Stories from Abroad

Since 2010, the Benton Foundation and the New America Foundation have partnered to highlight telecommunications debates from countries outside the U.S.

Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017: Age Distinctions Just Part of News Evolution

The "Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2017" confirms that the screens-of-preference for younger audiences are mobile and dynamic. But identifying the platform does not necessarily tell you the source of the news. Consumers may look at an online or social media site to find reporting from established journalism sources (e.g. CNN, The New York Times, Fox) or just as easily from ersatz self-proclaimed bloggers or alt news sources.

The 136-page report delves more deeply into the distinction between the reception platforms and the actual content of the news. The Reuters Institute, which conducted the global research (30 countries on five continents) with the University of Oxford, acknowledges that the findings are "a reminder that the digital revolution is full of contradictions and exceptions." The results are also a roadmap toward future news consumption patterns, quantifying current usage patterns and offering eye-opening ideas for media providers about where to focus for future news packaging. The findings raise questions, such as whether today's 18-to-24 year-olds (only 24% of whom now consider TV as a primary news source) will migrate to TV sets by the time they are 55+ years old.

Massive cyberattack hits Europe with widespread ransom demands

A new wave of powerful cyberattacks hit Europe on June 27 in a possible reprise of a widespread ransomware assault in May that affected 150 countries. Ukraine reported ransom demands targeting the government and key infrastructure, and the Danish Maersk conglomerate said many of its systems were down. The Russian oil giant Rosneft was also hit, as was the British advertising and marketing multinational WPP. Norway’s National Security Authority said an “international company” there was affected.

Ukraine first reported the cyberattacks, saying they targeted government ministries, banks, utilities and other important infrastructure and companies nationwide, airport departure tables and demanding ransoms from government employees in the cryptocurrency bitcoin. By midafternoon, breaches had been reported at computers governing the municipal energy company and airport in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, the state telecommunications company Ukrtelecom, the Ukrainian postal service and the State Savings Bank of Ukraine. Payment systems at grocery stores were knocked offline, as well as the turnstile system in the Kyiv metro.

BBG’s 2016 Annual Report

The Broadcasting Board of Governors 2016 Annual Report details the agency’s activities and growing impact around the world. As detailed in the report, the BBG networks have played a critical role in supporting the pursuit of freedom and democracy, providing balanced election coverage for voters in emerging and fragile democracies; life-saving information to the hundreds of thousands of people trying to flee oppression, war and economic strife; and clear, unbiased and uncensored news to people living under authoritarian regimes and violent extremists. BBG networks are news leaders, covering stories left untold in environments that lack press freedom and fostering civil dialogue in places overwhelmed with disinformation. They are leading channels for information about the United States as well as independent platforms for freedom of expression and a free press.

European Union fines Google €2.4 billion over abuse of search dominance

The European Commission has hit Google with a €2.42 billion (approximately $2.73 billion) antitrust fine for abusing its dominance in search, a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for both the tech sector and already strained transatlantic relations.

The European Commission ended its seven-year competition investigation, concluding that the search group had abused its near-monopoly in online search to “give illegal advantage” to its own shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google “denied other companies the chance to compete” and left consumers without “genuine choice”. “Google’s strategy for its comparison shopping service wasn’t just about attracting customers by making its product better than those of its rivals. Instead, Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results and demoting those of competitors. What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules.” The company has 90 days to make changes and must “refrain from any measure that has the same or an equivalent object or effect”, the commission said.

Industry 'surprised' by DOJ appeal in data warrant case

Businesses leaders expressed surprise that the Department of Justice is appealing a case about when law enforcement should have access to data stored in other countries. The case pits the DOJ against Microsoft over an issue both sides have indicated requires a legislative fix: whether or not a domestic warrant can require a company to retrieve data stored on a foreign server.

Both chambers of Congress had taken up the issue with hearings involving the DOJ, industry and other stakeholders, and both chambers had expressed a sense of urgency to resolve the conflict. The DOJ filed paperwork for the appeal on June 23. The government is appealing lower court rulings that law enforcement cannot obtain data stored in a foreign nation with a warrant. Rather, the ruling says law enforcement needs to follow the foreign nation's policies for searching and seizing evidence. This has long been the case with physical evidence and the United States has several treaties known as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) to provide a diplomatic apparatus to request evidence be retrieved and sent stateside.

Google faces $1 billion EU fine for abuse of dominance in search

Brussels plans to hit Google with a fine of more than $1.2 billion for abusing its dominance in search, a decision that is likely to inflame already strained transatlantic relations. European Union antitrust officials have formally recommended that the search giant be found in breach of competition regulations for using its near-monopoly in online search to steer customers unfairly to its own Google Shopping service. The final decision is expected to be made on June 28 by the EU college of commissioners, the collective decision-making body, apparently. The decision relates to one of three competition claims against the company being investigated by EU authorities and would be the first sanction by a leading competition regulator on the way Google operates.

Commissioner O'Rielly Remarks Before CITEL PCC.II Delegation

As you may have heard, within the United States we've been working actively to build upon the experience of WRC-15 and towards the decisions to be made at WRC-19. We've recently completed the world's first voluntary incentive auction, making the 600 MHz frequency band available for mobile broadband use, while still ensuring a vibrant broadcasting community.

Together with our neighbors in Canada and Mexico, we have worked to facilitate the success of both the TV and wireless bands and ensured a seamless transition at our shared borders. We applaud the leadership of our counterparts in Mexico and Canada at the ITU and encourage other administrations to consider 600 MHz as they seek additional spectrum for wide-area mobile broadband deployments.

Remarks of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai At Broadband For All Seminar, Stockholm, Sweden

The United States is ahead of the global curve when it comes to delivering “broadband for all.” But we too face challenges. First, a quick snapshot: 93% of Americans have access to fixed broadband with a speed of at least 25 Mbps down. An estimated 73% of Americans subscribe to fixed broadband at home. And approximately 80% of Americans use smartphones. When you dig deeper into those numbers, however, you begin to see some real divides. In urban areas, 98% of Americans have access to high-speed fixed service. In rural areas, it’s only 72%. 93% of Americans earning more than $75,000 have home broadband service, compared to only 53% of those making less than $30,000. Too many identify with the lines in One of Us, in which ABBA sang: “One of us is lonely / One of us is only / Waiting for a call.”

Every American who wants to participate in our digital economy should be able to do so. Access to online opportunity shouldn’t depend on who you are or where you’re from. I’m pleased to say that since my first days as Chairman, the Federal Communications Commission has taken significant actions to make that a reality.

Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Russian President Vladimir Putin was working to elect Donald Trump.

Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy. But in the end, in late December, President Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues — expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds — with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic. President Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which President Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when he left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.

President Trump is struggling to stay calm on Russia, one morning call at a time

President Donald Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 am on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia. The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which President Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the “fake news” media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise President Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud. Senior officials have also been devising an overhaul of the White House communications operation to better meet the offensive and defensive demands of the president they serve, as well as the 24-hour cycle of tweet-size news.