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Broadband's Impact

On Hate Speech, Internet Service Providers Exempt from First Amendment, Attorney Says

WASHINGTON, October 17 – Protecting children in an age of broadband–connected wireless devices and Web 2.0 applications will require pro-active cooperation by internet service providers (ISPs), a panel of child safety experts and industry representatives said Thursday at the National Press Club.

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WASHINGTON, October 17 – Protecting children in an age of broadband–connected wireless devices and Web 2.0 applications will require pro-active cooperation by internet service providers (ISPs), a panel of child safety experts and industry representatives said Thursday at the National Press Club.

Christopher Wolf, an attorney at Proskauer Rose, said that ISPs should play a greater role in patrolling against hate speech. The terms of service of broadband providers are “not constrained by the First Amendment,” he said, and could have a role to play in taking such speech down.

Wolf also said one of the most pressing threats to “digital natives,” or young people who have grown up online, is that they are more likely to  constantly post information about themselves and their activities, creating a potentially permanent “digital dossier” that could come back to haunt them later in life.

10/16/2008“Kids speak digital as a first language” and are more likely to let down their guard when posting information online, said Wolf. These risks are sharpened by the lack of a uniform national privacy law and a Congress that legislates “re-actively,” he said. While praising the efforts made by legislators in Virginia, Illinois and Texas to create cyber-safety education programs in schools, Wolf stressed the importance of parental involvement as the first step in protecting young people.

Parents can’t abdicate responsibility for their kids’ online activities because they don’t understand the technology, he warned. Another danger lurking online comes from the proliferation and routine exposure of children to so-called hate speech on sites that indoctrinate or recruit at-risk youths, Wolf said. Wolf chairs the Anti-Defamation League’s internet task force, and said that increases in cyberbullying might be linked to the increased accessibility of such content and the ease with which kids can now communicate with each other.

Wolf said that ISPs need to more vigilantly “keep track” of sites with racist materials in order to keep kids away from such content. Wolf is also co-chairman of the AT&T-supported “Hands Off the Internet” coalition, a group opposed to Net Neutrality rules,

The role of the ISP is mainly one of education, said Brent Olson, assistant vice president for regulatory policy at AT&T. Olson said that AT&T’s goal is to “help parents be parents.” He pointed to tools available on his company’s web site. He also said that AT&T has also invested in cybereducation for kids, included a program called iKeepSafe and D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistence Education.

While internet safety protection efforts once focused on keeping children away from certain types of content, kids today produce it themselves and share it in a “stream of consciousness,” said Family Online Safety Institute CEO Stephan Balkam.

Balkam expressed concern over cases in Texas and Ohio where kids who sent each other photos of themselves have been prosecuted under child pornography statutes. Of similar concern to Balkam are new anti-cyberbullying statutes like the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, H.R. 6123.  Congress must be careful about criminalizing “so-called normal behavior” of children, he said.

The actual dangers from strangers online must by evaluated in a “cool, calm way,” Balkam said, dismissing fears perpetuated by shows like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” which he sarcastically referred to as true “Perverted Justice.” “Perverted Justice” is the name of the online vigilante group NBC collaborated with to produce the controversial shows.

When dealing with kids’ activities online, Balkam said a more productive approach would be education on the three “c’s:” content, conduct and contact. Education should be grounded on real research, he said, and should not neglect the real questions at the heart of the matter: “How will we, as parents, control what kids are exposed to, …or expose of themselves?”

Balkam suggested that ISP terms of service would be the “next battleground” on hate speech and cyberbullying. Public pressure will work to pressurize web site operators and service providers on the issue, he said.

Governmental action must take the form of a measured approach by the next Congress and the new administration with regard to online safety issues, he said. “We must not overreact.”

The next administration should take executive action on online safety, Balkam said. While the Clinton administration had regular meetings on the issue, over the past eight years different agencies have tried to help in the own way, but with little success, he said.

In spite of the inclusion of an anti-child pornography provision in the recently passedBroadband Date Improvement Act, S. 1492, the bill does little to help bring all safety efforts under one umbrella, said Balkham. But Balkam addded he is “very encouraged” by the records of both presidential candidates.

Sen. John McCain held hearings on Internet safety when he chaired the Commerce Committee, while Sen. Barack Obama’s proposal for a national chief technology officer could include a chief safety officer under the CTO. Both candidates, he said, appear strong enough on the issue to help kids be “safe at any speed.”

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

Broadband's Impact

Technology Policy Institute Introduces Data Index to Help Identify Connectivity-Deprived Areas

The Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple datasets to try to get a better understanding of well- and under-connected areas in the U.S.

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Scott Wallsten is president and senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2021 – The Technology Policy Institute introduced Thursday a broadband data index that it said could help policymakers study areas across the country with inadequate connectivity.

The TPI said the Broadband Connectivity Index uses multiple broadband datasets to compare overall connectivity “objectively and consistently across any geographic areas.” It said it will be adding it soon into its TPI Broadband Map.

The BCI uses a “machine learning principal components analysis” to take into account the share of households that can access fixed speeds the federal standard of 25 Megabits per second download and 3 Mbps upload and 100/25 – which is calculated based on the Federal Communications Commission’s Form 477 data with the American Community Survey – while also using download speed data from Ookla, Microsoft data for share of households with 25/3, and the share of households with a broadband subscription, which comes from the American Community Survey.

The BCI has a range of zero to 10, where zero is the worst connected and 10 is the best. It found that Falls Church, Virginia was the county with the highest score with the following characteristic: 99 percent of households have access to at least 100/25, 100 percent of households connect to Microsoft services at 25/3, the average fixed download speed is 243 Mbps in Ookla in the second quarter of this year, and 94 percent of households have a fixed internet connection.

Meanwhile, the worst-connected county is Echols County in Georgia. None of the population has access to a fixed connection of 25/3, which doesn’t include satellite connectivity, three percent connect to Microsoft’s servers at 25/3, the average download speed is 7 Mbps, and only 47 percent of households have an internet connection. It notes that service providers won $3.6 million out of the $9.2-billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to provide service in this county.

“Policymakers could use this index to identify areas that require a closer look. Perhaps any county below, say, the fifth percentile, for example, would be places to spend effort trying to understand,” the TPI said.

“We don’t claim that this index is the perfect indicator of connectivity, or even the best one we can create,” TPI added. “In some cases, it might magnify errors, particularly if multiple datasets include errors in the same area.

“We’re still fine-tuning it to reduce error to the extent possible and ensure the index truly captures useful information. Still, this preliminary exercise shows that it is possible to obtain new information on connectivity with existing datasets rather than relying only on future, extremely expensive data.”

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Broadband's Impact

New Report Recommends Broadening Universal Service Fund to Include Broadband Revenues

A Mattey Consulting report finds broadband revenues can help sustain the fund used to connect rural and low-income Americans.

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Carol Mattey of Mattey Consulting LLC

WASHINGTON, September 14, 2021— Former deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission Carol Mattey released a study on Tuesday recommending the agency reform the Universal Service Fund to incorporate a broad range of revenue sources, including from broadband.

According to the report by Mattey’s consulting firm Mattey Consulting LLC, revenues from “broadband internet access services that are increasingly used by Americans today should contribute to the USF programs that support the expansion of such services to all,” it said. “This will better reflect the value of broadband internet access service in today’s marketplace for both consumers and businesses.”

Mattey notes that sources of funding for the USF, which are primarily from voice revenues and supports expanding broadband to low-income Americans and remote regions, has been shrinking, thus putting the fund in jeopardy. The contribution percent reached a historic high at 33.4 percent in the second quarter this year, and decreased slightly after that, though Mattey suggested it could soar as high as 40 percent in the coming years.

“This situation is unsustainable and jeopardizes the universal broadband connectivity mission for our nation without immediate FCC reform,” Mattey states in her report, “To ensure the enduring value of the USF program and America’s connectivity goals, we must have a smart and substantive conversation about the program’s future.”

According to Mattey’s data, the assessed sources (primarily voice) of income will only continue to shrink over the coming years, while unassessed sources will continue to grow. Mattey’s report was conducted in conjunction with INCOMPAS, NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association, and the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition.

“It is time for the FCC to take action, and to move away from the worst option of all – the status quo – that is jeopardizing the USF which is critical to connecting our nation,” the report said.

John Windhausen, executive director of SHLB, echoed the sentiments expressed by Mattey in her report, “We simply must put the USF funding mechanism on a more stable and sustainable path,” he said, “[in order to] strengthen our national commitment to broadband equity for all.”

Mattey report uniform with current recommendations

Mattey’s research is generally in line with proponents of change to the USF. Some have recommended that the fund draw from general broadband revenues, while others have said general taxation would provide a longer lasting solution. Even FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr suggested that Big Tech be forced to contribute to the system it benefits from, which the acting chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said is an “intriguing” idea.

The FCC instituted the USF in 1997 as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The fund was designed to encourage the development of telecom infrastructure across the U.S.—dispensing billions of dollars every year to advance the goal of universal connectivity. It does so through four programs: the Connect America Fund, Lifeline, the rural health care program, and E-Rate.

These constituent programs address specific areas related for broadband. For example, the E-Rate program is primarily concerned with ensuring that schools and libraries are sufficiently equipped with internet and technology assistance to serve their students and communities. All of these programs derive their funding from the USF.

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Digital Inclusion

Outreach ‘Most Valuable Thing’ for Emergency Broadband Benefit Program: Rosenworcel

FCC Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel said EBB will benefit tremendously from local outreach efforts.

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Internet Innovation Alliance Co-Chair Kim Keenan

WASHINGTON, September 13, 2021 – The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Monday that a drawback of the legislation that ushered in the $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program is that it did not include specific funding for outreach.

“There was no funding to help a lot of these non-profit and local organizations around the country get the word out [about the program],” Jessica Rosenworcel said during an event hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance about the broadband affordability divide. “And I know that it would get the word out faster if we had that opportunity.”

The program, which launched in May and provides broadband subsidies of $50 and $75 to qualifying low-income households, has so-far seen an uptake of roughly 5.5 million households. The program was a product of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“We gotta get those trusted local actors speaking about it because me preaching has its limitations and reaching out to people who are trusted in their communities to get the word out – that is the single most valuable thing we can do,” Rosenworcel said.

She said the FCC has 32,000 partners and has held more than 300 events with members of Congress, tribal leaders, national and local organizations, and educational institutions to that end.

“Anyone who’s interested, we’ll work with you,” she said.

EBB successes found in its mobile friendliness, language inclusion

Rosenworcel also preached the benefits of a mobile application-first approach with the program’s application that is making it accessible to large swaths of the population. “I think, frankly, every application for every program with the government should be mobile-first because we have populations, like the LatinX population, that over index on smartphone use for internet access.

“We gotta make is as easy as possible for people to do this,” she said.

She also noted that the program is has been translated into 13 languages, furthering its accessibility.

“We have work to do,” Rosenworcel added. “We’re not at 100 percent for anyone, and I don’t think we can stop until we get there.”

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