Wednesday, July 31, 2019
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Rural broadband was a hot topic for the opening session at the Independent Show, an event put on by cable industry organizations ACA Connects and the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) aimed at smaller cable providers. “It’s something everybody realizes they need to do but traditional finances don’t work,” commented Todd Shurz, President and CEO of IN-based cable and broadband provider Schurz Communications, in reference to the higher costs of deploying broadband in rural areas. “You really need partnerships.” Schurz’s approach toward potential partners is to explain that Schurz can be a headend and backhaul provider, minimizing the investment that the partner must make to offer multi-play services. “You put resources into upgrading your local network and we will do the hand-off,” Schurz tells potential partners, who also may want Schurz to handle tasks such as billing. Different executives did not express enthusiasm around Connect America Fund (CAF) money. "We don't carry debt and the government, surprisngly, doesn't like that," observed one executive. Schurz, however, sees an opportunity to benefit indirectly from state funding programs through a partnership with two electric cooperatives.
Sens Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Hoeven (R-ND) led a bipartisan coalition of senators urging the delay of the Federal Communications Commission’s order to reform the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program. In a letter addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, the senators outlined their concerns with the FCC’s proposed RHC Program order by highlighting unaddressed obstacles that could effectively limit rural Americans’ access to high-quality health care by preventing health care providers from participating in the program. “Given the importance of this program to the nation’s rural and underserved populations and the public interest in a fair and expedient application and review process, we urge you to postpone a decision on the proposed Report and Order so that rural health care practitioners and broadband providers can work with you to address these concerns and allow the program to succeed to its full potential,” the senators said.
Sen Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced legislation to curb addictive and deceptive techniques that tech giants use to exploit users. The Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act would ban certain features that are designed to be addictive, would require choice parity for consent, and would give users the power to monitor their time spent on social media. The bill:
- Bans infinite scroll, autoplay, and other addictive features on social media
- Social media platforms would have to include natural stopping points
- Requires choice parity for consent
- Companies would no longer be allowed to manipulate people into consenting by making it difficult to decline consent, and would have to design “accept” and “decline” boxes using the same formats, fonts, and sizes
- Gives the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services authority to ban other similar practices
- Rules would expire after 3 years unless ratified by Congress
- Gives users power to monitor and control their use time on social media
- Social media companies must provide an in-app tool that enables users to track the time they spend on social media across all devices and allows users to impose caps on the amount of time they spend
Lately, politicians and news sources have been repeating a persistent myth about, of all things, technology law. The myth concerns a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, generally known as Section 230 or CDA 230. CDA 230 isn’t about neutrality. In fact, it explicitly encourages platforms to moderate and remove “offensive” user content. That leaves platform operators and users free to choose between the free-for-all on sites like 8chan and the tamer fare on sites like Pinterest. If platforms couldn’t enforce content policies while retaining immunity, communications today would look a lot like they did in 1965. We could passively consume the carefully vetted content created by big companies like NBC, and we could exchange our own views using common carriers like phone companies, but we wouldn’t have many options in between. That historical division between publishers and carriers is probably why many assume that “be a publisher or be neutral” must be the law on the Internet. There’s a lot of good stuff in the statute. Looking at what it actually says would help us move past today’s unproductive posturing and on to the serious policy discussions we deserve.
[Daphne Keller, the director of intermediary liability at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, is a former associate general counsel to Google.]
Political groups on both sides of the aisle are throwing money and resources at propping up local, partisan websites that are often designed to appear as straight news. Some of these sites are leveraging Facebook advertising to boost their content. This means local news deserts in America are being displaced by big-money politics, and the trend is accelerating ahead of the 2020 election, thanks in large part to technology. What's often missing from these websites are adequate disclosures about funding and accountability, argues Newhouse School of Public Communications professor Jennifer Grygiel. Grygiel argues that technology, and Facebook in particular, has made it easier for partisan news outlets to buy up ads to promote their stories and agendas. She says the disclosure mechanisms on Facebook could be stronger.
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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