Executive Briefing March 26 2021

THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON

Wall Street Journal FCC Chief in Charge of America’s 5G Rollout Confronts a Long To-Do List
Mobile devices cover the modern world with billions of wireless signals, a figure expected to grow several-fold once 5G technology is commonplace. Orchestrating that digital symphony often falls to regulators. Government officials write rules to ensure that Wi-Fi-connected laptops, 5G-enabled smartphones, television broadcasts and internet-beaming satellites can work without drowning out other signals. And few regulators hold more sway than Jessica Rosenworcel, the acting chief of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The Washington Post DHS official promises help for states struggling with digital attacks on critical services
State and local governments have been begging the government for more resources since they are on the front lines of a growing number of cyberattacks that lock up the computer systems of government services even more critical in a pandemic – including hospitals, schools and benefit distribution systems. A surge in efforts by hackers holding data hostage in exchange for a fee has become a top concern for the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division, its acting director now says.

Protocol Mark Warner is ready to fight for Section 230 reform
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said during a panel discussion that he has had conversations with Biden’s staff about Section 230 reform and he believes the administration is open to conversations about how to find internet reforms that give people an “internet where people can express their views, but not in a way that violates people’s civil rights.” He also said that “there’s still a question as to where the locus of technology policy is going to fall,” but that he hopes “it falls at the White House.”

Axios Exclusive: Key House Republican says he won’t take Big Tech money
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), the lead Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, will stop accepting donations from Google, Facebook and Amazon, he said Wednesday. Why it matters: Buck (R-Co.) is declining Big Tech donations as regulatory scrutiny on tech companies heats up in Washington. Generally, tech companies give to individual candidates through their political action committees. Many of those PACs are currently on pause following the Capitol riots.

PCMag Got Terrible Internet Speeds? The FCC Wants to Hear About It
If you’ve long struggled with slow broadband speeds, the FCC wants to hear about it. The agency is now collecting input from US consumers concerning actual broadband availability where they live, rather than merely relying on data from internet service providers. “Far too many Americans are left behind in access to jobs, education, and healthcare if they do not have access to broadband,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

The Hill House lawmakers fired up for hearing with tech CEOs
The CEOs of the country’s biggest social media platforms will testify Thursday before a Congress eager to press them on their roles spreading misinformation related to coronavirus and the leadup to the deadly insurrection at the Capitol in January. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Google’s Sundar Pichai will appear remotely in front of two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees set to take a markedly different tone from previous hearings.

Axios Key Democrat: Time to write new laws for tech
As lawmakers prepare for a hearing Thursday with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google, the leader of the House Energy & Commerce Committee tells Axios that the question isn’t whether to regulate tech companies, but how. Why it matters: Democrats, empowered in Congress and enraged by misinformation over vaccines and the election, agree it’s time to legislate on tech policy, including updating the key law that shields them from liability from user-generated content.

Reuters U.S. DOJ accuses Google of dragging its feet in antitrust trial
The U.S. Department of Justice accused Google of dragging its feet in providing documents in preparation for a trial on allegations that it broke antitrust law while the search and advertising giant said the government was being unreasonable. In a joint filing late Thursday, the Justice Department said that Alphabet’s Google had balked at some search terms that the government wanted it to use to locate relevant documents.

Politico Biden taps tech antitrust advocate Lina Khan for FTC, in yet another bad omen for Silicon Valley
President Joe Biden tapped Lina Khan, a Columbia Law School professor known for her anti-monopoly views, to serve on the Federal Trade Commission. Khan was one of the aides who worked on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee’s 16-month investigation into competition among large tech companies, including Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

ARTICLE SUMMARY

NBC News Big Tech’s critics have organized for years. Now, some are speaking with one voice.
A group of 38 advocacy organizations and nonprofits, including Common Sense Media, the American Economic Liberties Project and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, have launched a new coalition calling for a ban on “surveillance advertising,” or online advertising powered by personal data and behavioral habits. The groups signed a letter saying that such technology has enabled radicalization and stokes “discrimination, division, and delusion.”

Multichannel News Tom Wheeler to Hill: 1 Gig Needed to Bridge Digital Chasm
Former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has told Congress what he thinks the definition of lack of broadband access should be, a definition he argues Congress should use for handing out $100 billion-plus in broadband subsidies, subsidies that should make symmetrical (the same upload and download speeds) 1 gigabit (Gbps) service a priority.

Fortune Cybercriminals are increasingly selling forged vaccination certificates on the darknet
As demand for COVID-19 vaccines increases and people become frustrated with delays in getting their shots, there’s a growing market for forged vaccination cards. A new report from Check Point Research says there has been a surge in fake vaccination certificates online, via the darknet. Users send their details and $200 to hackers and, in return, receive an official-looking vaccination card.

Axios The pandemic’s unexpected privacy pitfalls
Americans’ rush to move all aspects of their lives online during the pandemic – classes, meetings, legal proceedings, shopping and more – left many vulnerable to exposure, exploitation and fraud. Why it matters: The digital environment wasn’t always ready to deal with newcomers’ privacy and security needs.

CNET Comcast to invest $1 billion over next decade to help close digital divide
Comcast will invest $1 billion over the next decade to help address the digital divide among low-income Americans. The company announced Wednesday its plan to continue investment in its Internet Essentials program as it marks the 10th anniversary of the effort this year. Comcast said it’ll put that $1 billion toward a number of initiatives, including supporting its new Lift Zone effort, which establishes Wi-Fi connections in public spaces such as community centers.

TechCrunch SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites, making 240 launched this month alone
SpaceX has added yet more Starlink satellites to its existing constellation on orbit, with a successful delivery of 60 spacecraft this morning from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission used a Falcon 9 with a flight-prove booster that served on five previous launches, and a cargo fairing cover made up of two re-used halves from past flights.

THINK TANK/TECH TRADE ASSOCIATION HIGHLIGHTS

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on Digital Infrastructure
    After Congress passed its $2 trillion COVID relief and stimulus package, it is turning its sights to an infrastructure package, with President Biden calling for $3 trillion in federal spending in two packages: the first focused on physical infrastructure and the second on social spending, including free community college, universal prekindergarten and a national paid leave program. Many argue that spending on physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, water systems, etc.) drives long-term economic growth. (ITIF Blog – It’s the 2020s: The Infrastructure Bill Should Focus on Digital InfrastructuresMarch 24, 2021)

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

  • Statement on California’s Net Neutrality Law
    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) opposes the effort of California to impose its own self-styled “net neutrality” law. Instead of providing solutions, this law will create problems for California businesses and consumers, as well as those beyond its borders. Today, AT&T announced it will suspend certain free data programs for customers because of California’s restrictive internet regulations. (Taxpayers Protection Alliance Blog – California Net Neutrality Law Says If You Like Your Plan, You Can’t Keep ItMarch 17, 2021)


Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.