April 30 2021

This Week in Washington

The Washington Post The Technology 202: Kamala Harris will lead the Biden administration’s push to bring every American online
Vice President Harris will lead the Biden administration’s unprecedented effort to ensure every American has access to affordable, high-speed Internet. President Biden announced the veep would take the lead on the issue during his first address to a slimmed-down joint session of Congress, where he touted his proposal to create new jobs through investment in expanding Internet access.

The Hill Lawmakers call for increasing the budget of key federal cybersecurity agency
A pair of House lawmakers are urging legislators to appropriate more funding for a key federal cybersecurity agency after a year in which cyber threats skyrocketed. Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) sent a letter, provided to The Hill on Monday, to the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee asking them to carve out at least $400 million in additional funding for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) upcoming budget allocation.

TechCrunch At social media hearing, lawmakers circle algorithm-focused Section 230 reform
Rather than a CEO-slamming sound bite free-for-all, Tuesday’s big tech hearing on algorithms aimed for more of a listening session vibe — and in that sense it mostly succeeded. The hearing centered on testimony from the policy leads at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter rather than the chief executives of those companies for a change. The resulting few hours didn’t offer any massive revelations but was still probably more productive than squeezing some of the world’s most powerful men for their commitments to “get back to you on that.”

The Hill Senate Intelligence panel working on legislation around mandatory cyber breach notification
The Senate Intelligence Committee is working on a bill to create some form of limited data breach mandatory reporting for the private sector, with the goal of preventing future major foreign cyberattacks on critical organizations. Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Tuesday that the legislation had grown out of public and private hearings held by the committee following the SolarWinds breach, which was believed to be carried out by Russian hackers and compromised nine federal agencies.

The Washington Post Lawmakers want to create a reserve corps of cybersecurity experts to respond to the next SolarWinds
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to create a National Guard-like program to address growing cybersecurity vulnerabilities faced by the U.S. government. Legislation introduced today would pilot two separate reserves of trained cybersecurity professionals for the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department, according to bill text shared with The Cybersecurity 202.

Bloomberg Biden’s Broadband Plan Is Bold but Economic Payoff Unclear
Joe Biden is betting $100 billion he can deliver a lifeline to rural America, and a boost to the economy overall, by making high-speed internet available to all Americans. It seems obvious the plan would help millions, especially in agrarian states where the Democratic party’s support is weakest.

Reuters U.S. antitrust senators query Google over testimony meddling concerns
U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee sent a letter to Google on Tuesday saying they were “deeply troubled” by what they called a possible attempt to influence witness testimony following a statement at a congressional hearing by a Match executive. During the hearing, Match’s Chief Legal Officer Jared Sine said a Google executive had called Match to ask why Sine’s planned testimony, which had just been released, deviated from previous comments the dating company had made.

FedScoop Senators urge ‘flexibility’ administering Technology Modernization Fund
A group of Democratic senators is the latest to urge the administrators of the Technology Modernization Fund to increase staffing levels, adjust project selection criteria and reconsider repayment terms for agencies. In a letter sent to the Office of Management and Budget, General Services Administration, and TMF Board, the lawmakers encourage the organizations to use the “flexibility” of the Modernizing Government Technology Act to quickly replace outdated systems and improve cybersecurity.

Axios Congress drags algorithms out of the shadows
Tech platforms have built the heart of their businesses around secretive computer algorithms, and lawmakers and regulators now want to know just what’s inside those black boxes. Why it matters: Algorithms, formulas for computer-based decision making, are responsible for what we get shown on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – and, increasingly, for choices companies make about who gets a loan or parole or a spot at a college.

Article Summary

USA Today Looking to level up? Amazon, Google, Microsoft and more offer training programs
As glimmers of hope driven by increased vaccinations and an improving economic environment get people thinking more about their future, many are in the process of evaluating their current work situations. In fact, recent studies suggest that the pandemic has driven more people to contemplate job changes than has been witnessed in a long time. One seemingly obvious target for many people is a job in the tech industry. After all, tech companies not only survived but thrived in the pandemic and most people realize that our reliance on tech-related products and services (and the companies that supply them) are only going to grow over time.

Axios The world regulates Big Tech while U.S. dithers
Tech giants are facing increasingly hostile foreign governments that are taxing their profits, attempting to halt their acquisitions, labeling them as monopolies and passing laws to limit their powers. Big Tech’s international policy challenges mean companies are positioning themselves for regulatory fights overseas while the U.S. is still struggling to figure out what it wants to do.

The Associated Press New Mexico to fund blimp broadband study for rural internet
New Mexico is finalizing a $3.2 million contract to a dirigible manufacturer to study the viability of distributing high-speed internet from above the ground instead of underneath it, officials confirmed Tuesday. Details of the contract to Sceye, pronounced “sky,” are still in the works, says Economic Development Department spokesman Bruce Krasnow. The company calls its silver, blimp-shaped, remotely controlled balloons “stratospheric platforms.” For the internet study, they’ll be launched well below the stratosphere, around 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the ground.

The New York Times Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes
At a confab for tech and media moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July 2019, Timothy D. Cook of Apple and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook sat down to repair their fraying relationship. For years, the chief executives had met annually at the conference, which was held by the investment bank Allen & Company, to catch up. But this time, Facebook was grappling with a data privacy scandal.

The Associated Press Maine gov: Expanding high-speed internet critical for state
Maine’s governor told a legislative committee on Tuesday that the creation of a new connectivity authority would help bring affordable broadband to all corners of the state. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills told the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology that the bipartisan proposal would bring high-speed internet to parts of the state that desperately need it. She unveiled the proposal on Monday.

The New York Times A Look at Covid-19 Vaccine ‘Passports,’ Passes and Apps Around the Globe
It is the latest status symbol. Flash it at the people, and you can get access to concerts, sports arenas or long-forbidden restaurant tables. Someday, it may even help you cross a border without having to quarantine. The new platinum card of the Covid age is the vaccine certificate. It is a document that has existed for more than two centuries, but it has rarely promised to hold so much power over culture and commerce. Many versions of these certificates now come with a digital twist.

The Verge SpaceX wins approval for lower Starlink orbits, overcoming rival objections
The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday granted SpaceX approval to operate 2,814 Starlink satellites in lower orbits than originally planned, handing a win to Elon Musk’s satellite internet project. The decision delivered a partial defeat over its competitors, like Amazon and OneWeb, which sought to thwart the tweak over concerns it would create harmful frequency interference and ramp up risks of satellite collisions.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on State Laws to Regulate Drone Usage
    Multiple states have introduced legislation to regulate drone operation by handing more power over to local authorities and imposing new rules and fees on drone usage. Legislation in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and West Virginia would give power to either the state Department of Transportation (DOT) or local governments to authorize and regulate drone operation in “avigation easements,” a term that describes the right to use airspace over a property. These proposals risk creating a patchwork of no-fly zones for drones, or even worse, toll roads in the sky, that could limit commercial use of the technology. (ITIF Blog – State Laws Would Put the Brakes on Drone Adoption and InnovationApril 28, 2021)