Friday, February 22, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Kids and Media
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On March 15, we’ll aim to make progress on many of the issues core to the Federal Communications Commission’s mission: promoting US leadership on 5G, closing the digital divide, advancing public safety, modernizing our media rules, helping rural consumers, and more.
- The FCC monthly meeting will lead off with an initiative that will unleash new wireless services and technologies in frequencies above 95 GHz — what we’ve called the Spectrum Horizons Opens a New Window. In addition to spectrum north of 95 GHz, we’re also continuing to study ways to make more efficient use of spectrum in the 900 MHz range. I’m proposing to make a segment of the 900 MHz band available for broadband, which will improve the user experience. To satisfy the MOBILE NOW statutory requirement, I’ve circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks comment on possible changes to our partitioning, disaggregation, and spectrum leasing rules that could encourage more secondary market transactions and expand spectrum access in underserved rural areas.
- To better equip first responders to do their jobs, we’ll be voting on a proposal to establish a vertical, or z-axis, location accuracy metric of 3 meters for wireless 911 calls.
- On the media front, keen observers know that the FCC is in the midst of the 600 MHz band repack, in which hundreds of television stations are in the process of changing their transmission frequencies to make space for wireless services following our incentive auction. The Commission will vote on a Report and Order which will establish rules for the disbursement of this funding. Our March meeting will also feature the latest order to come out of our media modernization initiative.
- The FCC will vote on establishing service quality standards for intermediate providers — that is, “middlemen” carriers that take the call from the originating carrier and send it toward the terminating carrier — to help ensure that any calls they handle actually reach their intended destination.
Digital distress is defined here as census tracts (neighborhoods) that had a 1) high percentage of homes not subscribing to the internet or subscribing only through a cellular data plan and a 2) high percent of homes with no computing devices or relying only on mobile devices. This post takes a deeper look at the socioeconomic characteristics of these digitally distressed areas. The socioeconomic characteristics of those in digital distress denote a higher share of minorities, less educated, poorer, and younger residents. Ironically, these same groups could benefit greatly from digital applications to improve their quality of life. However, being in digital distress places them at a disadvantage.
[Roberto Gallardo is a Community-Regional Economics Specialist in the College of Agriculture Administration at Purdue University. Cheyanne Geideman is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Purdue Center for Regional Development.]
President Donald Trump urged wireless technology companies to step up their efforts to build next-generation data networks. The President tweeted, "I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind. There is no reason that we should be lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future," he continued. "I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology."
But is 6G even a thing? The short answer: 6G is likely what we’ll call whatever advanced data networks come after 5G. And 5G is what carriers are currently building as the next generation after 4G LTE. But so far, 6G exists largely as a theoretical concept and is a long way from being deployed in the real world.
This report takes an in-depth look at global 4G network performance across 77 countries. 4G Download Speeds are between 31.2 Mbps and 5.8 Mbps faster at the best hour of day compared with the slowest hour of the day. The US falls in the middle of the pack on 4G downlaod speed experienced by consumers at the fastest ohour of the day, with the best 4G Download Speeds were 1.9 times faster in the late hours of night. The busiest hour of the day (slowest speeds) to be 9pm local time, with the least congested and fastest hour to be 3am.
The United States finished 47th out of 77 countries in 4G speed. US average 4G download speeds were 18.1Mbps, while not surprisingly, South Korea took first place with an average of 47.1Mbps and peak speeds of 55.7Mbps, roughly double the fastest speeds seen in the US. "We think the US will be an interesting worldwide barometer of 5G's impact on congestion and speed consistency because it holds a mid-level rank amongst global countries for average 4G download speeds and for its range of speed variation by time of day," said Brendan Gill, CEO of Opensignal. "It will be one of the first countries to widely adopt 5G services and any improvements we see in the US mobile consumer experience due to 5G, we'll likely see reflected in many other parts of the world."
Verizon outlined its strategy for revenue and profitability growth in 2019 and beyond, built on the expansion of its network leadership in the 5G era. Discussion items included:
- Verizon’s plans to launch its 5G Ultra Wideband Network in more than 30 US cities in 2019. Verizon 5G Mobility will launch in the first half of 2019, and Verizon 5G Home will expand coverage to more markets in the second half of 2019. Verizon executives claimed these will be the first true 5G mobile markets, dismissing AT&T’s claim (although not by name) to be first with mobile 5G. The distinction, Verizon notes, is they are lighting up entire markets, not just one or two cell sites within a market.
- An update about the One Fiber program that is rolling out in more than 60 cities across the US, with more than 25,000 Verizon-owned fiber miles expected to be deployed by year-end.
- Verizon also offered some thoughts regarding the future of broadband, with some viewpoints suggesting mobile-only broadband will be a growing trend that they intend to capitalize on. A couple of Verizon executives suggested mobile-broadband substitution in a 5G world will accelerate, with consumers opting for a single broadband connection to power their life. “We want our customers to define what broadband they need, some might need 4G, some might need fiber, some might need 5G,” said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. “That’s what we see ourselves doing and that’s the platform we’re building with intelligent edge network."
AT&T plans to stop providing service to devices that use third-generation wireless technology in early 2022 as it makes room for more powerful standards. The decision follows rival Verizon Communications' warning that it will disconnect old 3G cellphones at the end of 2019. The companies are driven by necessity. Cellphone users with unlimited data plans stream more video on the go, testing the limits of what service providers can handle. Getting customers off 3G allows carriers to free up wireless frequencies for 4G signals over broader swaths of the radio spectrum.
Gov Gavin Newsom (D-CA) may have thought he was throwing privacy advocates a bone when he proposed the creation of a “data dividend” during his state of the state address. The notion that Facebook, Google, and other tech platforms should return a portion of the tremendous wealth that they’ve accumulated through the exploitation of their users’ personal data is a popular one. But, though the phrase “data dividend” is a nebulous one, most observers suspect the plan would see consumers receiving a regular payout from the tech platforms in exchange for the use of their personal data for advertising and other profitable purposes. And if that’s the case, privacy groups are already pledging to oppose the proposal. “The phrase ‘data dividend’ is not one that has a clear meaning to us,” said Adam Schwartz, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “If what he’s talking about is pay-for-privacy, we’re very, very opposed.” While ostensibly a boon for consumers, privacy advocates say a pay-for-privacy model is in fact an insidious way for tech platforms to legitimize and entrench their data-collection practices. That’s true whether companies offer a discount for their services—a scheme that some internet-service providers have tried in recent years—or fork over hard cash to consumers who are willing to waive their privacy rights. “Pay-for-privacy, first of all, means that it’s privacy for the wealthy and no privacy for the rest of us,” said Richard Holober, the executive director of the Consumer Federation of California. “So we’re fundamentally opposed to any scheme that requires someone to pay for privacy or on the flip side, grants some kind of discount or special deal for someone to give up their privacy.”
The recently passed 2019 Appropriations bill (the bill that avoided a second government shutdown) was a massive tome that included directing the Federal Communications Commission to provide a "full analysis" of its treatment of market modification petitions. Those are petitions by broadcasters or satellite operators or county officials to modify a market so that satellite viewers in a Nielsen market that crosses state lines can get local news and sports from TV stations from another Nielsen market in their own state instead. It's a big issue particularly with college football fans who want access to their own team, not the rival from another state, but also for viewers needing local news and emergency info close to home. The bill says the FCC should provide a full analysis and comprehensive review of market modulation decisions. The language does not require the FCC to compile report, simply to do its due diligence when reviewing requests.
Kids and Media
Common Sense Media, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, and over a dozen organizations called upon the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Facebook has engaged in unfair or deceptive practices in violation of Sec 5 of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Advocates are concerned that Facebook employed unfair practices by charging children for purchases made without parental consent and often without parental awareness. They point to court documents to demonstrate substantial injury to consumers, including one teenager who incurred $6,500 of charges in just a few weeks, and request rates for refunds were 20 times higher than the usual rate of refund requests. Additonally, unsealed documents show that Facebook was aware that many of the games it offered were popular with children under age 13 and were in fact being played by children under 13. COPPA makes it unlawful for an “operator of a Web site or online service directed to children, or any operator that has actual knowledge that it is collecting or maintaining personal information from a child, to collect personal information from a child” unless it has obtained verifiable parental consent and provided appropriate disclosures.
The level of journalistic resources dedicated to coverage of local politics is in a long-term decline in the US news media, with readership shifting to national outlets. We investigate whether this trend is demand- or supply-driven, exploiting a recent wave of local television station acquisitions by a conglomerate owner. Using extensive data on local news programming and viewership, we find that the ownership change led to (1) substantial increases in coverage of national politics at the expense of local politics, (2) a significant rightward shift in the ideological slant of coverage, and (3) a small decrease in viewership, all relative to the changes at other news programs airing in the same media markets. These results suggest a substantial supply-side role in the trends toward nationalization and polarization of politics news, with negative implications for accountability of local elected officials and mass polarization.
Millions of records that the Federal Communications Commission’s top lawyer once fought to hold back from state law enforcement officials now serve as key evidence in a year-long probe into cases of Americans being impersonated during the agency’s latest net neutrality proceeding. Analysis of the data would lead investigators to consider, as one of many potential sources of fraud, the owner of an influential Washington (DC) newspaper, CQ Roll Call, whose advocacy business may have served as a pipeline for one of the most notorious of all fake comments. Internal FCC logs document in exhaustive detail each time an organization such as CQ—the advocacy side of the company—submitted a comment using the FCC’s API system. What’s more, they include the IP addresses of the uploaders themselves, as well as timestamps that record, down to the millisecond, precisely when floods of comments came pouring in from any given source.
During the second year of the Trump Administration, the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) has made great strides in supporting America’s bright future. In January 2019, OSTP welcomed the confirmation of Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as its new Director. Other highlights:
5G and Rural Connectivity: Developing a long-term national spectrum strategy; Promoting public and private sector collaboration to advance the Nation’s 5G innovation and dominance; Driving innovation in wireless technologies and connected communities; Coordinating agency actions to promote rural broadband deployment; Streamlining and expediting requests to locate broadband facilities in rural America.
Privacy: Protecting individual privacy while fostering innovation; Managing privacy risks; Building trust in privacy practices.
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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