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A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Broadband access in tribal areas is likely even worse than previously thought because Federal Communications Commission data overstates deployment. Now it seems like we need to be worried about government data going away AND the veracity of government data.
“BROADBAND INTERNET: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands”. GAO-18-630. September 2018.
The GAO report describes problems with the FCC’s Form 477 data collection, in which Internet providers submit deployment data to the commission twice a year.
The FCC provides subsidies to carriers to deploy broadband in areas where access is limited, such as through the Connect America Fund. Inaccurate data “could affect FCC’s funding decisions and the ability of tribal lands to access broadband in the future,” the GAO wrote.
“[The] FCC considers broadband to be ‘available’ for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block. This leads to overstatements of service for specific locations like tribal lands,” the GAO wrote.
Moreover, the “FCC does not collect information on several factors—such as affordability, quality, and denials of service—that FCC and tribal stakeholders stated can affect the extent to which Americans living on tribal lands can access broadband services,” the GAO wrote.
The FCC also “does not have a formal process to obtain tribal input on the accuracy of provider-submitted broadband data,” the report said. About half of tribal stakeholders interviewed by the GAO said it’s difficult to get information about broadband deployment directly from providers.
Last week, Congress passed and sent a bill to the President that will greatly decrease individual privacy and cybersecurity (for more, see Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) “Five Ways Cybersecurity Will Suffer If Congress Repeals the FCC Privacy Rules”). S.J.Res. 34: A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, submitted by the FCC relating to “Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services” will roll back the FCC regulation passed last year that required Internet service providers (ISPs) — like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, Cox, and CenturyLink — to hold all Internet browsing data, as well as data regarding app usage on mobile devices, to the same privacy requirements as sensitive or private personal information. The Republican-controlled Congress repealed those privacy-protecting rules, and the President is set to sign the bill any day now. BTW, none of the big ISPs have publicly supported the rule change, but a group of Small ISPs wrote a public letter to Congress opposing Congress’s Move to Abolish Privacy Protections — including, I’m happy to say, MY awesome local ISP called MonkeyBrains! So if you’re concerned about your Internet privacy rights, I’d definitely recommend getting off of Comcast et al and signing up with one of the ISPs that signed the letter. Do it ASAP!
While it’s unclear if this will be possible or even legal, there has been a crop of FundMe and Kickstarter projects springing up to collect $$ to purchase Congress’ browsing history and make it public in retaliation for Congress killing Internet privacy rules. And I just found that our friends at GovTrack.US have just made public a running tally in real time of “any time someone visits GovTrack.us from within the United States Senate, House of Representatives, or the White House, and their associated office buildings.” GovTrack is following the lead of the CongressEdits twitter feed, making a public record of Congress’ moves and actions across the Intertubes.
In March 2017 the U.S. Congress passed a bill that rolled back regulations prohibiting Internet service providers from selling subscribers’ browsing habits to advertisers. Since browsing history metadata is no big deal to Congress, we began publishing the browsing history of anyone visting GovTrack.us from Congress’s and the White House’s office buildings.
Politico reports that Congress is set to cancel the privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established in December. The rule is intended to to implement the Congressional requirement that "telecommunications carriers protect the confidentiality of customer proprietary information."
TICK, TOCK ON CRA – Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune said Tuesday the votes to rescind the FCC broadband privacy rules under the Congressional Review Act are being "whipped as we speak," and he expects the resolution will have the support it needs "in the end." Thune also said a vote on the CRA could come as early as this week…. "We’re very committed to continuing to go down that path of using the Congressional Review Act resolutions of disapproval to undo a lot of what we think is the regulatory damage done by the previous administration," Thune told reporters. [POLITICO’s Morning Tech, 03/22/2017].
S.J.Res.34 would cancel the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule relating to "Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services" (81 Fed. Reg. 87274 (December 2, 2016)).
From the rule summary:
The rules require carriers to provide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers; obtain opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share sensitive or non-sensitive customer proprietary information, respectively; take reasonable measures to secure customer proprietary information; provide notification to customers, the Commission, and law enforcement in the event of data breaches that could result in harm; not condition provision of service on the surrender of privacy rights; and provide heightened notice and obtain affirmative consent when offering financial incentives in exchange for the right to use a customer’s confidential information.
InfoWorld reports on the measures that the FCC under Ajit Pai and Republicans in Congress are taking to "to ensure nothing stands in the way of ISPs profiting off your personal data."
- All hope of broadband privacy bites the dust, by Caroline Craig, InfoWorld (Mar 10, 2017).
Pai and Ohlhausen said they favored having privacy oversight uniformly administered by the FTC. But they disingenuously failed to mention that the FTC is barred by statute from regulating common carriers—and the FCC reclassified broadband as a utility in 2015 in order to implement net neutrality rules. The FTC wrote the new privacy rules to close the gap in oversight the move created.
Affordable internet access is essential or people will not have adequate access to government information and egovernment services. In a move that reverses an Obama administration decision, the Trump administration FCC eliminated the designations of nine companies as providers of Lifeline broadband service. The Lifeline program provides low-income households with a monthly credit of $9.25 to use to buy internet service. The nine companies had been approved for the program and had begun relying on those designations.
FCC removes nine companies from Lifeline program, by Harper Neidig The Hill (02/03/17).