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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  • May 27 2016

    Striking Verizon employees may be back to work the week of May 31 after the company and its unions reached an agreement in principle for a four-year contract.

  • May 27 2016

    A bipartisan group of 10 Sens asked the Federal Communications Commission in a letter to delay a plan to open up the market for television set-top boxes until its effect on small providers can be studied.

  • May 27 2016

    Count Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) among the fans of the Federal Communications Commission's set-top box proposal but only if it protects multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD, or pay-TV) content and contracts.

  • May 27 2016

    In this Order, the Federal Communications Commission extends the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), as a pilot program, for one additional year, until June 30, 2017.

  • May 27 2016

    A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ e-mail data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy. If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters.

  • May 27 2016

    A quixotic endeavor? Not to Rutledge. The Charter chairman and CEO, regarded as one of the cable biz’s top operational minds, has pledged to hire 20,000 employees post-merger to boost customer service, on top of the new company’s workforce of nearly 90,000.

  • May 27 2016

    The recent flare-up between Facebook and conservatives will likely soon be forgotten. Facebook handled it brilliantly, comforting its critics through an open dialogue.

  • May 27 2016

    The newspaper industry is upping its tactics in the fight against ad-blockers. The Newspaper Association of America, the industry association representing 2,000 newspapers (including the Washington Post), filed a federal complaint against the ad-blocking industry on May 26, alleging that software companies which enable users to block ads are misleading the public.

  • May 27 2016

    HR 2592, a bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to require the Federal Communications Commission to publish on the website of the Commission documents to be voted on by the Commission, would prohibit the FCC from adopting certain orders, decisions, reports, or actions by a commission vote unless the text of the item was published on the agency’s website either within 24 hours of the text being made available to the commissioners or at least 21 days before a vote on the item is to occur.

  • May 27 2016

    Federal cellphone guidelines for consumers could undergo "tweaks" after a major government study found a link between tumors and exposure to cellphone-type radiation in rats, according to a head of the agency that oversaw the study.


  • On May 18th and 19th, I had the pleasure of attending the first (and hopefully annual) Net Inclusion Summit, hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), at the beautiful Kansas City Public Library. Policymakers, academics, city officials, librarians, advocates, citizens, and corporate representatives came together to discuss one of the most important and growing topics in the field of telecommunications policy: digital inclusion. Through their conversations, there emerged several lessons learned and many important questions raised, over how to best promote digital inclusion.

  • We all fully expect the FCC’s decision to impact millions of lives, extending the benefits of broadband to people who, frankly, have faced the very real choice between an Internet connection or being able to put food on the table. I don’t discount that; I ask that, just for a moment, we consider the policy impact of the FCC’s Lifeline order.

  • My topic today is Cities, Technology, the Next Generation of Urban Development and the Next Administration. It’s a challenge, as we cannot know who will be the next President. One could look to prediction markets or polls but this campaign is as predictable as a game of basketball pitting the best offense in baseball versus the best defense in football. Both major party candidates will be playing in a different game than the one that got them to the final round. Further, not in my lifetime has there been an election in which the political variation is so great. The Presidency, Congress and the Courts could all shift, with a wide ideological delta. Nonetheless we can know some things about the next four years related to this conference.

  • Nearly a year after the deal was announced, Charter Communications this week won final regulatory approval to buy Time Warner Cable and Advance/Newhouse Partnership (the parent of Bright House Networks, LLC). The resulting company will be named “New Charter,” which will be the second-largest cable company (after Comcast), and third-largest pay-TV company (after AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast), with over 17 million video subscribers.

  • The Federal Communications Commission recently voted to modernize its Lifeline program, beginning to shift the program, which has traditionally made telephone service more affordable, to focus on increasing broadband adoption among low-income consumers. The key purpose of the FCC's actions is to increase the affordability of broadband service, which remains the chief impediment to broadband adoption among low-income consumers. In its Lifeline decision, the FCC concluded that low-cost broadband -- coupled with strategic, effective digital inclusion efforts -- will significantly impact the lives of millions of consumers, particularly those with lower incomes and in key demographic groups, such as seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities, rural communities, and those living on Tribal lands, many of which may also have an increased need for access to educational, public health and /or public safety services. The FCC encourages Lifeline providers to work with schools, libraries, community centers and other organizations, such as food banks and senior citizen centers, that serve low-income consumers to increase broadband adoption and address non-price barriers to adoption. The FCC's decision marks the beginning of an ongoing campaign at the agency to build its digital literacy capacity and to keep apprised and abreast of the state of digital inclusion across the country. The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) is charged with developing, within six months, a comprehensive plan for the FCC to better understand the non-price barriers to digital inclusion and to propose how the FCC can facilitate efforts to address those barriers. This plan will address promoting digital inclusion generally and also as it particularly relates to the new Lifeline program.

  • Last June, this blog noted that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler was at the halfway point of his tenure and that he understood that “[t]he template for an effective chairmanship is to identify major priorities and get them underway as quickly as possible.” The Wheeler era is nearing its end. [Even if a Democrat is elected President, she will appoint her own Chair soon after Inauguration Day.] Although the verdict of history will depend to a considerable degree on whether the courts uphold his decisions, Chairman Wheeler has successfully completed FCC action on several of his major priorities. And, far from letting up, Chairman Wheeler continues to press existing and new initiatives on a schedule that might allow action on them before the end of the year. As has been the case all along, he faces powerful opposition to almost everything he wants to accomplish. And, as the sand empties out of Wheeler’s hour glass, opponents are increasingly resorting to delay tactics in the hope that Wheeler’s successor may not wish to pursue the same goals – or may not do so as effectively.

  • It was a busy week for telecommunications policy. The Federal Communications Commission held its April Open Meeting, and Congress had some legislation move along, including the E-mail Privacy Act. Below, we take a sampling of this week’s potpourri.

  • Today marks the first anniversary of Charles Benton’s death. You may have known Charles because you met him at a conference or you spoke on the phone or you read one of his articles. Tall, large of voice, possessed of dazzling grin and intractable hair, Charles naturally drew considerable attention. He was the Benton Foundation for many people. Over the past 12 months, there has been an incredible outpouring of love, support, and fond memories of Charles. My colleagues and I have had the pleasure of traveling around the country to be part of many celebrations of Charles’ – and the foundation’s – contributions. Although one might be tempted to call all this the Charles Benton Memorial Tour, for me, it has actually been a listening tour – hearing not just about what various people and groups admired about Charles, but also about their concerns and priorities as the country considers who will be leading us in the years to come. This year, I’ve been thinking about "Digital Deserts." Despite great gains in achieving universal broadband, a number of “Digital Deserts” persist in the U.S. Many communities and households still do not have broadband service. We want to offer policy recommendations that will transform these deserts into oases of opportunity, and connect them to affordable, reliable, high-capacity broadband. I’m so encouraged by the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to expand Lifeline support to include broadband service, making sure that millions of American families will no longer have to choose between buying groceries or paying for the connectivity that, for instance, allows their children to complete their homework assignments. But much more work needs to be done. I believe that broadband is a key instrument in addressing economic insecurity.

  • When Benjamin Franklin created the first lending library in America almost three hundred years ago, he established an institution committed to letting loose the transformational power of knowledge. To this day, public libraries stand committed to the principle that information should be available to all, regardless of where you live, how much you earn, or when you were born. Increasingly libraries provide some of that information online, through free access to ebooks, original documents like the New York Public Library’s high-definition scan of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and even software that you can borrow virtually through the Kansas City Public Library. All of these efforts depend on affordable, accessible Internet service.

  • On April 19, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology marked up several telecommunications bills including the Controlling the Unchecked and Reckless Ballooning of Lifeline Act (or the Lifeline CURB Act (H.R.4884), if you’re scoring at home). The subcommittee approved the bill by a final vote of 17-11 along party lines, with Republican members of the subcommittee supporting the measure.