence of companies such as Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon, and don’t want a national law that weakens state measures already in place.

“The fact that—even after many hearings last year on the misuse of personal data—not one consensus bill has been introduced is telling,” said Gigi Sohn of the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology and Policy. “Republicans and Democrats seem to still be far apart on the best way to address this problem.”

Don't Hold Your Breath on Privacy

Cristiano Lima  |  Politico

Senate Commerce Committee leaders signaled they do not expect to unveil a draft privacy bill along with the committee’s hearing on Feb. 27. “There won’t be any unveiling,” said Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS). “But I know a lot of people are working hard on various approaches.” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) echoed the remarks. “I don’t think it’s that close,” he said of the prospects of a draft bill unveiling at the hearing. Still, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said the panel’s working group has made “steady progress.”

The Market for Privacy Lemons. Why “The Market” Can’t Solve The Privacy Problem Without Regulation.

Harold Feld  |  Analysis  |  Tales of the Sausage Factory

For the last 25 years, the official policy of the United States with regard to digital privacy has been to rely on "market mechanisms," primarily policed by the Federal Trade Commission's Section 5 authority to prosecute "unfair and deceptive" practices. Despite 25 years and increasing dissatisfaction, both industry proponents and other stakeholders and decisionmakers continue to insist that market forces will either produce market-based privacy solutions or, in the alternative, consumers do not actually value privacy despite their statements to the contrary. In this blog post, I apply the rationale of George Akerlof's seminal paper "The Market For Lemons" to the existing privacy market. I conclude that, like the used car market analyzed by Akerlof, the structure of the privacy market makes it unreasonable to expect that privacy friendly services to emerge, with the exception of "pay for privacy" services (similar to the way that the market for new cars differs from the market for used cars).


Lawsuits Surge Over Websites’ Access for the Blind

Sara Randazzo  |  Wall Street Journal

Businesses with websites that can’t be navigated by the blind are getting pummeled with lawsuits. The new frontier in federal disability litigation has accelerated dramatically in recent years, with some companies now getting hit by lawsuits for the second or third time even after they’ve reached settlements to upgrade their sites. The complaints typically detail roadblocks that visually impaired individuals face when using “screen reader” tools that read the contents of a website aloud. The lawsuits often seek improvements to websites to ensure the technology functions. Companies say the suits—targeting restaurants and retail stores, art galleries and banks—are fueled by plaintiffs’ lawyers looking for an easy payday. Disabled consumers argue they deserve to be able to access the internet freely.

Emergency Communications

Remarks Of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai At "911 Goes To Washington"

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai  |  Speech  |  Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission takes an all-of-the-above approach to public safety, so in addition to meeting our statutory obligations, the Commission is pursuing its own initiatives to strengthen emergency calling. One issue we took on in 2018 was the problem of “misrouted” 911 calls from wireless phones. Another challenge on the horizon is identifying a wireless 911 caller’s vertical location in multistory buildings. The last issue I want to hit on is one that makes me and a lot of other people angry: 911 fee diversion. Each year, the FCC submits a report to Congress on this issue. And each year, we see that a small but significant number of states continue to divert resources that should go to 911 but don’t. In light of the fact that this is the tenth iteration of this report and we still see states diverting funds, it’s clear that transparency alone isn’t enough to shame the offending states into doing the right thing. I’m ready and willing to work with Congress and other stakeholders to make sure that all public safety communications fees strengthen the public safety communications system.


So Much for 'Senator Pai'

Cristiano Lima  |  Politico

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who has long attracted rumors about a potential run for political office, shot down speculation that he would seek the seat in his home state of Kansas that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) will vacate with his upcoming retirement. Asked about his interest at a press conference following the FCC’s February meeting, Chairman Pai said, “I’ve said repeatedly that I’m going to be the FCC chairman for the next two years, and I have no plans to do anything else during that time.”

FCC Commissioner O'Rielly Hires Joel Miller as Chief of Staff and Media Legal Advisor

Press Release  |  Federal Communications Commission

Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly announced that he has hired Joel Miller as new chief of staff, press contact, and media advisor in his office. Miller intends to begin work on Feb 25, 2019. He replaces Brooke Ericson, who previously departed for a position in the private sector. Miller is currently employed as Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Rep Brett Guthrie (R-KY) with responsibility for Rep Guthrie’s communications work on the House Commerce Committee. 

Stories From Abroad

UK MPs slam Facebook for data abuse, call for social media regulator

Patricia Nilsson, Hannah Murphy  |  Financial Times, Guardian, The, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

British Members of Parliament have called for a regulator to police content on social media sites, financed by a new levy on tech companies, and an inquiry into the effect of disinformation on past electoral contests. Concluding an 18-month long investigation into “fake news”, disinformation and political campaigns, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee also accused Facebook of “intentionally and knowingly” violating data privacy laws and said it should be the subject of a probe by the competition and data watchdogs. Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the committee, warned that democracy was at risk because of targeted disinformation campaigns from unidentifiable sources, delivered through social media platforms.

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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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