Thursday, July 1, 2021
Headlines Daily Digest
News from the States
Launched in June 2020, the Chicago Connected program provided a bridge to learning for more than 64,000 Chicago Public Schools students who didn’t have the connectivity or speed to access their remote lessons from home. An inspiring commitment on the part of Chicago’s philanthropy, business, government and nonprofit sectors, Chicago Connected has been replicated in cities across the country and is the national model for bridging the urban digital divide. One year after its launch, we revisit how the program was created, how it serves families’ needs, where improvements can be made, and how it can be further replicated nationwide.
The creation of Chicago Connected, the longest-term, most comprehensive connectivity program in the nation, is truly groundbreaking. Chicago Connected is eliminating broadband accessibility as a barrier to digital learning—and providing a roadmap for other cities and school districts to follow. From its initial launch and throughout implementation, Chicago Connected partners have embraced an “open source” approach, sharing lessons learned along the way. More than 20 cities have reached out to Kids First Chicago and its public-private partners to learn more about the program’s creation and model. Philadelphia and Miami have both launched initiatives modeled after Chicago Connected in design and structure.
After coming close to imposing a near-total ban on municipal broadband networks, Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature has dropped the proposed law in final negotiations over the state budget. Lawmakers apparently relented to public pressure from supporters of municipal broadband and cities and towns that operate the networks. People and businesses from Fairlawn, OH where the city-run FairlawnGig network offers fiber Internet, played a significant role in the protests. FairlawnGig itself asked users to put pressure on lawmakers, and the subscribers did so in great numbers. And though it isn't banning public networks, at least for now, Ohio's legislature is apparently not letting municipal networks apply for a new round of funding. With the June 30 deadline looming, Ohio's House and Senate approved the budget and sent it to Governor Mike DeWine for final approval on June 28.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) released a ruling and staff report on "Equity and Transparency of Fees, Taxes and Surcharges Assessed on Customers of Telecommunications Services in California." The report found that the total number of communications subscribers in the state has increased substantially over the past decade. Yet, over the same period, the surcharges have yielded diminishing revenues.
The staff report concludes by saying with the review of the CPUC’s universal service surcharge mechanisms, as well as the universal service surcharge mechanisms of other states and the Federal Communications Commission, the CPUC is well-positioned to consider alterations or alternative funding mechanisms to address concerns with the declining intrastate billing base. Additionally, the fees that providers add onto consumer bills have increased significantly in recent years. Information obtained from for this report demonstrates an alarming issue: as providers have contributed less to programs that assist the public, they have increased fees that benefit their companies.
US District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida blocked a Florida law that would penalize social media companies for blocking a politician’s posts, a blow to conservatives’ efforts to respond to Facebook and other websites’ suspension of former president Donald Trump. The law was due to go into effect July 1, but in issuing a preliminary injunction, the judge suggested that the law would be found unconstitutional. “The plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their claim that these statutes violate the First Amendment,” Judge Hinkle wrote. “There is nothing that could be severed and survive.”
Congress is poised to move forward with a series of sweeping bills meant to rein in big tech companies. In the process, it's creating new questions about the future of the digital economy. That massive tech companies should be regulated more heavily is a rare point of bipartisan agreement in Washington; the push comes as existing antitrust laws are also being tested against several of the biggest companies in ongoing court battles. As lawmakers prepare to advance some major bills out of committee on June 30, the challenge now is understanding what the new legislation may mean for the products and services consumers use every day. For the obvious targets—Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple—the policies will have varied effects.
The internet's absence of central control, or even easy central monitoring created gaps of responsibility for maintaining valuable content that others rely on. Links work seamlessly until they don’t. And as tangible counterparts to online work fade, these gaps represent actual holes in humanity’s knowledge. It turns out that link rot and content drift are endemic to the web, which is both unsurprising and shockingly risky for a library that has “billions of books and no central filing system.” Imagine if libraries didn’t exist and there was only a “sharing economy” for physical books: People could register what books they happened to have at home, and then others who wanted them could visit and peruse them. It’s no surprise that such a system could fall out of date, with books no longer where they were advertised to be—especially if someone reported a book being in someone else’s home in 2015, and then an interested reader saw that 2015 report in 2021 and tried to visit the original home mentioned as holding it. That’s what we have right now on the web.
[Jonathan Zittrain is a law professor and computer-science professor at Harvard, and a co-founder of its Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society]
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has appointed three additional member organizations to serve on the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) during its current term.The three additional member organizations along with their primary and alternate representatives are:
- Consumer Reports – Jonathan Schwantes, Senior Policy Counsel, Primary; George Slover, Senior Policy Counsel, Alternate
- National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors – Mitsuko Herrera, Montgomery County, MD, Policy, Planning and Special Projects, Primary; Frederick Ellrod, Director, Fairfax County, VA, Communications Policy and Regulation Division, Alternate
- National Consumer Law Center – Olivia Wein, Staff Attorney, Primary; Margot Saunders, Senior Attorney, Alternate.
The next meeting of the CAC will be held on Sept 10, 2021, from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm EST. At this meeting, the Committee will receive presentations regarding recent FCC activities affecting consumers and will discuss upcoming developments of interest to consumers.
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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