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 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.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on February 7, 2014 - 5:09pm
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is kick-starting data collection initiatives that will allow both the commission and the public to evaluate how customers are affected by the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation’s voice communications services – from a network based on time-division multiplexed (TDM) circuit-switched voice services running on copper loops to an all-Internet Protocol (IP) network using copper, co-axial cable, wireless, and fiber as physical infrastructure (generally referred to as the IP Transition). To help evaluate and accelerate the IP Transition, the FCC is exploring ways to evaluate its current data gathering efforts, extend them as appropriate, and obtain a more comprehensive factual account of the transition and how it is impacting network values. In particular, data that deepen the understanding of how the transition is affecting consumers will enrich the ongoing public dialogue about how the FCC may best advance these transitions while ensuring that consumers and enduring values -- public safety, ubiquitous and affordable access, competition, and consumer protection -- are protected. The FCC expects the data will both expand the scope of the discussion as new challenges are brought to the table, and keep the FCC on track by taking off the table issues based solely on unfounded concerns that sometimes arise in an informational vacuum. The FCC seeks public input of four principles to guide its data collection and three distinct ways to enhance the its collection data efforts related to the IP Transition.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on February 7, 2014 - 12:57pm
On January 28, 2014, President Barack Obama again highlighted efforts to bring high-capacity broadband connections to the nation’s schools and libraries. And the words marked a new flurry of activity. Fundamental reforms of the E-rate program have been underway at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for months, aiming to make good on the President’s initiative to bring next-generation Internet connectivity to 99 percent of American classrooms within the next five years. President Obama asked the FCC to modernize an existing Universal Service Fund (USF) program, the E-rate, to help schools and libraries pay for more bandwidth -- a gigabit of capacity for every 1000 students.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on February 7, 2014 - 7:00am
In a previous post, we looked at the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent decision to invite voluntary, service-based experiments to evaluate how customers are affected by the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation’s voice communications services. Those experiments will examine the impacts on consumer values when providers substitute a new technology or service for a legacy one, with an eye toward discontinuing the legacy service in the post-transition world. In this article, we examine the FCC’s additional proposals for targeted experiments and cooperative research to explore the impact of technology transitions that focus on universal access. These proof-of-concept initiatives are focused on new technologies for particular groups of consumers, aspects of network functions, or more effective ways to reach all Americans.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on February 6, 2014 - 7:00am
On January 30, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) invited voluntary experiments meant to kickstart data collection initiatives that will allow the FCC and the public to evaluate how customers are affected by the historic technology transitions that are transforming our nation’s voice communications services – from a network based on time-division multiplexed (TDM) circuit-switched voice services running on copper loops to an all-Internet Protocol (IP) network using copper, co-axial cable, wireless, and fiber as physical infrastructure. The purpose of these experiments is to speed market-driven technological transitions and innovations by preserving the FCC’s core, interdependent and mutually reinforcing values as codified by Congress – public safety, ubiquitous and affordable access, competition, and consumer protection – that exist today. In this, the first in a series describing the FCC’s decision, we look at voluntary service-based experiments the FCC is inviting. Here’s what the FCC is expecting from carrier applicants and the timeline for determining what experiements will get an OK to proceed.
Submitted by Michael Copps on January 22, 2014 - 3:31pm
Since the DC Court threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules last week, “network neutrality” is a glaring problem that demands prompt action. The good news is that the solution is pretty simple. It doesn’t require a new telecommunications statute replete with time-consuming years of legislative horse-trading and special interest lobbying. All it requires is an FCC big enough to own up to its previous mistakes and courageous enough to put our communications future back on track. The solution: reclassify broadband as “telecommunications” under Title II of the Communications Act.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on January 21, 2014 - 7:00am
Has it been just one year since President Barack Obama’s Second Inaugural Address? Last year at this time, our ears perked up when we heard the President stress building networks after being sworn in for a second term. Here at the Benton Foundation, we believe that no one can fully participate in modern society unless they have the means to effectively use our most powerful communications tools. Broadband networks must be available, accessible, affordable, trustworthy, and relevant to new adopters. And these people must develop the skills needed to make use of these powerful tools.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on January 17, 2014 - 7:00am
On January 14, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down key elements of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules (commonly known as net or network neutrality) which required broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. Depending on your philosophy on government regulation of the Internet or your interpretation of the court’s decision, either the sky is falling or all is finally right in the world. We’ve seen tons of coverage of, reaction to, analysis of and opinion about the decision. Here’s a quick take on the decision, what it means and what (may) happen(s) next.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang, Ted Gotsch on January 15, 2014 - 7:00am
The universal service concept has, perhaps, most frequently been promoted as a way to ensure that all Americans have a way to contact the authorities in the event of an emergency to preserve life and limb. And, so, when it comes to using the telephone or any telecommunications service, a basic question is whether it will work.