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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  • We’re here to celebrate Tom Wheeler’s public service, and discuss protecting the Open Internet, the most critical communications issue of our time.

  • The more people learn about the frenzied Big Media-Wall Street rush to consolidate our communications ecosystem into a playground for monopolists-on-the-make, the more they dislike what they see. For example, a recent poll shows two-thirds of us are opposed to competition-busting transactions like AT&T and Time Warner, almost equally divided among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

  • We gather today at a critical moment in the history of an Open Internet; in the fight for Net Neutrality. So, right here at the outset, let’s make clear something that will bear repeating throughout these remarks: An Open Internet is the law of the land and any change to that policy would take away from consumers, innovators and the competitive marketplace something they have today. The proof point that opponents to an Open Internet must hurdle is the factual basis for why it is necessary to remove existing protections? Those protections can be boiled down to one simple principle: Consumers must be in charge of how they use their broadband connections, free from manipulation by their broadband providers.

  • Where is broadband? And where is it ain’t? Since encouragement of universal broadband is the law of the land, these aren’t trivial questions. This week we saw new evidence about where broadband is reaching -- and new clues about how policymakers will approach making sure this critical telecommunications infrastructure reaches everyone.

  • City leaders often struggle to engage citizens in the civic arena. How can we encourage busy people with limited time to become active participants in the public process? How can municipalities hear from a wider range of constituents, particularly those who have not traditionally engaged? And how can technology be used to enhance and improve civic engagement?

  • I am thrilled to be back at TPRC and must say that somewhere my father is beaming with pride that we are honoring him by creating the Charles Benton Junior Scholar Award.

  • The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on waste, fraud, and abuse in the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, which provides discounts on telecommunications services for eligible low-income consumers. In 2016, Lifeline disbursed about $1.5 billion in subsidies, making crucial communications services more affordable for 12.3 million households. In June, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report, based on 2014 subscriber data, that pointed to fraud and inefficiencies in the program, leading to this week's hearing.

  • What does gigabit civic engagement look like? The initial winners of the Charles Benton Next Generation Engagement Award demonstrate not just what “could be” but what “is”. Civic engagement is about working to make a positive difference in the life of our communities. It is about developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. It means improving the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.

  • Municipalities across the country are increasingly using technology to ensure government is accessible and responsive to citizens, while simultaneously creating forward-looking programs to increase internet access so more residents can experience the benefits of connectivity. These initiatives can be used to create civic technology programs, which draw on the power of technology to promote digital inclusion and civic engagement. The best civic-technology initiatives facilitate unprecedented levels of public involvement in community governance, narrow the digital divide, and improve communities. As a result, governance is more democratic and more individuals can enjoy the educational and economic benefits of internet access. Empowering citizens to make informed decisions and offer direction about who governs them – and how – is essential to improving our democracy.

  • Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on August 25. The Category 4 storm brought massive rainfall and unprecedented flooding to the Houston area and emergency procedures are underway for what may be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. One critical component of rescue operations is maintaining reliable communications networks, a key mission of the Federal Communications Commission. Large-scale crises often reveal the difficulties governments and residents have communicating critical information when networks are at peak use. For years, wireless carriers and policymakers have been debating updates to the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, trying to craft policy that would better enable mobile devices to receive geographically-targeted, text-like messages alerting people of imminent threats to safety in their area. Even as first responders are working to rescue people at risk in South Texas, the disaster is returning attention to the WEA debate.