Daily Digest 2/28/2018 (Congress to Take on Net Neutrality)

Benton Foundation

Today's busy agenda  https://www.benton.org/events 

Internet/Broadband

Senate and House Democrats Introduce Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality

[Press release] On the Net Neutrality National Day of Action, Senate and House Democrats introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s partisan decision on network neutrality. Sens Ed Markey (D-MA), House Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced introduction of House and Senate resolutions to fully restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters. Ranking Member Doyle’s resolution in the House of Representatives currently has 150 co-sponsors. “President Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai might want to end the internet as we know it, but we won’t agonize, we will organize,” said Sen Markey. “The grassroots movement to reinstate net neutrality is growing by the day, and we will get that one more vote needed to pass my CRA resolution. I urge my Republicans colleagues to join the overwhelming majority of Americans who support a free and open internet. The internet is for all – the students, teachers, innovators, hard-working families, small businesses, and activists, not just Verizon, Charter, AT&T, and Comcast and corporate interests.”

Senate Democrats Have a Plan to Save Net Neutrality

[Op-ed] Senate Democrats are proposing to undo the FCC’s wrongheaded rule through a process set up by the Congressional Review Act. [O]ne more vote [is needed] to ensure the internet remains free and accessible to all. That vote must come from the ranks of the Republicans, who so far have sided with internet service providers, the only group that is clamoring to remove the important consumer protections enshrined in net neutrality. The contrast between the two parties on this issue couldn’t be clearer: Democrats are fighting for consumers and working people struggling to pay their bills, while Republicans are fighting for their campaign donors, the big corporations. I urge every person who’s reading this to contact the Senate Republicans who have not yet pledged to vote for it. (This should be easy since that’s practically all of them, minus Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).) There are 58 legislative days left to #SavetheInternet. The clock is ticking. Make your voice heard. [Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY)]

via Wired

Chairman Pai defends reversal of Obama net neutrality rules — internet works despite 'fear mongering'

The Trump administration's approach to a fair and open internet seeks a compromise between too much regulation and too little, said Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. "Some people said that we should maintain the rules we had, the heavy-handed regulations that were based in the 1930s," he said. "Others said we should wipe the slate clean, have no regulations whatsoever. We charted a middle course."  Chairman Pai said that he's looking to counter the "misinformation" that's produced this is the "'end of the internet as we know it'" type headlines. "I think 2½ months later people are still using the internet. The internet still works," he said. "The online experience is going to continue to get better." "I think as time goes on some of the fearmongering is going to be proven to be baseless. Everyone, I think, wants an open internet and more infrastructure investment in the United States and around the world."

Benton Sues FCC Over Restoring Internet Freedom Order

The Benton Foundation marked the Feb 27 OneMoreVote network neutrality activist day by filing suit against the Federal Communications Commission's Dec. 14 decision to roll back network neutrality rules. "The Restoring Internet Freedom order will allow giant telecommunications companies to create 'fast lanes' and other discriminatory practices that will stifle innovation and diminish the Internet as a platform for free expression," said Benton Executive Director Adrianne Furniss. Benton has long supported strong network neutrality rules and Title II classification of ISPs, including backing the 2015 Open Internet order that the Dec. 14 Restoring Internet Freedom vote essentially reversed.

Let’s Take Action and Enact a Federal Consumer Bill of Rights

[Press release] So, today is another “Day of Action” for network neutrality advocates across the United States. We are supporting today’s Day of Action just as we did last summer’s Day of Action. But also like last summer, we support real action – actual legislation from Congress that places the pillars of net neutrality into law and applies those pillars across the internet for the benefit of all consumers. We received criticism from a certain corner of this debate in 2017 for our support of the Day of Action and I expect we will hear from those same folks again today. But no matter what some of the advocates argue, AT&T has supported enforceable net neutrality rules that do not crush investment incentives for over 10 years; there is nothing weak about them. The simple reality is that we won’t achieve those rules unless and until Congress acts.  So, for today’s Day of Action, we reiterate our call for a Federal Consumer Bill of Rights that provides consumers with openness, transparency and privacy protections no matter where they go on the internet. But no discussion of net neutrality would be complete without also addressing the topic of paid prioritization.  AT&T is not interested in creating fast lanes and slow lanes on anyone’s internet. I think we can all agree that the packets directing autonomous cars, robotic surgeries or public safety communications must not drop. Ever. So, let’s address concerns around paid prioritization without impacting those innovations.

via AT&T

Sprint CEO on net neutrality: There’s nothing wrong with charging for faster service

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said that he doesn’t see anything wrong with charging customers more money in order for them to obtain faster service. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong for you to eventually charge a higher price for a faster access to your network,” Claure said.  “You have this anyway. In the United States in many roads you drive, you have a faster road and you pay more. There’s nothing wrong with that. We’re still determining what is going to be the price for 5G and how we’re going to charge you, but the economics say, consumers are willing to pay more for a better service and are willing to pay less for a different type of service.”  “We’re big believers in the open internet,” Claure said. “I believe there needs to be some light regulation, and it needs to be very light, in order for us to manage our networks.” Added Claure: “We need to manage our networks … That’s the most important thing to us.”

via Fierce

The Net Neutrality Defender Fighting President Trump From The Other Washington

After the Federal Communications Commission and the US Congress scrapped federal regulations protecting both network neutrality and privacy for Internet service provider customers, several states started working on their own safeguards. With broad support from the governor, attorney general, and legislators of both parties, Washington State has been one of the most aggressive. That could make it a test case not only for telecom policy but for the country’s perennial power struggle between federal and state governments. “We have a long tradition in this state of working across party lines to protect people’s privacy and enact practical consumer protection laws,” says WA State Rep Drew Hansen (D-WA23), a trial lawyer whose district includes communities across the bay from Seattle. His bill on net neutrality has passed the state house of representatives and is now moving through the senate. His ISP privacy bill, which faltered in 2017, is making its way through the house again, and a state senator has introduced a similar bill. State Rep Hansen’s bill isn’t the only Washington-based effort against the FCC. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson is also preparing a legal challenge to the net neutrality decision, along with attorneys general from more than 20 other states and the District of Columbia.

Critiques of 2017 FCC Comment Process Also Apply to 2014

[Analysis] Criticisms of the 2017 Restoring Internet Freedom process apply also to the 2014 Open Internet process. A key difference between the comment process in 2017 compared to 2014 is that form letters became more sophisticated and more difficult to identify. In the future, bad actors are likely to continue improving their ability to make form letters appear unique, hide their origins, or simply make the comment process unmanageable. Although the APA mandates that federal agencies rely on substantive comments with scientific data, facts, and expert analysis of proposed rules and not treat comments as “votes,” the integrity of the comment process matters.Federal agencies must learn how to handle these problems in order to maintain a meaningful comment process. Doing so will require agencies to more carefully consider systems to verify or authenticate filings when they are submitted, and devote increasing resources to computing, data forensics, textual analysis, time, and talent to evaluate the submissions.

Forget fixing NAFTA. Give rural Americans broadband internet and clean water

US negotiators will push for a series of protectionist measures at negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement the week of Feb 26. The Rust Belt needs a better connection to the rest of the world. To make it in the digital economy, the first step is to plug in. Nearly 40 percent of residents in the rural US remain without access to broadband. That includes many of the small towns whose economic bottom felt out when manufacturers left.  One major obstacle to getting those communities plugged in has been that federal funds often go to the big carriers, says Marty Newell, who coordinates rural broadband policy at the Center for Rural Strategies, which focuses on rural development. “The big guys, they are not that interested in the last folks at the head of the holler or the people who are farthest from the county seat,” he adds. “The profit is not nearly as lucrative there.” It’s still unclear whether the Trump administration will change that approach. His new infrastructure plan assigns no new money for broadband specifically, just a general pool of funds for rural projects. 

via Quartz
Privacy/Security

US Supreme Court wrestles with Microsoft data privacy fight

Supreme Court justices wrestled with Microsoft’s dispute with the US Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. Microsoft argues that laws have not caught up to modern computing infrastructure and it should not hand over data stored internationally. The Justice Department argues that refusing to turn over easily accessible data impedes criminal investigations. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both conservatives, indicated sympathy during an hour-long argument in the case toward the Justice Department’s stance that because Microsoft is based in the United States it was obligated to turn over data held abroad sought by prosecutors in a US warrant. Liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor questioned whether the court needed to act in the closely watched case in light of Congress now considering bipartisan legislation that would resolve the legal issue.

'Right to be forgotten' claimant wants to rewrite history, says Google

A businessman who has launched a legal bid to erase online articles about his criminal conviction in the first “right to be forgotten” case in the English courts should not be allowed to rewrite history, lawyers for Google have said.  The claimant, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990s and wants the search engine to remove results that mention his case, including web pages published by a national newspaper. In 2014 the European Union’s court of justice ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove at least 2.4 million links from search results. Search engines can reject applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy. But Antony White QC, representing Google, said the “right to be forgotten” ruling was “not a right to rewrite history or ... tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for”.

Elections

President Trump hasn't given an order to counter Russian meddling, NSA chief says

National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said that the United States hasn’t done enough to deter Russian meddling in national politics, even as he acknowledged that President Donald Trump hasn’t directed cybersecurity officials to take more aggressive offensive actions against Moscow.  “I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that, there’s little price to pay here and therefore I can continue this activity,” Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Rogers’ testimony was a reminder of the gap between the president, who has downplayed Russian interference, and his national security advisors, who have described it as an ongoing threat. “If we don't change the dynamic here, this is going to continue,” Rogers said. “In fairness, you can’t say nothing has been done. And my point is, it hasn't been enough.”

Ownership

Sinclair Deal With Tribune Hits Complications in Washington

Sinclair remains locked in a prolonged battle with Justice Department antitrust officials over how many stations it must sell to get their approval to buy Tribune Media. It is latest cloud over Sinclair’s $3.9 billion deal, coinciding with an internal investigation underway at the Federal Communications Commission into the agency’s relationship with the company. At issue is how much power Sinclair, the country’s largest broadcaster, will have over local media markets and national television audiences. Sinclair has argued that by combining forces with Tribune, it will be able to bolster local news coverage and be a stronger competitor to internet giants like Facebook and Google. The Justice Department is concerned that the merger will harm competition in several cities. The agency is looking at whether the deal could also give Sinclair too much power over television advertising and over licensing deals with cable and satellite companies that retransmit their broadcasts. recently  Sinclair submitted a proposal to sell stations in big markets including New York and Chicago, as well as some smaller stations. The proposal would put many of the stations in trusts, an arrangement that has raised some concern from consumer groups that the company will try to operate them through partners down the road, because it runs some stations that way now. The Tribune stations in New York and Chicago would not go into a trust, but Sinclair said it had reached agreements to sell those stations to third parties that it would partner with later. Selling them will help Sinclair get near an important threshold: owning stations that reach no more than than 39 percent of American households. Sinclair’s new plan has not satisfied the Justice Department, which still seeks more divestitures.

Barack Obama isn’t happy with Facebook and Google, either

Google and Facebook aren’t just incredibly profitable tech companies — they are “public goods” with a responsibility to serve the public, says former President Barack Obama. “I do think the large platforms — Google and Facebook being the most obvious, Twitter and others as well, are part of that ecosystem — have to have a conversation about their business model that recognizes they are a public good as well as a commercial enterprise,” the former president said at MIT’s Sloan Sports Conference. “They’re not just an invisible platform, they’re shaping our culture in powerful ways.” Obama described Facebook and Google as a duopoly. He also said they were contributing to a fractured media environment that allowed users to construct alternate realities, without a common set of facts. “We have to have a serious conversation about, what are the business models, the algorithms, the mechanisms, whereby we can create more of a common conversation,” he said. “And that can not just be a commercially driven conversation."

via Vox
 
Spectrum/Wireless

Remarks of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at Mobile World Congress 2018

[Speech] To seize the potential of next generation wireless, I want to focus on three things that require our attention: new bands, new models and new business cases. First, to power 5G networks we need new spectrum bands.  We have open dockets proposing new possibilities in the 3.5 GHz, 3.7-4.2 GHz, 6 GHz, 24 GHz, 28 GHz, 32 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, 42 GHz, 47 GHz, 50 GHz, 70 GHz, 80 GHz, and above 95 GHz bands, among others. Second, to power 5G networks we need new models for spectrum access. We need innovative ways to make more room on the road. Third, to power 5G networks we need new business cases. Instead of talking about the diffuse possibilities of 5G, let’s focus on building new business models that use both data and connectivity to solve very specific problems.

US Wireless Carriers Plan to Launch 5G With ‘Pucks’ Not Phones

AT&T and Verizon, conceding that phones won’t be available in time for the launch of fifth-generation mobile service in 2018, plan instead to offer 5G through portable hotspots called pucks.  “I would expect that there are a range of handsets available in 2019 and some of those will be in the first half of 2019,” said Verizon’s wireless chief, Ronan Dunne. “If there’s anything available in 2018, it’s more likely to be a hotspot.” In a race to be first with technology that will let cars drive themselves and robots perform surgery, the wireless service providers, including No. 3 T-Mobile US Inc., have announced ambitious timelines on the launch of 5G. Sticking with the plan even if phones aren’t ready highlights how none of the carriers wants to be left behind in what’s expected to be a whole new round of revenue from the sale of advanced-network services.

Journalism

Assessing Impact of Media

[Commentary] Voqal has long funded media content and distribution, spending millions of dollars annually. It seemed prudent for us also to support ways to measure the effects of that funding. Though we believed that our grants were having a significant impact, it’s a big step forward for us and for our grantees to be able to measure results. Using a sophisticated analysis that took into account the volume and complexity of the data set—all Tweets sent during weeks of coordinated media coverage vs. those in “control” weeks—Harvard Professor Gary King was able to measure specific instances of journalism not only increasing discussion of related topics, but also changing the way the public discussed those issues on Twitter. The majority of the participating outlets were small, independent news outlets including such publications as Truthout, In These Times, Ms. Magazine and The Progressive. It is important to note that newsrooms remained independent—they were not asked to take a particular stance on a topic, just to address it in their coverage. The study demonstrates that even small news organizations can have a significant impact on how Americans discuss issues online. Philanthropic organizations working to expand democracy and influence the national conversation on key issues should take note: Independent news sources with a median outlet size of 50,000 subscribers have a proven impact on the national conversation. [John Schwartz is the director and founder of Voqal]

Facebook: Helping Local News Publishers Develop Digital Subscriptions

We’re announcing the Facebook Journalism Project: Local News Subscriptions Accelerator, a $3 million, three-month pilot program in the United States to help metro newspapers take their digital subscription business to a new level. The Accelerator will work with 10-15 metro news organizations to unlock strategies that help publishers build digital customer acquisitions on and off our platform. Participating publishers will convene in-person once a month, receive coaching from digital subscription experts, and participate in weekly trainings covering a broad array of digital subscriptions marketing activities, including but not limited to the use of Facebook. Working with program coaches, publishers will then design individual projects that tackle their unique business needs. Grant funding will empower each publisher to implement solutions that help elevate their subscription business.

Emergency Communications

FirstNet FY 2017: Annual Report to Congress

In the next fiscal year, we will continue to operationalize the network and interface with public safety. We have already begun work on service offerings like priority and preemption, and new capabilities will come as the FirstNet core network is launched in the first half of calendar year 2018. In addition, we will see new device, application, and service offerings. We also will see the first phases of our RAN buildout to reflect increased coverage across the country. With AT&T’s partnership, we are embracing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform public safety communications. This public-private partnership, with the support of Congress, the FirstNet Board, our stakeholders, dedicated FirstNet and AT&T staff, and our industry partners, sets a path to deliver the innovation that public safety deserves. We look forward to continuing our efforts to transform the future of public safety communications.

Policymakers

President Trump Names Digital Guru Brad Parscale Campaign Manager for 2020 Run

The former digital director of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Brad Parscale, has been named campaign manager for the 2020 re-election campaign. A political novice prior to the 2016 race, Parscale oversaw the campaign’s digital operations from the San Antonio (TX) offices of his web design and strategy firm Giles-Parscale. What began as a one-man operation in 2015 grew into one of the most successful—and controversial—digital campaigns in presidential history, with Parscale’s team working alongside embedded staffers from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to fine-tune the campaign’s advertising online.  Parscale eventually assumed broader responsibilities beyond digital advertising, but his elevation to the role of campaign manager suggests team Trump believes the political battles of the future will be won and lost online. They'll also start early. President Barack Obama did not announce his 2012 re-election campaign until April of 2011. President Trump, by contrast, filed his paperwork to the Federal Election Commission the day of his inauguration.

via Wired

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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