April 16 2021

This Week in Washington

The Hill Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks
Key lawmakers on Monday expressed support for President Biden’s picks to lead federal efforts on securing the nation against cyber threats. Biden announced plans to nominate former National Security Agency Deputy Director Chris Inglis to fill the newly created role of national cyber director at the White House. He also named Jen Easterly as his pick to serve as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The Verge The FCC wants you to test your internet speeds with its new app
The Federal Communications Commission has released a new speed test app to help measure internet speeds across the country, available on both Android and iOS. The FCC Speed Test App works similarly to existing speed-testing apps like Ookla’s and Fast by Netflix, automatically collecting and displaying data once users press the “start testing” button. According to the FCC, the data collected through the app will inform the agency’s efforts to collect more accurate broadband speed information and aid its broadband deployment efforts.

NextGov Biden Budget Requests Major Investments for Federal Technology and Cybersecurity
President Joe Biden sent his first discretionary funding request to Congress Friday, outlining a $1.5 trillion spending roadmap that includes cash infusions to the Technology Modernization Fund and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as well as “$750 million as a reserve for Federal agency information technology enhancements.”

Roll Call Is broadband infrastructure? Republicans used to think so
The debate in Congress over President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan has featured a clean, simple attack line from Republicans: Most of the money wouldn’t really go to infrastructure. Of course, that depends entirely on how you define infrastructure. For their purposes, Republicans are opting for a classic definition, seeking to limit the scope to things like roads and bridges.

CNET A Supreme Court Justice weighs in on Section 230: Here’s what it means
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has fired a warning shot at social media giants Facebook and Twitter that could signal the possibility of stricter regulation and a potential radical shift in thinking around the First Amendment and the hotly debated topic of Section 230.

Axios Exclusive: Hawley unveils “trust-busting” plan
Corporate giants would be barred from acquisitions and century-old antitrust laws would get sharper teeth under a new proposal by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) shared exclusively with Axios. Hawley is among the Senate’s most conservative members, but his attack on corporate power wouldn’t sound out of place on Elizabeth Warren’s or Bernie Sanders’ agenda.

Ars Technica 100,000 people ask Biden, will ya break that 2-2 FCC deadlock already?
Over 105,000 people have signed a petition urging President Biden to quickly break the Federal Communications Commission’s 2-2 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans. Senate Republicans created the 2-2 deadlock in December 2020 by confirming a Trump nominee during the lame-duck session before Democrats took control of the White House and Senate. If not for that confirmation, the FCC would have had a 2-1 Democratic majority heading into Biden’s presidency.

TechRepublic $152 billion for job training in Biden’s infrastructure plan could help with the tech worker shortage
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan is a chance to rethink job training and make workforce education more relevant to employers and easier for individuals to access, according to several experts. Biden wants Congress to invest in evidence-based job training programs that include related support services and partnerships with educational institutions, unions and employers.

NextGov Pentagon Not Compromised by SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange Hacks, Official Says
The Department of Defense has observed no indication of compromise from cyber intrusions related to SolarWinds or Microsoft Exchange servers, DOD Senior Information Security Officer David McKeown told senators. McKeown testified along with National Security Agency Cybersecurity Directorate Director Rob Joyce and Senior Military Advisor for Cyber Policy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Rear Adm. William Chase III before the Senate Armed Services’ subcommittee on cybersecurity Wednesday.

Article Summary

NBC News Parents were at the end of their chain – then ransomware hit their kids’ schools
The ransomware attack on her daughter’s school was the last thing Glynnis Sanders needed. Like most parents, Sanders has been performing a daily juggling act. When she’s not teaching special education classes at Buffalo Public Schools, she and her husband are usually making sure their three kids are attending their remote classes.

Protocol As schools experiment to close the homework gap, will new E-rate funding help?
The COVID crisis has highlighted both the severity of the so-called “homework gap” and the shortcomings of early remedies like mobile hotspots and even low-cost home broadband plans. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, schools and cities across the country are increasingly testing novel ways to get students connected, not just for the duration of the pandemic, but for the long term.

ZDNet Cybersecurity: Victims are spotting cyberattacks much more quickly – but there’s a catch
The amount of time cyber criminals are spending inside compromised networks is dropping. But while that might sound like a positive development, one reason hackers are spending less time inside networks is because of the surge in ransomware attacks. Researchers at cybersecurity company FireEye Mandiant analysed hundreds of cyber incidents and found that the global median dwell time – the duration between the start of a security intrusion and when it’s identified – has dropped to below a month for the first time, standing at 24 days.

Inverse When will Starlink be available globally? SpaceX is about to hit a big goal
Starlink is set to go worldwide sooner or later. SpaceX’s internet connectivity constellation promises high speed and low latency internet almost anywhere with a view of the sky, powered by a large number of satellites orbiting closer to the Earth than competing constellations. Following a recent announcement, we did a little digging and it turns out Starlink may reach its ambitious global coverage goals this summer.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Justice Thomas’ Comments on Social Media
    On April 5, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas kicked off a new round of debate on the right way to regulate social media companies with a thoughtful and creative piece of legal scholarship. His key point is that First Amendment review by the courts might very well uphold a state or federal statute that treated social media platforms as common carriers or places of public accommodation and restricted their ability to remove content on their systems based on political point of view. He did this in the form of a non-binding concurring opinion in the Supreme Court decision dismissing as moot a lawsuit against former president Donald Trump over his blocking of some Twitter followers. (TechTank – Justice Thomas sends a message on social media regulation, April 9, 2021)

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

  • Op-ed on Government Regulation
    It is not news to even the most casual political observer that hypocrisy abounds in Washington, D.C. Politicians routinely shift with the political winds while American families and businesses are left helplessly flapping in those partisan breezes. On no issue in recent years has this been more evident than “big tech” companies. More specifically on the issues of net neutrality and social media regulation, the two major parties have swapped almost identical sets of talking points. (Taxpayers Protection Alliance Blog – Congressional Big Tech Hypocrisy, April 12, 2021)

American Action Forum

  • Report on the American Jobs Plan and the Digital Divide
    The Biden Administration’s recently announced $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan (AJP) proposes $100 billion to expand broadband to ensure every American has access to high-speed internet. Improving connectivity and reaching those currently without internet access, a problem commonly known as the “digital divide,” has become a priority for policymakers on both sides of the aisle. While the AJP leaves many details unaddressed, it does focus on encouraging government-run broadband networks and applies a definition of broadband using higher speeds for both uploads and download than is typical. (AAF Insight – The American Jobs Plan Is the Wrong Solution to the Digital Divide, April 13, 2021)