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

  • Mar 3 2015

    Internet providers are widely expected to sue the Federal Communications Commission to overturn the agency's new network neutrality rules. Who will fire the opening salvo, and when, is becoming the subject of a new Washington parlor game -- at least until the rules are actually published. But will the country's biggest broadband companies be part of the mix?

  • Mar 3 2015

    Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, the two Republican Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission, have submitted their formal dissents to the Feb. 26 vote by the agency's three Democrats to reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II common-carrier regulations.

  • Mar 3 2015

    Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN) said he will explore whether to appeal Feb 26's Federal Communications Commission's decision allowing Chattanooga's EPB to offer lightning-speed Internet broadband beyond the municipal power distributor's service area.

  • Mar 3 2015

    Kentucky appears ready to join at least two dozen other states in deregulating its landline telephone services, the beginning of the end for the more than 100-year-old technology that is being pushed out by cellphones and high-speed Internet access.

  • Mar 3 2015

    An Oregon Senate committee has proposed an unusual tax break, designed to help lure Google Fiber or other hyperfast Internet services to the Portland area.

  • Mar 3 2015

    The press conference with President Barack Obama following the 2014 midterm elections just the fourth formal, solo question-and-answer exchange Obama had held in the White House in 2014, has come to define the current state of White House reporting, one in which there is a gulf between the press and the head of state it’s charged with covering.

  • Mar 3 2015

    Emerging technologies like big data are polarizing. It’s not all fire and brimstone, surveillance and mass-spying.

  • Mar 3 2015

    The federal government is finally getting a sense of the size, shape and skills of its cybersecurity workforce. “Preliminary analysis” of a new database of all cyber jobs government-wide, which went live in January, indicates employees doing cybersecurity work hail from more than 100 different job categories scattered across agencies.

  • Mar 3 2015

    As more details continue to be revealed regarding Hilary Clinton's exclusive use of a personal e-mail to conduct government business during her four years as Secretary of State, there are three things you should know a bout federal records keeping -- and what's actually allowed.

  • Mar 3 2015

    Technology companies are scrambling to fix a major security flaw that for more than a decade left users of Apple and Google devices vulnerable to hacking when they visited hundreds of thousands of supposedly secure Web sites, including Whitehouse.gov, NSA.gov and FBI.gov.

Blog

  • Chairman Tom Wheeler said it best at last week’s historic FCC meeting: “The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.” Amen. All the fog-it and smog-it rhetoric of the big Internet Service Providers since last Thursday’s vote cannot cloud the core issue. The question at the heart of this vote was simply whether the public agency charged since the 1920s with protecting consumers, competition, and innovation in telecommunications still retains these vital responsibilities in the advanced telecommunications world of the twenty-first century. Will there be some place to turn when a few too-powerful Internet gatekeepers try to short-circuit the most dynamic communications tool in all of history? When they block, throttle, or degrade online sites they might not like? Or limit our ability to get the news and information we need in order to maintain our democracy? Are we to stand helplessly by as Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T favor their friends with express lanes on the Internet autobahn while consigning the rest of us to the bumpy dirt roads of yesterday’s technology?

  • In an historic decision on February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt rules to protect the Open Internet. The FCC’s order has not been released yet, so we can’t offer you a detailed summary of the new network neutrality rules. As Andrew Jay Schwartzman noted in Benton's Digital Beat this week, the vote marks the end of a long debate, but it is only the start of what will be a multi-pronged fight over whether the FCC could, or should, enact these new rules. Today we take a closer look at the opposition to the new rules as voiced by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly who both voted against the FCC order. Their dissents may offer a preview of the arguments opponents of the new rules will make to Congress and the courts.

  • Today, the Federal Communications Commission sided with community-based solutions. Today, the FCC sided with choice. Today, the FCC sided with bringing better broadband everywhere. The FCC today voted to approve the petitions of community broadband providers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, which asked that the FCC to pre-empt provisions of state laws preventing expansion of their very successful networks. The Benton Foundation thanks the FCC for this action.

  • It is doubtful that anyone reading this post doesn’t know that, barring an inch or two of snow (which is generally enough to shut down Washington, D.C.), on Thursday, February 26, the Federal Communications Commission will finally vote to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act and adopt strong Network Neutrality rules covering both wired and wireless Internet service providers (ISPs). That vote will mark the end of a long debate, but it is only the start of what will be a multi-pronged fight over whether the FCC could, or should, have done what it is about to do. This is a necessarily oversimplified guide to what happens next.

  • At a time when communications technology is evolving at a frantic pace and the Internet is fast becoming the primary conveyor of information and services, a significant segment of our population remains offline. National survey data for 2014 show that 41-43% of persons age 65+ do not use the Internet, compared to only 13-14% of all adults age 18+ (Pew Research Center, 2000-2014). The reasons for this continuing digital divide involve seniors’ concerns about affordability, a belief that the Internet holds no relevance for them, and a fear that computers are too difficult to learn.

  • On February 13, 2014, Comcast announced it had entered into an agreement to buy Time Warner Cable for approximately $45 billion. A transaction of that size requires, by law, approval by federal regulators. In the Comcast-Time Warner Case, both the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and reviewing the acquisition in a process outlined by Andrew Jay Schwartzman in the Digital Beat last year. With the lobbying power of Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, helping to drive the review, one might suspect relatively easy approval for the deal. But as the one-year anniversary of Comcast’s announcement passed, we saw instead headlines like “A year later, is the huge Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal doomed?”, “One year later, Comcast’s megamerger faces unknown fate, dubious public”, “Skies darken over Comcast merger”, and “Comcast's customer service incidents jeopardizing $45 billion deal”. Clearly, it is time to check in on the merger review. But California regulators -- not the Department of Justice or the FCC -- are the first to show their hand on the prospects of the deal gaining approval.

  • In 2014, when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down key elements of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules, the court actually sided with the Commission’s arguments that Section 706 of the Communications Act (1), title 'Advanced Telecommunications Incentives', gives the FCC authority to regulate broadband networks, including imposing net neutrality rules on Internet service providers. The court ruled that the law “vests [the FCC] with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure.” As Andrew Jay Schwartzman wrote in Benton’s Digital Beat blog a year ago, the court gave the FCC a “powerful weapon” with “extremely wide latitude to address threats to broadband deployment and the open Internet.” Since Section 706 authority only kicks in when the FCC finds that “advanced telecommunications capability” is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, we focus today on the Commission’s latest findings on broadband deployment in the U.S. These findings will have a huge impact on major, controversial decisions before the FCC this month -- and the months ahead.

  • It was March 2002 and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was on a tear to give the nation’s broadband providers the freedom from government oversight for which they were clamoring. The idea was simple: Pluck advanced telecommunications out of the telecommunications obligations of Title II of the statute, label broadband an information service, and deny the public interest in favor of the special interests. This particular vote applied to cable modem broadband, but the Commission had already issued a notice that it was preparing the same statutory surgery for wireline broadband, which, of course, it subsequently performed. I dissented from the majority’s approval. As I said at the time, this ill-advised decision “places these [cable broadband] services outside any viable and predictable regulatory framework.” Little surprise, then, that the Commission tied itself in knots ever since, trying -- unsuccessfully -- to defend the indefensible. So intent was the Chairman Powell-led majority to ensure that broadband would be forever deregulated that the ruling included a provision saying that even if the courts disagreed and found that broadband services were subject to regulation, the Commission would forbear from enforcing such obligations.

  • The Federal Communications Commission released a “tentative agenda” for its February 26 open meeting, but, frankly, there’s nothing tentative about it. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler this week declared that the Internet must remain “fast, fair and open” and he proposed two major, related actions to make it so. On January 14, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down key elements of the FCC’s Open Internet rules (commonly known as net or network neutrality) which required broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. At the time, in these pages, we wrote “Net Neutrality is Dead. Long Live Net Neutrality”. 377 tumultuous days later, the FCC is poised to declare, “It’s alive!