Ep. 74: Don’t Let Politics Sabotage Lifeline Broadband Subsidies for the Poor with Carmen Scurato
Carmen Scurato (@CarmenScurato) is Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC). As a native of Puerto Rico, Carmen is a passionate advocate for policies that address the needs of the Latino community. Prior to joining NHMC, Carmen worked as a contractor for the Department of Justice and assisted in investigations alleging financial fraud against federal agencies and federal healthcare programs. Most notably, Carmen helped recoup millions of dollars in a national False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit alleging Medicare fraud. She also worked at the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs on large document requests received from Congressional oversight committees. Carmen earned her J.D. from Villanova University School of Law where she was an Associate Editor for the Villanova Law Review and a Co-Chair of the Honor Board. She also participated in Lawyering Together, a pro bono program that pairs student with attorneys to assist low income clients with their legal needs. She worked closely with an attorney to foster open communication with the client by acting as a Spanish-to-English translator. Carmen received her B.A. cum laude from New York University where she majored in both History and Political Science. Her History Honor thesis was entitled Preserving the Puerto Rican Culture after 1898: The Realization of a National Culture in the Face of Americanization.
In this episode, we discussed:
- the history and policy objectives of the Lifeline program and its prospects under the Trump administration.
The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
President Trump has officially named Ajit Pai as the 34th Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Pai has served as an FCC Commissioner since 2012, following stints as a Partner at Jenner & Block, and various roles at the FCC, Department of Justice, Senate Judiciary Committee and as an Associate General Counsel at Verizon. He clerked for Judge Martin Feldman in the Eastern District of Louisiana and is a graduate of Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School. Pai, a Republican from Kansas, has also endorsed Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.
The Trump administration is planning to cut $741 million in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment of the Arts, according to a report by Christina Marcos (@cimarcos) in The Hill. The plan would be to abolish the NEH and NEA and privatize CPB. Conservatives have long opposed funding these programs because they have considered them to be too controversial and examples of unnecessary government spending. Donald Trump, however, has expressed support for arts education, and Vice President Pence received a Champion of Public Broadcasting award in 2014.
Jon Brodkin at Ars Technica and John Eggerton at Multichannel News reported last week that the Trump transition team is considering an overhaul of the FCC which would remove “duplicative” functions within the agency, such as consumer protection, to other agencies, such as the FTC. Eggerton reports that the transition team has signed off on the approach. However, Jon Brodkin notes that any overhaul to the FCC would require Congressional approval.
The Trump administration will be keeping U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle Lee on board following speculation as to whether Director Lee would step down. The Obama appointee’s views align with companies like Google which have been pushing for stronger policies to thwart patent trolls. Lee attended Stanford Law School at the same time as Trump supporter Peter Thiel. Ali Breland has the story in the Hill.
Andrew Chung in Reuters reports that the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by women who sued BackPage.com for child sexual abuse trafficking. The lower court had held that BackPage.com, which accepts classified ads from third parties, was shielded from liability under the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which offers free speech protection for websites when others post unlawful content. The women allege that, starting at age 15, Backpage.com facilitated their engagement in forced, illegal sex transactions with pimps who advertised on Backpage.com. Backpage shut down its adult classifieds section two weeks ago following a Senate report showing evidence that supports the women’s allegations.
Before leaving office, former President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. Manning is a transgendered woman and former Army Soldier named Bradley Manning who has been serving a 35 year sentence in a male security prison for disclosing 750,000 pages in secret government documents to WikiLeaks. Manning also released a video showing a U.S. helicopter attacking civilians and journalists in Iraq in 2007. Manning’s sentence will expire on May 17th. Unlike Edward Snowden who is living at a secret location in Moscow, the information Manning released was not considered Top Secret. Laura Jarrett has the story for CNN.
A coalition of 77 social justice groups–including the Center for Media Justice, Color of Change and DailyKos–sent a letter to Facebook Director of Global Policy Joel Kaplan last week asking the company stop discriminating against posts made by Movement for Black Lives activists. The coalition wrote “Activists in the Movement for Black Lives have routinely reported the takedown of images discussing racism and during protests, with the justification that it violates Facebook’s Community Standards. At the same time, harassment and threats directed at activists based on their race, religion, and sexual orientation is thriving on Facebook. Many of these activists have reported such harassment and threats by users and pages on Facebook only to be told that they don’t violate Facebook’s Community Standards.”
Before leaving the FCC Chairmanship to join the Aspen Institute, Tom Wheeler accused AT&T and Verizon of violating the net neutrality rules with their so-called “zero-rating” programs which allow customers to access preferred content without affecting their data caps. But FCC Chair Ajit Pai issued a release calling the FCC’s report a “regulatory spasm” and saying the issue will be dropped under Trump. —
Finally, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez has announced her resignation. She will leave the agency effective February 10th. Ramirez has served at the agency since 2010 and became Chairwoman in 2013.