Last year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to modernize the Lifeline program for the digital age to help low-income families, veterans, and children gain access to the internet. This week, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is poised to initiate steps to drastically roll back the program, ultimately leaving millions of Lifeline subscribers and eligible families without a service provider.
Imagine living in a town where the only local daily newspaper, two of the top four television broadcasters, and some local radio stations are all owned by the same entity. An owner might promote one political ideology or favor particular beliefs, leaving different viewpoints simply unheard. This poses many dangers, and runs contrary to the principles of a country that prides itself on the First Amendment and the benefits of robust public dialogue. This Twilight Zone-esque hypothetical may now become reality when the Federal Communications Commission moves to scrap central portions of its historic media ownership rules at the Open Meeting on Thursday. The current media ownership rules limit any one entity from owning too many of the newspaper, radio, and/or television entities within a local market, in order to ensure viewpoint diversity. These rules are under attack.
It’s almost axiomatic that independent artists face unique difficulties in the digital environment. Unlicensed commercial use of creative works is not uncommon, and the money that those uses theoretically represent in unpaid licensing fees can be substantial. So it’s understandable that artists would push for a system that makes it cheaper and easier for them to recover royalties for infringements of their copyrights.
On his very first day as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai dedicated himself to closing the digital divide and to “work to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.” Sounds promising for America, right? Unfortunately, Chairman Pai hasn’t followed through with this promise. Instead, the Trump-appointed FCC Chairman has rubberstamped the elimination of several policies and protections that are critical to closing the digital divide.
Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will undo years of the FCC’s work to improve wireless deployments in rural areas, close the digital divide, and promote spectrum use by a wide range of users with diverse and innovative business models in the 150 megahertz between 3550-3700 MHz (the 3.5 GHz Band or Band). Adopting the NPRM is the first step to undermining the FCC’s work in the 3.5 GHz Band, and represents a rare lose-lose-lose scenario in spectrum policy making.