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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  • Just this week, an early-August speech by Jennifer Granick, the Director of Civil Liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, came across my desk, the kind of thought-provoking piece that makes you ignore everthing else you need to get to in your In Box. The speech was delivered at Black Hat 2015, a network security meeting in Las Vegas. Granick’s dire warning: the dream of Internet freedom -- a free, open, reliable, interoperable Internet, a place where anyone can say anything, and anyone who wants to hear it can listen and respond, a place where everyone could be a publisher and a creator, a global medium that had everything on the shelves – that dream is dying. Gulp. And although there’s plenty of blame to go around for this loss, Granick puts the bulk of it on you, me, herself… all of us who use the Internet. Double gulp.

  • Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission found that broadband deployment in the United States – especially in rural areas – is failing to keep pace with today’s advanced, high-quality voice, data, graphics and video offerings. Over half of all rural Americans lack access to broadband service with 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Moreover, rural America continues to be underserved at all speeds, the FCC found: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.

  • On August 6, the Federal Communications Commission voted on a seemingly routine notice initiating its statutorily mandated annual inquiry into the state of broadband deployment in the United States. (Actually, as explained below, it is measuring something somewhat different.) Collection and analysis of data is essential to effective policymaking, and Congress has directed that many agencies compile reports of one kind or another. Solicitation of public comment on data collection for a wonky report might not seem to be controversial, but the issuance of the notice generated vociferous reactions from the two Republican Commissioners.

  • Benton’s Headlines mainly track developments at the Federal Communications Commission, but major telecommunications and media policy news also comes from the Federal Trade Commission. That was true when the FTC released the Statement of Enforcement Principles Regarding “Unfair Methods of Competition” Under Section 5 of the FTC Act on August 13. This is just the kinda summer reading that DC wonks long for.

  • Personally, as you can imagine, and for all of us at the Benton Foundation, 2015 has been a rough year. But the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from all corners has been amazing. Charles Benton would have been so thrilled to realize how many lives he touched and impacted. And I am so honored to be here with you all to accept The Dirk Koning – George Stoney Award.

  • Pew Research Center recently issued a report on who is online and who is not. As we’ve discussed in previous articles for the Digital Beat Blog, demographic factors such as age, income and educational attainment characterize the 15 percent of Americans who remain offline. Seniors are most likely to be offline, with 39% reporting they do not use the Internet. Yet, there has been significant progress in getting seniors online. In 2000, 86% of adults age 65+ were offline. This progress is due in part to baby boomers entering the age 65+ group, but also to the work of many organizations across the country working diligently to help seniors overcome the obstacles they face in broadband adoption. Here are just a few of them.

  • California is the only state that has a Lifeline program with greater support provided to low income households than the federal program. Why is California’s Lifeline program the most substantial state program? How did that happen? What has the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) learned? We’ll review the history and explore the issues in hopes that the FCC and other states can take some lessons from the California experience to help inform the “modernization” of Lifeline going forward.

  • Millions of Americans still are not online – many in rural areas. Did the broadband stimulus fail them?

  • It was 20 years ago today...

  • The Federal Communications Commission’s Network Neutrality rules became effective on June 12. Since then, contrary to the warnings of some opponents, the digital world has not stopped turning. On the other hand, while Net Neutrality supporters were jubilant, there has been little visible change for the good, either. That should not be surprising, since the most important impact of the new rules is in shaping future conduct. Even so, for those interested in preserving an open Internet, there are a number of developments worth noting.