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Broadband Roundup: GOP Broadband Framework, Reassessing Eligible Telecommunications Requirements, Boycotting Facebook Ads

Jericho Casper

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Photo of Sen. Roger Wicker in February 2019 by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly used with permission

June 22, 2020 — House and Senate Republican leaders released principles to guide legislation aiming to close the digital divide in the age of COVID-19 on Thursday. The connectivity initiative was led by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and House Energy & Commerce Ranking Member Greg Walden, R-Ore.

According to its creators, the proposed bill  would authorize funding for the Federal Communications Commission to complete accurate broadband mapping efforts, ensure students have access to broadband, ensure connectivity even for those unable to afford broadband, promote digital equity and help carriers during the pandemic.

The proposed bill was announced after Wicker expressed concern over the lack of accurate broadband maps in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on June 16.

“The coronavirus pandemic has made expanding access to broadband even more urgent,” said Wicker. “This framework would support the delivery of these services by fostering investment, promoting broadband deployment, and enhancing network security and resiliency. I thank Ranking Member Walden for working with me to help expand reliable broadband connection to all Americans.”

Free State Foundation calls for reevaluation of USF requirements

Federal funding tends to come with a catch, which often holds the potential to lead to suboptimal outcomes.

In the case of the Universal Service Fund, a fund created to promote widespread access to telecommunications services, one associated catch is that those receiving broadband-specific funding be designated as eligible telecommunications carriers, wrote Free State Foundation Senior Fellow Andrew Long.

Long argued that upholding ETC standards disincentivizes participation by internet service providers outside the Title II “telecommunications service” regulatory condition, established in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

According to Long, maintaining this discourages applications from some operators which have proven track records, including cable operators, fiber- and wireless-based service providers, satellite operators and more. Consumer choice and overall coverage is reduced by requiring applicants to be eligible telecommunications carriers.

Long’s approach would benefit consumers by expanding provider choice and driving down costs, efficiently stretching federal dollars to cover additional areas.

The North Face pulls ads from Facebook

On Friday, The North Face joined a growing number of brands pulling advertising from Facebook, The Hill reported.

Several civil rights organizations and advocacy groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Free Press, have called on companies to boycott Facebook advertising for the month of July to protest what they consider the failure of the platform to regulate hateful content.

The boycott comes amid rising scrutiny of Facebook’s hands-off approach to regulating political speech online.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been under mounting pressure to take action against President Trump’s posts in particular, especially ones considered to be glorifying violence.

"Effective June 19th, The North Face is halting all activity and U.S. paid advertising with Facebook until stricter policies are put in place to stop racist, violent or hateful content and misinformation from circulating on the platform," a spokesperson said.

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