Tuesday, February 26, 2019
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- Facebook Response: Our Commitment to Our Content Reviewers | Facebook
The Federal Communications Commission offered an additional $67 million in annual support to certain rural broadband providers that could bring improved service to nearly 110,000 homes and businesses in rural communities across 43 states. Carriers that accept the offer must expand the availability of broadband service delivering at least 25 Mbps downloads/3 Mbps uploads to their rural customers. Carriers have 30 days to decide whether to accept the additional funding. The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau made the offer of additional support to 207 rural rate-of-return carriers that receive funding through the Connect America Fund’s Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM. In return for this increased funding, the providers must significantly expand the availability of service delivering at least 25/3 Mbps speeds in locations which otherwise would have received 10/1 Mbps or worse service, thereby better meeting the needs of consumers and businesses in today’s online world.
Indiana is launching a $100 million program to expand broadband internet services across rural parts of the state. Gov Eric Holcomb (R-IN) says the Next Level Broadband program will bridge the digital divide, giving more rural Hoosiers access to the internet for business or personal uses. The governor says the “internet is just as essential to Indiana’s prosperity today as highways were a century ago.” Broadband providers can initially apply for up to $5 million to expand service to unserved areas if they provide at least a 20 percent match.
The Pew Charitable Trusts has launched its new Broadband Research Initiative to understand why some 24 million Americans — most of those living in rural communities — still lack what is largely now considered a basic utility. “About 30 percent of rural Americans do not have access to broadband, compared to about 2 percent of urban Americans,” said Kathryn de Wit, manager of Pew’s Broadband Research Initiative. “So while there is that big gap, I don’t think that this is a policy issue that’s split very neatly along urban and rural lines,” she continued. “There’s no one-size-fits-all to broadband connectivity and solving that gap. Every community is different and has different characteristics and different needs. And subsequently, will require different solutions for closing those gaps.” The research aims to explore some of the solutions to closing the broadband gap, as well as how to get there. “The bulk of our research is really looking at how state governments are addressing these gaps in connectivity,” said de Wit, and admitted the team is still pretty early in the research. One of the areas Pew will explore closely is how states are funding and financing broadband programs, noting that many are looking to sources that might have gone overlooked in the past. Some of those sources could be in areas like community development block grants or even transportation funding. “Really, this is about broadband kind of moving out of the telecommunications silo, and tying it to other policy areas,” she added. “So, broadband is a cornerstone technology, if you’re talking about transportation, tele-health, precision agriculture, education.”
I want to provide an update on the significant progress we’ve made in the US to update our infrastructure rules. And I want to share some of the results we’re already seeing, including Internet speeds that are up 40% and 5G networks that are being built in the US at an accelerated clip. I want to highlight two of the significant reforms we adopted in 2018. First, we updated our approach to the federal historic and environmental rules that govern the buildout of broadband infrastructure. Second, we examined impediments to infrastructure buildout imposed by city and state governments. We clarified that the fees governments charge for siting small cells in rights-of-way must not exceed a reasonable approximation of their costs, and we tightened the shot clocks for approving small cell applications so that we can get this infrastructure up more quickly.
At the Federal Communications Commission, we have focused on spreading the opportunities from 5G to the maximum number of communities, under the mantra More Broadband for More Americans. We hope to continue executing on that goal with a modern regulatory approach: one that is inclusive, nimble, and attractive to investment and job creation.
At Mobile World Congress, Facebook shared a number of updates from its connectivity team, including a partnership through which it's bringing 5G wireless internet to Alameda (CA). US-based company Common Networks is delivering ultra high-speed gigabit internet service to residential customers using Facebook's technology, as a replacement for standard home broadband. It's doing this at lower costs and faster speeds than fiber, said Dan Rabinovitsj, VP of Connectivity for Facebook. Common Networks launched in 2017 and already provides fixed wireless access to residences around the world, but in collaboration with Facebook, it's hoping to accelerate the number of people who can access gigabit internet at home. It's doing this by adopting Facebook's Terragraph technology, which uses high-frequency radio waves to speed up networks where populations are dense. Facebook also unveiled plans to improve rural connectivity, enable new carrier models, and invest in fiber.
China is planning to deploy fiber-optic connections to 80 percent of the homes in the country. What’s new about China's massive deployment of fiber, both in its own territory and in its global market along its planned Belt and Road, is that China is likely to permit only 5G equipment made by Huawei and a handful of other Chinese companies to connect to that fiber. China, not America, will be the place where new online services are born. Although the US came up with the idea of the internet, we don't have a sandbox to play in, a giant market in which to test new high-capacity services. That’s because we haven’t committed ourselves to keeping up with Asia and the Nordics by upgrading the ends of our networks, the "last-mile" network section that reaches homes and businesses, to fiber-optic cable.
Here's what should happen: Publicly controlled fiber-optic cables should form a kind of wholesale street-grid, available for lease under nondiscriminatory terms to private operators who sell services. Government doesn't need to control connectivity; we are not China. Ideally, government should require frequent, open interconnection points for competing 5G operators to hang their gear on this street-grid made of glass, so that no one operator can pick which services succeed in a particular geographic area. Again, we shouldn't replicate the domineering ways of China's Huawei. Above all, we need a plan. Right now we don't have one.
[Susan Crawford is a professor at Harvard Law School]
In 2019, 5G will a buzzword you’ll hear increasingly often, but it’s not likely to change anything in your life. By 2029, it’ll be so ingrained into your daily life you’ll have trouble remembering when your phone (or watch or eyeglasses or smart mirror) used to be slow to respond, or unable to stream such high-resolution video, and nerds will be salivating over the when 6G data networks will finally arrive. And sometime in between, someone will come up with something that will fundamentally turn how we live on its head all over again.
A look at Facebook's content moderators at the company's Phoenix (AZ) site, which is operated by an outsourcing company named Cognizant. Some findings:
- Moderators in Phoenix will make just $28,800 per year, while the median Facebook employee earns $240,000 in salary, bonuses, and stock.
- Employees can be fired after making just a handful of errors a week, and those who remain live in fear of former colleagues returning to seek vengeance. One man we spoke with started bringing a gun to work to protect himself.
- Employees are developing PTSD-like symptoms after they leave the company, but are no longer eligible for any support from Facebook or Cognizant.
- Employees have begun to embrace the fringe viewpoints of the videos and memes that they are supposed to moderate. The Phoenix site is home to a flat Earther and a Holocaust denier. A former employee told me that he no longer believes 9/11 was a terrorist attack.
As the US pushes ahead with the “Cloud Act” it enacted about a year ago, Europe is scrambling to curb its reach. Under the act, all US cloud service providers from Microsoft and IBM to Amazon -- when ordered -- have to provide American authorities data stored on their servers regardless of where it’s housed. With those providers controlling much of the cloud market in Europe, the act could potentially give the US the right to access information on large swaths of the region’s people and companies. The US says the act is aimed at aiding investigations. Some people are drawing parallels between the legislation and the National Intelligence Law that China put in place in 2017 requiring all its organizations and citizens to assist authorities with access to information. The Chinese law, which the US says is a tool for espionage, is cited by President Donald Trump’s administration as a reason to avoid doing business with companies like Huawei. “I don’t mean to compare U.S. and Chinese laws, because obviously they aren’t the same, but what we see is that on both sides, Chinese and American, there is clearly a push to have extraterritorial access to data,” Laure de la Raudiere, a French lawmaker who co-heads a parliamentary cyber-security and sovereignty group, said in an interview. “This must be a wake up call for Europe to accelerate its own, sovereign offer in the data sector.”
A healthy public sphere needs a healthy public media. We’ve built the equivalent for television and radio. Now it’s time to do it for the Internet. The simplest way to proceed is to tax major technology companies to pay for better content. A billion-dollar federal funding infusion to upgrade public media would be a start — perhaps paid for by a “journalism tax” on the largest tech platforms, as has been proposed in Britain. But Congress and the Federal Communications Commission could also take creative advantage of these services to get high-quality news and smart children’s programming in front of all Americans. Congress and the FCC could grant an updated mandate to guarantee that high-quality educational and informational public media is distributed on major tech platforms at limited or no cost to the public. There’s precedent to do so: In the ’90s, Congress passed the Children’s Television Act, which gave the FCC regulatory authority to require commercial TV broadcasters to air such content. What the Internet needs is a fresh infusion of public media, properly funded and paired with federal policy that puts the public interest first.
[Erik Martin is a graduate student at the Oxford Internet Institute, and was a policy adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.]
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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