Friday, March 8, 2019
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As Democratic leaders unveiled legislation to revive Obama-era net neutrality rules, one name was conspicuously absent: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The lawmaker was the sole member of the Senate Democratic caucus not to co-sponsor the measure. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) had circulated his Save the Internet Act since January seeking a widespread show of Democratic backing. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “signed on this morning,” Sen Markey told reporters, leaving Sen. Sinema as the lone holdout. So where does Sinema stand? In 2018 as a House member, she was one of a handful of Democrats not to sign onto a discharge petition intended to force a vote on the net neutrality Congressional Review Act resolution (which ultimately fell dozens short, dooming the effort). In 2014, Sen Sinema tweeted favorably about net neutrality in broad terms. But by 2016, she was one of only five Democrats to vote with Republicans on legislation that would have barred the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband rates (which the GOP feared would result from the 2015 Open Internet order). Following the rules’ 2017 repeal, she did call for congressional action and tweeted, “Consumers should get to keep access to the legal content they want at a fair market-based price without interference.” Sen. Sinema declined to comment March 6 when asked, as did her spokespeople.
The Federal Communications Commission solicits nominations for membership on a new Increasing Broadband Investment in Low-Income Communities Working Group of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). This new working group will assist the BDAC in providing advice and recommendations to the Commission on new ways to encourage the deployment of high-speed broadband infrastructure and services to low-income communities. The work of this new BDAC group will help further the Commission’s top priority—closing the digital divide for all Americans. Nominations for membership on the BDAC’s Increasing Broadband Investment in LowIncome Communities Working Group should be submitted to the FCC no later than March 19, 2019. Nominees for membership on the BDAC need not reapply.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's latest claim that his deregulatory policies have increased broadband deployment may be based in part on a gigantic error. Even the modest gains cited by Chairman Pai rely partly on the implausible claims of one Internet service provider that apparently submitted false broadband coverage data to the FCC, advocacy group Free Press told the FCC in a filing this week. A new Form 477 filer called Barrier Communications Corporation, doing business as BarrierFree, suddenly "claimed deployment of fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless services (each at downstream/upstream speeds of 940mbps/880mbps) to census blocks containing nearly 62 million persons," Free Press Research Director Derek Turner wrote. Free Press speculates that BarrierFree ignored FCC instructions to report service only in census blocks in which an ISP currently offers service and instead simply "listed every single census block located in eight of the states in which it's registered as a CLEC [competitive local exchange carrier]."
In an update to this story, BarrierFree Chief Operating Officer Jim Gerbig acknowledged that the company made a mistake in its filing. "There is indeed an error in the Form 477 filings for BarrierFree, and it doesn't reflect our current level of broadband deployment," Gerbig said. "A portion of the submission was parsed incorrectly in the upload process. With the government shutdown in January, we were unable to submit revised documents before the full report went live... We are working with the FCC to improve our 477 data for the December 2017 filing, and expect to have it resolved soon."
Despite the tremendous innovation in fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks over the last decade, growing bandwidth demands from households and enterprise business applications are likely to exceed today’s Gigabit Passive Optical Networks (GPON) network capacity levels in the near future. Network traffic is expected to grow by an order of magnitude over the coming decade, in part because more high-bandwidth applications will become commonplace. Next-generation 10 Gbps PON network architectures offer the ability to support current service needs and scale economically as needed to address multigigabit bandwidth demands well into the future. The primary value of 10G technologies lies in capacity. For a municipal utility looking to better manage smart-grid applications through communications network advancements, a next-gen 10G network architecture offers an optimal path to servicing public power demands and providing symmetrical 10 Gbps service for residential subscribers, business customers and mobile backhaul services, all over a single, common infrastructure.
Members of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations sharply rebuked Equifax and Marriott for failing to protect people’s personal data and prevent two of the largest security breaches in US history, putting hundreds of millions at risk. Democrats and Republicans alike said Equifax, a credit-reporting bureau, and Marriott, a hotel chain, each had failed to implement basic defenses against sophisticated hackers -- and that Equifax repeatedly did not patch known security holes or store key data in a way that was hidden from digital malefactors. Lawmakers expressed interest in reviving long-stalled data-security legislation that’d require companies to better secure consumers’ data and more swiftly communicate with consumers about major cyber attacks.
In a tail of not one but two affairs and emails between the philandering parties has come a victory for data privacy, a federal appeals court has ruled that “previously opened and delivered emails” stored 'in a web-based email client' are protected 'electronic storage' for purposes of the Stored Communications Act. The court ruled that emails which have been opened and then left on the servers of an online web email service are considered being stored for the purposes of backup protection, and thus entitled to the privacy protections detailed in the Stored Communications Act (SCA). Center for Democarcy & Technology had filed a brief in the case (Hately vs. Watts)--which was cited in the decision--arguing that it was the right call. “This is an important victory for privacy," said Greg Nojeim, director of the CDT Freedom, Security and Technology Project. "A contrary ruling would have meant that spam emails nobody opens are better protected from government access than sensitive, personal messages you open and save."
The Federal Communications Commission paused its review of T-Mobile's proposed purchase of Sprint, adding to an already protracted battle to win approval to combine the third- and fourth-largest US wireless providers. The move from the Republican-led agency created fresh turmoil for the $26.5 billion merger, which has been under review for more than eight months. “All indications were this would be decided in the next few weeks” but now it appears “they haven’t made the case to the policy makers,” said Gigi Sohn, a former advisor to previous FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “They’re still grasping at new theories.” The FCC said it wanted time to examine “significant additional information” filed in Feb and on March 7, when T-Mobile offered a 63-page filing updating plans for wireless in-home broadband service. Comments on the new submissions are due March 28, the FCC said. It paused a counter that tracks how many days the deal is under review at 122 days until resuming April 4. The agency attempts to complete its reviews in 180 days.
T-Mobile says it’ll launch a 5G home internet service with fast speeds, easy installation, and low prices that will reach half of all US homes within five years and meaningfully shake up the woefully anti-competitive cable industry. There’s just one catch: T-Mobile says this only comes true if its Sprint merger is approved. In a blog post and Federal Communications Commission filing, T-Mobile outlines in the most detail yet what its 5G home internet service will look like. The company started divulging some details around the offering last September, but with today’s post, T-Mobile is starting to advertise its promises in a far more public fashion. T-Mobile says it plans to create a true cable competitor using 5G, offering speeds at 100 Mbps or higher. It’ll come at an unspecified lower cost, and customers will be able to set up the system themselves, so they won’t have to wait around for someone to install it. T-Mobile thinks it can have 9.5 million customers within five years, and save customers up to $13 billion in that time because of the increased competition.
Sprint and T-Mobile officials have convinced White House economic and national security policymakers to approve their proposed merger on the grounds that the new company will be a formidable competitor for foreign entities, including those in China, in the ongoing battle to build a fifth-generation wireless network. Despite Sprint and T-Mobile’s successful efforts lobbying those in the executive branch, there’s no guarantee the deal will receive approval from two key regulators that are necessary for the merger to close: The Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice.
State antitrust enforcers are expressing deep concerns that T-Mobile's proposed takeover of Sprint could raise prices for consumers, signaling they might seek to thwart the deal. Some state attorneys general who are investigating the $26 billion transaction took the unusual step this week of publicly voicing worries that the combination could harm competition, offering insight for the first time into how they view the tie-up. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said combining T-Mobile and Sprint would further concentrate an already consolidated industry by leaving just three national carriers. "That’s dangerous for competition. That’s dangerous for consumers," Frosh said. The comments come after more than a dozen states joined to investigate the deal in parallel with the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, which are nearing the end of their reviews.
House Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to request information about its policies on the retention and disposition of electronic communications, including email, text messages, chat and instant messages and social media messages. The Chairmen are concerned that the FCC may be violating the Federal Records Act (FRA), regulations and guidance, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)/National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) 2012 Directive, as well as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Administrative Procedures Act.
In recent years, Congress and the Executive Branch have updated laws and policies to reflect the fact that in the 21st century, federal agencies conduct their business almost exclusively using electronic communications and systems. The updates included the OMB/NARA “digital government” Directive, which ordered federal agencies to manage all email records in an electronic format by the end of 2016. Congress then amended FRA in 2014 to define a “record” to explicitly include “information created, manipulated, communicated or stored in digital or electronic form,” amongst other changes. Congress also prohibited agency employees from creating or sending records using non-official electronic messaging accounts. "The American public should have confidence that the FCC is properly capturing and archiving its own communications,” wrote Chairmen Pallone and Doyle.
I moved quickly to re-charter the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment, which had gone dormant. When it was chartered in July 2017, I charged the Committee’s leaders with developing real-world solutions to spur diversity and digital empowerment in under-served communities. I asked them to bring recommendations that could be quickly implemented in order to get solutions to the public rapidly. One of the deliverables to come out of this Advisory Committee is today’s workshop. And have they ever delivered!
We initially chartered the Advisory Committee in July 2017 for a two-year period. I’m pleased to announce today that I will start the process to re-charter this advisory committee in April. I can promise you this: The Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment is a real asset to the Commission and to the country, and it won’t wither away on my watch. On behalf of the agency, we are grateful to all the members of the current committee and working groups for their hard work and commitment to these important issues.
After more than a decade of studying the spread and impact of digital life in the United States, Pew Research Center has intensified its exploration of the impact of online connectivity among populations in emerging economies – where the prospect of swift and encompassing cultural change propelled by digital devices might be even more dramatic than the effects felt in developed societies. Surveys conducted in 11 emerging and developing countries across four global regions find that the vast majority of adults in these countries own – or have access to – a mobile phone of some kind. And these mobile phones are not simply basic devices with little more than voice and texting capacity: A median of 53% across these nations now have access to a smartphone capable of accessing the internet and running apps. Some key takeaways:
- Majorities say mobile phones and social media have mostly been good for them personally, but somewhat less so for society.
- While mobile phone users largely agree that their phones help them get news, many are concerned about the spread of misinformation when using their phone.
- Public attitudes have become more positive about the internet’s influence on certain facets of society, like the economy and education, in most countries surveyed.
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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