Blog Posts by Adrianne B. Furniss

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The Public’s Advocate

We’re here to celebrate Tom Wheeler’s public service, and discuss protecting the Open Internet, the most critical communications issue of our time.

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Presenting the Initial Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award

I am thrilled to be back at TPRC and must say that somewhere my father is beaming with pride that we are honoring him by creating the Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award.

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Gigabit Citizenship

What does gigabit civic engagement look like? The initial winners of the Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Award demonstrate not just what “could be” but what “is”. Civic engagement is about working to make a positive difference in the life of our communities. It is about developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means improving the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.

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Presentation of Charles Benton Digital Equity Award to Emy Tseng

I am so honored today to present the second annual Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award. Charles’ life was a testament to the principle that real change is the result of sustained effort. He saw in communications a tool that can and should be employed to make communities better, to help people thrive, and to improve our democracy. He was a consistent champion for digital inclusion and the idea that every member of a community should have affordable access, and the required skills, to make use of the latest communications technologies.

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Benton Stands With Toby to Say "Don't Delete Big Bird"

A couple weeks ago, an adorable seven-year-old boy named Toby complained that President Donald Trump is “deleting PBS kids” just to pay for the wall. Toby told U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), “he shouldn’t do that.” The young boy received massive applause for standing up to his Senator, the President, and for what’s right. At this town hall, Senator Cotton said you could have both – a Mexican wall and PBS. But today it turns out that Toby was right. President Donald Trump unveiled his budget proposal, titled, “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” Disturbingly, the plan calls for the elimination of federal support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Chairman Pai, Tell Us What You're Thinking About Freedom of the Press

Concerned with a “lack of full transparency,” all of the Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee wrote a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on March 10 asking him six questions on his views on the media and whether he will uphold the First Amendment rights of journalists and media outlets. Senate Democrats have asked Chairman Pai for a reply by Friday, March 17. As the nation's lead communications regulator, it is imperative Chairman Pai affirm his commitment to free speech and freedom of the press and publicly post his answers to the senators this week. He should also address EPIC's request and release any information related to the March meeting with President Trump. The American people have a right to know what the FCC Chairman believes about freedom of the press – if he will stand up and speak out -- and we deserve to know now.

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When the Pai FCC Abandons the Public Interest, Who You Gonna Call?

On February 6, 2017, Andrew Jay Schwartzman – the Benton Senior Counselor at the Public Interest Communications Law Project at Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation – appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in an unusual role. The Federal Communications Commission was scheduled to defend its rules to lower the predatory prices inmates and their families pay to make prison phone calls. But with new FCC leadership in place, the FCC decided to not defend the rules, thus abdicating to Schwartzman the protection of the public interest.

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Make America First in Broadband Again

To make America greater, we need better broadband. We need a plan to a Make America First in Broadband Again.

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Celebrating Chairman Wheeler’s Gift to the American People

In reviewing the successes of the last year, but, more broadly, the last three years, the person I keep returning to is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Chairman Wheeler has upheld the public interest, recognized the power of communications to strengthen communities, and acted to modernize and reform programs that bring open, affordable, high-capacity broadband to all Americans. His legacy is the opportunities for all Americans to connect to jobs, education, healthcare, and family. As we enter this holiday season, I am thankful for Chairman Tom Wheeler’s gifts to the American people. To me, what is amazing about his many accomplishments can’t always be measured by the dockets he opened, the votes he won, or the initiatives he proposed. The day-to-day impacts of his actions can often be more readily seen in the child who can now reach a hand across a keyboard to access a whole new universe of knowledge thanks to gigabit connections to the school and Wi-Fi in the classroom. Or in the young mother who can now coordinate work and her child’s medical care thanks to her Lifeline connection. Or the small business owner who can now compete on a level playing field with its bigger business competitors thanks to a free and open Internet. Or the community that was once left behind, that is able to get ahead with new broadband options. In other words, it’s not the orders he voted or the computers he connected, but the lives he touched in ways both big and small. I expect they will be felt not just for a year, or a chairman’s term, but in the case of that little girl … it just may change her life.

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Access, Diversity, and Equity are More Important Now Than Ever

If I learned anything during this election, it is that opposing sides are not speaking with each other. And because we are more disconnected, we need to focus on ways to connect. We should be thinking about the fundamental power of communication as a way to bring us together, not further divide us.