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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  • 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.

  • We live in an exceptional country, we like to tell ourselves. If that’s really so, why are we letting it crumble around us? Let’s take a quick and random look around.

  • On July 21, 2015, Gig. U and the Benton Foundation published a comprehensive guide for communities who want better broadband for their residents and businesses. The Next Generation Connectivity Handbook: a Guide for Community Leaders Seeking Affordable Abundant Bandwidth is an indispensable tool in lowering the initial, daunting information barrier for cities just beginning to navigate critical Internet infrastructure issues. Today we share the Handbook’s Top Ten Overall Lessons drawing on the experiences of 25 Gig.U communities who have worked on this issue for many years.

  • The biggest news of the week was, of course, the historic accord reached by Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States to significantly limit Tehran’s nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions. But there was big news in telecommunications, too, as President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro announced ConnectHome, an initiative to extend affordable broadband access to families living in HUD-assisted housing. Through ConnectHome, Internet service providers, non-profits and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units in 28 communities across the nation.

  • Over the past two weeks, a debate at least three years old has reached the Federal Communications Commission: Does everyone have a fundamental right to access the Internet? That is – Is Internet access a human right?

  • 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.