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Senate Democrats’ Vote Against Net Neutrality Repeal a ‘Political Tool,’ Charges TechFreedom



WASHINGTON, June 11, 2018 – Before the official date on which the Federal Communications Commission’s action changing net neutrality were to go into effect, conservative technology experts slammed a recent Senate vote to restore those Obama-era network neutrality protections

“The [Congressional Review Act vote] is purely being used as a political tool, and it is a distraction,” said Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, an officially non-partisan technology policy think tank that is nonetheless a long-time skeptic of mandatory network neutrality rules.

Szoka spoke at a June 4 event by TechFreedom. He slammed CRA vote as nothing more than a Democratic partisan stunt to rally their liberal base for this fall’s midterm elections. He suggested that if net neutrality activists were sincere about wanting to address the issues they’ve raised since the mid-2000s, they’d move on to a new solution.

The Congressional Review Act’s ‘resolution of disapproval’

Last month, three Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana — joined Senate’s 49 Democrats to pass a so-called “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act.

If passed by the House and signed by the president, the measure would overturn the GOP-led Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of network neutrality rules approved in February 2015.

Szoka and other free-market advocates expressed concerns that the Senate vote was purely a political maneuver. He criticized the way network neutrality advocates continue to focus on using regulatory agencies like the FCC to accomplish their goals, instead of addressing problems through bipartisan legislation.

A misunderstood tool, according to TechFreedom

Szoka said that senators who voted for the CRA resolution — and any House members who might vote for a companion resolution are playing with a tool they may not properly understand.

Moreover, he said, activists and members of the general public who support their efforts are out of their depth.

Szoka said that net neutrality advocates’ belief that a Congressional Review Act resolution would restore the Obama-era rules, which the FCC approved under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, is based on an incorrect understanding of what the CRA does.

The CRA, signed into law in by President Bill Clinton in 1996, was the brainchild of House Republicans and a plank of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” It allows Congress, under certain circumstances, to overturn rules promulgated by regulatory agencies.

A Trump-era revival of the Congressional Review Act

Although used only once in the intervening decades, the CRA has undergone something of a revival since President Donald Trump’s election victory gave Republicans control of both the legislative and executive branches for the first time since President George W. Bush.

Since taking office, Trump has signed 16 joint resolutions to repeal particular Obama-era regulatory rules.

But even if Trump were to give the Democrat-backed resolution his blessing, the result may not be what net neutrality activists, advocates, and supporters are hoping for, since a CRA resolution does not just overturn a given agency’s regulations.

Instead, the CRA actually prohibits that agency from promulgating any further regulation for that same purpose.

Because joint resolutions have the force of law, such a prohibition can only be lifted if Congress passes legislation that is signed into law by the president.

The public is unaware of the far-reaching implications of the Congressional Review Act

Not only is the public largely unaware of the far-reaching implications of overturning a rule using the CRA, Szoka said, but the members of Congress who support the Democrats’ resolution appear to be in the dark as well.

The debate intensified to question not just the CRA, but the FCC and its role in regulating the internet.

Grace Koh, who recently left the White House, where she worked on broadband issues for the National Economic Council, explained that there is a difference in the Democratic and Republican ideas of what the FCC should be and how it should act. This, she said, not internet regulations, is at the heart of the bill.

Szoka suggested that the failure of Democrats and Republicans alike to make any meaningful process on bipartisan network neutrality legislation was the result of deliberate stalling, with both sides gaming the situation for their own political advantage.

“They would love to drag this through the midterms,” Szóka said. He expressed that no one in Congress cares about the question, and that “Congress literally has no idea what its doing.”

Congress needs good and clear legislation, and they need it now. “Please legislate, for god’s sake,” Grace Koh said.

Koh explained that while Congress fails to pass effective legislation, the internet continues to develop faster and faster, and the number of issues that Congress needs to resolve in regards to the internet only compile.

Broadband's Impact

Baltimore Needs Grassroots Help to Bridge Digital Divide, Experts Say

‘Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections.’



Photo of Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore's Office of Broadband and Digital Equity

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2022 – Local leaders from Baltimore said at a Benton Institute event that there needs to be an alignment with the community and leadership when it comes to closing the digital divide.

“Baltimore lags behind many cities when it comes to the number of households with home internet connections,” said Amalia Deloney from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, which invests in projects to improve the quality of life in the city. The foundation estimates that 74,116 households don’t have internet access.

The event’s speakers pointed to digital redlining, in which segments of racial minority and lower income Americans are disconnected from services or can be considered living in low priority areas.

Jason Hardebeck, director of Baltimore’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity, said the city is a “pioneer in redlining,” and “a century later, we still see the effect on the digital divide.”

To address this, Deloney said the foundation’s approach to the digital divide in Baltimore by starting at the social level through its Digital Equity Leadership Lab. This is a program for Baltimore residents to “increase their understanding of the internet and strengthen their ability to advocate for fast, affordable and reliable broadband.”

The program aims to train and build leadership within the community to advocate for closing the digital divide. It points to a strategy of bringing “advocates together with community leaders,” as “digital equity is social, not a technological problem,” said Colin Rhinesmith, founder and director of the Digital Equity Research Center.

Michelle Morton from the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Association also said local leaders need to work with community members to have a bottom-up approach. “You have to work with the people doing the work on the ground.

“Their voices matter,” said Morton.

Mayor Brandon Scott has allocated $35 million from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide across Baltimore “by the end of this decade.”

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Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.



Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.



Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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