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 April 18, 2014 - 3:53pm
On April 8, 2014, Comcast announced that it and Time Warner Cable have officially filed their joint Applications and Public Interest Statement with the Federal Communications Commission. This kicks off the formal regulatory approval process for a proposal that has garnered lots of media attention. Comcast and Time Warner Cable argue that the proposed acquisition is “pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and will generate substantial public interest benefits. This week, we take a look at the companies’ claims. The FCC will approve a proposed ownership transaction if, if, after weighing “the potential public interest harms of the merger against any potential public interest benefits,” it concludes that, “on balance,” the transfer “serves the public interest, convenience and necessity.” The FCC will focus on “demonstrable and verifiable public interest benefits that could not be achieved if there were no merger.” So, does Comcast + Time Warner Cable = public interest? Here’s what the companies claim.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah on April 16, 2014 - 12:00am
On April 11, the Benton Foundation responded to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for public comment on how to preserve an Open Internet in the wake of this year’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which struck down some of the FCC’s Open Internet (or “network neutrality”) rules. Benton strongly believes that Open Internet rules are necessary for the Internet to continue to be a boon to commerce and our democracy, and they remain an important policy goal of the FCC. It is particularly important to enact strong Open Internet rules because of the disproportionate impact of an ISP’s discriminatory behavior on vulnerable populations, such as people of color, low-income populations, seniors, people with disabilities, and rural communities.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Cecilia Garcia on April 3, 2014 - 11:13am
The newly released Pew Research Center’s report, “Older Adults and Technology Use,” shows substantial forward movement in Internet use and broadband adoption by America’s senior population. However, given the increasingly important role that this 21st century technology plays in all of our lives, it is troubling that 41 percent of seniors still do not use the Internet (compared to 14 percent of all adults), and that 53 percent do not have broadband access where they live (all adults: 30 percent). The Benton Foundation has been working with Senior Service America, Inc. (SSAI) to address the challenges of bringing senior non-Internet users online. This latest Pew research reaffirms what we’re finding in our work.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on March 28, 2014 - 10:49am
On March 26, the Pew Research Center released State of the News Media 2014, the eleventh annual report by the Pew Research Center examining the landscape of American journalism. The study includes special reports about the revenue picture for news, the growth in digital reporting, the role of acquisitions and content sharing in local news and how digital video affects the news landscape. In addition, it provides the latest data on audience, economic, news investment and ownership trends for key sectors of news media.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Blair Levin on March 19, 2014 - 3:54pm
Turns out, in our National Broadband Plan, and in every national broadband plan around the world, there are four strategies that dominate: 1) Driving fiber deeper; 2) Using spectrum more efficiently; 3) Getting everyone online; and 4) Using the platform to improve delivery of public goods. So, on the 4th anniversary of the release of the National Broadband Plan, the right question is are we improving in executing on those 4 strategies?
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Andrew Jay Schwartzman on March 18, 2014 - 5:28pm
In a few weeks (April 22, to be exact), the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in one of the most important intellectual property cases in recent years. Depending on who you believe, the case could endanger or even destroy free over-the-air broadcasting or it could imperil the development of cloud computing and threatening the very underpinnings of the emerging digital economy. Or perhaps neither, since this case, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., has been the object of heated hyperbole on all sides. Behind the dry and highly technical arguments in this case is a major controversy over whether Aereo, a small start-up with a few thousand subscribers, can capture and distribute over-the-air TV signals via the Internet.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on March 14, 2014 - 12:28pm
Although it did not garner much coverage, an independent, nonpartisan analysis of federal funding for broadband infrastructure and the existence of municipally operated networks finds that both have resulted in improvements in U.S. broadband service.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on February 28, 2014 - 7:00am
The Wall Street Journal broke the story reporting that Netflix had agreed to pay Comcast to ensure Netflix movies and television shows stream smoothly to Comcast customers. In exchange for payment, Netflix is to get direct access to Comcast's broadband network. Why would Netflix need to do that? Earlier this month we learned that Netflix’s video streaming performance on Verizon and Comcast networks has been dropping for the past three to four months. Verizon and Comcast have each been involved in disputes with video streaming services like Netflix and YouTube. When these negotiations fail, users suffer. In other words, bad video performance is often caused not just by technology problems but also by business decisions made by the many companies involved in delivering Internet traffic from content providers to end users.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Andrew Jay Schwartzman on February 25, 2014 - 7:00am
There has been a wave of commentary, most of it negative, about Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Many of the columns and op-eds call for the FCC and the Department of Justice to stop the deal, but few have explained the process by which such transactions are reviewed.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on February 20, 2014 - 7:00am
The most important decision the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has had to make in years is upon it. How this decision comes down will significantly affect the future of our nation’s communications networks. It will profoundly affect each of us as individuals -- and no one more profoundly than America’s minority and diversity communities. That’s because this is not only a communications issue. It is also a critically important civil rights issue. All of us who support the expansion of civil rights need to be in the thick of this decision. The issue is the future of the Internet and whether that future will be open and accessible to all of us -- or, will the Internet become the playground of a few gate-keeping, powerhouse communications giants? The term "network neutrality" doesn’t begin to do justice to this issue. This is about Internet Freedom. This is about ensuring that the most opportunity-creating communications tool of the twenty-first (or perhaps any) century is open to every American -- regardless of who they are, where they live, the color of their skin, the nature of their ethnicity, or the particular economic and social circumstances of their individual lives. The Internet should be and can be the highway to expanded opportunity for 330 million Americans -- but it will require positive policy action to make it so.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Adrianne B. Furniss on February 18, 2014 - 7:00am
The Benton Foundation and Georgetown Law are establishing the Public Interest Communications Law Project, under which Andrew Jay Schwartzman will serve as the Benton Senior Counselor at Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation (IPR). Our goal is to create a cohort of younger and more diverse advocates to work on closing the digital divide, so our most vulnerable populations can participate fully in a diverse media system and our democracy. What’s critical here, in my view, is that the experiences of all people inform media and telecommunications policy decisions.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Andrew Jay Schwartzman on February 10, 2014 - 7:00am
Last month’s blockbuster ruling throwing out the key provisions of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 Network Neutrality rules justifies taking a hard look at Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Opponents and proponents of Network Neutrality have, understandably, focused their attention on whether the FCC should take the invitation of the court to "reclassify" broadband services as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. In the near term, the controversy over reclassification will be front and center. But the longest lasting and most important legacy of the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is likely to be its expansive interpretation of Section 706.