What News Was

The Project for Excellence in Journalism is offering a weekly glimpse at what the news media are covering.

Amid Leaks, Recalling an Epic Battle Over Press Freedom in Nixon Era

Location:
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500, United States
Recommendation:
1

Leaked information — its uses and abuses — lies at the heart of the current episode of Retro Report, a series of essays and video documentaries that study major news stories of the past and how they influence events today.

20th Anniversary of the 1996 Telecom Act: Let’s get back on track.

Location:
American Enterprise Institute (AEI), 1150 Seventeenth Street, Washington, DC, 20036, United States
Recommendation:
1

In honor of its anniversary, let’s take stock of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, how the communications ecosystem has performed in its wake, and whether the Federal Communications Commission has done its job to uphold it.

Bill Clinton’s telecom law: Twenty years later

Location:
Washington, DC, United States
Recommendation:
2

Washington’s tech policy wonks are celebrating an anniversary this week: 20 years ago, President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act into law at the Library of Congress.

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How Is the FCC Protecting Consumers in the Digital Age?

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

Speeches by Federal Communications Commission chairmen and commissioners don’t often get big headlines, so you’ll be forgiven if you missed the news of two interesting speeches by key FCC staffers recently that address the commission’s role in protecting consumers. Both speeches highlight the need for the FCC’s expertise in overseeing telecommunications – and working with the other agencies with jurisdiction in this area. On September 24, Gigi Sohn, Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, was in Providence, Rhode island, to deliver a speech titled, Consumer Protection in the Broadband Era: The Role of the FCC. Sohn highlighted what Chairman Wheeler sees as the two core responsibilities of the FCC: 1) to facilitate dynamic technological change and world-class networks that drive innovation, economic growth and improvements in the lives of the American people; and 2) to ensure that our networks reflect core values: universal access, public safety, and consumer protection. On September 25, FCC General Counsel Jon Sallet visited the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference to deliver a keynote, The Federal Communications Commission and Lessons of Recent Mergers & Acquisitions Reviews. Sallet’s aim was to give insight into the FCC’s thinking as it considered the suggested Sprint-T-Mobile merger, AT&T’s acquisition of DIRECTV, and Comcast’s abandoned bid to buy Time Warner Cable.

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Robbie's Round-Up (September 21-25, 2015)

Broadband Opportunity Council Releases Report and Recommendations. Legal Briefs in Defense of Net Neutrality Were Filed. China’s President Xi Visits the US.

George W. Bush Made Retroactive NSA ‘Fix’ After Hospital Room Showdown

Location:
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20500, United States
Recommendation:
3

President George W. Bush sought to retroactively authorize portions of the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 surveillance and data collection program after a now-famous incident in 2004 in which his attorney general refused to certify the program as lawful from his hospital bed, according to newly declassified portions of a government investigation.

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Will Centralization, Regulation, and Globalization Kill the Internet?

Location:
Las Vegas, NV, United States
Recommendation:
2

An early-August speech by Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, is the kind of thought-provoking piece that makes you ignore everything else you need to get to in your In Box. The speech, The Lifecycle of a Revolution, was delivered at Black Hat 2015, a network security meeting in Las Vegas. Granick’s dire warning: the dream of Internet freedom -- a free, open, reliable, interoperable Internet, a place where anyone can say anything, and anyone who wants to hear it can listen and respond, a place where everyone could be a publisher and a creator, a global medium that had everything on the shelves – that dream is dying. Gulp. And although there’s plenty of blame to go around for this loss, Granick puts the bulk of it on you, me, herself… all of us who use the Internet. Double gulp.

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Will Centralization, Regulation, and Globalization Kill the Internet?

Just this week, an early-August speech by Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, came across my desk, the kind of thought-provoking piece that makes you ignore everthing else you need to get to in your In Box. The speech was delivered at Black Hat 2015, a network security meeting in Las Vegas. Granick’s dire warning: the dream of Internet freedom -- a free, open, reliable, interoperable Internet, a place where anyone can say anything, and anyone who wants to hear it can listen and respond, a place where everyone could be a publisher and a creator, a global medium that had everything on the shelves – that dream is dying. Gulp. And although there’s plenty of blame to go around for this loss, Granick puts the bulk of it on you, me, herself… all of us who use the Internet. Double gulp.

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What Is ‘Unfair’ Competition?

Location:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20580, United States
Recommendation:
3

Benton’s Headlines mainly track developments at the Federal Communications Commission, but major telecommunications and media policy news also comes from the Federal Trade Commission. That was true when the FTC released the Statement of Enforcement Principles Regarding “Unfair Methods of Competition” Under Section 5 of the FTC Act on August 13. This is just the kinda summer reading that DC wonks long for. Now two or more firms or even industries battling to win customers’ business is almost universally seen as a good thing, generally leading to lower prices, new and better products and services, and expanded consumer choice. A competitive market, it is believed, promotes innovation by rewarding producers that invent, develop, and introduce new and innovative products and production processes. But as is the case with every silver lining, there can be a touch of gray. What if some players cheat? What if their methods are not fair? Well, that’s why we have the FTC.

Warren Braren Urged Ban on Broadcast Tobacco Ads

Location:
New Milford, CT, United States
Recommendation:
2

Warren Braren, a reformed smoker who helped trigger a congressional ban on tobacco advertising on television and radio in 1970 by blowing the whistle on broadcasters’ lax self-regulation.

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Questioning Federal Broadband Spending

Millions of Americans still are not online – many in rural areas. Did the broadband stimulus fail them?

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Celebrating 20 Years at the Benton Foundation

It was 20 years ago today...

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U.S. Addresses the Digital Divide Where it Lives

The biggest news of the week was, of course, the historic accord reached by Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. But there was big news in telecommunications, too, as President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet service providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation.

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A Human Rights Debate Reaches the FCC

Over the past two weeks, a debate at least three years old has reached the Federal Communications Commission: Does everyone have a fundamental right to access the Internet? That is – Is Internet access a human right?

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FCC Moves Toward Making Broadband More Affordable Through Its Lifeline Program

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
3

On June 18, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposed to again reform modernize its Lifeline program, seeking public input on restructuring the program to better support 21st Century communications while building on existing reforms to continue strengthening protections against waste, fraud and abuse.

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What Just Happened to NSA Reform?

On June 2, 2015, the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act of 2015. This week’s actions been both celebrated and damned by all points, it seems, along the political spectrum. Is it time to celebrate? Or move to Canada?

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What a Difference a Year Makes in the Network Neutrality Debate

At this time in 2014, we reported on the controversy surrounding the Federal Communications Commission’s imminent release of proposed rules to ensure an Open Internet. Many feared the rules FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would propose could allow Internet service providers to charge for faster, better access to consumers. Our question on May 9, 2014: “Will the uprising of opposition be enough to convince Chairman Wheeler to change course?” Well, what a difference a year makes. History was made by unprecedented, grassroots activistism and a FCC leader willing to listen and the courage to change his mind. Today our weekly round-up takes us back to where we were one year ago.

Carly Fiorina's troubling telecom past

Recommendation:
2

The Lucent that Fiorina walked away from, taking with her $65 million in performance-linked pay, was not at all what it appeared. Nor were several of her division’s biggest sales, including the giant PathNet deal. Whatever the exact extent of Fiorina’s role, Lucent was soon sucked in deep, making big loans to sketchy customers.

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What Can the Government Do to Expand Broadband’s Reach (in 30 Questions)?

Location:
National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), 1401 Constitution Ave, Washington, DC, 20230, United States
Recommendation:
3

These are some of the overarching questions asked by President Barack Obama’s Broadband Opportunity Council in a Public Notice released the week of April 27. The Council, created in a March 2015 Presidential Memorandum, is made up of 25 federal agencies and charged with developing a framework of recommendations to explore ways to remove unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers, incentivize investment, and align funding polices and decisions to support broadband access and adoption. In the Memorandum, the President made it the official policy of the Federal Government to: identify and address regulatory barriers that may unduly impede either wired broadband deployment or the infrastructure to augment wireless broadband deployment; encourage further public and private investment in broadband networks and services; promote the adoption and meaningful use of broadband technology; and otherwise encourage or support broadband deployment, competition, and adoption in ways that promote the public interest.

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The Week The Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Died

Recommendation:
4

"Once you get through the hysteria, [this transaction] is pro-consumer, pro-competitive and strongly in the public interest," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen told reporters in February 2014 when the nation’s biggest cable TV and broadband service provider announced it would purchase Time Warner Cable, the number 2 provider. Fourteen months later -- hysteria duly subsided -- and it appears regulators may not agree.

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The Week The Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal Died

"Once you get through the hysteria, [this transaction] is pro-consumer, pro-competitive and strongly in the public interest," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen told reporters in February 2014 when the nation’s biggest cable TV and broadband service provider announced it would purchase Time Warner Cable, the number 2 provider. Fourteen months later – hysteria duly subsided – and it appears regulators may not agree. On the morning of April 24, 2015, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts said, “Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away.” And, with that, the deal was dead. How'd we get here? Here's a recap of what we learned this week.

Today in Media History: Wireless telegraph reported the sinking of the Titanic

Location:
USA, United States
Recommendation:
1

On April 15, 1912, the news media reported that the British steamship Titanic sank after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Information about the disaster came fast, but it was often inaccurate, leading to numerous incorrect headlines and stories.

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Pew Identifies the “Smartphone-Dependent” – What Could It Mean For Lifeline?

Is all broadband created equal? Just last month, the White House announced that 98 percent of Americans nationwide live in areas served with 4G, high-speed wireless Internet. Does that mean the U.S. can afford to give up on efforts to bring broadband everywhere? Mission accomplished? Some recent research indicates that wireless Internet access is a distinctly different service than wireline broadband -- and one that offers a distinctly different experience for users.

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Does the FCC Need to be Reauthorized?

Location:
Benton Foundation, 1560 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL, 60201, United States
Recommendation:
2.5

Three weeks after the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial vote on network neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his fellow commissioners faced a series of oversight hearings organized by a number of Congressional committees. Discussions of the merits of the FCC’s decision -- and the process by which the independent agency reached it -- are garnering much of the attention in the press. But for the leadership of two key Congressional panels, this week’s hearings seem to be kicking off a long-term plan to reshape the FCC and how it does its business.

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The National Broadband Plan at Five: The Work Done and the Work Ahead

Over the last five years, the Benton Foundation has been tracking the progress made on implementing the six core goals and over 200 recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. Our tracking is fueled by our daily Headlines service which is the most comprehensive, free chronicle of developments in telecommunications policy. Benton's National Broadband Plan Tracker captures the links between today's Headlines and events, bills moving through Congress, dockets at the FCC, and the week's key events.

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The National Broadband Plan at Five: The Work Done and the Work Ahead

Location:
Benton Foundation, 1560 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL, 60201, United States

Over the last five years, the Benton Foundation has been tracking the progress made on implementing the six core goals and over 200 recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. Our tracking is fueled by our daily Headlines service which is the most comprehensive, free chronicle of developments in telecommunications policy. Benton's National Broadband Plan Tracker captures the links between today's Headlines and events, bills moving through Congress, dockets at the FCC, and the week's key events. Overall, about twenty percent of the National Broadband Plan has been completed over the last five years while action has begun on another fifty-five percent of the recommendations. Fifty-five of the recommendations -- about one-quarter -- have not seen any work as of yet. At Benton, our focus has always been on what we believe to be the heart of the National Broadband Plan: the recommendations targeted at streamlining and modernizing the federal Universal Service Fund. For the Federal Communications Commission, there is no bigger, no better tool than the USF. When the National Broadband Plan was released, there was no task bigger before the FCC than taking programs that were traditionally focused on telephone service (or narrow-band Internet service) and refocusing them on deploying affordable broadband throughout communities.

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Day 1 of the National Broadband Plan (1827 Days Later)

Location:
Benton Foundation, 1560 Sherman Ave, Evanston, IL, 60201, United States
Recommendation:
2

On the eve of the release of the National Broadband Plan five years ago, Charles Benton wrote, “We must roll up our sleeves to make sure we all enjoy the promise of truly universal, affordable broadband…. we must implement this plan -- quickly -- while evaluating our investments in broadband to inform our next national broadband plan.” As we review the progress on the plan, we take another look at Benton’s clarion call from 2010. Benton wrote, “Some may balk at the expansiveness of the plan and the FCC's calls for additional spending. Others may say that there is no need to enact this plan, that the marketplace alone will deliver the high-speed networks and services we need to improve people's lives. But the plan is exactly what Congress called for and the law requires. Our over-reliance on the marketplace to date has left us with gaping divides between people with the access and skills they need to make effective use of today's most powerful communications tools and those who don't. We embark on implementing this plan so that each of us -- no matter our income, education, ethnicity or age -- have the opportunity to fully participate in our society.”

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Is It Time For Lifeline To Include Broadband?

Location:
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC, 20554, United States
Recommendation:
2

Over the past five years, the Federal Communications Commission has taken action to reform each of its universal service distribution programs to refocus them on broadband. With the fifth anniversary of the release of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan approaching, we focus today on what could be the next major item on the FCC’s implementation agenda: reform and modernization of its Lifeline program. Since 1985, the Lifeline program has provided a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family and emergency services. In 2005, Lifeline discounts were made available to qualifying low-income consumers on pre-paid wireless service plans in addition to traditional landline service. In 2015, however, the opportunity gap is about broadband service, not telephone service.

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Is It Time For Lifeline To Include Broadband?

Over the past five years, the Federal Communications Commission has taken action to reform each of its universal service distribution programs to refocus them on broadband. With the fifth anniversary of the release of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan approaching, we focus today on what could be the next major item on the FCC’s implementation agenda: reform and modernization of its Lifeline program.

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What Do the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and Net Neutrality Have in Common?

Location:
The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20500, United States
Recommendation:
2

On Friday, February 27, as many contemplated the Federal Communications Commission’s votes on network neutrality and municipal broadband, the White House released a discussion draft of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015. The bill, not yet introduced in Congress, aims to establish baseline protections for individual privacy in the commercial arena and to foster timely, flexible implementations of these protections through enforceable codes of conduct developed by diverse stakeholders. Back in January, in the lead up to his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama promised this legislation as a follow up to the Administration’s 2012 Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Although prospects for the draft bill seem minimal in a Republican-controlled Congress, the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights – coupled with the net neutrality decision – mark a new commitment to both discuss privacy protections and enforce them.

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