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Al Franken at Free Press Panel: The Internet Is the First Amendment Issue of Our Time

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WASHINGTON, July 9, 2014 – The internet is the First Amendment issue of our time, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, said at a Tuesday panel discussion hosted by the non-profit advocacy group Free Press. He chastised opponents of net neutrality for not understanding that without it, “deep-pocketed corporations can pay to get their content to you faster,” and choose winners and losers.

“I’ve heard from …speeches from members of the House of Representatives that said, ‘look at all the innovation we have had on the internet, all the billions and billions of dollars and investment we’ve had before net neutrality.’“ But Franken said this view of the internet’s recent history was mistaken.

Innovation and investment on the free and open internet didn’t just happen “while” net neutrality existed, but “because” net neutrality happened.

The panel discussion following Franken’s departure was dominated by Stanford law professor Barbara van Schewick, who criticized Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler for being “scared” that Congress will balk if he does “the right thing” by reclassifying telecommunications under the Title II public utility regulation. She was joined by actress Ruth Livier and Althea Erickson, policy director of the online marketplace Etsy.

Van Schewick added that the internet should be “application agnostic” instead of neutral, meaning that end users over the last mile should be able to pay higher fees for using more bandwidth, but internet service providers shouldn’t have the right to discriminate based on the nature of applications, whether it be a text-based service or video service.

“[We] have to have a regime that gives the FCC discretion to inject itself into competitive market for applications and content,” van Schewick said. Title II would solve this problem, she added, provided that the FCC apply forbearance and eliminate parts of the law that “make no sense.”

Without net neutrality, startup companies face “an existential threat,” van Schewick said. Venture capitalists “only invest millions of dollars into applications that users actually want” because there is a “98 percent chance of failure.” That’s why there are so few music startups, she said.

“So if you thought that maybe we can cushion the blow to startup innovation by letting the venture capitalists step in, you can totally forget about that.”

Instead, she said the internet is an “environment that’s totally screwed against” low cost innovators and startups, thanks to broadband companies that force people to pay higher fees for faster access. This leaves zero certainty for investors, she said. Title II would benefit small companies and turn the tide on ISPs. Regulation wouldn’t cut into ISP’s “current profits” but only their “potential profits.”

Livier, a Mexican-American actress best known for starring on the Showtime TV series “Resurrection Boulevard,” called net neutrality the “internet’s bill of rights.” She said her own Latino-centered web series, Ylse, “would have been impossible without net neutrality. It would have been impossible without that ability to prove that there’s a market for [Latino] content.”

Erickson said Wheeler shouldn’t just sing praises of the open internet, but move to ban “fast lanes” and paid prioritization.

FCC

Cable Group NCTA Says Deny Exclusive Multitenant Access, But Not Wiring, Agreements

NCTA said the FCC should deny exclusive access to these buildings, but not exclusive wiring agreements.

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Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – The internet and television association NCTA is suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission deny all broadband providers exclusive access to multitenant buildings, but to continue allowing exclusive wiring agreements.

On Tuesday, the FCC opened a new round of comments into its examination of competitive broadband options for residents of apartments, multi-tenant and office buildings.

In a Tuesday ex parte notice to the commission, which follows a formal meeting with agency staff on September 2, the NCTA said the record shows that deployment, competition, and consumer choice in multiple tenant environments “are strong,” and that the FCC can “promote even greater deployment and competition by prohibiting not just cable operators, other covered [multiple video programming distributors], and telecommunications carriers, but all broadband providers from entering into MTE exclusive access agreements.

The organization, whose member companies include Comcast, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, also said it should continue to allow providers to enter into exclusive wiring agreements with MTE owners. Wiring just means that the provider can lay down its cables, like fiber, to connect residents.

“Exclusive wiring agreements do not deny new entrants access to MTEs. Rather, exclusive wiring agreements are pro-competitive and help ensure that state-of-the-art wiring will be deployed in MTEs to the benefit of consumers.”

The NCTA also told the FCC that there would be technical problems with simultaneous sharing of building wires by different providers and vouched for exclusive marketing arrangements, according to the notice.

The FCC’s new round of comments comes after a bill, introduced on July 30 by Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-New York, outlined plans to address exclusivity agreements between residential units and service providers, which sees providers lock out other carriers from buildings and leaving residents with only one option for internet.

Reached for comment on the filing, a spokesman for NCTA said they had nothing to add to the filing, which was signed by Mary Beth Murphy, deputy general counsel to the cable organization.

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China

Hytera’s Inclusion on FCC’s National Security Blacklist ‘Absurd,’ Client Says

Diversified Communications Group said the FCC flubbed on adding Hytera to blacklist.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2021 – A client of a company that has been included in a list of companies the Federal Communications Commission said pose threats to the security of the country’s networks is asking the agency to reconsider including the company.

In a letter to the commission on Tuesday, Diversified Communications Group, which installs and distributes two-way radio communications devices to large companies, said the inclusion of Hytera Communications Corporation, a Chinese manufacturer of radio equipment, on a list of national security threats is “absurd” because the hardware involved is not connected to the internet and “does not transmit any sensitive or proprietary data.

“It seems that Hytera has been lumped in with other Chinese companies on the Covered List simply because they happen to manufacture electronics in the same country,” Diversified’s CEO Ryan Holte said in the letter, adding Hytera’s products have helped Diversified’s business thrive.

“This is a wrong that should be righted. Hytera is not a national security risk. They are an essential business partner to radio companies throughout the U.S.,” the CEO added.

In March, the FCC announced that it had designated Hytera among other Chinese businesses with alleged links to the Communist government. Others included Huawei, ZTE, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology.

List among a number of restrictions on Chinese companies

This list of companies was created in accordance with the Secure Networks Act, and the FCC indicated that it would continue to add companies to the list if they are deemed to “pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.”

Last month, the Senate commerce committee passed through legislation that would compel the FCC to no longer issue new equipment licenses to China-backed companies.

Last year the U.S. government took steps to ensure that federal agencies could not purchase goods or services from the aforementioned companies, and had previously added them to an economic blacklist.

In July, the FCC voted in favor of putting in place measures that would require U.S. carriers to rip and replace equipment by these alleged threat companies.

The Biden administration has been making moves to isolate alleged Chinese-linked threats to the country’s networks. In June, the White House signed an executive order limiting investments in predominantly Chinese companies that it said poses a threat to national security.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Says 5 Million Households Now Enrolled in Emergency Broadband Benefit Program

The $3.2 billion program provides broadband and device subsidies to eligible low-income households.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 30, 2021—The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that five million households have enrolled in the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

The $3.2-billion program, which launched in May, provides a broadband subsidy of $50 per month to eligible low-income households and $75 per month for those living on native tribal lands, as well as a one-time reimbursement on a device. Over 1160 providers are participating, the FCC said, who are reimbursed the cost to provide the discounted services.

The agency has been updating the public on the number of participating households for the program. In June, the program was at just over three million and had passed four million last month. The program was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“Enrolling five million households into the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program in a little over three months is no small feat,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of nearly 30,000 individuals and organizations who signed up as volunteer outreach partners.”

Rosenworcel added that conversations with partners and the FCC’s analysis shows the need for “more granular data” to bring these opportunities to more eligible families.

The program’s strong demand was seen as far back as March.

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