Washington, DC (July 15, 2016):  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) commends Comcast for partnering with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome Initiative  to  expand its Internet Essentials Program two million families living in public housing.

MMTC has previously recognized Comcast for the success of its Internet Essentials program, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband initiative for low-income families.  To date, the program has connected more than 600,000 low-income families, benefiting more than 2.4 million Americans.

“As we aim to close the digital divide, this is the kind of bold action that it will take to connect every American home without regard to socio-economic status,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “Our children and our future deserve nothing less.”  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (July 13, 2016):  Today, the Federal Communications Commission released a statement clarifying a response FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made during yesterday’s FCC oversight hearing.  When asked about a proposal by the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) in the Quadrennial Review order – which would extend the cable procurement requirements to broadcasters and other regulated communications industries – Chairman Wheeler suggested that “the Commission must be careful in determining whether that action would be reviewed under the strict-scrutiny standard, and if so whether it could satisfy that standard.”

MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan has issued the following response:

“MMTC has reviewed the FCC staff’s clarification of the Chairman’s comments at yesterday’s FCC Oversight Hearing.  We urge the Chairman to affirm that the broad outreach of the MVPD Procurement Rule is not subject to ‘strict scrutiny.’  We stand in support of the July 12, 2016, letter from Congresswoman Clarke and Congressmen Rush and Butterfield requesting that the MVPD Procurement Rule, adopted and implemented under the 1992 Cable Act, be extended to all communications industries, with a referral to GAO for Title I information services.”  [click to continue…]

Protect My Free DataWashington, DC (June 24, 2016):  Today, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) launched an online and nationwide campaign to preserve zero rating and free data practices for consumers, especially for those who are economically disadvantaged.  The campaign is designed to engage and inform the public on the zero rating debate, and to provide a conduit for those who are impacted most by free data plans to have their voices heard in the national discussion.

Zero rating, the practice by which mobile carriers offer data access to some websites and content at no charge to customer data plans, provides tremendous benefits to low-income consumers who can more effectively use their mobile data to access quality of life applications such as employment, healthcare, and educational content.  In its online call to action, MMTC is asking consumers across the country to contact the Federal Communications Commission, urging the agency to keep their mobile data free, particularly in light of the increasing demand for robust audio and video streaming services.

MMTC started this campaign in March when it released a White Paper that examined the zero-rated plans offered by the four major mobile carriers and the impacts and benefits for consumers.  In the White Paper, MMTC acknowledged that “zero-rating and other free data practices are poised to play key roles in helping to close the digital divide by addressing cost concerns and strengthening the value proposition offered to skeptical non-users, two key considerations for the millions of Americans who remain offline.”  [click to continue…]

DuJuan_McCoyWashington, DC (June 20, 2016):  DuJuan McCoy, a 27-year broadcast veteran, will add two broadcast affiliates to his Bayou City Broadcasting group – NBC and FOX affiliates KADN and KLAF in Lafayette, LA – after closing on a $40 million transaction with Nexstar Broadcasting.  McCoy already owns WEVV-CBS and WEEV-LD FOX in Evansville, and is now the only African American in the country to own, operate, and retain 100 percent responsibility for every element of operating four Big-Four network affiliates.

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) co-brokered the deal for Nexstar and considers this a tremendous success story, both for McCoy and for MMTC’s advocacy and media brokerage, as the fight continues to increase the nation’s precipitously low media ownership diversity.

McCoy maintains independent minority control over all day-to-day operations and exemplifies a strong track record of success as a minority broadcast veteran.  Historically, due to systemic discrimination and unconscious bias, lenders are less likely to fund minorities and women – but Bayou City raised its own capital to fund its initial television station acquisition through a local San Angelo regional bank. McCoy continues to receive support from the financial community as Bayou City Broadcasting maintains control and independence in every aspect of its operation.  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (June 14, 2016):  Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order reclassifying broadband as a utility.

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) filed a brief in the Court’s proceeding and is reviewing today’s ruling. We hope that the decision will be interpreted to facilitate free data and other innovations that maintain affordable and accessible broadband service for all.  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (May 25, 2016):  Today, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Prometheus Radio Project v. Federal Communications Commission castigated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its failure to act on the definition of “small disadvantaged business enterprises” (SDBs) that would be eligible to benefit from FCC diversity initiatives.  The Court directed the FCC to enter into a mediation aimed at creating a new definition of these “eligible entities” and gave a clear warning that if the Commission does not come up with a workable deadline for establishing a new definition of “eligible entities,” it will step in.

The FCC has promised studies on minority and female ownership for more than two decades, and the Court directed the Commission to finally take action, stating that if the FCC “needs more data” to find a definition that will improve minority ownership, “it must get it.”

The Court also extracted from the FCC a promise to address 24 MMTC minority ownership proposals.  The Court expects the FCC to circulate an order ruling on these proposals in June.  Some of MMTC’s proposals have been pending before the FCC for over a decade.

“Justice delayed is not justice denied. After 12 years of FCC delay, at last a definition that would advance minority broadcast ownership appears to be within reach,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “We are encouraged that the Third Circuit wants to give relief to multicultural owners in the clear future rather than some distant, unknown future.”

MMTC looks forward to working with the FCC to develop a timeline within the court-ordered 60-day timeframe to make sure that the long-awaited studies are completed.  [click to continue…]

TV Remote Set TopWashington, DC (May 24, 2016):  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has filed reply comments in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Set-Top Box Proceeding, stressing its concern and highlighting alarm raised by many on the impact of the proposal put forth in the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and citing tremendous consequences for diverse and independent programmers.  Nine other national civil rights organizations (the Coalition) joined MMTC as signers on the comments.[1]

The Coalition holds that the evidence on record in the Commission’s proceeding strongly validates its concerns that the NPRM’s proposal would jeopardize the viability of diverse voices.  The Coalition cites communities of color and “actual producers of diverse and independent programming” who have warned the Commission that “the proposal would jeopardize their ability to establish and expand their businesses, or even to continue in business at all.”  The Coalition goes on to further warn, “The FCC must not dismiss these arguments.”  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (May 9, 2016): Today, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) released a white paper on zero-rating, the practice by mobile carriers of offering data access to some websites and content at no charge to customer data plans. The paper, titled Understanding and Appreciating Zero-Rating: The Use and Impact of Free Data in the Mobile Broadband Sector, examines the zero-rated plans offered by the four major mobile carriers and the impacts and benefits for consumers.

The paper assesses the impacts of free data plans in five key areas: (1) the digital divide, (2) consumers who rely on mobile broadband connectivity, (3) mobile broadband business model experimentation, (4) innovation in the mobile ecosystem, and (5) consumer empowerment. In each of the five areas assessed, MMTC found that the benefits and impacts of free data are profound and wide-ranging. Benefits abound at both the industry level and consumer level, including bringing more people online, bolstering the uses and experiences of those who rely on mobile broadband connections, and supporting more vibrant and robust innovation in the mobile ecosystem.

The paper also addresses concerns that frame free data offerings as contrary to the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order. The Commission initially lauded the free data programs but later adopted a more skeptical approach. MMTC concludes that “free data remains vulnerable to the capricious political winds that are increasingly shaping the broadband ecosystem,” adding that “[p]remature or unnecessary intervention by an entity like the FCC would likely chill further experimentation with offerings such as free data, an outcome that would prove devastating to consumers and contrary to the innovative ethos that has long permeated the U.S. wireless space.”  [click to continue…]

The following op-ed is by Former FCC Bureau Chief and MMTC Board Member Deborah Lathen. The original post is available on Broadcasting and Cable.

Innovation may move at the speed of light, but the agency charged with overseeing much of that innovation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), simply does not.

That hasn’t changed since 1998 when I was chief of its Cable Services Bureau charged with drafting the first cable set-top box order. At the time, the FCC voted to “unlock the box” by requiring companies to separate the security feature that protects encrypted, copyrighted content from the box itself. The hope was that separating security and the box would spur lots of different companies to build boxes consumers could buy from Circuit City, Radio Shack or Crazy Eddie.

Here’s the problem: The FCC policy never really took with consumers.  Only a few thousand cable customers ever bought a box with the FCC’s fix. Finally, in 2015, Congress got rid of the integration ban. Over the years there were various failed attempts at a better solution to making the box commercially available, but the box ceased to be a high priority on the FCC’s agenda.

Now, in an inexplicable bout of déjà vu, a lame-duck FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, is making another run at creating a market for set-top boxes through a catchy sales pitch, “Expanding Consumers’ Video, Navigation Choices—Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices.”  The cable industry and Hollywood say this FCC proceeding is a giveaway to Silicon Valley. It requires programmers to allow behemoths like Google access to their proprietary content that can be streamlined, repackaged, and wrapped around new packages of advertising. [click to continue…]

Set-Top BoxWashington, DC (April 26, 2016):  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has filed comments in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Set-Top Box Proceeding, urging the Commission to reconsider its proposal due to the adverse unintended consequences for diverse and independent programmers.  Nine other national civil rights organizations (the MMTC Coalition) joined MMTC as signers on the comments.[1]

“The Commission is promoting a model that hands over the hard work of diverse programmers and content creators to companies that will profit from their work without compensating them,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “The Commission should not place its finger on the scale and pick winners and losers in this proceeding, with diverse content creators and distributors clearly on the losing end.  We urge the Commission to pause this proceeding and conduct evidentiary studies on the impact of the set top box proposal on diversity, privacy, and cost to consumers.”

The MMTC Coalition recommends that the Commission pause its set-top proceeding in order to conduct several crucial evidentiary studies.  Specifically, the MMTC Coalition urges the Commission to:

  • Conduct an empirical study exploring the proposal’s impact on diverse content, diverse ownership, and the visibility of diverse faces on-screen
  • Analyze the likely increased costs to consumers under the proposal
  • Assess the proposal’s impact on consumer privacy protections

[click to continue…]