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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  • "Once you get through the hysteria, [this transaction] is pro-consumer, pro-competitive and strongly in the public interest," Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen told reporters in February 2014 when the nation’s biggest cable TV and broadband service provider announced it would purchase Time Warner Cable, the number 2 provider. Fourteen months later – hysteria duly subsided – and it appears regulators may not agree. On the morning of April 24, 2015, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts said, “Today, we move on. Of course, we would have liked to bring our great products to new cities, but we structured this deal so that if the government didn’t agree, we could walk away.” And, with that, the deal was dead. How'd we get here? Here's a recap of what we learned this week.

  • It’s now a two-front people’s crusade to prevent gatekeepers from wresting control of our nation’s communications ecosystem. One front is preserving and protecting the Federal Communications Commission’s historic passage of real net neutrality rules two months ago. The other is stopping the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger in its tracks. Victory on both these fronts is essential if we are to have media that serve the needs of our diverse democracy.

  • Few issues before the Federal Communications Commission have generated as much controversy and partisan debate as Network Neutrality. As opposing sides have jockeyed for position, their goal has not always been clarity. Perhaps the most contentious and confusing aspect of the debate since the FCC voted on February 26 is the question of whether the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision imposes rate regulation. That seems like a yes/no question, but it isn’t.

  • Perhaps we all grew up thinking of libraries as buildings or rooms within a building with stores of books, magazines, recorded music and video waiting for us to browse and maybe even take home. But for anyone who thinks that in the Digital Age, when so much information is available through our computers and other devices, that libraries are any less relevant than they’ve ever been, new research released this week confirm how vital these institutions remain today.

  • Is all broadband created equal? Just last month, the White House announced that 98 percent of Americans nationwide live in areas served with 4G, high-speed wireless Internet. Does that mean the U.S. can afford to give up on efforts to bring broadband everywhere? Mission accomplished? Some recent research indicates that wireless Internet access is a distinctly different service than wireline broadband -- and one that offers a distinctly different experience for users.

  • Our telecommunications networks are only part way through the transition from traditional “time-division multiplexing” (“TDM”) to “Internet Protocol” (“IP) based digital technology. In some industries, technological transition is relatively easy; as new technology develops, the economy assimilates it. However, when it comes to telecommunications, the transition of our traditional networks, originally deployed for voice telephony, is fraught with complicated regulatory and legal questions.

  • Back in January we reported on a series of speeches by President Barack Obama in the run up to the State of the Union address. In those speeches, the President indicated that the Internet would play a central role in his 2015 policies. This week, the Administration offered an update on its progress since January and outlined the next steps in “promoting investment and rewarding competition.” Although the Federal Communications Commission’s network neutrality order is still the headliner-grabber, this week we review the Administration’s most recent announcements.

  • Three weeks after the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial vote on network neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his fellow commissioners faced a series of oversight hearings organized by a number of Congressional committees. Discussions of the merits of the FCC’s decision – and the process by which the independent agency reached it -- are garnering much of the attention in the press. But for the leadership of two key Congressional panels, this week’s hearings seem to be kicking off a long-term plan to reshape the FCC and how it does its business.

  • Over the last five years, the Benton Foundation has been tracking the progress made on implementing the six core goals and over 200 recommendations in the National Broadband Plan. Our tracking is fueled by our daily Headlines service which is the most comprehensive, free chronicle of developments in telecommunications policy. Benton's National Broadband Plan Tracker captures the links between today's Headlines and events, bills moving through Congress, dockets at the FCC, and the week's key events.

  • Government actions fit into five buckets: responding to a crisis (9/11, Katrina), delivering on recent campaign promises (Reagan, Bush tax cuts), routine operations, generally responding to petitioning bureaucratic or judicial actions; long debated issues that reach a critical juncture and are, momentarily, resolved (Selma and the Voting Rights Act, the Affordable Care Act, last month’s FCC reclassification decision); and small group charged with evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to a mission, and successfully building a path and political capital for achieving the mission. The fourth is rare, and therefore historic. The fifth is seen only slightly more than unicorns. Yet, this week we will see examples of both playing out. Of course, most media attention will focus on the Congressional hearings on the FCC’s recent reclassification decision. But there will also be several events commemorating the fifth anniversary of the National Broadband Plan. The first, on Tuesday, will focus on the impact of the plan on Anchor Institutions. The second, sponsored by Georgetown, will consider the wide range of issues covered by the Plan, looking back but more importantly, looking forward to the agenda ahead.