As Tennessee voters head to the polls, Senate candidate Phil Bredesen (D) is taking aim at Rep Marsha Blackburn’s legacy on broadband. In a recent campaign ad, former-Gov Bredesen calls out the House Telecommunications Subcommittee chair for having “voted against $600 million in broadband initiatives.” At issue: Blackburn’s March 2018 vote against the sprawling omnibus government funding bill that contained a series of committee-negotiated tech legislation central to Blackburn’s panel.
Congress is angling to impose some training wheels on the Trump administration when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on broadband deployment. Lawmakers are eyeing the reconciliation process for the farm bill as a way to check the Agriculture Department, which manages various telecom subsidies through its Rural Utilities Service (RUS). “Appropriate guidance in the farm bill being reconciled and the department’s continued vigilance are critical to avoiding another boondoggle,” said a Senate GOP aide, referring to past alleged waste in the program.
I rise today to talk about the truth, and its relationship to democracy. For without truth, and a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, our democracy will not last. 2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth -- more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government. It was a year which saw the White House enshrine “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, Color of Change, NAACP and the Benton Foundation are among the organizations concerned about proposed changes to the Lifeline program, which is on the docket for the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming open meeting. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai -- who has long called for reforms to deter waste, fraud and abuse in Lifeline -- is seeking a vote at the agency’s Nov. 16 meeting on a major overhaul of the program, which subsidizes phone and broadband service for the poor.
Gayle Manchin, the wife of Sen Joe Manchin (D-WV) and federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, is planning to make broadband connectivity a central pillar of her remit and is already talking to many of the region’s governors about working as a bloc. “I would like to see the 13 governors that are a part of this region actually come together and work on this as a unit,” said Manchin. “There’s power in numbers.” She suggested these 13 governors would have leverage if they went right to cable providers to ask for better connectivity.
A glimpse into how Senate negotiators may structure the $65 billion in broadband investments the infrastructure package would provide. The draft is likely to fuel renewed advocacy from consumer groups and anyone else hoping for ultra-fast fiber optic buildout, as it instead opts for lower minimum broadband speed thresholds (100 Megabits per second download over 20 Mbps upload would count as "underserved" for the $40 billion tentatively slated to go to the Commerce Department’s state grants, less than the fiber-focused minimums some Democrats wanted).
Wireless Infrastructure Association CEO Jonathan Adelstein is feeling “very encouraged” by recent Capitol Hill machinations over how to structure the $65 billion chunk of the bipartisan infrastructure deal intended to close the digital divide. He cited recent rumblings that lawmakers may ultimately opt for lower minimum internet speed requirements than what Democrats had previously hoped for.
Federal Communications Commission Acting Chair Jessica Rosenworcel expressed general support for the items in President Biden’s big competition executive order, but as the commission still lacks a Democratic majority, she declined to say when the agency might act on it. Biden’s requests for the FCC include reinstating net neutrality rules, helping ensure apartment dwellers have a choice of internet providers and imposing broadband pricing transparency — all ideas she endorsed.
Tim Wu, President Joe Biden’s competition adviser on the National Economic Council, said “There is a growing sense that the forms of market power we see today are often different from the ones that the merger guidelines had in mind.
The Internet Association (IA) has been shedding staff, losing influence on Capitol Hill and shrinking to near-obscurity in media coverage of tech policy debates in Washington, even as the industry faces controversies ranging from alleged monopolization to privacy to how it treats its legions of workers. The declining prominence of IA, a nine-year-old group that used to call itself “the unified voice of the internet economy,” comes as a larger fragmentation is splitting the tech industry’s lobbying efforts into factions. In its place, other tech-focused advocacy groups—including a new startu