August 12 2022

This Week in Washington 

Fierce Telecom NTIA unleashes $1B in IIJA funding for Tribal broadband
Back in late 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) set aside $2 billion for Tribal Broadband. Now, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to get that money out the door. The agency announced this week that half of the total allotment will be used to make awards in a previously announced funding round for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which saw overwhelming demand for support last year. The most recent application window for the Tribal Connectivity Program was open from June to September 2021, with the agency planning to award a total of $980 million in support. But in December, the NTIA announced the program was massively oversubscribed, noting it received a total of 301 applications seeking more than $5.8 billion in funding for Tribal broadband projects. In a notice posted this week, the NTIA said it will add $1 billion from the IIJA allotment to the funding pot for that round, allowing it to award a total of $1.98 billion.

Wall Street Journal Federal Trade Commission Expected to Launch Effort to Expand Online Privacy Protection
The Federal Trade Commission is expected to begin writing federal rules to expand online privacy protections as soon as Thursday, according to people familiar with the matter. If adopted, the rules could impose significant new responsibilities on businesses that handle consumer data, including potentially barring certain kinds of data collection practices, the people said. The move is the latest indication of the five-member commission’s more aggressive posture under its chairwoman, Lina Khan, a Democrat who has been a vocal critic of big business, particularly large technology companies

GCN CISA issues cybersecurity toolkit for election officials
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a toolkit to help state and local officials manage threats to elections and improve their cybersecurity and resilience. The toolkit’s categories are designed to help election officials assess their cybersecurity risks using an Election Security Risk Profile Tool developed by CISA and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It also includes resources to help protect voter information, websites, email systems and networks as well as election workers against cyberattacks like phishing and ransomware. Election officials are directed to use the tools and services that correspond to the election infrastructure that needs to be secured. The toolkit lists various commercial solutions, which are categorized as being “basic” or “advanced.” It also offers links to CISA’s own services and training resources for election officials.

Axios CISA director plans proactive cybersecurity for at-risk companies
Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Jen Easterly says one of its most robust public-private partnerships is building ways to help critical infrastructure operators get ahead of cyberattacks, rather than respond. The congressionally mandated Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) inside CISA has spurred new excitement among private tech and cybersecurity companies who previously weren’t keen on working with the federal government on cybersecurity issues. Congress mandated CISA stand up the JCDC early last year to create an interagency hub where companies can work with the government to both plan for potential cyber threats and work together to respond to large-scale attacks.

Washington Post A new era of industrial policy kicks off with signing of the Chips Act
President Biden on Tuesday signed legislation providing $52 billion in subsidies to the semiconductor industry, kicking off what will be one of the largest industrial development programs the federal government has ever administered. The long-pursued bipartisan legislation looks set to spur construction of more than a half-dozen big semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the United States, providing more secure supplies of the tiny components that are so important to modern electronics that they are viewed as essential to national security. The bill also authorizes tens of billions of dollars to support federal research and development and regional tech start-ups, which the administration hopes will lead to commercial breakthroughs in new fields such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Congress must still appropriate those funds, however.

Multichannel News FCC Funding Broadband Subsidy Outreach
The Federal Communications Commission has voted unanimously to create an outreach program for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that will help fund efforts to get more eligible low-income residents to take advantage of the subsidy. The goal is to raise general awareness of the ACP, which provides $14.2 billion for low-income Americans. Also a part of the effort, the FCC voted Friday (Aug. 5) to create the one-year “Your Home, Your Internet” pilot program to boost awareness of and enrollment in the ACP in households receiving federal housing assistance. While more than 13 million low-income residents are already benefiting from the program, the FCC said, millions more who could take advantage are not doing so. The FCC said that was not for lack of trying given that its staff have engaged in “extensive outreach.” But it said that “for many of these partners, budget constraints limit the extent of ACP outreach they can perform without additional financial support.”

Article Summary

Technology Networks How AI Could Protect the Lives of Future Firefighters
Amid the chaos of a burning building, it is difficult to notice the signs of impending flashover — a deadly fire phenomenon wherein nearly all combustible items in a room ignite suddenly. Flashover is one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths, but new research suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) could provide first responders with a much-needed heads-up. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and other institutions have developed a Flashover Prediction Neural Network (FlashNet) model to forecast the lethal events precious seconds before they erupt.

StateScoop Alaska creates broadband office for federal infrastructure funds
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday signed legislation creating a statewide broadband office and a fund to cover the steep costs of connecting the state’s vast, rural landscape. The new law, House Bill 363, follows on recommendations made by an advisory group last year that explored Alaska’s standing as the least-connected state in the country, according to most industry assessments. That task force, comprised of legislators, agency executives, rural officials and tribal leaders, told Dunleavy the state needed a standalone office to oversee broadband construction and manage federal grants, as well as a mechanism to make rural deployment more financially feasible. The office also sets up Alaska to accept funds made available through last year’s federal infrastructure law. The $45 billion “Internet for All” program being administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration requires states to have a designated agency to receive and manage the funds.

Alexander City Outlook Supporting local journalism pays off
Journalism is more than just the reporters at city council meetings, charity events and first days of school. We are on the scene of some of the most horrific things you could ever imagine, and we’re often there in the middle of the night. This past Monday night is no different. While most everyone in the community slept soundly through the night, our reporter was at the scene of the most gruesome crime scene he, and some of the law enforcement responding, had ever seen. Our reporter was there, observing everything from a respectful distance, but he was the only reporter there. No other outlet showed up. No other outlet knew something was happening on County Road 34. Because our reporter knew the area, knew the law enforcement response was out of the ordinary and knew he had a job to do, he went, and gathered information that no other outlet had. The New York Times, The Washington Post and countless other national media outlets picked up the story, but they didn’t know the details like we did, because they couldn’t see what we saw.

CNET Deepfakes Pose a Growing Danger, New Research Says
Deepfakes are increasingly being used in cyberattacks, a new report said, as the threat of the technology moves from hypothetical harms to real ones. Reports of attacks using the face- and voice-altering technology jumped 13% last year, according to VMware’s annual Global Incident Response Threat Report, which was released Monday. In addition, 66% of the cybersecurity professionals surveyed for this year’s report said they had spotted one in the past year. “Deepfakes in cyberattacks aren’t coming,” Rick McElroy, principal cybersecurity strategist at VMware, said in a statement. “They’re already here.”

Telecompetitor Iowa Releases Broadband Map, Opens Challenge Window
The Department of Management Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) of the state of Iowa has published the fifth version of the state’s Broadband Availability Map. A month-long “challenge window” to enable various parties to comment on whether the map is an accurate reflection of the current state of broadband coverage in the state is now underway. The challenge window lasts until September 1 and is open to communities, communication service providers or residents. Broadband mapping is a vital topic. The effort to create better maps is seen as a priority because funding programs – including the $42.5 billion Broadband Access Equity and Deployment (BEAD) program – will cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas. Obviously, those initiatives only will be effective if accurate maps are available. Last month, Microsoft unveiled its Digital Equity Data Dashboard. The dashboard, Microsoft says, uses 20 different indications of digital equity to “create one of the most complete pictures of digital equity in these areas to date.”

Featured Podcast

Tools and Weapons with Brad Smith

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Can we work together to end violent extremism online?
    New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is determined to stop the spread of extremism and radicalization online. In the aftermath of the 2019 terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, she saw the livestream of the tragedy go viral across social media feeds, including her own. In response, she led the creation of the Christchurch Call, a commitment by governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. In this episode, Brad and Prime Minister Ardern discuss the Christchurch Call, how algorithms fan the flames of extremism and the need to address misinformation to create a stronger, more connected society. (Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: Can we work together to end violent extremism online? – July 6, 2022)