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Our friends at Fight for the Future let us know that an important vote on privacy rules is happening today. We want to pass on the information so you know who to call to express your concern about who collects and disseminates your personal data:
Today at noon, Congress is expected to vote on whether to gut the FCC’s broadband privacy rules that prevent Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon from collecting and selling your personal data without your permission.
In just a few hours Congress could roll back these landmark rules that many of us fought hard for last year.
And get this-- the 22 senators behind this controversial resolution have received more than $1.6 million from the very same companies that would profit from us losing our broadband privacy rights.
Here are the names and phone numbers of the lawmakers who we need to side with us to protect broadband privacy rights:
We can’t let this happen. Call Congress right now.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (202) 224-6665 @lisamurkowski
Sen. Susan Collins (202) 224-2523 @SenatorCollins
Sen. Jerry Moran (202) 224-6521 @JerryMoran
Sen. Cory Gardner (202) 224-5941 @SenCoryGardner
Sen. Benjamin Sasse (202) 224-4224 @BenSasse
Sen. Dean Heller (202) 224-6244 @SenDeanHeller
If these privacy protections are removed, ISPs will be able to do the following :
Monitor and sell all your location data, search history, app usage, and browsing habits to advertisers without your permission, hijack your search results, redirecting your traffic to paying third parties, and insert ads into web pages that would otherwise not have them .
This is going to be a close vote. We’ve included the names, numbers, and twitter handles of key members of Congress who could vote to uphold current broadband privacy rules.
Call them now. Tell them to protect our privacy. Here’s a sample script you can use:
“Hi, my name is ______, I’m calling to ask Senator _____ to vote against the CRA proposal to roll back the FCC’s broadband privacy rules. Please don’t let Internet Service Providers sell my personal information without my permission.”
This vote is happening very soon, please call or contact these key members of Congress now.
Susan Crawford has come back to the podcast to tell us about her recent travels in North Carolina and Tennessee, talking to people on the ground that have already built fiber-optic networks or are in the midst of figuring out how to get them deployed.
Susan is a professor at Harvard Law, the author of The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance and Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, and a champion for universal high quality Internet access.
We have an informal discussion that ranges from what is happening on the ground in North Carolina and Tennessee to the role of federal policy to why Susan feels that municipal wholesale approaches are important to ensuring we have better Internet access.
It was a real treat to have Susan back on the show and to just have a discussion about many of the issues that don't always come up in more formal presentations or media interviews. We hope you enjoy it! Susan was previously on episode 125 and episode 29.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Jonathan Chambers from Conexon works with rural electric cooperatives as they bring high-quality Internet access to rural America. When he spoke with Christopher for episode 229 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast last November, he had some choice words to say about how the FCC chose to continue to subsidize big telcos for little return.
They Propose "A Huge Mess"
In a recent post on the Conexon blog, Chambers analyzes “The New Trumpfone Program,” and reveals how proposed Connect America Fund (CAF) subsidies, when applied to real world data, creates outrageous financial waste. While providers can receive up to $17,500 per location in CAF funding, when applied to a per subscriber formula, the figure is $100,000:
There are no U.S. communities where satellite or fixed wireless provides broadband to 100% of the homes and small businesses. Not 80% either, which is the FCC assumption. Not 50% or 25% or 15% or 10% or even 5%. The FCC has data on this. Let’s say, for this arithmetic exercise, that a satellite or fixed wireless subscriber achieves a 15% market share of telephone and broadband service in a rural community.
A 15% market share while receiving $17,500 for every location in an area translates into over $100,000 per subscriber. Should there be insufficient competitive pressure in the auction, the $17,500 per location is a realistic outcome, as is the likelihood of $100,000 per subscriber by some technologies.
Reimburse Per Subscriber
Chambers offers a sensible solution to save CAF funds and direct public dollars in the right direction: reimburse providers for actual subscribers, rather than by location.
Depending on where you live, there may be more opportunities these days to participate in marches, demonstrations, or community political meetings. Regardless of whether your beliefs lean red or blue, you may be like many other Americans and wonder what the future holds for federal telecommunications policy. Saul Tannenbaum from Cambridge recently wrote a piece that stressed the importance of local decision making authority and how municipal networks can rise above reversals anticipated by the new administration’s FCC.
Tannenbaum looks at four policies that are likely to be or have been adjusted from current practice to a new approach under the Trump administration:
- Digital Inclusion
- Network Neutrality
- Corporate Consolidation
Cambridge has considered developing in its own municipal network for a while and Tannenbaum connects the dots between the investment and local control over these issues. While he describes the situation in his own community, it can apply to many other places on the map; he reminds us that decisions about connectivity can and should be local.
While telecommunication policy is thought of as national, in reality, it’s a matter of whose cables and services reach which home. That decision can be a very local one. A free, fair, open, and affordable Internet for Cambridge is within grasp. All Cambridge needs to do is build one.
By building its own network, Cambridge can ensure that its infrastructure reflects its values and the needs of its residents, not the values and needs of Comcast and Verizon.
Check out the full article, Municipal Broadband Is Municipal Resistance, on Medium.
Motherboard Vice - January 17, 2017
Local Activism Is the Best Way to Preserve Net Neutrality
Written by Jason Koebler
Before President-elect Donald Trump takes office this week, take a moment to remember the height of the net neutrality battles of 2014 and 2015. Remember the letter writing campaigns, the comments filed to the Federal Communications Commission (some of them handwritten), remember John Oliver’s rant. Remember that the people fought, and the people won, and for a brief moment, big telecom monopolies had at least some limits placed on them by the federal government.
Remember it now, because very likely, the anti-regulation commissioners of the FCC, reporting to an anti-regulation president, are about to undo the rules millions of Americans fought so hard for. Under Trump, big telecom and its sympathizers will call the shots.
“Because we have net neutrality now, those seeds are out there,” Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative, told me. “Our biggest enemy is ignorance, so when things go badly and cable bills go up under Trump, and we have to pay more to access certain sites, people will say ‘Wait a minute, this is a violation of net neutrality.’ We’re in such a better position to fight now.”
Internet access for low-income households is becoming more affordable, thanks to an FCC modernization order that brings the Lifeline program into the 21st Century.
Next Century Cities recently offered a webinar for people who want to learn more about changes to the Lifeline program; our own Christopher Mitchell moderated the event. Jaymie Gustafson, Director of Stakeholder Engagement for the Lifeline, and attorney Olivia Wein from the National Consumer Law Center shared their knowledge about the order, discussed how local governments can utilize the program in public housing, and suggested ways local governments can help make the program a success.
The program, which initially provided a $9.25 subsidy to eliminate or lower the cost of telephone services to low-income households, now allows recipients to use the funds to purchase broadband services. Gustafson noted one of the driving factors behind the modernization order:
“We know it’s so important in terms of helping children do their homework, in terms of people being able to search for and keep their jobs, in terms of accessing services, just in terms of interacting with society around you. Right now, broadband is not a luxury. It’s a necessity.”
About The Program
The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) governs the Lifeline program, which originated in 1985 and receives funding from the Universal Services Fund. The fund, established in 1935, supports other programs that invest in telecommunications infrastructure in addition to low-income access. Instead of receiving a voucher to purchase services from a carrier or an Internet Service Provider (ISP), the provider receives the subsidy directly from USAC; after the discount is applied to Lifeline participants' bill, the participant pays the remainder to the provider.
Chairman Tom Wheeler will be stepping down as FCC Chairman as of January 20, 2017; the day President Obama leaves office. The decision is not surprising, as FCC chairmen typically leave their position when a new administration takes the helm, but Wheeler had not yet made it official. His departure emphasizes the apprehensive uncertainty that has troubled advocates of municipal networks, local telecommunications authority, and network neutrality, as well as a long list of other public policy concerns that affect our future through technology.
In a statement released on December 15, Chairman Wheeler wrote:
“Serving as FCC Chairman during this period of historic technological change has been the greatest honor of my professional life. I am deeply grateful to the President for giving me this opportunity. I am especially thankful to the talented Commission staff for their service and sacrifice during my tenure. Their achievements have contributed to a thriving communications sector, where robust investment and world-leading innovation continue to drive our economy and meaningful improvements in the lives of the American people. It has been a privilege to work with my fellow Commissioners to help protect consumers, strengthen public safety and cybersecurity, and ensure fast, fair and open networks for all Americans.”
He Proved Himself
When Tom Wheeler was appointed as 31st Chairman of the FCC in November 2013, we had our concerns. He was following Julius Genachowski, one of the worst FCC Chairs in modern history, who had been appointed in Obama's first term. He had run both cable and wireless industry trade groups, but was strongly defended by Susan Crawford and Gigi Sohn when public interest groups opposed him. He strongly surpassed our hopes for what the FCC could achieve.
The Federal Reserve is responsible for setting interest rates and executing monetary policy in the United States, but many people don’t realize that the agency also has a hand in community development. This summer, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas released a report, Closing the Digital Divide: A Framework for Meeting CRA Obligations, which includes information for banks about funding digital inclusion programs and community networks.
The report, published in July, states:
“Access to broadband has become essential to make progress in all areas of community development—education and workforce development, health, housing, small-business development and access to financial services.”
Closing the Digital Divide is important not only because it provides substantial information for banks, but also because it indicates federal support exists for community-based infrastructure improvements. The report discusses improving Internet access for low and moderate-income individuals and neighborhoods.
Using The Community Reinvestment Act To Improve Infrastructure
From the 1930 until the late 1970s, many banks denied lending to individuals and organizations based on their location. The practice is called “redlining” after the red ink that outlined low-income neighborhoods on a map, and was made illegal when Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977. Under the CRA, banks must to use the same evaluation criteria for all loan applicants regardless of the neighborhood they live in, which expands lending to include low and moderate-income (LMI) individuals. The Federal Reserve assesses banks’ performance under CRA guidelines, which bring about $100 million in capital to low and moderate income areas per year through various projects. Improving Internet access is an increasingly large portion of these initiatives.
In The Weeds
According to a 2014 Enforcement Advisory, cell phone and Wi-Fi jamming by state and local law enforcement is illegal by federal law. And yet, persistent allegations of jamming are coming from Water Protectors at the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota. Any jamming by law enforcement to monitor protestor cell phone communications is a serious breach of their Fourth Amendment rights as it amounts to unreasonable search and seizure. First Amendment rights of freedom of speech are also compromised when the method of transmitting reports is purposely blocked.
In order to pressure the FCC to determine whether jamming is happening in North Dakota, MoveOn.org has posted an online petition. From the petition:
Proving or disproving allegations about jamming is very difficult for anyone except the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]. Only the FCC can work with wireless providers, protesters, and local law enforcement to find out definitively what’s going on. The FCC is the only expert agency with authority to require law enforcement to disclose their use of any wireless devices and the only agency with the expertise to assess what is actually happening. If the FCC investigates and finds that there is no illegal jamming happening, then it can settle this concern. If the FCC discovers that there is illegal jamming happening, it has an obligation to expose the jamming and use its power under federal law to order local law enforcement to stop interfering with First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
As Harold Feld writes in his recent blog article, that the presence of IMSI catchers or Stingrays, leaves signs that the Water Protectors are experiencing at Standing Rock - sudden loss of a strong signal at inopportune times, cell phone batteries depleting quickly and inexplicably. Cell phones not only allow them to communicate with each other, but allow them to document law enforcement reaction:
We have recently covered state laws preempting local control, especially in North Carolina and Tennessee. State governments are supposed to be “laboratories of democracy” and municipalities are sub-parts of the state. Preemption is ostensibly to prevent problems, but instead these state laws limit local governments’ solutions for ensuring better connectivity.
At the same time, people trust their local government more than their state government to handle problems. That’s the latest finding from Gallup’s most recent Governance Poll, and that makes sense for all of us following community networks.
It's no surprise that trust starts with local community leaders. We have spoken to a number of public officials that acknowledge that when you know your elected official - perhaps live down the street from them or run into them at the grocery store - it's much easier to know that they share your hopes for the community.
Polls, Trends, and Republicans
Gallup’s September 7th-11th Governance Poll found that 71 percent trust their local government to handle problems, but only 62 percent say the same about their state government. This continues a fifteen-year trend of people putting their faith in local government more than in state government.
Seventy-five percent of Republicans stated that they have a "great deal/fair amount" of trust in local government. (Compare to only 71 percent of Independents and 66 percent of Democrats.) This corresponds with what we found in January 2015 while analyzing our data. Most citywide, residential, municipal networks are built in conservative cities. They trust local governments to solve connectivity problems when the big providers can't or won't deliver.