TIME White House

Obama to Expand High-Speed-Internet Access for Low-Income Families

President Barack Obama speaks about economic opportunities at Durant High School in Durant, Oklahoma, in the Choctaw Nation on July 15, 2015.
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks about economic opportunities at Durant High School in Durant, Oklahoma, in the Choctaw Nation on July 15, 2015.

"We are going to take another step to close the digital divide in America"

President Obama announced plans on Wednesday to expand high-speed Internet to more low-income households across the U.S.

“Today, I want to focus on one way we can prepare our kids and our workers for an increasingly competitive world,” Obama said in an address to the Choctaw nation in Durant, Okla., about the new initiative, called ConnectHome. “Today, we are going to take another step to close the digital divide in America and make sure everyone in America has high-speed Internet.”

ConnectHome is an offshoot of ConnectEd, a program the Obama administration launched to get 99% of American students in K-12 schools connected in their classrooms by 2018. ConnectHome will begin by targeting 28 communities and about 200,000 families.

Obama said Internet access remains “a reach” for low-income and rural communities, noting that “fewer than half of households [headed by someone] with less than a high school education are connected.”

“Internet access should not be based on where [a student] lives and how much money her parents make,” Obama added.

TIME technology

Why Netflix Is Backing This Huge Cable Merger

Francois Guillot—AFP/Getty Images Netflix Co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings poses during a photocall for the launch of Netflix in France on September 15, 2014 in Paris.

It's totally okay with Time Warner Cable and Charter tying the knot

A proposed $55 billion merger between cable companies Charter and Time Warner Cable has a perhaps surprising ally: Netflix.

Netflix was a vocal opponent of last year’s proposed merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast. But the streaming movie company on Wednesday pledged its support for the potential hook-up between Time Warner Cable and Charter through an FCC filing. Netflix’s bonhomie towards the new deal revolves around an issue Netflix has been crowing about for months: Interconnection, or a physical link between a network belonging to a carrier (like Charter or TWC) and that of a content provider (like Netflix).

Put simply, such interconnection agreements can help ensure bandwidth-intensive services like online video can be smoothly delivered to users’ devices without the horror of buffering. But they’ve become a matter of contention. Last year, Comcast got into a public spat with Netflix after it made the unprecedented demand that Netflix pay up for interconnection. Comcast argued it was only right for Netflix to shell out for the high degree of bandwidth it uses; Netflix countered such an arrangement would violate rules against unequal treatment of Internet traffic and shift more costs to consumers. Netflix eventually capitulated, later agreeing to similar paid interconnection deals with Verizon and TWC.

As part of its campaign to get its merger with TWC approved, Charter has agreed to make interconnection agreements with companies like Netflix for free — at least until the end of 2018. The collapse of the Comcast-TWC deal, which was not expected to pass muster with the FCC, likely got Charter to offer Netflix these generous terms in hopes of getting its deal approved.

In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix praised Charter’s decision to not charge for interconnection. “This move ensures that all online video providers can aggressively compete for consumers’ favor, without selective and increasing fees paid to [Internet Service Providers],” the company wrote. “Charter’s interconnection policy is the right way to scale the Internet. It means consumer will receive the fast connection speeds they expect.”

In a conference call with investors Wednesday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he hoped the government would impose a similar mandate on AT&T and DirecTV to approve their proposed merger. So far, Hastings’ strategy has been effective. “It frees us up from worrying about getting taxed by an ISP,” he said about Charter’s free interconnection. “Instead, we get to worry about how do we make our experience better for consumers.”

TIME technology

EU Proposes Sweeping Ban of Cellphone Roaming Charges

The new rules also include net neutrality regulations for cellphone service providers

European Union proposed new rules on Tuesday banning cellphone roaming charges in all 28 member countries, as part of a raft of legal reforms to improve communication and e-commerce opportunities across the continent.

The agreed upon rules, which are expected to be voted upon and approved by EU member states in the next six months, will eradicate all cellphone roaming charges by June 2017, the New York Times reports. A gradual cost reduction will take place over the next two years.

Lawmakers also proposed net neutrality regulations that will prevent Internet service providers from providing different data speeds for different tiers of service.

“This is a great success for the European Union,” Anrijs Matiss, the Latvian Minister for Transport, said in a statement, but the new rules they have garnered pushback from service providers, including the British Vodafone and German Deutsche Telekom. Both companies have warned that the ban on roaming charges would dampen their incentive to invest in mobile and broadband infrastructure.

[New York Times]


Net Neutrality Complaint Filed Against Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable received its first complaint for allegedly violating the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules.

The company Commercial Network Services alleges Time Warner Cable is violating the paid prioritization and throttling sections of the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The new net neutrality rules establish three main things: no blocking access to legal content, no throttling speeds and no paid prioritization or fast lanes for those who pay more. Time Warner Cable says it is confident the FCC will rule in its favor.

Read next: Why Net Neutrality Isn’t Worth Celebrating

TIME Innovation

Why It’s Time to Kill the Performance Review

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. It’s time to kill the performance review.

By Melissa Dahl in the Science of Us

2. Give communities a valuable summertime resource: Open school grounds for play.

By the editorial board of the Fresno Bee

3. Could we outlaw street harassment?

By Daniel Serrano in Vice

4. We should be able to answer this simple question: How many people die in police custody?

By the editorial board of Bloomberg View

5. Here’s an Internet roadmap for a more equal society. (Hint: it’s got broadband and free wifi everywhere.)

By Ron Klain in Democracy

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME legal

FCC Chairman Wants Subsidized Internet for the Poor

Phone service has long been subsidized

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission approved net neutrality rules to regulate the broadband Internet as a utility, treating it the same as it does telephone networks.

On Thursday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to reiterate high speed Internet’s status as a public good when he introduces a plan to ensure that even the poorest Americans have access to broadband Internet.

Wheeler will announce changes to the $1.7 billion subsidy program created by the Reagan administration in 1985 that currently provides low-income Americans with affordable landline telephone service. Twelve million households participate in the program called Lifeline, which was expanded in 2008 to cover the cost of cell phone service. To be eligible for the program, households must have an income at or below 135% of the federal poverty line or must receive Medicaid or food stamp benefits.

The 2008 expansion of Lifeline boosted enrollment, but that increase coincided with a rise in abuse of the program, as some households received more than their one allotted subsidy. Wheeler’s proposal will give recipients a choice between phone service, Internet access, or a combination of both, according to The New York Times.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that only 54% of people making less than $30,000 annually had broadband services versus 88% of those earning $75,000 or more.

TIME 2016 presidential election

Carly Fiorina Says She Would ‘Roll Back’ Net Neutrality Rules

Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina speaks at TechCrunchÕs Disrupt conference on May 5, 2015 in New York City.
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina speaks at TechCrunchÕs Disrupt conference on May 5, 2015 in New York City.

And she wants the government to use technology to "re-engage" people

Carly Fiorina said Tuesday in her first public appearance since announcing her candidacy for the GOP nomination that she would “roll back” the new rules on net neutrality.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, arguably the presidential candidate with the most experience in the tech industry, came out swinging against the regulations in a talk at TechCrunch’s Disrupt event in New York City. “You don’t manage innovation, you let innovation flourish,” she said. “Regulation over innovation is a really bad role for government.”

Other Republican hopefuls have also come out in recent months against net neutrality—or the idea that all web content is treated equally—perhaps in opposition to Obama or in order to protect campaign donations, despite the fact that 85% of Republican voters say they oppose the creation of Internet “fast lanes.”

MORE: Why 2016 Republicans Oppose Net Neutrality

At other points during the talk, Fiorina pointed to her experience in the tech industry as a qualification for the Oval Office. “It is important to have someone in the White House who has a fundamental understanding of technology, and a fundamental vision of how technology could be used,” she said, adding that she hopes to use technology to “re-engage” people in politics.

Fiorina also addressed the industry’s inequalities for women, noting that they are “caricatured differently, criticized differently, scrutinized differently, because we’re still different.” To that end, she noted that she was pleased Hillary Clinton is also running for the Democratic nomination. “Obviously I’m running to beat Hillary Clinton, but I think It’s great there there are women on both sides of the aisle running for the highest office in the land.”

When the interviewer, a female journalist, asked Fiorina if she would consider a Vice Presidential slot, she bristled and replied: “Would you ever ask a man that question?”

In the past, male presidential candidates like former North Carolina Senator John Edwards and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson have been asked whether they’re running for VP, and the idea has also been posed for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a presumed Democratic candidate. After the journalist responded that she would, the candidate said, “I’m not running for something else, I’m running because I want this job, and I think I can do this job.”

Read next: Carly Fiorina Calls Foul on Vice President Quesion


Google Fiber Has Internet Providers Scrambling to Improve Their Service

Google Fiber
Matthew Busch—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to promise better service in advance of a Google Fiber rollout

Here’s a three step plan to getting a free internet upgrade:

  1. Convince Google to announce that it’s bringing Google Fiber to your city. (Note: All you need is a credible-sounding promise.)
  2. Wait for your local internet service provider to freak out and increase your internet speed six-fold.
  3. Sit back and watch all the Netflix you want in 4K “Ultra-HD” resolution.

That’s what’s happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Time Warner Cable has announced it will make subscribers’ internet speeds up to six times faster just as Google prepares to enter the market. The search-giant-turned-ISP previously announced plans in January to expand its high-speed internet business to a number of metro areas, including Charlotte. According to Ars Technica, Google is currently finalizing designs with local officials to clear the way for the network’s construction.

This isn’t the first time an internet provider has dramatically improved service in response to competition from Google. Back in February, AT&T began offering Kansas City internet subscribers up to one gigabit per second for $70 a month, essentially duplicating Google Fiber’s price and level of service. Time Warner Cable also increased speeds in Kansas City following Google’s arrival.

The “Google Fiber Effect” would seem to confirm what some experts, like Columbia computer science professor Vishal Misra, have said for a while: The only way to improve America’s internet service, which lags badly behind other industrialized countries, is through increased competition. And right now, competition is sorely lacking in the broadband space.

According to FCC data from 2013, 55% of American households have no choice in their broadband provider, and the agency has since reported that a Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would result in nearly two-thirds of consumers having only one choice for broadband internet.

Recent legislative efforts, like new net neutrality regulation, should protect consumers from the worst abuses of dominant ISPs. However, government action probably isn’t enough to incentivize businesses like Comcast and Time Warner Cable to actually make your service better because they know their customers generally don’t have the option of jumping ship and signing on with another broadband company.

Luckily, Google is one of the few companies with enough cash to build its own broadband service, and it seems intent on gradually expanding its fiber network into more and more cities—much to the chagrin of existing ISPs.

Here’s hoping Google Fiber comes to your market next.

TIME technology

Why 2016 Republicans Oppose Net Neutrality

Republican voters overwhelmingly like net neutrality. The likely GOP candidates for president do not.

According to a raft of recent national polls, Republican voters approve of government action to ensure that Internet service providers treat all web content the same. A November 2014 University of Delaware survey, for example, found that 85% of Republicans (and 81% of Democrats) were opposed to allowing ISPs to charge web companies a fee to deliver their content to customers more quickly—an arrangement they call “Internet fast lanes.”

Yet five likely Republican presidential contenders have come out against net neutrality in no uncertain terms. Last fall, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz referred to the Federal Communications Commision’s proposed net neutrality rules as “Obamacare for the Internet,” while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has called them a “direct attack on the freedom of information.” Last weekend, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential race in 2016, said the FCC’s plan to ensure net neutrality was “one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard.”

So what gives? There are basically three explanations, and which one you prefer depends a lot on how you view the messy business of politics.

1) It’s All About Obama. Some people think the reason is simply partisan polarization. President Obama championed net neutrality and nudged the FCC to take action, therefore Republican politicians are going to oppose it. That’s just politics, especially in a presidential campaign season.

This issue is particularly vulnerable to political grandstanding because it’s so confusing. Pollsters have found that Republican voters often say they don’t like “net neutrality,” but they say they like it when the issue is explained instead. According to one poll by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance and Vox Populi, 83% of “very conservative” voters thought the government should take action to ensure that cable companies aren’t allowed to “monopolize the Internet” by charging some companies more to access customers.

But taking that position as a presidential candidate means wasting a lot of time out on the hustings explaining the issue and opening yourself up to easy attacks from your rivals.

2) It’s All About Campaign Donations. Some people think the reason is all about the money. Cable and telecom companies, after all, oppose net neutrality and pour tens of millions of dollars every year on politicians’ campaign coffers, PACs and philanthropic projects and spend tens of millions more on lobbyists and letters and advertisements on the subject. To name one example, Comcast spent more on lobbying members of Congress in 2012 than any other company in the entire country, except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber.

But those contributions go pretty equally to Republicans and Democrats, and there’s a counterbalance from tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Netflix that are spending gobs of money, sometimes on the same politicians.

3) It’s the Means, Not the Ends. Some people think this is just about how the fight for net neutrality went down. The way the FCC’s new rules came out in the end was not most people’s first choice. Not Obama’s. Not Hillary Clinton’s. Not even Netflix CFO David Wells, whose company was instrumental in lobbying the FCC.

That’s because the FCC’s new rules give the federal government much more power over the broadband industry than it really needs to effectively ensure net neutrality. For example, under these rules, the government could theoretically regulate how much Comcast or Verizon can charge you for an Internet connection. The FCC has promised not to use those those powers, but the idea that it could gives many Republicans the willies.

Politics is often the art of finding the second-best solution. In this case, the FCC was forced into claiming the broader authority after industry lawsuits threw out earlier attempts to ensure net neutrality through less expansive powers. But that means it’s vulnerable to criticism from Republicans who think it overreached.

TIME 2016 Election

Five 2016 Republicans Oppose Net Neutrality

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, listens to a question during an interview with Sean Hannity at (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, listens to a question during an interview with Sean Hannity at (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.

A rough consensus is emerging among the Republican presidential field against net neutrality.

Five major candidates for the 2016 nomination have come out against a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate how cable companies handle Internet speeds.

The FCC decision would prevent cable companies from creating “fast lanes” on the Internet, holding to the current system in which all web traffic is treated the same. President Obama and likely Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have backed the FCC’s moves on net neutrality.

The five Republican contenders, meantime, argued that the regulations are unnecessary at best and harmful to the free market at worst.

Here’s a look at what they said, in order from least to most opposed.

Gov. Scott Walker: “I think on that … the guiding principle should be freedom.” (The Hill)

Sen. Marco Rubio: “We are regulating where regulation is not needed. We are regulating based on speculation, regulating in search of a problem.” (The Hill)

Jeb Bush: “The idea of regulating access to the Internet with a 1934 law is one of the craziest ideas I’ve ever heard. … It’s not going to be good for consumers. It’s certainly not going to be good for innovation.” (TIME)

Sen. Ted Cruz: “‘Net neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” (Twitter)

Sen. Rand Paul: “These attempts to regulate the Internet are a direct attack on the freedom of information and an innovative market. The government needs to stay out of the way.” (Newsmax)

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