Friday, September 14, 2018
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In a surprise trip to Vermont to tout rural broadband access, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that states like VT can impose their own rules to protect network neutrality. VT is one of eight states that bar internet providers from blocking or throttling web traffic. Lawmakers in two dozen other states have introduced net neutrality legislation aimed at wrestling some control of the internet from the FCC. Chairman Pai argues they don't have the legal authority to do so. "A recent court decision made this clear -- that the internet is inherently interstate activity, and it follows from that that only the federal government can set policy," he said. "You don't want a patchwork of 50 different states taking a bite at the regulatory apple." Chairman Pai also responded to questions about the agency's policies on social media. He said he doesn't want sites like Facebook and Twitter to operate under the same rules that internet providers do. But he thinks it's time for more oversight of social media. "What I've said is that we should simply have transparency, that consumers should understand how these social-media tech giants are using their information, and how that information is ultimately being collected," Chairman Pai said. "I think, especially as these social media platforms ultimately control how we experience the internet, what we see and what we don't, I think it's time we have some more insight."
Several thousand poor residents of Arkansas have been dropped from Medicaid because they failed to meet new requirements, the first Americans to lose the safety-net health insurance under rules compelling recipients to work or prepare for a job to keep their coverage. Under Arkansas Works, the state’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, able-bodied adults must go online every month and report their hours of work or other community engagement. They lose insurance if they fail to comply for three months in a year. Statewide, nearly a fourth of the population lives in areas in which Internet service is not available, according to figures from the Federal Communications Commission. Even when they have cellphones, many low-income people have plans in which they pay by the minute, said LaShannon Spencer, chief executive of the Community Health Centers of Arkansas. “So spending your minutes to report [work hours] — what’s the likelihood?” Spencer asked.
In Lee County in the Mississippi Delta, where poverty is rampant, nearly three-quarters of the people lack online access. “I’ve had people say, ‘What’s Arkansas Works?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, you don’t even know what it is, so how do you know that you need to go online and report work?’ ” said Kellee Farris, who runs the Lee County Cooperative Clinic.
On Sept 14, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr will visit AZ to hear from local leaders about the smart infrastructure policies they are putting in place to pave the way for next-gen connectivity and opportunity in communities across The Grand Canyon State. In Gilbert (AZ) Carr will meet with Mayor Jenn Daniels who has helped her community be one of the first in Arizona to streamline the deployment of small cells, which are the building blocks of 5G. Mayor Daniels’ reforms pick up on the ideas championed by AZ state Rep Jeff Weninger (R- AZ 17) in AZs small cell legislation. Commissioner Carr and Mayor Daniels will host a press conference to discuss her approach to 5G as well as Carr’s proposed 5G Order, set to be voted on this month by the FCC, that will cut costs and streamline approval periods for small cells nationwide.
The Federal Trade Commission kicked off a series of hearings to discuss whether the agency’s competition and consumer protection policies should change to better reflect new technologies and companies. FTC Chairman Joseph Simons expressed openness to a new approach. “The broad antitrust consensus that has existed within the antitrust community, in relatively stable form for the last 25 years, is being challenged,” Chairman Simons said. “I approach all these issues with a very open mind, very much willing to be influenced by what we see and hear at these hearings.” The hearings, the first of 15 to 20 over the next several months, are one of several efforts underway on the federal and state level that threaten to limit the expansion and power of tech companies. “It will be a slow-moving ship, faster on privacy than on antitrust, but it’s an important moment,” said Blair Levin, a senior adviser at the research firm New Street and a former chief of staff at the Federal Communications Commission.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile US, and Sprint unveiled a system that would let them manage your logins across third-party websites and apps. The \system would verify each person's identity with "a multi-factor profile based around the user's personal mobile device," taking into account the user's phone number, account tenure, IP address, phone account type, and SIM card details. The system "combines the carriers' proprietary, network-based authentication capabilities with other methods to verify a user's identity," the carriers say. Users would be able to log in to Project Verify-linked sites or apps by selecting the verify option within those apps or sites. The Project Verify app would let them manage which sites and apps are linked to their mobile identity. But do you want your carrier managing your logins across the websites and apps you use on your phone? AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint aren't exactly the tech industry's best protectors of security and privacy.
The United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters' (GCHQ’s) methods in carrying out bulk interception of online communications violated privacy and failed to provide sufficient surveillance safeguards, the European court of human rights (ECHR) has ruled in a test case judgment. But the Strasbourg court found that GCHQ’s regime for sharing sensitive digital intelligence with foreign governments was not illegal. It is the first major challenge to the legality of UK intelligence agencies intercepting private communications in bulk, following Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations. The long-awaited ruling is one of the most comprehensive assessments by the ECHR of the legality of the interception operations operated by UK intelligence agencies. The claims, which had already been heard by the UK’s investigatory powers tribunal, were brought by a coalition of 14 human rights groups, privacy organisations and journalists, including Amnesty International, Liberty, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch. By a majority of five to two votes, the Strasbourg judges found that GCHQ’s bulk interception regime violated article 8 of the European convention on human rights, which guarantees privacy, because there were said to be insufficient safeguards, and rules governing the selection of “related communications data” were deemed to be inadequate.
A growing number of governments now benchmark the status of broadband in their national broadband plans. The report shows for the first time that at least 15 countries now have strategies in place for promoting the safe use of Artificial Intelligence. The report highlights the critical role that broadband connectivity plays for the world's people, from accessing online health services to receiving social security payments via mobile phones to receiving life-saving disaster warnings. To boost broadband, the Broadband Commission recommends: building national leadership for broadband; promoting Internet training and stimulating consumer and business demand; monitoring ICT developments to inform policy; reviewing universal service measures; strengthening digital skills and literacy; supporting local eBusinesses and entrepreneurs; adapting legal frameworks; and reducing taxes and duties on telecom products and services. While the report demonstrates the value of Internet connectivity in today's increasingly digital world, it also raises concerns for the growing inequalities in access to broadband and how connectivity is used within and between countries, sexes and regions.
The report provides a global snapshot of broadband network access and affordability, with country-by-country data measuring broadband access against the Broadband Commission's seven advocacy targets. It also highlights the impact of rapidly evolving communication and information technologies (ICTs), including the implications of emerging trends like the Internet of Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. Advances in mobile broadband (such as 4G and 5G) and next-generation satellite technologies will mean the delivery of digital services more quickly and reliably, with implications for the future of agriculture, climate, disaster relief, education, health and transportation.
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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