Benton Foundation

The mission of the Benton Foundation is to articulate a public interest vision for the digital age and to demonstrate the value of communications for solving social problems.

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Headlines

  • May 29 2015

    The Communications Act requires the submission to Congress each year of reports analyzing the state of competition in the mobile wireless industry.

  • May 29 2015

    After a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved final orders resolving the Commission’s complaints against TES Franchising, LLC and American International Mailing, Inc., for deceiving consumers about their participation in international privacy frameworks.

  • May 29 2015

    At Google's annual I/O developer conference, the company didn't spend much time discussing one of its most ambitious initiatives: Project Loon, Google's effort to beam broadband Internet access down to remote or rural regions of the globe from a network of stratosphere-roaming balloons.

  • May 29 2015

    Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, says he does not think the proposed Charter/Time Warner Cable merger has "the same problems" that the Comcast/Time Warner Cable proposed merger had in terms of competition issues, but says it has some that will need inspecting.

  • May 29 2015

    The Senate's pro-surveillance wing is scrambling to advance new legislation to preserve the National Security Agency's unchecked ability to spy on all of us. And they're in a rush.

  • May 29 2015

    We visited the Web sites for current 2016 Presidential hopefuls using the Lightbeam extension on Firefox. The extension gathers and visualizes connections made by websites as you visit, including cookies that are stored and read.

  • May 29 2015

    Cost. Literacy. Relevance. Time and again research identifies these three barriers to broadband adoption. On May 28, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed to modernize the FCC’s Lifeline program to address the first great barrier: cost.

  • May 29 2015

    Broadband deployment to all corners of America is essential to building our digital economy. Here are five things you should know about broadband in rural America -- with five reminders of how outdated rural broadband laws are.

  • May 29 2015

    The next meeting of the Federal Communications Commission's Disability Advisory Committee will take place on Tuesday, June 23, 2015, from 9:00am to 3:00pm EST, at the FCC's headquarters.

  • May 29 2015

    Instead of looking at broadcasting as a antiquated service that should be stripped for spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission needs to start seeing it for what it is -- an elegantly simple and inexpensive means of keeping every citizen in the national conversation.

Blog

  • Cost. Literacy. Relevance. Time and again research identifies these three barriers to broadband adoption. On May 28, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed to modernize the FCC’s Lifeline program to address the first great barrier: cost. Here’s what the proposal looks like.

  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is comprised of local community organizations, public libraries and other institutions that are working hard to increase broadband access and digital skills among our neighbors. To improve the daily lives of all community members, we call for public policies for digital inclusion that reflect what we've learned from experience. We offer this expertise to the Federal Communications Commission to aid the reform and modernization of Lifeline.

  • Lifeline telecommunications services have long generated controversy, but over the last few years, critics have been especially vociferous, railing against what they have termed “Obamaphones,” wireless phones with modest free service allotments provided to low income users. (As discussed below, and as this snopes.com explainer says, the term is a misnomer in that the Lifeline program dates to the 1980's and it was expanded to wireless during the George W. Bush Administration.) In the coming weeks, the Federal Communications Commission will likely launch a proceeding considering a number of changes to its Lifeline Assistance program (Lifeline), including an expansion of its coverage to broadband services. Therefore, this is a good time to review the history and legal underpinnings of Lifeline, and how the “Obamaphone” came into being.

  • On May 12, Verizon announced an agreement to purchase AOL, “a leader in the digital content and advertising platforms space,” for approximately $4.4 billion. Some may question how the sounds of “You’ve Got Mail” and dial-up modems can command billions in our increasingly always-connected world. But today’s AOL is a reinvention of the early online trailblazer and purchaser of Time Warner. In today’s wireless environment, this deal is about attracting – and tracking – customers and, so, may have huge privacy implications.

  • The Lifeline program allows our nation’s most vulnerable communities to maintain telephone service that would otherwise be unaffordable – service that is essential for connecting with loved ones, searching for employment, pursuing further education goals, engaging fully as citizens, and calling 911. But a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, commissioned by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) to evaluate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) reforms to the Lifeline program, quickly drew fire from some Republican leaders. They allege that the FCC should not work on expanding the program to broadband until it addresses points raised in the GAO report. But to call to a halt the FCC’s planned reform efforts based on this report would be to ignore its findings.

  • Our previous article noted that only 57-59% of seniors currently use the Internet or go online, compared to 86-88% of all adults age 18+ (Pew Research Center, 2014). This age-based disparity has lessened recently, due in part to 1) efforts throughout the nation to promote senior digital literacy and 2) the initial “cohort effect” of tech-savvy baby boomers who began entering the age 65+ category in 2011.

  • At this time in 2014, we reported on the controversy surrounding the Federal Communications Commission’s imminent release of proposed rules to ensure an Open Internet. Many feared the rules FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would propose could allow Internet service providers to charge for faster, better access to consumers. Our question on May 9, 2014: “Will the uprising of opposition be enough to convince Chairman Wheeler to change course?” Well, what a difference a year makes. History was made by unprecedented, grassroots activistism and a FCC leader willing to listen and the courage to change his mind. Today our weekly round-up takes us back to where we were one year ago.

  • Charles Benton has been gone less than a week, but I miss him already. I miss him as friend, as a thoroughly delightful person, and—apropos to this testimonial—a dauntless and effective champion of the public interest. I could not have admired this good man more. Charming and gentle, yes, but tenacious and indefatigable too, he left this world much better than he found it.

  • These are the overarching questions asked by President Barack Obama’s Broadband Opportunity Council in a Public Notice released this week. The Council, created in a March 2015 Presidential Memorandum, is made up of 25 federal agencies and charged with developing a framework of recommendations to explore ways to remove unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers, incentivize investment, and align funding polices and decisions to support broadband access and adoption. In the Memorandum, the President made it the official policy of the Federal Government to: identify and address regulatory barriers that may unduly impede either wired broadband deployment or the infrastructure to augment wireless broadband deployment; encourage further public and private investment in broadband networks and services; promote the adoption and meaningful use of broadband technology; and otherwise encourage or support broadband deployment, competition, and adoption in ways that promote the public interest. The Departments of Agriculture and Commerce -- which are co-chairing the Council -- are asking the public for input in helping to identify regulations and other barriers that are hampering deployment of broadband. The Council also is seeking recommendations on ways to promote public and private investment in broadband and get a better understanding of the challenges facing areas that lack access to broadband.

  • Charles Benton, the founder and chairman of the Benton Foundation, was a determined, passionate, and agile businessman and philanthropist who, over many decades, pursued a vision of empowering people to use the latest communications tools to improve the lives of all. We regret to report that on April 29, 2015, Mr Benton, 84, died at his home in Evanston from complications from renal cancer. He is survived by his loving wife, Marjorie, daughter Adrianne Furniss, son, Craig, and five grandchildren. Family, friends, and colleagues remember Charles Benton not just for his many accomplishments, but his passion and enthusiasm; his values and persistent vision; his positive attitude, indomitable spirit and continuous optimism.