Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

Stand By Me: The Consumer Welfare Standard and the First Amendment

In America we want institutions that make our democracy strong—that seems like a no brainer. So as one line of thinking goes, antitrust enforcers should step beyond consumer welfare and think about what would be good or bad for our democracy, or for values like the free speech the First Amendment protects. The suggestion is that perhaps enforcers should broaden the consumer welfare lens to think about effects on democracy or expression. I’d like to focus my remarks today on two responses to that suggestion.

U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with Microsoft data privacy fight

Supreme Court justices wrestled with Microsoft’s dispute with the US Justice Department over whether prosecutors can force technology companies to hand over data stored overseas, with some signaling support for the government and others urging Congress to pass a law to resolve the issue. Microsoft argues that laws have not caught up to modern computing infrastructure and it should not hand over data stored internationally. The Justice Department argues that refusing to turn over easily accessible data impedes criminal investigations.

Democratic Reps Seek Documents From Attorney General on Decision to Challenge AT&T-Time Warner

A group of Democratic Reps are seeking documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions relating to the Justice Department’s decision to file a lawsuit to block AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner. They are interested in whether the decision was in any way impacted by President Donald Trump’s disdain for CNN, a unit of Time Warner. Makan Delrahim, the chief of the Antitrust Division, denies that the lawsuit was influenced by the White House.

Trump Administration Weighs Building US 5G Network to Counter China

Some White House officials view next-generation 5G wireless service as a “key area of competition,” and they say that the threat from China, in particular, justifies a “moonshot” government effort like the construction of the interstate highway system. A National Security Council memo urges the Trump administration to consider extraordinary efforts to clear the way for the new technology or even to help build it in order to counter the growing economic and political threat from China’s aggressive efforts to develop 5G. 

Year One: Trump vs The Free Press

January 20, 2018 marks the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Last week, we documented the Federal Communications Commission’s policy priorities of the past year. This week, we look at President Trump’s war with the press. One of the greatest concerns going into the Trump Presidency was how his Administration would interact with the press. Just eight days into the Trump administration, we published The First Casualty is the Truth: Trump's Running War With the Media, which described the first combative week of the President Trump-press relationship.

Sen Jeff Flake: From our very beginnings, our freedom has been predicated on truth

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.

NTIA Recommends Improvements to the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection

Broadband providers--including both wired and wireless providers--complete Form 477 to report where they offer service, as well as what speeds they offer and the technologies they use, among other information. The data collected through Form 477 constitute a critical resource for the National Telecommunication & Information Administration, as well as other policymakers and researchers who are interested in understanding Internet access in the United States.

Senators Call for Impartial Investigation into Potential Quid Pro Quo between Chairman Ajit Pai, Trump Administration, and Sinclair Broadcasting

Sens Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and 13 of their Senate colleagues are requesting the inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) open an investigation into the objectivity and impartiality of the FCC’s review of the proposed merger of Sinclair Broadcasting and Tribune Media.

House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Holds Hearing on Telecom Bills

As more bipartisan tech-focused bills gain traction in Congress, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a legislative hearing focusing on the security and innovation behind several telecommunications bills. Expert witnesses accompanied lawmakers during the May 24 hearing on the importance of bridging the digital divide with widespread broadband access nationwide.

Advocacy Organizations Submit Joint Comments to FCC on Digital Discrimination

A group of organizations referred to as the Joint Advocates [including the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society] submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the implementation of the anti-digital discrimination section in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In their comments, the Joint Advocates requested that the FCC conduct a study to assess preferential treatment for high-income broadband users over the needs of low-income users. The group makes the following arguments in its filing: