Daily Digest 7/11/2018 (Sky agrees to sweetened offer from Fox)

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Chairman Pai Remarks at Global Symposium for Regulators in Geneva

[Speech] The Federal Communications Commission has launched an across-the-board review to identify regulations that need to be revised or repealed altogether. Beyond cutting rules that slow network buildout, we’re promoting investment in next-generation networks with a smarter regulatory approach. I often say that dumb pipes won’t deliver smart cities. That’s why we reversed the previous Administration’s decision to impose 20th century utility-style regulations on our 21st century networks. In its place, we have restored the market-based, flexible, lighttouch network approach that governed the Internet for much of its existence. As we think about these emerging technologies, and the theme of new regulatory frontiers, our focus at the International Telecommunication Union should be delivering broadband connectivity for all. That will help extend the promise of Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, virtual and augmented reality, and other technologies to all, regardless of nationality or background. Connectivity is the core of ITU’s mission. It is where the ITU can have the most impact. And unlike regulatory intervention—which can deter innovation and detract from scarce public and private resources—a focus on connectivity can unite us as we seek to promote more innovation and greater international unity.

Fulfilling a Vision of Small-Town Broadband

When they set out on their own in 2012 after more than two decades working for one of the most revered names in the cable industry — the late Bill Bresnan, founder of Bresnan Communications — Jeff DeMond and Andrew Kober had a clear vision of where their respective futures lay. Broadband was the key. But not just any broadband. DeMond, CEO of Vyve Broadband, one of 2018’s Independent Operators of the Year, said he and Kober, Vyve’s chief financial officer, specifically looked for rural markets, territories that were essentially being shunned by larger, more established operators. "We still thought upgraded broadband networks were the best delivery platform for all the advanced services that were known and seemed to be coming, and that rural markets were still attractive and obviously still are underserved,” DeMond said. “They have lower competition and, important to our investment, they had slower broadband adoption. That gave us a window to say, ‘Where could we go to do what we believe we do well, based on the experience of our core team and all that have joined since?’ We looked around for that kind of opportunity and we ended up finding two companies.” Those two companies were Allegiance Communications, a small operator with systems in OK, TX, AR, KS and MO; and James Cable, with operations in OK, TX, LA, TN, GA and WY. 


NTIA Files Petition to Update Wireless Priority Service Program

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission to update the rules governing Wireless Priority Service (WPS), a program that enables wireless emergency calls to get through if networks are congested. The petition is designed to update rules governing WPS, which were developed in the late 1990s and have not been updated since the program began following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The WPS program, which originally provided priority access only to cellular network radio channels, has continually evolved to reflect new standards and technologies as well as meet the increased priority communications needs of the national security/emergency preparedness community. NTIA filed the petition on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications (OEC), which manages priority telecommunications programs. Many of the requests covered in the petition simply seek to align the FCC’s rules with OEC’s current business practices and capabilities, but asks for some increased WPS capabilities, including the following changes:

  1. Permit WPS voice calls for a small subset of high-priority WPS users, if needed, to preempt or degrade in-progress, non-911 calls;
  2. Extend priority services beyond just voice calls to include data, text, and video services;
  3. Require WPS providers and users to provide DHS performance data needed to evaluate program effectiveness;
  4. Modify the rules to reflect authorities, organizations, and requirements that were not in existence at the time the rules were approved; and 
  5. Reflect current capabilities not present or envisioned at the onset of the program, e.g., end-to-end priority, new methods of invoking priority, and refines the rules used to approve and categorize the WPS user base.

CTIA's The State of Wireless 2018 Report

CTIA’s Annual Wireless Industry Survey finds the industry beginning the transition from 4G to 5G wireless networks with significant growth in cell sites and data-only devices. That growth and continued demand for everything wireless contributed to Americans using an unprecedented amount of mobile data in 2017. The key wireless trends in this year's survey:

  • Mobile data continues to skyrocket: Americans used a record 15.7 trillion megabytes (MBs) of mobile data in 2017—nearly quadrupling since 2014 and representing 40 times the volume of traffic in 2010. That is equal to nearly 250 million people simultaneously binge-watching every episode of Game of Thrones in HD.
  • Wireless connectivity is evolving with 5G on the horizon: Data-only devices—such as connected cars, IoT devices and wearables—rose to 126.4 million in 2017, up nearly 20 percent year-over-year and 147 percent in the past five years.
  • Building wireless networks for tomorrow’s 5G services. To further extend coverage and prepare for 5G, a record 323,448 cell sites were in operation at the end of 2017—a 52 percent growth over the last decade. Analysts project that wireless carriers will need to deploy roughly 800,000 modern wireless antennas – small cells – in the next few years.
  • Investing in America. Wireless provider capital expenditures totaled $25.6 billion in 2017, and since 2010 when 4G networks were launched, capital investment has exceeded $226 billion.

Sprint Builds Out Its Network Using Honolulu’s Infrastructure

Some city light poles around Oahu (HI) are being equipped to produce more than street lighting. A contractor representing mobile phone service provider Sprint is installing data transmission equipment on 67 poles largely concentrated in Honolulu’s urban core but also in Central Oahu, Leeward Oahu and Laie. The equipment turns the light poles into miniature cell antenna towers that eliminate service coverage dead spots and increase data transmission capacity as more phone users consume more data, largely by watching videos. The city, which earns revenue from licensing use of the poles, expects more mobile phone service providers to follow suit. Mobilitie LLC, a (CA)-based firm working on behalf of Sprint, was the first to strike such an agreement with the city.


Groups join petition to delay Sinclair-Tribune merger review

A growing number of groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission to delay its review of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s merger with Tribune Media, while a court weighs a recent agency move that would ease the deal's approval. The organizations joining the effort include the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the conservative outlet Newsmax and the telecom trade group NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. The groups joined a petition first filed in June by Public Knowledge and Common Cause to the FCC. That petition asked the agency to hold off on the Sinclair-Tribune proceeding while the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the FCC’s order allowing broadcasters to buy up more local television stations. “If the Commission’s reinstatement of the UHF discount is vacated by the DC Circuit, Sinclair would have to make significant divestitures — greater than four times the currently-proposed divestitures — to comply with ownership limit,” the groups wrote in a letter to the FCC dated July 9.

Sky agrees to sweetened £24.5bn takeover offer from Fox

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has agreed to new terms to acquire Sky, the pan-European TV group, in a deal worth £24.5 billion that is designed to see off a rival offer from US media giant Comcast. Fox said that it had agreed to pay £14 per share for Sky, a significant premium to the original £10.75 per share deal it made with the London-based company in December 2016. The new offer pushes the competition for Sky, which has 23 million customers across Europe and the lucrative broadcast rights to the English Premier League and other sports competitions in some markets, to new heights. Fox’s Rupert Murdoch, who founded Sky in the early 1990s, has long coveted regaining full control of the business. But Sky is also an important prize for both Walt Disney and Comcast, which are seeking to buy the bulk of Fox.


Facebook Is Fined by British Agency Over Cambridge Analytica Data Leak

 Facebook was hit with the maximum possible fine in Britain for allowing the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the information of millions of people without their consent, in what amounts to the social network’s first financial penalty since the data leak was revealed. The fine of 500,000 pounds, or about $660,000, represents a tiny sum for Facebook, which brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. But it is the largest fine that can be levied by the British Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent government agency that enforces the country’s data-protection laws. The agency has been investigating the potential misuse of personal data by political campaigns since May 2017. The examination took on new urgency after it was reported in March that Cambridge Analytica, which was based in London, had improperly gathered the data of up to 87 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, used the information to build psychographic profiles of American voters. In an initial report of its investigation on July 10, the Information Commissioner’s Office said it had concluded that “Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information. It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others.”

Senate Commerce Committee Leaders Seek Information on Google's Data Privacy Policies

[Press release] Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), Communications Subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS), in a letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, requested information about the privacy policy and practices of Gmail email services offered through subsidiary company Google. The committee’s information request cites a report in the Wall Street Journal that third party application developers, granted access to Gmail accounts by consumers, have used both human employees and automated systems to read user e-mails for a variety of purposes. They wrote, “While we recognize that third party email apps need access to Gmail data to provide various services, and that users consent to much of this access, the full scope of the use of email content and the ease with which developer employees may be able to read personal emails are likely not well understood by most consumers.” The letter requests a response by July 24, 2018.


What we lose when we let President Trump's tweets and insults take over the news

The media needs to stop letting President Donald Trump be its "assignment editor," Vox editor-at-large Ezra Klein says. There is no rule that "every time the president travels somewhere and opens their mouth, they get wall-to-wall coverage for days," Klein said. Rallies by previous presidents hardly attracted the type of attention that President Trump's do, he explained. Yet, when newsrooms scramble to cover PresidentTrump's rallies, such as the one held on July 5 in Montana, other, more important stories may be getting left behind. July 5 was the same day that two major stories about the administration dropped. Scott Pruitt resigned after a scandal-ridden tenure as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and former Fox News executive Bill Shine -- who was accused of covering up sexual harassment scandals at the network -- was named deputy chief of staff for communications for the White House. Yet, "we're talking about rallies, we're talking about Donald Trump throwing schoolyard insults at people the way he always does," Klein said.

via CNN

New Media Ventures announces $1.2 million in new funding

Key startups and nonprofits are getting a boost thanks to the latest round of funding from a progressive investment firm. New Media Ventures, a seed fund and national network of angel investors supporting media and tech startups that disrupt politics and catalyze progressive change, announced $1.2 million in grants and investments to 13 startups with a focus on technology, media, and political organizing. The list of recipients includes groups like MobilizeAmerica, Resistance Labs and Run for Something. MobilizeAmerica aims to create one centralized “marketplace” for Democratic volunteers, allowing various groups and campaigns to tap into one network of foot soldiers. It counts heavy-hitters like MoveOn and Organizing for Action as among its clients. The new class also includes advocacy startups like Weird Enough Productions — a “media company that uses superheroes and comic books to teach middle and high school students how to combat fake news” — and Jolt, which seeks to mobilize the Latino community in Texas.

Government and Communications

The FCC wants to charge you $225 to review your complaints

On July 12, the Federal Communications Commission will be voting to ensure they won’t have to read your complaints anymore — and Democratic House Commerce Committee leaders are not happy about it. House Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to voice their disapproval of a proposed rule that, if approved, would send informal consumer complaints directly through to the company in question. If the consumer isn’t happy with the outcome of the informal complaint, their only other option would be filing a formal complaint and paying a $225 fee. The Commission’s docket called this move an attempt at streamlining and consolidating “the procedural rules governing formal complaints.” But the procedure has the potential to shut out the voices of consumers when it comes to telecommunications-involved issues. “At a time when consumers are highly dissatisfied with their communications companies, this abrupt change in policy troubles us,” the congressmen wrote. “As the chief communications regulator, the FCC plays a critical role in ensuring consumers—including families, small businesses, and struggling Americans—get fair and honest treatment from their service providers....We worry that the proposed change signals that the FCC no longer intends to play this role, and will instead simply tell consumers with limited means and time that they need to start an expensive and complicated formal legal process."

via Vox

Watch Out, CNN: President Trump's Supreme Court Frontrunner Is Bad News for Free Speech

President Donald Trump may go far in living up to his much-ridiculed pledge to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue media outlets. How? Turn no further than Abbas v. Foreign Policy Group, a 2014 decision at the US Appeals Court for the DC Circuit authored by recent Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh. At first blush, the decision looks like a win for libel defendants. In fact, when it came out, many reporters highlighted how Kavanaugh poured cold water on the notion that asking a question could be actionable as defamation by implication. (The plaintiff was the son of the Palestinian leader suing over the questions, “Are the sons of the Palestinian president growing rich off their father’s system?” and “Have they enriched themselves at the expense of regular Palestinians — and even U.S. taxpayers?”) But the bigger bombshell from Kavanaugh in Abbas was becoming the first appellate circuit anywhere in the nation to rule that anti-SLAPP analysis had no business in federal courts.  What’s “anti-SLAPP”? For those unfamiliar with the term, SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Several dozen states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws to deter frivolous litigation aimed at activity protected by the First Amendment. As Kavanaugh notes in Abbas, anti-SLAPP statutes give more breathing space for free speech and try to decrease the "chilling effect" of speech-restrictive litigation. Having breathing room is important because even meritless lawsuits are expensive to defend. To avoid such costs, some might find it better to self-censor. 

Communications Workers Oppose Kavanaugh Nomination

The Communications Workers of America said DC Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh should not be allowed to join the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, a judicial conservative who has participated in numerous cases involving communications issues, was tapped by President Donald Trump on July 9 to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is exiting at the end of July. "Judge Kavanaugh routinely rules against workers and their families and regularly sides with employers against employees seeking justice in the workplace, including CWA members," said the union, which represents more than 700,000 members, including workers in broadcasting, cable and news. CWA pointed to Kavanaugh's partial dissent in a case involving union members at CNN who lost their jobs due to a reorganization CWA said was just a way to get rid of union workers. Kavanaugh wrote that CNN had not violated labor laws and should not have to pay back wages. They also pointed to his support for AT&T in its decision to prevent CWA members who interacted with the public from wearing union shirts protesting the company and for holding that a picket waiver extended to union signs in workers' cars.

United Church of Christ to Honor Brunner, Sohn at Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture

Two longtime advocates instrumental in shaping the media justice field will be honored October 11, 2018 at the 36th Annual Everett C. Parker Ethics in Telecommunications Lecture in Washington DC. Helen Brunner, founding director of the Media Democracy Fund, will deliver this year’s lecture. For almost forty years, Brunner has been essential in educating philanthropists—and by extension much of the country—about the inter-relationships among arts, media, technology and democracy. Her work at the Albert A. List Foundation between 1996 and 2004 led Brunner to launch the Media Democracy Fund in 2006. With MDF, she built one of the first philanthropic organizations dedicated to promoting policies to protect the public’s communications rights in the digital age. She serves as an adviser to the Quixote Foundation’s media reform program and has been recognized by the Council on Foundations with the Robert Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking. Gigi B. Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award in recognition of 30 years of work in support of greater public access to affordable and open broadband technologies. Sohn began her work on media policy at Media Access Project, taking a leadership role in the transition to digital television and serving on the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television. She helped to reinvigorate the Ford Foundation’s support of media and democracy during her tenure there. From 2001-2013, she served as co-founder and CEO of Public Knowledge, a leading technology policy advocacy organization. She then moved to the Federal Communications Commission, where she served as counselor to Chairman Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016. 

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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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