Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Headlines Daily Digest
Stories From Abroad
Since my first day in this job, I’ve said that closing the digital divide was my top priority. And as this audience knows all too well, nowhere is that divide more pronounced than on Tribal lands. One new policy I’m particularly excited about is giving Tribes priority access to spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band. I’m very proud of how hard Federal Communications Commission staff worked to ensure broad awareness of this opportunity throughout Indian Country, how hard they worked to help eligible Tribes file applications, and how hard they are working now to review over 400 applications that we’ve received. Just last week, we announced that 157 applications have already passed the initial review. As required by law, the FCC is now putting these applications out for public comment before any final action is taken. Staff are continuing to review the remaining applications, and we will put them out for public comment as that review process unfolds.
Our investments on Tribal lands have had a real impact, too. In my first three years as Chairman of the FCC, the number of unserved Americans living on Tribal lands has fallen more than 43%. I’m confident that these and other steps the FCC is taking will continue to increase broadband access on Tribal lands.
As you’re likely doing more of your work these days from home, you’re aware how valuable your internet connection is as more aspects of the real estate business are conducted online. But for millions of Americans, high-speed broadband access remains out of reach either because the infrastructure is unavailable or because they can’t afford service. For millions more, a state of underconnection means their home internet subscription cannot handle current demand, including routine uses such as watching Netflix movies, doing homework, and videoconferencing. These digital divides became painfully apparent at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when Americans migrated to living, working, and studying online at home. This experience has brought to light five critical, and sometimes overlooked, truths about the need for reliable, affordable broadband access to support vibrant communities. Learning about how many places and individuals in the U.S. are underserved is the first step toward addressing the inequities.
- Broadband availability affects home values.
- The digital divide is worse in rural areas and for people of color.
- Broadband may not live up to its name.
- Mobile hot spots don’t meet demand.
- Recent federal measures are a start, but will have limited impact.
[Benjamin Reeves is an agent with the McKone Group at Keller Williams Alliance. Christopher Ali, Ph.D., is an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and faculty fellow with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.]
US officials are exploring concepts for a new 5G wireless network that would let Silicon Valley giants and other businesses tap valuable Pentagon airwaves, setting up a potential clash over how to deploy the next-generation technology. The Department of Defense issued a request for information that could open the door for investors to bid on contracts to build a domestic cellular network for both the military and for commercial operators. That dual-use structure would allow companies to link connected cars, factories and hospitals over ultrafast fifth-generation signals without bidding for the licenses at auction. The proposal would keep the Pentagon in control of the airwaves, which are used for radar and other military hardware. Most cellphone signals today travel over frequencies that carriers like Verizon and AT&T spend billions of dollars to reserve.
Thank you to Chairman Gupta, Director General Dua, and everybody at the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) for inviting me to be with you tonight. For all the progress that’s been made, you understand that there is still so much more to achieve for the communication infrastructure sector in India. Why else would you be rolling out a new white paper at your 10th anniversary celebration? You’ve already got your eye on 5G and other new technologies being introduced right now and in the near future.
Obviously, connecting the unconnected is a huge challenge for India with its vast population in remote areas. But I also see this as a huge opportunity for TAIPA and its members. We should all agree that everyone, no matter where he or she lives, should have access to the opportunities of the digital age, whether in a big city like Jaipur or a rural village in Jharkhand. You can help make that a reality for often-overlooked rural communities on the wrong side of the digital divide. Thank you to TAIPA for all that you have done to build this digital future. Happy 10th anniversary!
The Trump administration’s campaign to make Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok relocate to the US is the latest example of the global fracturing of the internet. Treating user data as a matter of national security is a notion that has dictated many of the policies Beijing has put in place to control the internet in its country for the past decade. China operates what is called the “Great Firewall,” limiting the services people in the country can use and the information they receive. Beijing stops people from accessing services run by Facebook and Google, instead steering them toward Chinese-owned alternatives such as WeChat and Baidu that it controls increasingly tightly. The idea that those data flows need tighter control has spread in recent years, resulting in a number of instances when governments temporarily shut down the internet. Governments have a range of motivations, from squelching internal dissent to protecting their citizens’ privacy.
In 2019, about a year after the California Consumer Privacy Act was passed—but before it had gone into effect— CA State Sen Bob Hertzberg, who by then was majority leader of the CA State Senate, pitched a new idea to CCPA brain-child Alastair Mactaggart. In a total reversal from his earlier stance, Hertzberg urged Mactaggart to bypass the legislative process. Instead, he should fund and draft a new ballot initiative to improve upon the CCPA. And this one wouldn’t be a bargaining chip. It would go all the way to a vote by the people of California. Thus was born the California Privacy Rights Act, which will appear on Californians’ ballots this fall as Proposition 24. Hertzberg’s flip-flop on the ballot initiative question is just one way in which Prop. 24 has scrambled political dynamics in California. The initiative has also divided privacy advocates who previously fought on the same side.
The tech world will be holding its breath to see whether President Donald Trump can pull out a victory. That's because even if topics like net neutrality and rural broadband aren't hot political issues, a second Trump term could have a huge impact on technology's direction. Even though tech policy may not be at the forefront of voters' minds, whoever wins the presidential election will have a lot of influence on what happens in technology over the coming years. This includes everything from setting infrastructure policy on broadband deployment to foreign policy and national security issues involving China as well as what, if any, regulation is imposed on social media giants. Big tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are already being scrutinized by Democrats and Republicans, as lawmakers on both sides look to rein in their power. The COVID-19 crisis, which has led to rapid adoption of telemedicine and virtual education, has also shined a light on the digital divide preventing millions of Americans from accessing high-speed internet. That will be a big issue for either President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee. So far, Biden has remained relatively quiet on tech, although many experts expect he will revert back to many Obama-era policies. President Trump, on the other hand, has a more defined track record as the incumbent.
- Deregulation: The hallmark of the Trump presidency when it comes to policy has been the quick pace with which he's deregulated many industries, including the tech sector.
- Section 230 and social media: A big exception to the current administration's deregulatory agenda is Trump's executive order that points toward greater regulation of social media companies.
Trian Fund Management LP, a hedge fund known for pushing big companies to make operational and other changes, has launched an activist campaign against Comcast in a bet that the cable-TV and entertainment giant’s stock is undervalued. Trian has accumulated about 20 million shares in Comcast, for a roughly $900 million stake or about 0.4% of the company. Comcast’s market value is about $200 billion. Executives at Trian -- which was founded by Nelson Peltz, Ed Garden, and Peter May -- recently began conversations with Comcast management. It isn’t clear what exactly Trian is focused on beyond a belief that Comcast shares are undervalued. But forcing change at Comcast—assuming that is what Trian tries to do—could be difficult. The family of Brian Roberts, its chairman and chief executive, holds a significant voting stake in Comcast. Its stock has performed relatively well and hit an all-time high before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which briefly sent it down sharply. The shares have since recovered as Comcast’s broadband business has held up well in the pandemic.
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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