Friday, August 10, 2018
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Although the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018 (RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018) amends section 13 of the Communications Act of 1934, and requires the Federal Communications Commission, “in the last quarter of every even numbered year” to publish a “Communications Marketplace Report,” that, among other things, “assess[es] the state of deployment of communications capabilities, including advanced telecommunications capability (as defined in section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. [section]1302)), regardless of the technology used for such deployment.” While section 402 of the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018 makes several conforming edits to the Communications Act and other communications-related statutes, it does not amend section 706 of the 1996 Act. Therefore, the FCC’s charge to “annually . . . initiate a notice of inquiry concerning the availability of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans,” is unchanged except that in even numbered years, the Broadband Deployment Report will be included as part of the Communications Marketplace Report.
FCC Commissioner Jessica did not approve this Notice of Inquiry saying, "I fear that today’s inquiry sets the stage for an unfortunate repeat of last year’s Broadband Deployment Report. That report found—despite clear evidence of 24 million Americans without high-speed service—that broadband deployment nationwide is both reasonable and timely. It ignored too many people in too many places struggling to access high-speed service and dealing with connectivity that falls short of what is necessary for full participation in the digital age. Moreover, this inquiry fundamentally errs by proposing to keep our national broadband standard at 25 Megabits per second. I believe this goal is insufficiently audacious. It is time to be bold and move the national broadband standard from 25 Megabits to 100 Megabits per second. When you factor in price, at this speed the United States is not even close to leading the world. That is not where we should be and if in the future we want to change this we need both a more powerful goal and a plan to reach it. Our failure to commit to that course here is disappointing."
GN Docket No. 18-238
Comment Date: September 10, 2018
Reply Comment Date: September 24, 2018
Sinclair Broadcast Group filed documents with the Federal Communications Commission withdrawing its applications to acquire Tribune Media and asking the agency to cancel hearings set to discuss the merger. Sinclair asked that its applications to acquire Tribune be withdrawn with prejudice and requested that the chief administrative law judge terminate a hearing that was to look into possible sham transactions associated with the approval process.
Tribune Media said in court filings that its merger path over the past 12 months with Sinclair Broadcast Group was bloodied not by regulatory pressure but by its partner's hubris, and is seeking $1 billion in damages to help heal its wounds. Tribune said Sinclair repeatedly failed to disclose key information to tribune and regulators, a practice which helped torpedo the deal. According to the suit, the deal would have likely been approved months ago if Sinclair had only agreed to divest of stations in 10 overlap markets earmarked by the Department of Justice and presented clean station sales to the Federal Communications Commission to adhere to the federal broadcast ownership cap. Instead Sinclair, according to Tribune, focused on deals that would greatly benefit Sinclair and only added to the deal’s regulatory onus.
“Although staff members at DOJ and the FCC laid out a clear path for clearance of the Merger, Sinclair ignored their repeated statements of what was required for approval,” Tribune said in the filing. “Instead, Sinclair defiantly (and unsuccessfully) attempted to obtain clearance on better terms for itself, regardless of how long that took or whether it risked failing to obtain approval of the Merger.” Sinclair never informed Tribune or the government that the proposed buyer of three stations – Cunningham Communications – was owned by a car dealer Steven Fader who’s biggest shareholder was Sinclair chairman David Smith. Nor did the broadcaster disclose that a controlling interest in Cunningham’s had been sold at a “suspiciously low price” to a Sinclair associate with re-purchase options held by Smith’s family members.
Today is a good day for every American who believes that diversity of voices in the media is better for our democracy. The combination of Sinclair and Tribune would have created a media mega-monster that would have put far too much power over local news and information in the hands of one company. Moreover, as the FCC found in its Hearing Designation Order, Sinclair may have misrepresented to the agency whether it was really ceding control of some of the TV stations it had promised the government that it would divest. If true, this allegation raises a legitimate question as to whether Sinclair is fit to be a broadcast licensee at all, not just a licensee of Tribune’s stations.
This transaction had but two supporters – Sinclair and Tribune. It was opposed by large and small cable companies, rural broadband providers, conservative cable channels and the public interest community. Chairman Pai and his colleagues did right by the American people and the entire broadcast industry by putting the brakes on this merger.
A survey from Consumer Reports finds that only 38 percent of those with paid TV subscriptions with cable or satellite providers said they were very or completely satisfied with their service. Consumer Reports said most of the larger cable companies ended up in the bottom half of the 25 companies on the ratings list. Google Fiber broke away from the pack on the TV front, though, receiving top marks in areas like technical support, customer service and equipment ease of use.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission highlighting testimony presented at the June 27, 2018 hearing on the proposed T-Mobile US and Sprint merger. The letter draws the agencies’ attention to important issues raised by witnesses appearing at the hearing, including the resulting increase in market concentration in the wireless telecommunications industry, and the potential for the merger to create a more competitive wireless carrier. In particular, the letter addresses the potential for significant efficiencies that would benefit consumers.
“Perhaps the key argument the parties have made in support of their proposed transaction is that by combining their particular spectrum and infrastructure assets, the merger will increase the combined firm’s capacity. According to T-Mobile and Sprint, this resulting expansion in capacity would provide the merged firm with incentives to lower prices to attract customers. Such efficiency claims, if supported by verifiable evidence, suggest the merger could, on the whole, benefit, rather than harm, consumers. However, I recognize that merging parties are often unable to provide evidence supporting such claims, as Sprint itself alleged in its challenge to AT&T’s earlier attempt to acquire T-Mobile.”
A new report from Cowen declares Verizon as a fiber giant, well positioned to leverage its fiber holdings for its future fixed wireless and 5G plans.
Verizon now has 900,000 global fiber route miles, according to Cowen’s latest “Current State of Fiber” report. It says Verizon is a top five fiber provider in 16 markets outside its ILEC footprint, bolstered by its acquisitions last year of XO’s fiber assets, a portion of WOW’s fiber in Chicago, and dark fiber from Zayo. “Despite a leadership position, Verizon continues its relentless and aggressive fiber densification, especially with metro fiber deployment,” the report authors said.
Overall, the report noted a “significant impact of consolidation” within the industry, including Verizon’s acquisition of XO; and the increasing concentration of fiber controlled by the top providers, which in turn will increase the scarcity value of the remaining independent fiber assets.
After a series of errors associated with the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC’s) roll-out of the ERate Productivity Center (EPC), the web-based account and application management portal for the E-Rate program, Pribilof School District (St. Paul Island, Alaska) filed its application for funding and its subsequent waiver request after the applicable deadlines. Now the Federal Communications Commission grants relief to Pribilof and gives an opportunity for relief to other similarly-situated applicants whose applications were rejected because of failures of the EPC platform during funding year 2016. The FCC also directs its Wireline Competition Bureau to initiate a process by which other funding year 2016 applicants would have 60 days to demonstrate that they experienced the same special circumstances as Pribilof and that a waiver would be in the public interest for their respective funding year 2016 E-Rate applications.
The Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint is hastening the demise of local newspapers across the country, forcing already-struggling publications to cut staff, reduce the number of days they print and, in at least one case, shutter entirely. A Charles River Associates study undertaken on behalf of a coalition of printers, publishers and paper suppliers projects that American newsprint prices will increase more than 30 percent in the next one to two years, and that newspapers and printers will face an increased cost of roughly half a billion dollars from the remaining five American mills producing newsprint. The study was filed with the United States International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that governs trade.
At the DeWitt Wallace Center’s News Measures Research Project, we set out to document the extent to which communities have access to robust local journalism and determine whether certain types of communities are more at risk than others. We studied 100 US communities and found:
- 20 of them received no local news stories in the seven days that we analyzed
- 12 communities received no original stories during this time period
- 8 received no stories addressing a critical information need
- Only 44 percent of the stories were original
- Only 17 percent were local
- 56 percent addressed a critical information need
- Only about 11 percent of the stories are local, original, and address a critical information need
- The number of universities in a community is positively related to the total number of stories, number of original stories, and number of stories addressing a critical information need, largely because of the number of local media outlets that they tend to operate
[Philip M. Napoli is the James R. Shepley Professor of Public Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, where he is also a Faculty Affiliate with the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy]
To its credit, CBS News has not shied away from reporting on its own top executives who stand accused of committing acts of sexual harassment and tolerating a culture of inappropriate sexual behavior -- most notably within the CBS News division. Stories seen since the end of July on various CBS News programs have not evaded the key issues or, more importantly, the details of the accusations leveled by women who told their stories to the New Yorker's Ronan Farrow. The details, complete with direct quotes, have been splashed across TV screens in several stories produced by the very division that is under scrutiny. In all the stories, CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves and former CBS News Chairman and current “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager were featured prominently.
The amount of data collected by the federal government is reaching almost unfathomable levels, which leads to a more pressing question: What good is data if you can’t mine it for gold?
Due to this quandary, the Administration, agency heads, and Congress have all been looking for ways to refresh and refine the government’s approach to analyzing and storing data. Most recently, the President’s Management Agenda outlined a new Federal Data Strategy to help further drive the digital transformation of the US government, society, and the economy. At the core of modernization comes a general understanding and acceptance of technology. Without data literacy, the prospect of quickly meeting the Administration’s data and IT modernization goals is simply not feasible. Over the course of the next year, federal stakeholders will be tasked with providing input surrounding usage of and access to critical data, which will further inform the best practices and principles that make up the Federal Data Strategy.
However, while the tactics and overall vision of the Federal Data Strategy will empower agencies to become more data-driven, it does not solve the issue of those within the federal workforce—from management to support staff—who currently lack the data literacy skills needed to comprehend what these mountains of data are trying to tell us. The lack of data literacy inhibits federal leaders from leveraging insights to make informed and strategic decisions that will ultimately benefit their agency’s workforce and the citizens they serve. In an effort to bridge widening skills gaps and further drive innovation across their agency, the first step in this process is ensuring that federal employees at all levels of government acquire the data literacy skills needed to achieve these goals.
The Federal Communications Commission solicits nominations for membership on a new Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC). This new working group will assist the BDAC in providing advice and recommendations to the FCC on steps that can be taken to improve disaster preparation, response, and recovery for broadband infrastructure. The BDAC’s Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group will be charged with making recommendations on additional measures that can be taken before a disaster to improve resiliency of broadband infrastructure, strategies that can be used during the response to a disaster to minimize the downtime of broadband networks, and actions that can be taken to restore broadband infrastructure during disaster recovery.
Nominations for membership to the BDAC’s Disaster Response and Recovery Working Group should be submitted to the FCC no later than September 7, 2018.
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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