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 6, 2013 - 12:38pm
Forgive us if we start at the end. Or, not to put too fine a point on it, an end of a beginning, perhaps. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler returned to Ohio State University (sorry – The Ohio State University) this week to deliver the first of what he promises to be a series of speeches that will articulate his regulatory philosophy. There is great symbolism in returning to his alma mater, he said, because “the dateline of my first speech sends a more powerful message than anything you’ll find in the transcript.” He wanted to stress, not just in his words, but in his presence, that the American people is the FCC’s constituency. “That how we connect determines how jobs are created and lives are lived. And that your FCC believes its mission is as integral to the prosperity of the Ohio Valley as Silicon Valley.” The Chairman characterizes himself as “the public’s advocate in the midst of an historic revolution.” So let’s pause to parse out what he sees as the FCC’s role in the revolution.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Blair Levin on November 18, 2013 - 7:38pm
Speaking today at the Connected Nation Education Summit in Reno, Nevada, Former National Broadband Plan Executive Director Blair Levin discussed the “biggest decision the FCC will make in its proceeding to upgrade the E-Rate program; whether all American school children will soon be able to take advantage of transformative digital education or whether that opportunity will only be available to some, with millions left behind for years to come.”
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on November 15, 2013 - 12:41pm
Technology professionals and policy makers convened November 5 at Washington Post Live’s Bridging the Digital Divide forum to discuss why the digital gap matters and who is still left out. On Nov 13, the Post published excerpts of the discussion and we use that as a jumping off point for another look at who’s using the Internet and who isn’t. Well over 90 percent of households in the United States now have access to high-speed broadband, but, according to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 72.9 percent of homes used broadband Internet service. That’s remarkable growth from 2000, when only 4 percent of homes used broadband, but it still indicates a significant gap.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah on November 14, 2013 - 4:31pm
Today, the average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. Only around 20 percent of our students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classroom and fewer than 20 percent of educators say their school’s Internet connection meets their teaching needs. By comparison, in South Korea 100 percent of students are connected to high-capacity broadband.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah on November 14, 2013 - 10:34am
The Federal Communications Commission is updating the E-Rate program which makes telecommunications more affordable for schools and libraries. A key goal of the update is ensure that schools and libraries purchase services and equipment in a cost-effective manner. To reach this goal, the FCC is proposing to increase the transparency of E-rate spending and specifically the prices E-rate applicants pay for service.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah on November 13, 2013 - 10:33am
The Federal Communications Commission created the E-Rate program in response to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which required the FCC and the states to ensure that affordable, quality, telecommunications services are available to all Americans. At the time, the FCC provided eligible schools and libraries discounts on the purchase of all commercially available telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections. The discounts range from 20% to 90%, with the higher discounts being provided to the most disadvantaged schools and libraries and those in high cost areas. Total support for schools and libraries was capped. In addition, the FCC created a two-tier priority system to encourage the use of E-Rate funding for basic Internet connectivity.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah on November 12, 2013 - 11:32am
On November 8, the Benton Foundation urged the Federal Communications Commission to make high-capacity broadband more available and affordable for the nation’s schools and libraries. For years, the FCC’s E-rate program has helped to bring basic Internet access and technology to the classroom. But if students, teachers, parents and whole communities are to take advantage of digital learning technologies, technologies that hold the promise of substantially improving educational experiences and expanding opportunity, the challenge no longer is basic access – it is about capacity.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on November 8, 2013 - 1:12pm
Make that Chairman Wheeler. Tom Wheeler was sworn in as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission this week. But this isn’t his first rodeo. “I have been in and out of the offices of the FCC for over 35 years,” he reminded us in a November 5 blog post. Even before getting his new FCC badge, he was a well-recognized, frequent visitor at the commission. And since he’s now in control of the agenda at the government agency entrusted with preserving and promoting the public interest in communications, it is time the public got to know him as well as the FCC staff. Here’s a look at the new chairman based not so much on what people are saying about him, but what he’s been saying and doing in his first few days in office.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Rebecca Ellis on November 1, 2013 - 12:47pm
It doesn’t look good for Argentina’s biggest broadcast conglomerate. After four years of battles between Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government and Argentine multimedia mogul Clarín Group, Supreme Court judges, by a 6-1 vote, declared constitutional a law that forces media companies to shrink their broadcast divisions.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on October 25, 2013 - 11:49am
The failures of HealthCare.gov are gaining lots of headlines this week, but we’d like to highlight a House hearing that’s not getting much attention. On Wednesday, October 23, the House Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing on The Evolution of Wired Communications Networks, in essence a discussion on how the communications networks of the United States are evolving from twisted pairs of copper telephone wires to coaxial cable and fiber -- and whether the laws that were enacted to govern traditional telephone services are appropriate in an Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled world. The evolution of wired communications networks is taking place in two different, but related ways: the transition to Internet Protocol and the replacement of older copper lines with fiber optics. Much of the hearing focused on how and whether regulation of traditional networks should be applied to IP delivery. Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton reported general consensus at the hearing that the switch from traditional circuit-switched networks to IP delivery was well underway, that the goal was consumer-friendly competitive networks, and even that there should be some IP transition trials. But there were also the traditional divides between those arguing that incumbent network operators were trying to get out of interconnection and other mandates in the IP switch, and that regulations continued to be necessary to require interconnection to the last mile controlled by those incumbents.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on October 18, 2013 - 10:50am
A funny thing happened while we all watched the tragic comedy known as the budget crisis – someone went and made some decisions about the future of the Internet. Or, well, not to put too fine a point on it, decided we need to make some major decisions on how to govern the Internet.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Alan S. Inouye, Ph.D. on October 15, 2013 - 12:51pm
Broadband, especially of the high-capacity variety, once mostly the province of network engineers and large organizations, is now everyone’s concern. Whether at home, school, on the job, or walking down the street, speedy response in using the Internet is the new normal. For libraries, this need and expectation is even more pronounced.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on October 11, 2013 - 9:07am
The Benton Foundation announces that Rebecca Ellis has joined the organization as Writing Associate for the foundation’s Headlines service. Ellis will report directly to Kevin Taglang, who has recently been promoted to Executive Editor. Since 1996, the Benton Foundation has provided free, daily summaries of articles from the consumer and trade press concerning the quickly-changing communications policy landscape. Taglang will focus on creating new content and resources for Benton’s readers.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Michael Copps on October 4, 2013 - 12:16pm
Former President Jimmy Carter told Der Spiegel in July that “America has no functioning democracy.” He was speaking in the context of national security surveillance, but I think his statement should get us all thinking about the state of the union in light of the soap-opera Congressional antics that have shut down huge parts of our government. A country beset by serious challenges to our economy, our competitiveness, our growing gap of income inequality, our embarrassing slippage in the global rankings on everything from infant mortality to life expectancy, educational attainment, and healthcare, and our deteriorating physical infrastructure, responds by doing . . . what? By shutting down the government! It reminds me of the old Eddy Arnold ballad, “Make the World Go Away.” Well, the world’s not going away, but America’s place in it might be. And this is no ballad; this is a failure of American democracy.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on October 4, 2013 - 10:43am
It’s Friday, October 4, so we’re not the first to inform you of the federal government shutdown. It is unclear how long the impasse over the Federal budget might go on. During the initial days of the first shutdown in nearly 18 years — when a Republican-controlled Congress battled President Bill Clinton (D) — there was little business getting done in the House or the Senate other than photo opportunities and partisan speeches. So we take a moment today to examine the impact the shutdown is having on telecommunications.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Kevin Taglang on September 20, 2013 - 11:42am
As the Federal Communications Commission considers proposals and recommendations to update its E-rate program, the Benton Foundation is paying close attention to the role of the E-rate in bringing broadband to underserved populations, especially those who either have no access to broadband at home, or cannot afford to pay for it. The lack of fundamental telecommunications infrastructure throughout Tribal Lands and Native Communities in the U.S., and particularly on reservations, is an acute and nagging problem that a reformed E-rate program could do much to address. Members of federally-recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages (“Tribes”), “[b]y virtually any measure, … have historically had less access to telecommunications services than any other segment of the population.” In starkest terms, these communities are the lands that the Information Age has forgotten.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah, Kevin Taglang on September 17, 2013 - 1:20pm
Back in July, the Federal Communications Commission sought public input on a review of the commission’s E-rate program which reduces the costs of telecommunications services for schools and libraries around the country. The FCC recognized that schools and libraries increasingly require high-capacity broadband(1) connections to take advantage of digital learning technologies that hold the promise of substantially improving educational experiences and expanding opportunity for students, teachers, parents and whole communities. As part of the review, the FCC proposed three goals for the program – and measures to achieve these goals.
Submitted by Benton Foundation on behalf of Amina Fazlullah, Cecilia Garcia on September 13, 2013 - 3:25pm
This week, civil rights groups joined with public interest and media reform organizations to highlight the importance of Lifeline – the Universal Service Fund program that supports telephone service for low-income consumers. To celebrate National Lifeline Awareness Week, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn, California Public Utility Commissioner Catherine Sandoval and low-income consumer advocates made the case for strengthening and modernizing Lifeline. The program became the focus of partisan gamesmanship during the 2012 election and became referred to as “Obama Phones.” At a New America Foundation event, Chairman Clyburn said she aimed to “set the record straight.” "Here’s the truth. The Lifeline program long predates the current Administration," Chairwoman Clyburn said her speech. "It was actually created during the Reagan administration, so let's give credit where credit is due. The Lifeline program is a legacy President Reagan could be proud of."