FCC Blocks 9 Companies From Providing Low-Income Internet Access
FCC regulators are telling nine companies that they won’t be allowed to participate in a federal program intended to help them provide affordable internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies were approved to do so.
The Lifeline program, established in 1985, provides discounted phone and internet service for people in poorer communities to connect with family and access resources for jobs and education. The Federal Communications Commission expanded the program to include broadband last year, and now gives participating households a $9.25 per month credit that they can use for internet access.
“These last-minute actions, which did not enjoy the support of the majority of commissioners at the time they were taken, should not bind us going forward,” he said.
The status of the nine companies will be changed to “pending,” according to CNN, and the FCC will reconsider their participation in the program. Regulators had approved four of those companies on Dec. 1 and five on Jan. 18.
As many as 13 million Americans who did not have broadband service at home may have been eligible for Lifeline, the FCC found. Roughly 900 service providers participate in the Lifeline program, according to the Washington Post.
For Kajeet Inc., one of the companies that was initially granted permission to provide service through Lifeline, the news comes as a shock and a setback.
“I’m most concerned about the children we serve,” Kajeet founder Daniel Neal told the Washington Post. “We partner with school districts — 41 states and the District of Columbia — to provide educational broadband so that poor kids can do their homework.”
Since becoming FCC chairman last month, Pai has stated that closing the digital divide is a central tenet of his policy agenda. While the vast majority of Americans do have access to internet service, there remain distinct gaps in United States broadband penetration, particularly among seniors, minorities and the poor.
Last week’s move seems to run counter to Pai’s stated goals of closing the digital divide.
“The most obvious fact in our society is that high-speed internet is astronomically expensive for the middle class and down,” said Gene Kimmelman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, in an interview with the Washington Post. “So in any way limiting the Lifeline program, at this moment in time, exacerbates the digital divide. It doesn’t address it in any positive way.”
Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Nine months ago, Kansas City, Missouri, announced that it would be investing $15 million in a public-private partnership with Cisco to make a 2-mile streetcar corridor smart — like, Internet of Things smart. The city has just shared the first compilation of data with other cities, as well as with federal agencies.
Just over four years ago, Kansas City hooked up residents with Google Fiber. Now, the city has added free public wi-fi across 50 downtown blocks and 125 smart LED streetlights that respond to activity.
The streetcar route also has a dozen kiosks (so far) where people who don’t have cell phones can learn about transportation options, accessing city services, local entertainment, and more. The kiosks could also be used as a reverse alert in emergencies to notify people of potential problems.
Kansas City was one of the top finalists in the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, but it did not win the grant money. (That went to Columbus, Ohio.) Kansas City decided to move ahead by partnering with Cisco, which is contributing about $12 million to the project. KCMO is contributing $3.8 million over the next ten years.
Since the project is new, the big data isn’t as big as it’s going to be. But you can check out a live map, provided by Xaqt, that shows the exact location of the streetcars in Kansas City. It also shows occupied and available parking and traffic speeds.
The data collected is not only expected to help the citizens of Kansas City to maneuver quickly and safely around town. The city is also working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to help set standards for using big data and protecting personal privacy in the future.
Featured Image: Kristen Hall-Geisler
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President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries has put corporate executives in a bind. Almost from the moment he announced the ban, questions poured in about the issue.
The media have highlighted a cluster of companies that have made public statements against the executive order. For example, Netflix called it “un-American,” while Ford Motor Company said: “We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”
But overlooked are the many more companies that tried to distance themselves from the debate. Chevron, Disney, Verizon, GM, Wells Fargo and others have all taken a wait-and-see approach. An illustrative example is Morgan Stanley, which expressed concern and said it is “closely monitoring developments.”
Such responses are no doubt based on the prevailing wisdom that companies need to stay out of politics. Most large corporations have diverse constituencies that draw from both sides of the political spectrum. As a result, executives fear that attracting the political spotlight by taking a stand on the executive order will alienate either the millions of customers who voted for Trump or the millions who voted against him.
My research suggests their fears are misplaced. And in fact, the opposite may be true: It may be more dangerous to remain silent than to take a political stand.
When companies violate these expectations by behaving inconsistently, consumers reconsider that relationship. Obviously, this can have a major impact on company performance if many customers experience a violation.
I’ve been working with colleagues at Clemson University and Drexel University to test this notion in a series of controlled experiments.
In one field experiment, for example, we exposed study participants to statements about a pharmacy chain moments before they entered one of its stores. Some read a statement in which the company described itself as guided by a set of values (what we call a “values orientation”), while others read that it tries to adapt to whatever market conditions warrant (a “results orientation”).
These statements established participants’ political expectations of the company. We predicted that for a values-oriented company, taking a stand would align with expectations but that abstaining would violate expectations.
Participants then read a short article reporting that the company had either just taken a stand on proposed gun control legislation (we randomized which side of the issue the company took) or had abstained from making a comment. After shopping, participants reported their in-store experience and whether or not they had bought anything that they hadn’t planned to purchase before entering the store. We used the unplanned purchase to indicate the impact of the political stand on the customer-company relationship.
In general, unplanned purchases remained consistent no matter how the company reacted to the political issue. That is, about 18% of participants made an unplanned purchase whether they read that the company had taken a position or not.
But when we accounted for expectations set by the company, the effects were stunning. For a values-oriented company, 24% of participants made an unplanned purchase when it took a stand, but that dropped to just 9% when it abstained—violating expectations. For a results-oriented company, the effect was reversed: Unplanned purchasing was 26% when it abstained and dropped to 13% when it took a stand (again, violating expectations).
Even after accounting for the personal view of the participant and whether his or her state voted Republican or Democratic in the 2016 election, purchasing behavior was significantly affected if the company went against prior expectations.
Additional experiments reveal that consumers behave this way because they find it hypocritical for a company that claims to be “guided by core values” to then withhold its position on a political issue. The implication appears to be that the company is hiding something and is therefore trying to deceive its customer base. Conversely, reinforcing expectations may forge trust and enhance relationships with customers.
For a real-world quasi experiment on the potential costs of staying silent, we need look no further than Lyft’s and Uber’s respective responses to President Trump’s executive order. Lyft reacted by publicly opposing the order and pledging US$1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union. Uber was more equivocal. In a Facebook post, CEO Travis Kalanick acknowledged concerns and said he would raise the issue “this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”
As part of a poll I administer periodically to gauge reactions to companies that take political stands, a group of leading scholars were asked to grade Lyft and Uber on their respective approaches. The panel was generally favorable toward Lyft, although conservative panelists questioned whether its actions would have a lasting impact on the political issue at hand.
However, Uber was criticized by scholars of all political persuasions for not confronting the issue. Panelists thought Uber was taking some leadership by reacting quickly, but its lackluster response was not consistent with its purported beliefs as a bold game-changer. It is little surprising, then, that the move motivated many customers to uninstall the Uber app from their phones. Uber received so many requests, in fact, that it had to implement a new automated process to handle all the deletions. The company later announced in an email to defecting customers that the executive order was “wrong” and “unjust.” Kalanick also resigned from President Trump’s business advisory council.
The danger of inaction—as Uber’s experience shows—is real. In remaining silent on important societal issues, executives may be harming performance more than they think.
It is no longer enough to engage government solely through private channels, although that will certainly be necessary as well. Consumers are willing to hold executives’ feet to the fire if they believe the executives are betraying corporate values.
This may be especially true for companies that forcefully advocated for free trade, access to a global talent pool, action on climate change and inclusivity for all orientations and religious backgrounds during Barack Obama’s tenure. My research suggests that both liberals and conservatives could view it as a breach of trust to abandon those beliefs by acquiescing to a swing of the political pendulum.
Though our current political environment is polarized and contentious, most people still find failures of sincerity more troubling than differences of opinion. As long as a company is not being deceptive by obfuscating its beliefs, consumers can be surprisingly tolerant of a company that holds an opposing view.
So to corporate executives: Your constituents are watching. They acknowledge that your company has a distinct set of values. They are asking for you to be forthright. And they want to know that you have the gumption to stand up for your stated values.
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Just as the English language constantly grows, so does the dictionary. More than one thousand new words have been added, including terms from recent advances in science, borrowings from foreign languages, and words from tech, medicine, pop culture, sports, and everything in between.
This is a significant addition to our online dictionary, reflecting the breadth of English vocabulary and the speed with which we seek information.
For example, we now see that new tech terms are more about what we do with technology—how it is managed, deployed, and organized—than giving a name to the technology itself; hence terms such as net neutrality, abandonware, and botnet. Our devices, apps, and programs allow us to binge-watch, photobomb, and ghost someone. Things we read online might be NSFW listicles; things we post online might be humblebrags. Some of these terms came into use in the past decade, and none are more than twenty years old.
Fun words for language lovers include conlang (a constructed language, like Elvish, Klingon, and Dothraki), Seussian, and snollygoster (“a shrewd, unprincipled person”), which has the unusual distinction of being a word returning to the dictionary. Snollygoster was dropped from our Collegiate dictionary in 2003 because it had fallen nearly completely from use; its frequent use by conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly sent people to the dictionary to find it over and over in recent years, and demonstrated that the word still has a place in the American lexicon.
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From the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
This morning, we announced a major update to the Museum’s policy governing the use and reuse of images in our collection: all images of public-domain artworks in the Museum’s collection are now available for free and unrestricted use under Creative Commons Zero (CC0). This updated policy, known as Open Access, enables everyone to utilize more than 375,000 images of public-domain artworks in The Met’s collection in any media without permission or fee.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art thanks Creative Commons, an international leader in open access and copyright, for being its partner in this effort. The Museum also thanks its other partners in this initiative including Artstor, the Digital Public Library of America, Google Cultural Institute, Pinterest, and Wikimedia communities, as well as The Met’s first Wikimedian-in-Residence, Richard Knipel. Partnerships with allied communities, institutions, and organizations are vital demonstrations of the Museum’s openness in practice.
The images we’re making available under a CC0 license relate to 200,000 public domain artworks in our collection that the Museum has already digitally catalogued. This represents an incredible body of work by curators, conservators, photographers, librarians, cataloguers, interns, and technologists over the past 147 years of the institution’s history. This is work that is always ongoing: just last year we added 21,000 new images to the online collection, 18,000 of which relate to works in the public domain.
To help find these images on our website, we’ve added a feature that allows users to filter searches to only those works that we believe are public domain; all of these Open Access images are marked with the CC0 logo on their respective object page.
Alongside the images, we’re also making available under CC0 each artwork’s key information, otherwise known as tombstone data—title, maker, date, culture, medium, and dimensions—on all 440,000 artworks that the Museum has digitized to date; this data is now available as a downloadable file on GitHub. By making this information available in a clear, machine-readable format, we are making it easier for the world to search for, play with, and explore the breadth and depth of the Museum’s collection. (We don’t yet have an API, but we’re working on it!)
Direct to Search the Met Digital Collection
[Ed. Note: 375,000 digital objects from 200,000 artworks.]
More About Today’s News:
This policy change is an update to The Museum’s 2014 Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC) initiative. The Met’s Open Access policy facilitates the use of more than 375,000 images of public-domain artworks for both scholarly and commercial purposes. The Museum is collaborating with global partners to enable greater access to the collection.
In making the announcement, Mr. [Thomas] Campbell [Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ] said: “We have been working toward the goal of sharing our images with the public for a number of years. Our comprehensive and diverse museum collection spans 5,000 years of world culture and our core mission is to be open and accessible for all who wish to study and enjoy the works of art in our care. Increasing access to the Museum’s collection and scholarship serves the interests and needs of our 21st-century audiences by offering new resources for creativity, knowledge, and ideas. We thank Creative Commons, an international leader in open access and copyright, for being a partner in this effort.”
[Clip]The rollout of this change in policy is an ongoing process, as the Museum continues to collaborate with new and existing partners to develop our content-distribution efforts and explore new opportunities.While all images of works the Museum believes to be in the public domain are included in this initiative, certain works are not available for one or more of the following reasons: the work is still under copyright, or the copyright status is unclear; privacy or publicity issues; the work is owned by a person or an institution other than The Met; restrictions by the artist, donor, or lender; or lack of a digital image of suitable quality.The Museum continues to work with Art Resource for licensing images of works under copyright or other restrictions, or for images not available on The Met’s website.
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