Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Headlines Daily Digest
Elections and Media
Kids and Media
Stories From Abroad
Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and her fellow Senate Broadband Caucus co-chairs hosted a panel about broadband mapping titled, “Broadband Mapping: Discussing Challenges and Solutions.” At the event, Sen Klobuchar highlighted her bill with Sens Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and John Hoeven (R-ND) to improve the Federal Communication Commission’s broadband coverage maps and help close the digital divide. The bipartisan Improving Broadband Mapping Act would give policymakers more accurate data—including consumer reported data, and state and local data—on broadband coverage nationwide. “As we work to close the digital divide and bring high-speed internet to communities across the country, it’s critical that we have a clear and accurate understanding of where broadband is available. Improving the accuracy of the FCC’s broadband maps is a top priority for me, and it’s a top priority for Minnesota,” Sen Klobuchar said.
Influential industry groups are vying to get the Federal Communications Commission to adopt competing proposals for how to map broadband coverage across the country. A consortium of groups and companies including USTelecom, whose members include AT&T, Verizon, and smaller broadband providers, is proposing that the FCC create a new nationwide map -- using satellite imagery, digital land parcel data, and other data sources -- to track all locations that could be served by broadband. USTelecom is running a pilot project in VA and MO that it plans to submit to the FCC later in 2019 to showcase its national potential.
NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, which represents the cable industry including Comcast and Charter, is urging the FCC to change its reporting requirements to include data called shapefiles, which can include subscribers’ addresses, geographic coordinates, and other location information, to make the FCC’s broadband map more accurate.
Microsoft and broadband access advocates are urging the FCC to include more data sources, instead of relying solely on unverified ISP data. It’s also urging the FCC to incorporate subscription data and other third-party data, including its own, to complement the data it receives from ISPs.
The Federal Communications Commission authorized nearly $111.6 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 37,148 unserved rural homes and businesses in 12 states representing the first wave of support from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding in May 2019. In total, the auction allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. Over the coming months, the FCC will be authorizing additional funding waves as it approves the final applications of the winning bidders from the auction. The largest funding applications approved by the FCC:
- ECO Services, an electric cooperative, is receiving $22.2 million to deploy gigabit connections to over 7,700 locations in rural Oklahoma.
- United Services, an electric cooperative, is receiving $20.2 million to deploy gigabit connections to over 5,500 locations in rural Missouri.
- Hawaiian Telcom is receiving $18.1 million to deploy gigabit connections to over 3,900 locations in rural Hawaii.
In many states, elected officials are listening to constituents and experts who tell them that they need fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to keep their communities from dwindling. States that refuse funding to public entities, however, block out some of the best opportunities to connect people and businesses in rural areas. In places such as Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia, states need to trust their own people to develop necessary broadband networks. When states such as TN, VA, and MI purposely deny local governments the right to bring better connectivity to their residents and businesses, they interfere with local matters.
The Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program (ReConnect Program) through the US Department of Agriculture, makes $600 million available in a combination of grants and loans for rural broadband. In addition to traditional Internet access providers, co-ops, and other traditional broadband providers, tribes, states, local governments and other public entities can apply for funding. If the federal agency recognizes the intuitive vision of local communities, states need to follow suit.
“Build it and they will come.” This line has become shorthand for the idea that new infrastructure, once built, attracts customers. But with broadband — the technology that brings high-speed, reliable internet into our homes, schools, farms and workplaces—the quote may have an unhappy twist: if you don’t build it, they won’t have a chance. What’s missing is the infrastructure. The internet doesn’t come out of thin air: Broadband requires an array of physical elements — fibers, towers and cables, among others — to move words, images and sound from their source to our computers, laptops and smartphones. At least 24 million Americans are still waiting for that infrastructure to bring them broadband, which is no longer just a convenience but rather is an essential cornerstone of American life — critical to education, health care and the economy.
Before these millions of Americans can fully engage with people and information over the internet, the gaps in connectivity must be closed. That won’t happen unless broadband is included in any plan to modernize our nation’s infrastructure for the 21st century. As bipartisan support grows for new investment in infrastructure, filling in the empty spaces on the broadband map needs to be a big part of the effort.
[Anne Stauffer is director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work on fiscal federalism, broadband research and student loan research. Kathryn de Wit is manager of Pew’s broadband research initiative.]
Arguments used to justify digital services taxes on large Internet companies are flawed. The United States should counter these proposals and work to restore international consensus around tax treatment for multinational companies.
The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition joined Mobile Beacon, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation (NACEPF), Public Knowledge and Voqal in asking the Federal Communications Commission to request additional comment on and delay its proceeding to transform the Educational Broadband Service (EBS). The letter identified several topics on which the FCC must request additional comment due to insufficient information:
- The economic impact and social benefits of making EBS spectrum available to educational entities versus moving immediately to auction.
- The current contours of existing EBS spectrum licenses.
- The ways current EBS licensees achieve both educational benefits and broadband deployment today.
- The options for modernizing the educational use rules.
The letter also noted that the FCC should not decide on the EBS rulemaking until the FCC and the Department of Justice resolve the pending merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. Because Sprint is the dominant operator in the EBS band, the merger outcome could affect critical issues in the rulemaking proceeding. "A rush to judgment in favor of auctions could deepen the digital divide, delay rural deployment, and permanently abandon the almost 60-year-old commitment to educational use of this spectrum," said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he wished US allies could view a copy of May 14's hearing on 5G cybersecurity to see the uncommon bipartisan agreement that Chinese technology is a threat to the safety and security of the Internet of everything next-gen wireless broadband will drive. The hearing's first panel featured Christopher Krebs, director, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Department of Homeland Security, and Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications and information policy at the State Department. They said the key is for companies and countries to take a "risk-based" assessment of their 5G network buildouts, an assessment that would almost certainly exclude Chinese telecoms. The good news, those officials suggested, was that the four major US wireless carriers had agreed not to employ technology from Huawei, ZTE and other potential security threats. Chairman Graham tried to get the officials to state, plainly, that the US policy with its allies should be that we won't share info or connect to their networks if they include Chinese telecom tech in their 5G networks. The officials would not go quite that far, but likely only because of the practical and diplomatic consequences of such a binary choice.
What is the Federal Communications Commission doing to make the future of Wi-Fi brighter? The answer is: a lot! I know there’s a lot of excitement about what we’re doing in the 6 GHz band—what could be a massive, 1,200-megahertz test bed for innovators and innovation. But first I’d like to talk about its next-door neighbor on the spectrum chart—the 5.9 GHz band. There’s been a lot of debate about this band, and I’d like to share with you today my view on the right way forward. I believe that the time has come for the FCC to take a fresh look at this band. We should open up a rulemaking proceeding, seek comment on various proposals for the band’s future, and use the record that we compile to make a final decision on how the band should be allocated.
The Trump Administration’s swift-moving plan to promote 5G networks is running into resistance from the weather-forecasting community. The dispute centers around ultrahigh radio frequencies that the Federal Communications Commission recently auctioned off for use in the country’s next-generation wireless networks. Officials at other agencies, including the Department of Commerce and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, warn that those airwaves—specifically those above 24 gigahertz—could scramble nearby readings from the federal weather satellites that meteorologists use to make storm predictions. The concerns, for now, are theoretical, as cellphone carriers’ early upgrades have focused on other frequencies. But weather researchers worry interference could endanger future forecasts. Scientists warn the FCC’s plan “would substantially impact the accuracy of weather forecasts” used to gauge the risks from hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather, according to a recent letter Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
Apparently, T-Mobile and Sprint, fighting to win regulatory clearance for their $26.5-billion merger, are considering possible concessions to salvage the deal. Among the top options being discussed is the separation and potential sale of their “prepaid” businesses. Other options — such as selling airwave licenses or setting up a new carrier through a network-leasing arrangement — are far less attractive, apparently. The idea of concessions suggests that they’re anticipating a challenge from the Justice Department’s antitrust division and the Federal Communications Commission, which both have to sign off on the transaction. It’s common for companies seeking merger approval to offer asset sales to resolve concerns.
SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space company, is planning to launch 60 of its own satellites in a single launch expected May 15, the first of more than 4,000 spacecraft planned for the Starlink network. If successful, the flight will make SpaceX the frontrunner in a tight race to be the first operator of an internet satellite network, as SpaceX is the only competitor with its own rockets. SpaceX is one of several, including OneWeb, Telesat and even Amazon, that are investing in plans to launch thousands of satellites that aim to deliver internet connections to customers below. All of these plans will require billions of dollars in investment—for factories and for the satellites and ground stations that will need to be built, plus the cost of launches and operations.
From the point of view of physics, using an array of satellites orbiting the planet to provide internet access makes a lot of sense. Practically speaking, the problem has been that launching satellites is just too expensive compared with laying cable here on Earth. But now, the business plan is attractive to investors again, thanks to growing demand for connectivity around the world, alongside cheaper and more powerful satellites. Each of these companies is using an unproven architecture—flying what could eventually be thousands of satellites at altitudes far lower than traditional communications satellites in order to improve connection speeds. And analysts believe the telecom market will not support all of the firms vying to operate high-velocity computers orbiting Earth.
Federal Communications Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks say that the FCC has not been forthcoming about its investigation into the sale of consumers' real-time cell phone location data by AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. It appears the investigation has not been prioritized by the agency. Around a year after the inquiry was opened, there have been no public updates, and the two commissioners said they have little knowledge on what's actually being investigated. "So far it appears that the FCC is more interested in protecting the privacy of its investigation than the privacy of wireless consumers across the country," said Commissioner Rosenworcel. "In my enforcement experience, cases with clear and significant public safety implications must be prioritized and resolved expeditiously. The stakes here couldn’t be higher," said Commissioner Starks.
The report condemns the Federal Communications Commission for failing to adequately respond to the September 2017 hurricanes, which knocked out 95 percent of all cell sites, 97 percent of radio stations and all local television stations. The report calls out the agency’s failure to hold wired and wireless carriers to account for neglecting to build resilient networks or respond in a timely or sufficient fashion to restore communications to the islands’ residents. The report urges the FCC to form an independent commission to investigate the communications crisis, which contributed to the deaths of thousands.
Free Press also released the FCC’s initial response to its ongoing Freedom of Information Act request for consumer complaints received from wired and wireless customers in Puerto Rico following the hurricanes’ devastation. The complaints offer a small window into a much larger problem in Puerto Rico, where many of the principal carriers promised automatic refunds and relief for the extensive loss of services but seemingly failed to deliver. The Free Press report and FOIA response reveal a shocking double standard at the Trump FCC, where the agency has failed to investigate and hold carriers accountable for the widespread and prolonged outages following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. By contrast, the FCC conducted a far more rigorous investigation into the communications failures that followed Hurricane Michael, which struck Florida in October 2018. But the FCC has ignored calls to conduct a similar analysis in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Connecting the Dots features the perspectives of people living in Puerto Rico. Free Press worked in partnership with Resilient Just Technologies and the Center for Embodied Pedagogy and Action to collect stories from those in the storm’s path. The report draws from these accounts to call for an independent investigation and propose a series of policy changes for Congress, the FCC and other federal agencies to adopt to fully understand what went wrong and to prevent the islands’ communications networks from collapsing in the future. These recommendations also apply to other parts of the country that suffer from violent storms.
The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Comcast’s one-third stake in Hulu and to take full control of the streaming service. The sale price would be at least $5.8 billion and could climb once an independent party assesses Hulu’s fair market value. The potential payout is based on Hulu’s current $27.5 billion valuation (in April 2019, it was valued at $15.8 billion). Hulu had 28 million subscribers at the end of April, a 12 percent jump since the end of last year. Although it is expected to lose more than $1.5 billion in 2019, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, said he expected the service to reach 40 million subscribers and turn a profit by around 2024. Under the terms of the deal, Comcast, the owner of NBCUniversal, agreed to continue licensing its NBC shows to Hulu through 2024, with an option to pull its content after three years. The provision is potentially crucial to the future of Hulu, which began as a joint venture among broadcast networks and built its audience on shows from NBC, ABC and Fox. Comcast, which invested a total of $2 billion in the venture, will also relinquish its three Hulu board seats immediately. The company’s decision to cede full control of Hulu to Disney comes as NBC prepares to roll out its own streaming service.
Renewed trade tensions between the US and China threaten to throw Apple back into the global trade battle, putting its iPhone business at risk just as the tech giant appeared to be shoring up declining sales of its most important product. The round of tariff increases that hit May 10 don’t directly affect iPhones, iPads, Macs or Apple Watches. But President Donald Trump recently threatened a tariff of 25% on $325 billion in Chinese imports that haven’t previously been targeted by duties. Those would cover virtually all Chinese exports to the US, including Apple’s most important devices.
This report presents a quantitative assessment of how the presentation of news has changed over the past 30 years and how it varies across platforms. Using RAND-Lex, a suite of tools that combine machine learning and text analysis, the researchers considered such linguistic characteristics as social attitude, sentiment, affect, subjectivity, and relation with authority for four comparisons: newspapers before and after 2000 (through 2017), broadcast television news before and after 2000 (through 2000), broadcast news and prime-time cable programming for the period from 2000 to 2017, and newspapers and online journalism during the 2012–2017 period. Over time, and as society moved from "old" to "new" media, news content has generally shifted from more-objective event- and context-based reporting to reporting that is more subjective, relies more heavily on argumentation and advocacy, and includes more emotional appeals. These changes were observed across platforms, appearing least significant in the evolution of print journalism and most stark in comparisons of broadcast news with prime-time cable programming and of print journalism with online journalism. The report quantifies the sizes of observed changes and provides examples of what these changes look like in context. It also includes a discussion of the implications of these trends for the changing media ecosystem and for Truth Decay—the term RAND uses to refer to the diminishing role of facts and analysis in political discourse.
[much more at the link below]
AT&T has cut more than 23,000 jobs since receiving a big tax cut at the end of 2017, despite lobbying heavily for the tax cut by claiming that it would create thousands of jobs. AT&T in Nov 2017 pushed for the corporate tax cut by promising to invest an additional $1 billion in 2018, with CEO Randall Stephenson saying that "every billion dollars AT&T invests is 7,000 hard-hat jobs. These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard-hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year." The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018. But AT&T cut capital spending and kept laying people off after the tax cut. A union analysis of AT&T's publicly available financial statements "shows the telecom company eliminated 23,328 jobs since the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019," the Communications Workers of America (CWA) said.
Elections and Media
Three Florida radio stations will air two-minute snippets of Trump speeches every hour of every day -- perhaps sometimes twice an hour -- until the 2020 election. Samuel Rogatinsky, the owner of the stations, said, “We ran it by a bunch of listeners and people in the area, and nobody’s upset about it. It’s Republican territory. Nobody’s offended by it. It’s not an issue.” Rogatinsky’s newly formed company, Gulf Coast Media, recently purchased Classic Rock WRBA-FM 95.9, Country WKNK-FM “Hank FM” and Adult Hits WASJ-FM “BOB FM,” whose signals cover Bay County (FL). Hurricane Michael damaged the stations’ facilities so badly that they went off the air for several months. Rogatinsky said the stations will offer similar airtime to other candidates if requested, to comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s equal time guidelines.
This paper analyses the incidence of broadband on regional productivity in Brazil, intending to find out if the economic impact is uniform across all territories of the country. The possibility of performing a regional approach to test the effect of broadband on productivity in an emerging country represents a novelty for the literature. Results suggest that the impact of broadband on productivity is positive although not uniform across regions. On the one hand, it seems to depend on connection quality and network effects. Faster download speed and critical-mass accounting for network externalities in the region enhance the economic impact of broadband. On the other hand, higher productivity gains are estimated for the less developed regions. The fact that the less productive regions in Brazil seem to be benefiting more from broadband may suggest that it can constitute a factor favoring regional convergence in the country.
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.
© Benton Foundation 2019. Redistribution of this email publication — both internally and externally — is encouraged if it includes this message. For subscribe/unsubscribe info email: headlines AT benton DOT org
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org
The Benton Foundation All Rights Reserved © 2019