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 December 16, 2014 - 6:49am
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has been on the job for just over a year. And with 2014 coming to a close, we look back at the accomplishments of the FCC in his first year. Today we look at the FCC’s Lifeline program which provides discounts on monthly telephone service for eligible low-income subscribers.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on December 12, 2014 - 6:06am
On December 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission completed a comprehensive reform of the E-rate program, the nation’s largest program supporting education technology. Mandated by Congress in 1996 and implemented by the FCC in 1997, the E-rate provides discounted telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries, funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF). Over the past year and a half, the FCC has been reviewing the program to ensure that our nation’s students and communities have access to high-capacity broadband connections that support digital learning while making sure that the program remains fiscally responsible and fair to the consumers and businesses that pay into the USF. The real work of modernizing the E-rate reaches back to the earliest days of the Obama Administration.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Charles Benton, Amina Fazlullah on December 10, 2014 - 1:15pm
On December 11, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission improved education for all our young people by providing the tools to connect every school and library to high-capacity broadband -- and Wi-Fi connectivity that delivers critical education tools right to students’ desks. This is a huge win for U.S. education.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on December 9, 2014 - 5:11pm
There is a great new book, just published, that I hope Chairman Tom Wheeler and his FCC colleagues will read before they vote on “net neutrality” early in the new year. The book is America’s Battle for Media Democracy: The Triumph of Corporate Libertarianism and the Future of Media Reform. Victor Pickard, one of the brightest young media scholars in the communications firmament, is its author. He has mined a veritable mountain of records to compile an eye-opening story of the ups and downs (mostly downs) of the ongoing battle between media gatekeepers and public interest reformers. This is usable history—the best kind of history—showing that we have been at communications inflection points like this before and documenting what happens when we allow ourselves to get suckered down the wrong road. The wrong road is the one too often taken, Pickard shows, in spite of reformers and, occasionally, even a heroic FCC.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on December 8, 2014 - 8:38pm
In part I of this article, we looked at the Federal Communications Commission's fast start under Chairman Tom Wheeler to address the transition of the phone system from traditional, landline service over copper wires to a broadband- and wireless-based system. With other issues pressing for attention at the FCC, momentum slowed during the summer of 2014.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on December 7, 2014 - 1:49pm
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has been on the job for just over a year. And with 2014 coming to a close, we look back at the accomplishments of the FCC in his first year. One of the great challenges the FCC faces in coming months and years -- and which Wheeler recognized during his confirmation -- is guiding the transformation of the U.S. telephone system. This is no small task. The U.S. system is, perhaps, the best in the world, encompasses 1.5 billion miles of wire and some 120 million phones. And despite its great complexity, it has operated with near-perfect reliability for some 125 years through snow and rain and heat and gloom of night. The challenge now is to ensure the phone system can work just as well as it moves from an analog, circuit-switched network to a digital, packet-switched network.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Andrew Jay Schwartzman on December 1, 2014 - 6:00am
President Barack Obama’s recent statement urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to “reclassify” broadband Internet services has exposed many people to something they haven’t had reason to think about: the FCC is an independent agency, not truly part of the Executive Branch. Actually, the FCC is in some ways more nearly akin to an arm of the Congress, and exercises quasi-legislative powers when it adopts rules implementing the Communications Act. The relationship between the FCC and the Executive Branch is a worthy topic to explore, but in light of the recent Republican takeover of the Senate, this post will address the relationship between the FCC and Congress. Apart from the power to legislate, Congress has several means of influencing actions of the FCC.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on November 24, 2014 - 10:49am
So 2014 will pass into history without the Federal Communications Commission stepping up to the plate to ensure an Open Internet. Think of the good history the Commission could have made for itself. Instead we got more delay and more uncertainty about whether Title II net neutrality will ever see the light of day.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of John Horrigan on November 18, 2014 - 3:18pm
Last week, Federal Communications Commissioner Mignon Clyburn outlined five principles to bring the Lifeline program, which subsidizes phone service for low-income Americans, into the broadband age. The principles focus on two things we all care about. First, they call for the FCC to improve how the program functions so that more funds go to those who need it, while lessening administrative burden on the companies that provide the benefit to eligible consumers. Second, the principles provide a vision of what consumers and taxpayers get in return. In Commissioner Clyburn’s words: “Broadband is the greatest equalizer of our time.”
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Charles Benton on November 17, 2014 - 12:35pm
One of the most important challenges of our generation is to ensure that every child in every classroom has a chance to succeed and win in the global economy. Poverty, discrimination, isolation and ignorance hold our country back. But investments in education, infrastructure and technology spur economic growth, creating more good jobs and wealth for all of us. It is in our national interest to ensure that every child — no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter where they come from — has the opportunity to succeed. New research finds that just 34% of K-12 students in public schools attend schools where Internet speeds are 100 Mbps or more. One in five (20%) students attends schools with Internet speeds of only 10 Mbps or less.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on November 14, 2014 - 6:00am
Normally on Fridays, Kevin Taglang wraps up the top news of the week. But Kevin’s away so we thought we’d give you the you the big news straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. On Monday, President Barack Obama laid out his plan to ensure a free and open Internet through the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality. As Sen Ed Markey tweeted, “When the leader of the free world says the #Internet should remain free, that’s a game changer.”
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Andrew Jay Schwartzman on October 30, 2014 - 8:24pm
If the FCC reclassifies broadband it will be an important test of whether a law that is more than 20 years old has within it the flexibility to address changed technology that has become central to commerce, speech and everyday life.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on October 22, 2014 - 11:10am
Putting aside all the sky-is-falling caterwauling, here is what the FCC needs to do now: Treat broadband as the telecommunications it so obviously is under Title II, and reassert that there is still a place in government responsible for protecting consumers, innovators, and citizens generally from what will otherwise surely be unbridled industry gate-keeper control over the communications ecosystem upon which our nation’s future rides.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on October 17, 2014 - 9:32am
On October 16, the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a report, Exploring the Digital Nation: Embracing the Mobile Internet, which finds that over the last five years, the total number of Americans 16 and older that accessed the Internet on any device grew by 18 percent from 151 million in 2007 to 187 million in 2012 after adjusting for population growth. Broadband adoption at home increased to 72 percent of households in 2012 from 69 percent in 2011. Despite the progress in home broadband adoption, the report also identifies persistent gaps in home Internet use. In 2012, a significant portion -- 28 percent -- of American households did not use broadband at home. A lack of interest or need (48 percent) and affordability (29 percent) are the top two reasons for non-adoption.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Blair Levin on October 9, 2014 - 9:25am
Three years ago, Blair Levin, a former Federal Communications Commission Chief of Staff and Executive Director of the National Broadband Plan, organized Gig.U, a coalition of three dozen research university communities working to accelerating the deployment of next generation networks to serve their communities. Over two-dozen communities have, or are now in the process of, deploying such networks. This week the Brookings Institute named Blair a non-resident Fellow in its Metropolitan Policy Program, causing FCC Chairman Wheeler to note, “No one's done more to advance broadband expansion and competition thru the vision of National Broadband Plan & Gig.U.” In light of Blair’s background, we asked him to reflect on the report released today by the Pew Research Center on “Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age.”
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on September 26, 2014 - 11:01am
On September 23 Comcast and Time Warner Cable submitted to the Federal Communications Commission what’s called “Applicants’ Opposition to Petitions to Deny and Respond to Comments” – basically, the companies’ answers to filings arguing against Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Back in April, we looked at the companies’ claims that the deal is in the public interest and, more recently, we published a series on what public interest advocates, competitors, and politicians are saying about the transaction. Today we look at how Comcast and Time Warner Cable replied to opposition – focusing just on how they argue the deal could impact broadband services in the U.S.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on September 22, 2014 - 3:00am
There is time, FCC Chairman Wheeler, to conduct several full Commission meetings before you call the vote on net neutrality. I guarantee you that you’ll learn a lot and have a sounder basis for making the critically-important decision you and your colleagues must vote on shortly. In fact, you shouldn’t be calling a vote until you and your colleagues have had a chance to talk—really talk—to the American people.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on September 19, 2014 - 1:46pm
Easily, network neutrality won the week in telecommunications wonkland. September 15 was the latest deadline for public comment at the Federal Communications Commission as it tries again to recraft what it calls open Internet rules which, in the simplest terms, is treating all Internet traffic equally. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing called Why Net Neutrality Matters: Protecting Consumers and Competition Through Meaningful Open Internet Rules, and the FCC help four forums on the topic. With so much activity, it is wise to take a breath and figure out where we are.