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

  • Jul 3 2015

    When a draft of China’s new national security law was made public in May, critics argued that it was too broad and left much open to interpretation. In the final form of the law, Beijing got more specific, but in a way that is sending ripples through the global technology industry.

  • Jul 2 2015

    Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the US, is going public. The New York media titan filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission without disclosing the number of shares it would offer or the price range.

  • Jul 2 2015

    Multicultural viewers have always been cable’s most loyal customers, even in the midst of the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. A new Horowitz Associates report, however, shows that urban multicultural viewers are quickly migrating to digital platforms to consume video content.

  • Jul 2 2015

    Sometimes the signs of change are more obvious than others. When a spokesperson for the Linux Foundation calls to talk about an open-source contribution from Microsoft into the Qualcomm-driven AllSeen Alliance that’s about bridging older industrial automation standards into the sexy new world of the Internet of Things (IoT), you know something must be happening.

  • Jul 2 2015

    For many Americans, live sports are the last piece of television content that is appointment viewing. And for many Americans, the only thing of value on television is the NFL. The fact that fans want to watch sports live, along with the sheer number of viewers of NFL games, makes live streaming of sports content vital to the future of online video.

  • Jul 2 2015

    We’ve read so many obituaries for news media over the past 10 years that you’d think we’d be inured to yet another. But the onslaught of off-site distribution initiatives -- from Facebook’s soon-to-expand Instant Articles to Apple News to Snapchat Discover, and most recently Twitter Lightning and whatever may next emerge as an offspring of Google News -- now offers yet another existential moment.

  • Jul 2 2015

    The American Registry for Internet Numbers, the North American organization responsible for handing out new IP addresses, says its banks have run dry.

  • Jul 2 2015

    This Public Notice solicits data, information, and comment on the state of competition in the delivery of video programming for the Federal Communications Commission’s Seventeenth Report.

  • Jul 2 2015

    Fun fact: unlike traditional copper lines, most new “land line” phone technologies don’t run on their own power. When the power goes out, so does the phone line—and your ability to call for help.

  • Jul 2 2015

    The editorial staff of the online magazine Salon plans to unionize.

Blog

  • On June 18, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission proposed to again reform modernize its Lifeline program, seeking public input on restructuring the program to better support 21st Century communications while building on existing reforms to continue strengthening protections against waste, fraud and abuse. Established in 1985, the Lifeline program has made phone service – first landline service and now supporting wireless service as an option -- affordable for low-income Americans. Last year, Lifeline some 12 million people. Now, a majority of the five FCC commissioners believe it is time for a fundamental, comprehensive restructuring of the program to meet today’s most pressing communications needs: access to broadband.

  • Tom Wheeler’s tenure as Federal Communications Commission Chairman is at the halfway point. This is a good time to assess what he has accomplished and what is to come.

  • On June 2, 2015, the Senate passed and President Barack Obama signed into law the USA Freedom Act of 2015. This week’s actions been both celebrated and damned by all points, it seems, along the political spectrum. Is it time to celebrate? Or move to Canada?

  • Concern about seniors being left behind in the digital divide is not a recent phenomenon. Some efforts date back to the mid-1990s. Others emerged when the federal government began to pay serious attention about a decade ago. A small number of BTOP projects focused on seniors. Here are a few highlights.

  • It’s shaping up as a great political year ahead—if you are a billionaire with an axe to grind or a broadcast or cable operator. In recent years, special interests and ideologues of both the right and the left have dumped billions of dollars of unaccountable advertising onto the airwaves and cables that we rely on for our news and information. In fact, by most estimates, the majority of campaign money nowadays goes into advertising. It’s great for broadcast and cable. When I was a Commissioner at the FCC and I would ask these industry execs how business was doing, they always had an extra-wide grin as we were entering a new election cycle. For many of them, these ads comprised their largest revenue stream. It’s a virtuous circle for them and the billionaires, but not so virtuous for the rest of us—or for our democracy.

  • 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.