Here Benton Foundation Chairman and CEO Charles Benton and others offer their unique perspective on communications policy. We invite you to read and comment on these original posts, start by registering for a benton.org account.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on June 16, 2013 - 5:26pm
On June 14, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum that establishes a set of measures that Federal agencies, in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders, will take to more aggressively enhance spectrum efficiency and enable access to more spectrum for consumer services and applications. Under the memorandum, an agency that requests a new spectrum assignment or that seeks to procure a spectrum-dependent system will have to document its consideration of alternative approaches and verify that it is pursuing the most spectrum-efficient method, in consideration of all relevant factors including cost and agency mission.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on June 12, 2013 - 11:53am
I have argued for years that a cancerous monopolization of our media, almost always blessed by a compliant FCC, lies at the root of democracy’s distress. Huge media mergers have to be financed and that requires “economies”—which meant closed newsrooms, fired journalists, and near-death for investigative journalism itself. This is not only what happened to radio, TV and cable; McChesney and Nichols show how monopolization and dollarocracy have come to plague the Internet, too—that wonderful world of democratic potential that so many thought would be somehow exempt from the encroachment of the gatekeepers. The authors assert convincingly that the Internet has not only failed to resolve the crisis of journalism; it has made the crisis worse. But they also know it does not have to be this way—if we grapple with issues like the Open Internet, new ideas for online journalism, and the digital divide now, before it is too late. Each passing day makes the problem less soluble.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on June 7, 2013 - 12:52pm
This week, President Barack Obama’s unveiled ConnectED, an initiative aimed at connecting 99 percent of America’s students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within 5 years. “This is not connectivity for connectivity’s sake,” noted Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council. “It is laying the foundation for a vision of classrooms where students are engaged in individualized digital learning and where teachers can assess progress lesson by lesson and day by day."
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on May 16, 2013 - 12:40pm
On May 10, the Federal Communications Commission released a Public Notice seeking public comment on how to structure real world trials that will inform the transition from today’s telephone network to, well, the networks of tomorrow. The goal of any trials would be to gather a factual record to help determine what policies are appropriate to promote investment and innovation while protecting consumers, promoting competition, and ensuring that emerging remain resilient.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on May 10, 2013 - 11:48am
This month, we’ve seen lots of opinion and analysis of President Barack Obama’s decision to nominate Tom Wheeler to be the next chairman of the FCC. In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed this week, Blair Levin, instead of joining the arguments over Wheeler’s qualifications, identifies the key question for the next FCC chair: what kinds of networks will our communities - our innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses - need to be competitive in the global economy? Levin's message is that the North Star for policy ought to be faster, cheaper, better broadband.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of David Honig on May 8, 2013 - 8:24pm
It’s past time to set the record straight on Lifeline, the essential service to low-income families that has recently suffered fallacious attacks and been mislabeled as the “Obama Phone” program. Recently, political talking heads have falsely and irresponsibly excoriated the FCC’s Lifeline telephone program as a product of the Obama Administration, saying it is focused on giving free cell phones to poor people as a method of garnering their votes. Here are the real facts about this important program.
Submitted by Michael Copps on May 6, 2013 - 12:08pm
Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing, “The Lifeline Fund: Money Well Spent?” It is impossible to read the testimony from that hearing and deny that the program is contributing importantly to the central goal of the Telecommunications Act: to bring affordable and advanced telecommunications services to every American. More than ever our success as individuals, and as a nation, depends upon everyone being connected to the communications infrastructure of the Twenty-first century. Indeed, it is not going too far to equate such access with a civil right, because the doors of opportunity are closed and locked for those without it. Red-lining low-income citizens by denying them access to these necessary telecommunications services would constitute a clear-and-present public danger as well as a blatant denial of equal opportunity in the Internet Age.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on April 26, 2013 - 12:54pm
Through a web of subsidies called the Universal Service Fund, U.S. telephone subscribers ensure that telecommunications networks are affordable and available in rural areas; that schools, libraries and rural health centers can access basic and advanced services at discounted rates; and low income consumers can still afford basic phone service. This week, a Congressional panel focused on the program that provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income consumers to help ensure they have the opportunities and security that telephone service affords, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and 911 services. Although, historically, the low income program has been viewed as a benefit without a vocal constituency, the hearing demonstrated that many consumers rely on support to ensure their connection to vital communications.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on April 19, 2013 - 12:14pm
Patriot’s Day, for baseball fans, means an early start for the Red Sox game. For runners, it means the Boston marathon. The meaning of the holiday -- the commemoration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 -- may have been lost by many of us. But after this past Monday, April 15, 2013 will take on a new, horrific meaning. The Benton Foundation joins the world in condemning the cowardly act that killed and injured scores of people in Boston and we salute the brave people who responded to the explosions with acts of heroism. Sadly, it was just a couple of months ago that we wrote about the connections between media, telecommunications and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, this week we look at the role of communications in the wake of the Boston marathon bombings.
Submitted by Michael Copps on April 13, 2013 - 3:24pm
People are feeling, in their everyday lives, the ills and harms that media reformers have been predicting would come our way. It’s more than Washington debates or business model theories that fuel their rising discontent. It’s what they live with every day.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on April 12, 2013 - 1:11pm
On April 10, President Barack Obama sent Congress a budget proposal for fiscal year 2014. The President’s $3.77 trillion budget, with a mix of deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases and new spending to spur the economy, projects a $744 billion deficit for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That is down from the $973 billion shortfall projected for this fiscal year, after four years of post-recession deficits exceeding $1 trillion. Although much of the coverage of the proposal focuses on cuts to Medicare and Social Security, we take a quick look at the budget proposals for the Federal Communications and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the two key agencies for federal telecommunications policymaking. Why spend so much time looking at numbers that may not be part of a final budget – even if one is passed? Well, ss Vice President Joe Biden says, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." And, as Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton often reminds us here in the home office, “Money is policy.” Budgets – even budget proposals – remain instructive indicators of what policymakers see as important initiatives. It remains up to us to let them know if they are right – and to hold them accountable.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on March 22, 2013 - 12:00pm
Our big news this week, obviously, was the big announcement from the Federal Communications Commission’s meeting March 20 that Robert McDowell, the current commissioner with the most tenure, is stepping down from the FCC. “[I]t is time to turn more of my energies towards an even higher calling: serving my family,” Commissioner McDowell said. He indicated that he would leave the FCC in a few weeks. Well, that WAS the big story right up to the moment we started penning this round-up and then heard that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would announce his departure from the FCC on March 22.
Submitted by Michael Copps on March 17, 2013 - 1:31pm
In case anyone doubted the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require fuller disclosure of who actually pays for all those anonymous political ads that flooded the airwaves last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just reaffirmed that authority. The GAO—the government’s top watchdog agency—is also critical that the FCC has not bothered to update its “sponsorship identification” guidelines since the 1960s and it recommended that the Commission do so.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on March 14, 2013 - 12:37pm
Just a month ago, we focused on a new executive order aimed at strengthening U.S. cyber defenses, increasing information sharing, and developing standards to protect national security, jobs, and privacy. Before the ink was dry on President Barack Obama’s signature, the White House was calling on Congress to act as well to give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks. In the past week or so, we’ve seen a great deal of discussion in Washington about cybersecurity -- most aimed at getting Congress to act on the issue.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Cecilia Garcia on March 3, 2013 - 7:10pm
To further explore the current state of nonprofit media, The Knight Foundation and the Council on Foundations joined forces to create a working group tasked to dig into regulatory obstacles. I was honored to participate on this working group and am pleased that our report, “The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public,” is being released on March 4th.