Friday, February 8, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Communications and Democracy
Government & Communications
Stories From Abroad
Republicans signaled that they are offering up at least three versions of legislation that would reimpose network neutrality rules, but without doing so under Title II common carrier regulations they argue are a relic of the monopoly phone days. Democrats weren't jumping to embrace the bills while activist groups said those legislative efforts were, at best, woefully lacking and at worst fake efforts promoted by broadband industry lobbyist "shills." The bills are the Open Internet Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), ranking member of the House Commmunications Subcommittee, a revival of a bill from Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), former chair of the full House Commerce Committee, based on a bill offered up in 2015 by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) (then chair of the Senate Commerce Committee) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI),; and one from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) based on a Washington state net neutrality bill.
The big four US broadband companies invested less in capital projects in 2018 than they did in 2017, undermining one of the rationales for a controversial decision by the Trump administration to remove net neutrality protections. Earnings reported recently show Verizon, AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast collectively undertook slightly less capital spending in 2018 than in 2017, the first time there has been a drop in three years. They spent $56.9 billion in 2018, compared with $57.1 billion the previous year and $56.1 billion in 2016. The findings call into question one of the main arguments the industry used in its successful campaign to have the Federal Communications Commission overturn the Obama-era net neutrality regulations — a move that sparked anger among internet companies, activists and Democratic politicians.
The concept of “zero rating”—or the process of an internet service provider exempting certain content from broadband usage caps—has been controversial for several years now. But a new study suggests that ISP claims that zero rating saves consumers money are largely nonsense, and countries where the practice is avoided see lower wireless data prices overall. Many ISPs now implement caps on how much data customers can use in a month, charging you extra should you go over said limit. Data suggests these limits don’t serve any real purpose outside of charging captive customers more money, and as a deterrent for users who quit an ISP’s traditional TV services in favor of streaming video alternatives.
We’re saying goodbye to Louisville, one of our Fiber cities. We will be turning off the network on April 15. When we launched Fiber service in Louisville in October 2017, we noted at the time that it was the fastest we’ve ever moved from construction announcement to signing up customers. That’s because we were trialing a lot of things in Louisville, including a different type of construction method — namely, placing fiber in much shallower trenches than we’ve done elsewhere. Innovating means learning, and sometimes, unfortunately, you learn by failing. In Louisville, we’ve encountered challenges that have been disruptive to residents and caused service issues for our customers. We’re not living up to the high standards we set for ourselves, or the standards we’ve demonstrated in other Fiber cities. We would need to essentially rebuild our entire network in Louisville to provide the great service that Google Fiber is known for, and that's just not the right business decision for us.
T-Mobile’s pricing is under scrutiny as both federal and state regulators continue to evaluate its proposed merger with Sprint. CEO John Legere recently sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai pledging not to raise prices for three years on any of its current mobile plans if the merger is approved. Critics said perhaps T-Mobile’s pledge was leaving wiggle room for higher-priced, new 5G plans. Legere said emphatically that was not the case.
This report puts forward solutions for the sharp decline in trust in democratic institutions, including the media. The recommendations apply broadly to journalism, technology, and citizenship, and provide a compass for rebuilding trust in the 21st century. Among the key recommendations:
- All journalists, news and information distributors, including major technology companies, must commit to “radical transparency;” providing users with the information regarding how outlets select stories to cover, what sources they use, how they reach their conclusions, and proactively solicit user input;
- With traditional business and financial models for journalism under siege, major investments in and new approaches to supporting sustainable nonprofit and journalism collaborations are essential, particularly at the local level;
- Technology companies and online services that collect user data should become “information fiduciaries” and responsibly protect user information while proactively addressing disinformation and “filter bubbles”;
- Newsrooms must work to diversify their staff and coverage to reflect the communities they serve; and
- All Americans must possess civic and media literacy, with greater emphasis on the fundamentals of how a democracy functions and the media’s role within it, and national civic service reprioritized.
I’ve been asked tonight to reflect on my career and talk about how I’ve been able to succeed in the field of telecommunications, media and technology policy. So, I guess I’m at that point of my career where I’ve accomplished enough to impart wisdom to the next generation of lawyers…. or maybe I’m just really old. So tonight, I’d like to talk about three qualities that have allowed me to have a successful career: Flexibility, Humility, and Connectivity.
[Gigi B. Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate. She is one of the nation’s leading public advocates for open, affordable and democratic communications networks. For nearly thirty years, she has worked across the country to defend and preserve the fundamental competition and innovation policies that have made broadband Internet access more ubiquitous, competitive, affordable, open and protective of user privacy.]
The internet—particularly its architecture and governance—is a major factor in state power and an important element of this era of great power competition, especially between the United States and China. There may be other, “flashier” technologies out there, sure, but in preparing for great power competition, let’s not forget what already enables cyber attacks, online commerce, and global connectedness in the broadest sense each and every day.
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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