California’s net neutrality law and the case for zero-rating government services

California’s 2018 net neutrality law, SB-822, recently went into effect and concerns have been already raised about the legality of “zero-rating,” the practice by which commercial arrangements and unilateral decisions by network operators are exempted from consumer pricing. Under California’s net neutrality law, zero-rating and sponsored data programs violate the new law because certain content cannot be excluded from consumer data caps, or usage-based pricing. Turner Lee offers the following recommendations to state and federal leaders:

Focusing on Affordability

With a proposal to spend $100 billion to ensure that all Americans have affordable and reliable internet service, the Biden Administration has made closing the digital divide a huge priority. Much remains to be done to fill in the specifics of what this means, but two types of policy tools come to mind when thinking about how to address the digital divide. Top of mind is promoting competition. Fostering competition means investing in new infrastructure, thereby giving consumers more choice for very high-speed service.

The National Urban League's Approach to Digital Equity

On March 31, the National Urban League released the Lewis Latimer Plan for Digital Equity and Inclusion, a collaborative work aimed at addressing the digital divide. If you have the time, follow the link above and give the full report a read. If not, here's the executive summary.

AT&T Makes $2 Billion, 3-Year Commitment to Help Bridge the Digital Divide

AT&T announced it will invest $2 billion over the next 3 years to help address the digital divide. 

Expanding affordable broadband through AT&T’s low-cost offers and the Emergency Broadband Benefit program administered by the Federal Communications Commission

Heavyweights Launch Tech Commission

A group of leaders with direct lines to the Biden administration—including Common Sense Media’s Jim Steyer, former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings—is launching a commission that will assemble a “blueprint” for a comprehensive tech policy agenda under President Biden, with a focus on soliciting input from people inside as well as outside DC. There’s still a ton we don’t know about where the Biden administration will come down on issues at the heart of the tech industry, like privacy and Section 230 reform.

As schools experiment to close the homework gap, will new E-rate funding help?

The COVID crisis has highlighted both the severity of the so-called "homework gap" and the shortcomings of early remedies like mobile hotspots and even low-cost home broadband plans. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, schools and cities across the country are increasingly testing novel ways to get students connected, not just for the duration of the pandemic, but for the long term.

Verizon punches back in debate over TracFone ownership

Opponents to Verizon’s planned acquisition of prepaid TracFone often cite the negative impacts they believe it will have on Lifeline subscribers and the prepaid market overall. But Verizon is pitching the transaction as a means of improving TracFone’s ability to provide Lifeline-supported services and better serve the prepaid sector. Verizon said that TracFone, as part of Verizon, will become a stronger competitor against the flanker prepaid brands of AT&T (Cricket ) and T-Mobile (Metro).

Providers Push for 'Permanent' Broadband Subsidies

A coalition including broadband heavyweights AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon is asking Congress and President Joe Biden to build off the recent $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit and craft “a long-term federally-funded broadband benefit program that the [Federal Communications Commission] would manage and administer to provide low-income individuals with enhanced fi

7% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?

7% of US adults say they do not use the internet. Internet non-adoption is linked to a number of demographic variables, but is strongly connected to age – with older Americans continuing to be one of the least likely groups to use the internet. Today, 25% of adults ages 65 and older report never going online, compared with much smaller shares of adults under the age of 65. Educational attainment and household income are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline.

Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers

The Federal Communications Commission published an initial list of broadband providers that have elected to participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program. Thus far approximately 319 providers plan on participating. There will be a provider in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and half of US territories. The list will be updated as more providers join the program.  Learn more about the Emergency Broadband Benefit, including eligibility details, by visiting: fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit