Connect with us

Broadband's Impact

Future of Internet Governance, Freedom of Speech Take Center Stage at Cato Book Panel

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2009 – The 18th century ideas of Thomas Jefferson were thrust into a 21st century debate at the Cato Institute Wednesday during a discussion of David Post’s new book, In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.

Published

on

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Andrew Feinberg’s video interview with David Post on BroadbandCensus TV.

WASHINGTON, February 4, 2009 – The 18th century ideas of Thomas Jefferson were thrust into a 21st century debate at the Cato Institute Wednesday during a discussion of David Post’s new book, In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.

Studying Jefferson’s legacy of “scaling up” the Republic during his presidency — establishing procedures for settlement of new territories and adding new states to the union — can help better understand how to govern the Internet as it grows more and more important in daily life, Post said.

Laws and institutions must adapt to the ever-growing scale of the global network, he said, calling it an “engine for growth and ideas.”

The “undiscovered territory” of the growing Internet is a “powerful theme” in Post’s book, said the Financial Times’ Clive Crook. Crook compared today’s Internet to the unexplored lands of 18th century America, with “no clear notion” of where continued expansion will lead. Regulatory schemes for conventional communications technology is “not applicable,” Post added.

But comparing regulatory schemes for the Internet to older technologies like the telephone does not diminish the significance of the new ones, Crook said. The key issue, he said, will be how far we can extend our traditional ideas regarding free speech to a global network.

Crook offered an example using the different standards for libel in the United States and Great Britain. He asked: “Why should the Internet be held to a different standard than print publications?”

Such free speech issues will be the major problem facing an expanding global network, said George Washington University Law Professor Jeffery Rosen.

Rosen voiced pessimism about the Internet’s potential as a panacea for free speech as more and more content is controlled by international corporations. The people with the most control over online speech today are not governments or network operators, he said. Instead, Rosen suggested the “most powerful person on the Internet” today is Google’s general counsel.

Internet governance in the “age of Google” will most likely come in the form of traditional laws and voluntary regulation by “gatekeepers” in negotiation with different governments, Rosen said. Rosen recently authored a piece in The New York Times magazine on this theme.

Companies like Google want governments to tell them what content to remove instead of having to make those decisions themselves, he said. Such a system would offer less protections than the current way the Internet operates, but Rosen expressed optimism that over the long run, people’s experience with free speech online will lead them to demand more from their governments.

But a more frightening threat to freedom of speech online is the rise of network-level filtering, he added. Such technologies are already being proposed and implemented throughout Europe and North America to root out child pornography.

Rosen warned that many other governments, particularly those in Europe, would have its uses expanded to include other types of content, such as videos which are deemed to support terrorism. Rosen expressed alarm at the possibility of such a regime, which could render the Internet a dramatically different place within the next 10-15 years: “Free speech as we know it would be dramatically curtailed.”

A possible compromise on speech issues can be found in Jefferson’s approach to governing a republic, Post said. By treating each country differently and respecting its laws, companies can protect privacy and still honor local law and custom, he suggested. For example, companies like Google and Yahoo can treat personal search histories differently depending on local laws, and possibly destroy such data immediately to protect users.

The broadband stimulus bill currently before Congress could possibly add “political saliency” to censorship efforts, Rosen said.

Rosen warned that with government money invested in network infrastructure, strings attached to the funding could lead to a “slippery slope” on speech issues.

But as it becomes more difficult to function without access in an increasingly online world and Internet access becomes more and more of a “right,” Post emphasized that how we pay for an expanded network will nonetheless be the subject of many important policy decisions. How much time we spend online will most certainly factor into how Internet governance evolves, he said.

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.

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

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.

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading

Recent

Signup for Broadband Breakfast

Get twice-weekly Breakfast Media news alerts.
* = required field

Trending