Friday, July 19, 2019
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Nearly drowned out by all the Big Tech hearings and unPresidential tweets this week were developments in broadband deployment. We learned of more funding for rural broadband and a proposal to improve broadband deployment data collection. But we were also reminded of the problems and challenges that still exist in reaching the most disconnected areas.
A new PCMag 1study once again highlights how community-run internet service providers (ISPs) offer better, faster broadband than their private sector counterparts. All told, six of the ten fastest ISPs were either directly run by a local community, or involved some form of partnership between the public and private sectors.
Some experts are arguing that digital services by their very nature represent interstate commerce and therefore are best dealt with by Congress. In order to avoid the fragmentation of state-centered markets, it is necessary to have uniform standards, not state or local statutes. Given the current composition of the US Supreme Court, a majority of justices could endorse that interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and sharply limits the ability of state and local governments to impose rules on digital services or technology innovation. Chief Justice John Roberts now is the swing vote on technology policy. He very well could be the one who decides the parameters of American federalism in regard to digital policy. That should worry consumer rights organizations and local progressives who are fighting to restrict unfair or discriminatory practices. Of course, if 2020 becomes a successful Democratic year, the political equation may shift again. Progressive Democrats will want to pass new national rules on a variety of digital policies, while Republicans would revert to their traditional stance favoring states rights and local control.
I strongly oppose the idea of breaking up Facebook. I don’t believe Facebook is a monopoly. The way to keep social media truly competitive is to reinstate net neutrality. That would even the playing field and allow startups to compete on equal footing with giants like Facebook and Google. If internet service providers start charging for special privileges such as internet “fast lanes,” deep-pocketed companies would be able to squeeze out smaller competitors that can’t afford such costs. While Facebook should be held to account for transgressions such as privacy violations and election interference, breaking up the company wouldn’t solve these problems. It would likely create a handful of mini-Facebooks that engage in the same practices. Let the free market, secured by net neutrality, do its work. As users discover new social networks that fit their values and tastes, they, not regulators, will decide which ones thrive. Millions are already making their voices heard.
[Mark Weinstein is founder and CEO of MeWe.]
June 27, 2019
The Federal Communications Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau seeks comment on a petition for declaratory ruling or, alternatively, rulemaking filed by Paul Armbruster. Specifically, Armbruster seeks a ruling “confirming that a cellular phone customer can revoke consent to receive any and all unwanted text messages from their cell service provider.” According to the Petition, Armbruster was informed by his wireless service provider that “customers are not able to opt-out of receiving certain purely informational texts.” He acknowledges that “cellular carriers need not obtain additional consent from their cellular subscribers prior to initiating autodialer and artificial and prerecorded message calls for which the subscriber is not charged.” He contends, however, that this exemption from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibition on making such calls without the prior express consent of the called party does not affect a consumer’s right to revoke consent at any time and through any reasonable means.
CG Docket No. 02-278
Comment Date: August 19, 2019 Reply Comment Date: September 3, 2019
The White House is pushing Commerce policy director Earl Comstock out of the Trump administration -- the first round of house-cleaning after the 2020 census debacle and clashes over tech policy. In recent months, Comstock has apparently angered President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, White House lawyers, members of the National Security Council, and officials at the National Economic Council, citing both Comstock’s handling of the 2020 US census’s citizenship question and the internal debate over spectrum policy as key areas of disagreement. A feud among President Trump's advisers over 5G wireless spilled into public view in March, when the Commerce Dept raised concerns that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's effort to free up more 5G airwaves for the wireless sector would interfere with the government's use of nearby airwaves for weather forecasting. The White House ultimately sided with the FCC in that debate. But that did not end the internal infighting, as Chairman Pai accused the department of “blocking our efforts at every single turn” during a Senate oversight hearing in June. He said the relationship between the FCC and Commerce Dept has deteriorated since David Redl abruptly resigned his post as head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Early in his tenure at Commerce, Comstock also quietly opposed the FCC’s repeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations by backing a congressional effort to restore the rules.
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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