Daily Digest 3/13/2018 (Digital Divide)

Benton Foundation

Investing in Next Generation Broadband


Digital Divide in the US

The digital divide is the most critical issue of the 21st century – so this report sets out to talk about why it’s so critical and how we can close the divide. Why do we need to close the digital divide?

  • Job and establishment growth between 2010 and 2015 was substantially lower in counties with the highest digital divide; establishments with paid employees declined in counties with the highest digital divide while establishments with no employees barely grew.
  • Digital economy industries—one of the fastest growing group of industries in the nation—and associated jobs increased overall and across all Digital Divide Index (DDI) quartiles between 2010 and 2015.
  • Digital economy establishments—of which 57 percent were nonemployers—increased in the nation and across all digital divide categories. In fact, the largest percent change in digital economy establishments between 2010 and 2015 took place in counties with the highest digital divide.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Economic and community development efforts need to be refined to target and support digital economy entrepreneurs that are emerging throughout the nation. Robust strategies should not only focus on updating broadband infrastructure, but also on increasing awareness and digital literacy knowledge to effectively leverage and maximize these technologies.
  • Collaboration among key local and regional assets—schools, libraries, nonprofits, Extension Services, local economic development organizations, regional planning commissions, think tanks, faith-based among others—should be strengthened. This will ensure that local and regional resources will be working in tandem to tackle the digital divide problem in high need areas of the country. 

Remarks of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel at National League of Cities Congressional City Conference

[Speech] You are a force for optimism—and I want to harness your energies this morning to help solve what I call the Homework Gap. After I talk about that, I’ll follow up with a few thoughts about other matters of interest before the Federal Communications Commission. School-aged kids without broadband access at home are not only unable to complete their homework, they enter the job market with a serious handicap. I have some ideas—and that’s where you come in. First, let’s do something simple. Let’s gather local data and raise awareness. After all, we will never manage problems we do not measure. The good news is that some cities, school districts, and non-profits are already getting this work underway. Second, we need to take note of the innovative things that are happening across the country to help address this problem—and then no shame, copy them. Finally, there are a wide range of cities and towns doing something distinctly low-tech to increase high-tech access. They’re making maps. 

FCC must defend net neutrality repeal in court against dozens of litigants

Twelve lawsuits filed against the Federal Communications Commission over its network neutrality repeal have been consolidated into one suit that will be heard at a federal appeals court in California. The 12 lawsuits were filed by more than three dozen entities, including state attorneys general, consumer advocacy groups, and tech companies. Here's a list of who filed the 12 lawsuits against the FCC:

  • Mozilla Corp.
  • Vimeo, Inc.
  • Public Knowledge
  • Open Technology Institute
  • New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with Democratic attorneys general from 21 other states and the District of Columbia
  • National Hispanic Media Coalition
  • Benton Foundation
  • Free Press
  • Coalition for Internet Openness, representing tech companies Automattic, Foursquare Labs, Etsy, Expa, Kickstarter, and Shutterstock
  • Etsy (filing by itself)
  • California Public Utilities Commission
  • County of Santa Clara, California

There's no schedule for the consolidated lawsuit yet. The case could be decided about one year from now if it ends up following a similar timeline as when the FCC successfully defends net neutrality rules in 2016.

More Mayors Pledge to Champion Net Neutrality

[Press release] The number of mayors pledging to refuse to do business with online gatekeepers has grown to 12 since New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled MayorsForNetNeutrality.org on March 11. Mayor De Blasio is now working with Free Press and others to get more US mayors to sign the Cities Open Internet Pledge. By signing on, mayors agree to require that all internet providers that do business with their cities follow strong Net Neutrality principles. Participating mayors reject the Federal Communications Commission’s unpopular 2017 decision to strip internet users of Net Neutrality protections and vow to use their collective power — both economic and political — to restore online rights. Signers agree that their cities will only do business with “companies that do not block, throttle, or provide paid prioritization of content on sites that cities run to provide critical services and information to their residents,” according to the pledge. Of note: New York City's "The Truth in Broadband RFI" seeks technical insight and policy guidance for monitoring net neutrality and other network performance issues through the use of regular diagnostic tests that would not require special authorization from the providers themselves. Responses are due March 16. 

The web can be weaponised – and we can't count on big tech to stop it

[Commentary] The threats to the web today are real – from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data. But I remain committed to making sure the web is a free, open, creative space – for everyone. That vision is only possible if we get everyone online, and make sure the web works for people. I founded the Web Foundation to fight for the web’s future. Here’s where we must focus our efforts:

  • Close the digital divide
  • Make the web work for people: the fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale.
  • Bring more voices to the debate on the web’s future

[Tim Berners-Lee is the founder of the world wide web]

On Internet Regulation, The FCC Goes Back To The Future

[Commentary] Exactly two years ago, I predicted in a lengthy post that eight major Internet policy initiative undertaken by the Federal Communications Commission under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler would fall victim, sooner rather than later, to legal and political challenges. As of last week, all of them have now been sent down the memory hole, including the agency’s radical 2015 decision to “reclassify” broadband Internet as a public utility, subject to a small mountain of rules developed in the 1930’s for the former Bell monopoly. It didn’t take much in the way of fortune-telling skills to get this right.  The Commission’s lawyers knew from the beginning that many if not all of Wheeler's efforts to extend the agency's regulatory authority over the broadband ecosystem had little if any basis in law.  In the end, two of the eight were quickly overturned by courts.  One was explicitly nullified by Congress.  Three failed when then-Chairman Wheeler was unable to secure the support even of fellow Democratic Commissioners. Under the US Constitution, even good intentions can’t substitute for clear legal authority. [Larry Downes is the Project Director at Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.]

via Forbes

Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet

Reddit is made up of more than a million individual communities, or subreddits, some of which have three subscribers, some twenty million. But, no matter how neutral a platform may seem, there’s always a person behind the curtain. Is it possible to facilitate a space for open dialogue without also facilitating hoaxes, harassment, and threats of violence? Where is the line between authenticity and toxicity? What if, after technology allows us to reveal our inner voices, what we learn is that many of us are authentically toxic?

Can’t Washington protect Americans from propaganda on social media?

The past two years have taught us that the United States needs a better handle on what social networks are doing to manipulate and prioritize information. If there’s one thing that Washington could do, it would be to provide better safeguards to ensure that these powerful tools are not used to mislead the public again. That’s part of the message from Martha Minow, longtime Harvard Law school dean and expert on the shifting media and technological landscape. Minow also casts a skeptical eye on the concentration of local media ownership by companies such as Sinclair Broadcasting. Minow cites the Constitution as impetus for Washington “to improve reliable access to material enabling competing views and authentication of messages and sources. The government can protect users against bombardment by computer-generated messages that drown out news and drive citizens away from the exchange needed for democratic self-governance.”

YouTube, the Great Radicalizer

[Commentary] It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century. This is not because a cabal of YouTube engineers is plotting to drive the world off a cliff. A more likely explanation has to do with the nexus of artificial intelligence and Google’s business model. (YouTube is owned by Google.) For all its lofty rhetoric, Google is an advertising broker, selling our attention to companies that will pay for it. The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes. In effect, YouTube has created a restaurant that serves us increasingly sugary, fatty foods, loading up our plates as soon as we are finished with the last meal. This state of affairs is unacceptable but not inevitable. There is no reason to let a company make so much money while potentially helping to radicalize billions of people, reaping the financial benefits while asking society to bear so many of the costs.

[Zeynep Tufekci is an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina]


President Trump Orders Broadcom to Cease Attempt to Buy Qualcomm

President Donald Trump blocked Broadcom's $117 billion hostile bid for Qualcomm, capping a remarkable series of moves by the Trump administration reflecting officials’ concerns about an intensifying arms race between the US and China over advanced technologies. While Broadcom is a Singapore-based company, the US panel that vets foreign deals said that the bid could have had implications for the US’s broader technological competition with China. That panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, known as CFIUS, said it was worried that Broadcom would stymie research and development at Qualcomm given its reputation as a cost-cutting behemoth. CFIUS said such a move could weaken Qualcomm—and thereby the US—against foreign rivals racing to develop next-generation wireless technology known as 5G, such as China’s Huawei. Broadcom, which launched its hostile bid for Qualcomm in Novemberi n what could have become the technology industry’s biggest-ever deal, was working to redomicile in the US to evade the panel’s review. But the presidential order effectively ended its acquisition hopes.

Justice Department Alleges AT&T, Comcast Will Together Withhold Content From Digital Rivals

As the US government gets set to fight AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner in a DC federal court, the Department of Justice March 9 submitted a trial brief that sharpens its theories on why the $85 billion merger deserves to be blocked. Justice Department officials say the outcome of the case "will chart the course for the future of video-content delivery in the United States" and are also ridiculing the other side's response. Claiming that the merging parties would "have the incentive and ability to substantially lessen competition by withholding or raising the price for" content is one thing, but what does the government specifically think will happen should the merger pass the judge's scrutiny?  First, the government will attempt to prove that cable and satellite customers can expect their monthly bills to rise. The government is also suggesting that the merger would harm competition by constraining AT&T's rivals from effectively using HBO as a competitive tool. Perhaps most controversially, the government contends that with two vertically integrated conglomerates in the media space — AT&T/Time Warner and Comcast/NBCUniversal — there could be "coordination" between the two to disadvantage emerging virtual rivals. Dish Sling and PlayStation Vue are singled out as posing a particular threat to AT&T's DirecTV and U-verse services.

Media merger basics: A primer on Fox, Disney, Comcast, Sky, AT&T, and Time Warner

[Commentary] AT&T-Time Warner: The merger is vertical in nature, whereas the Disney-Fox merger is horizontal. But AT&T-Time Warner is a key merger from which to gather clues about the Department of Justice’s antitrust enforcement priorities under the new leadership of Makan Delrahim. Again, vertical mergers historically have been treated as either beneficial to consumers or having an ambiguous or benign impact on consumer welfare. Yet the proposed vertical merger is subject to a DOJ court action to block the merger. Relevant to future mergers, the DOJ action may be driven less by whether the merger is horizontal or vertical and more by whether any potential problems may be lessened by “structural” versus “behavioral” remedies. The problem with behavioral remedies, as noted by many, including Delrahim himself, is that (in Delrahim’s words) they “often require companies to make daily decisions contrary to their profit-maximizing incentives and they demand ongoing monitoring and enforcement to do that effectively.” It is important to view the possible shift to structural remedies as a shift in preference between two traditional categories of antitrust remedies. It does not (yet) reflect a change in traditional, economic analyses of the underlying merge

[Babette Boliek is an associate professor of law and the associate dean of Faculty Research and Development at Pepperdine University School of Law.]


President Trump’s cultural assault on the First Amendment

[Commentary] There is no shortage of explainers detailing President Donald Trump’s limited ability to mess with the First Amendment. No, he can’t just snap his fingers and “open up” our libel laws so that he can more easily sue news outlets that publish scoops about him. No, he can’t just shut down a large broadcast network whose reporting he doesn’t like. There’s a lot of bluster in the president’s widely disseminated attacks on the press. “But as we approach the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration,” wrote Politico magazine’s Jack Shafer last November, “we discover that the president’s gibbering about the alleged menace posed by the press has been followed by no action.” At a recent event organized by the White House Correspondents’ Association, President Trump’s anti-media rhetoric — including his frequent invocations of “fake news” — drew something short of outrage and incredulity from a panel of journalists. Peter Baker, who has two decades of experience covering the White House, said, “The people who say this has a broad impact on society and the credibility of the media and so forth and so on, I get their point.” He continued: “I don’t dispute that. In terms of my job, worried about working as a reporter in the White House, it doesn’t have that much impact. I mean, it’s just theater.” [Erik Wemple] 

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Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) -- we welcome your comments.

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