Friday, April 5, 2019
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The Colorado House sent to the governor's desk a bill that attempts to ensure that telecommunications companies operating in the state abide by net neutrality standards tossed by the federal government in 2017. Under that measure, SB78, telecommunications companies that provide broadband services in Colorado would be barred from receiving state grants if they engage in slowing down or blocking competitors on the internet. Just like the Colorado Senate, the House approved the bill on a straight party-line vote. Both chambers are controlled by Democrats.
Democrats believe that net neutrality can only be achieved by regulating the Internet as if it were a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, which was originally used to govern monopoly telephone companies in the 1930s. The “Save the Net Act” imposes the heavy hand of Washington’s regulatory bureaucracy over the single most important driver of economic growth, job creation, and a better quality of life for all Americans. This will do everything but save the Internet. “Title II” sounds inconsequential, but layering this new national governance over the web would give the Federal Communications Commission unbridled regulatory authority. The government would have the power to tax the Internet, dictate where and when new broadband networks can be deployed, and take over the management of private networks.
Syracuse (NY) is the 10th worst city in the nation for digital connectivity. One-quarter of the city’s 54,000 households have no internet. That means people from more than 13,000 homes have to go to a library or a school or a neighbor’s house if they want to get online. Additionally, nearly half of the city’s homes don’t have high-speed broadband. Several thousand households rely solely on a cellular data plan to get online, meaning people have to chew up expensive data on their phone to access the web. Mayor Ben Walsh is exploring several ways to improve broadband connectivity in the city’s digital deserts, mostly stemming from an ambitious plan to purchase nearly 18,000 streetlights from National Grid. Officials plan to use that network to install technology that will improve access to Wi-Fi, 4G and emerging 5G cellular networks in the city’s digital deserts.
According to filings with the International Telecommunications Union, Amazon layed out plans for putting 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit with the goal of providing internet around the world. "Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," the company said. "This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision."
When Syracuse (NY) city officials conjured up a plan to buy 17,507 streetlights from National Grid, they saw an opportunity to pressure big telecommunication companies to extend better service to poor parts of the city and to make a few bucks in the process. But a ruling from the Trump administration late last year quashed that opportunity, slashed a source of potential city revenue and delivered a big win to companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. The Federal Communications Commission recently set strict rules on how much a municipality can charge a private company to install infrastructure on public property and what conditions the municipality can set. That limited the authority of a city like Syracuse to make its own rules for cell towers, stripping the already sparse bargaining power the city has in negotiations with big telecommunication companies.
The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau seeks comment on an amended petition filed by TracFone Wireless. TracFone seeks to expand its designation as an eligible telecommunications carrier to certain Tribal lands in Alabama, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
WC Docket No. 09-197
Comment Date: April 22, 2019 | Reply Comment Date: April 29, 2019
The one principle that anyone engaged in wireless issues knows is that we cannot take time for granted. The Federal Communications Commission's purpose, as I see it, is to ensure that the regulatory environment and necessary spectrum exists to ensure the continued development and deployment of 5G and all next-generation wireless technologies. I appreciate that Chairman Pai asked me to take the helm on the Commission’s efforts to review the priority licensing, commonly referred to as PALs, for the 3.5 GHz, or CBRS, band. I will continue to pressure the FCC to get these frequencies into the hands of wireless providers as quickly as possible, but, unfortunately, I have been informed that it may take until next year at the earliest to conduct an auction. As I said, things always tend to take longer than they should in the government, and apparently reconstructing auction software over and over takes some time.
Public Knowledge supports the creation of a new regulatory agency dedicated to protecting consumers from the consequences (intended or unintended) of tech platforms. The creation of a new agency must be done carefully and with purpose. This agency must have a clear charge from Congress to analyze the entire diverse landscape of tech platforms, not just the dominant firms. The agency must be well stocked with experts in technology, markets, online communications and influence, community building, and the law, and should be empowered with clear rulemaking authority. The agency must have a pro-competition focus not only to protect data portability and broader consumer choice, but also as an acknowledgement that conduct and communities can shift to other platforms based on differing community standards and platform structure.
[Chris Lewis is vice president of Public Knowledge]
A group of privacy experts from organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union is advocating for better laws and technologies that keep data collection from hurting you. One of these tools could be regulation that gives consumers more rights over their data, like the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. The law counters the trend of companies collecting whatever data they want on you and storing it indefinitely, because it puts them at risk of financial penalties if hackers steal the data or if it's misused, said Jon Callas, senior technology fellow at the ACLU. It also means thinking about the unexpected ways data from long ago, which Callas calls "data sludge," could be used against you.
This framework for US privacy legislation outlines clear rules of the road for entities using personal data, details strong rights for people who interact with those entities, and gives the FTC effective authority to make and enforce these rules as technologies evolve. In general, it is designed to shift more of the burden to safeguard personal data from users to companies, and to alleviate the burden on individuals. Ultimately, privacy, security, and data protection are well-served when policy is based upon a comprehensive framework of protections rather than solely technology or sector-specific regulations. Mozilla supports privacy and data protection laws around the world, and the United States has fallen behind on providing similar protections. Core elements of the proposal:
- A duty of care towards people whose personal data is collected or used by an entity
- Data minimization requirements for data that's no longer necessary for the purpose it was collected
- Purpose limitations that require granular consent for data use and onward transfer
- Clear FTC authority and resources for rulemaking, investigation, and enforcement
During questioning at the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing on the Federal Communications Commission's budget, the FCC got some praise for their handling of the post-broadcast incentive auction repack. Ranking Member Tom Graves (R-GA) said that he thought getting the repack right was a case of everyone working together productively to help guide Congress on "the proper steps to take" to get to a final product." Rep Mark Amodei (R-NV) said, "The agency has been phenomenally cooperative and a standout in my experience in eight years here. You didn't always tell what I liked, but you always responded and told the truth and did it in a timely manner and worked well. So, I want to say thank you."
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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