February 18 2022

This Week in Washington 

Reuters U.S., allies ready to retaliate for Russian cyberattacks, say officials
The United States and its allies are prepared to respond to Russian cyberattacks amid escalating tensions over Ukraine, with the scope of retaliatory actions or sanctions depending on the severity of the hacks, U.S. and European officials said on Tuesday. U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking hours after Ukraine reported its defense ministry and two banks had been hacked, told reporters that Washington was coordinating closely with NATO allies and other partners to expand defenses against threats in cyberspace.

Nextgov NTIA, FCC to shore up spectrum policy cooperation
The Federal Communications Commission and the NTIA announced their joint Spectrum Coordination Initiative to coordinate spectrum management, a move that comes after critical oversight reports and the clash between federal agencies and Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. over the companies’ rollout of 5G on C-Band spectrum amid airlines’ concerns. The initiative would reinstate monthly meetings between the FCC chair and the NTIA head to discuss spectrum strategy and also push the agencies to pursue new joint guidelines and standards for spectrum management decisions.

CNET White House Says 10M Households Have Signed Up for Broadband Subsidy
Vice President Kamala Harris said 10 million households have signed up for the Affordable Connectivity Program’s broadband subsidy, which was created through last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law. The Affordable Connectivity Program allows eligible households to receive $30 per month toward their broadband bill and $75 per month for households on tribal lands.

Nextgov Senators Call for Removal of Facial Recognition Tech in Unemployment Services
In the latest battle between Capitol Hill and facial recognition technology, several lawmakers penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure state unemployment programs use secure methods to verify applicants without the use of biometric software. Stemming from the Internal Revenue Service’s ID.me facial recognition controversy, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, cosigned a letter urging Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to ensure people applying for unemployment claims are not mandated to use facial recognition technology to access state benefits.

Wall Street Journal Lawmakers Seek Tougher Online Safety Standards for Children
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) are set to introduce today the Kids Online Safety Act, which would hold tech companies accountable for content deemed harmful to children and require the companies to provide regular assessments of how their algorithms, design features and targeted ads may contribute to harmful content for young users. The legislation would also require tech companies to provide children the option to opt out of algorithmic recommendations.

Financial Times The techlash is the first step to restoring a fair US economy
In this opinion piece, Susan Holmberg, political economist and senior editor and research with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Independent Business Initiative, argues that the losses caused by monopolies on power are invisible and incalculable. Holmberg argues that tech groups are “killing new ideas, limiting new inventions and blocked new businesses from getting a foothold,” “undermining the vitality and resilience of the US economy.” Holmberg specifically draws attention to Amazon, Google, Facebook (now Meta) and Apple, claiming the way they block innovative upstarts poses a threat.

Axios Exclusive: Biden’s new power player on broadband and Big Tech
National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson said in an interview with Axios that his top priority in his new role is to expand affordable, high-speed broadband internet access to all Americans, and that his agency will also soon launch an antitrust review into competition in mobile app stores. Davidson said the agency plans to submit a report to develop administration policy on mobile app stores this summer, which will take into account views from app store operators on privacy and security.

Reuters Two U.S. Big Tech antitrust bills backed by publisher trade group
A group representing publishers such as News Corp and National Public Radio wrote to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday to back two bills targeting Big Tech, including one that would open up smartphone app stores to more competition. Digital Content Next, whose members also include the New York Times and Associated Press, wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican, to back a bill aimed at reining in app stores owned by Apple and Alphabet’s Google.

BNN Bloomberg FCC Votes to Boost Cable Competition in Apartment Buildings
The FCC voted unanimously to approve regulations that ban broadband providers and apartment building owners from entering certain revenue-sharing deals that currently give many apartment residents only one broadband service to choose from. The rules also require providers to inform residents if their building has an exclusive marketing deal with a broadband provider.

Nextgov Senators Want More out of SEC Plans to Address Cyberattacks
A bipartisan letter from a handful of notable senators to the Securities and Exchange Commission points to a potential disconnect over how to protect companies, and individuals, from cyberattacks. The expectant letter came one day before the SEC proposed a rule requiring certain registrants—investment funds and advisors—to write and implement cybersecurity policies to protect their customers from related harm, disclose any recent cybersecurity incidents on their brochures and to report such incidents along with related records to the commission.

Article Summary

Nextgov Ransomware Attacks Exploded in Number and Scale in 2021, Per Cyber Firm
Among a ballooning set of global ransomware perpetrators are WOLF, associated with Turkey, and OCELOT, associated with Colombia according to an annual report out today from the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike. Opportunistic actors everywhere are getting in on the action. The report, which also provides updates on “the big four” nation-state adversaries—Russia, China, Iran and North Korea—puts numbers on an alarming cybersecurity landscape taking shape over the last year, particularly regarding ransomware.

CDO Trends Microsoft Brings Together Tech, Healthcare Giants To Answer Hard AI Questions
By now, everyone understands the potential of AI in healthcare, especially in our fight against COVID-19. But because of the nature of the emerging technology, it has also thrown up some major questions that no single tech or healthcare provider can solve on their own. So, Microsoft is bringing together leading public, private, educational and research organizations across the U.S. healthcare and life sciences industries to form the Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Coalition (AI3C).

Multichannel News Study: Broadband Prices Have Dropped Over Past Half-Decade
Broadband prices have dropped, in some cases significantly, over the past half-decade, according to an analysis by Broadband Now, which compares broadband services. The White House has been pushing its broadband subsidies in part by arguing affordable broadband is “out of reach“ for many in the country, but the trend —thanks to technology and economics — is already providing a tailwind toward greater affordability. The study of 50 national and regional broadband providers found that since 2016, prices decreased for all major download speeds (25 Megabits per second through 1 Gigabit per second and above), and over cable, fiber, digital subscriber line (DSL) and wireless networks.

Associated Press California bills aim at social media, medical disinformation
Two California Democratic lawmakers took separate aim Tuesday at pandemic disinformation they argue receives a broad audience and misplaced credibility through social media platforms — rejecting concerns that their legislation might carry free speech or business privacy considerations. Sen. Richard Pan’s proposal, which still is being finalized, would require online platforms like Facebook to publicly disclose how their algorithms work and how they promote user content, including which data sets are used and how they rank the prominence of user posts.

CyberScoop Years of hacks against aviation, transportation industries are tied to one group, researchers say
Analysts have noticed various attempts in recent years by hackers trying to breach entities in the aviation and aerospace industries, as well as related transportation fields. The operators typically use of off-the-shelf malware and deploy digital lures that refer to industry-specific topics like airline cargo conferences or machine parts. It now appears that most of those incidents were by the same group, according to cybersecurity firm Proofpoint. Dubbing the group “TA2541,” Proofpoint said Tuesday that the trail of evidence goes back to at least 2017, and the hackers remain a “consistent, active cybercrime threat.”

Tech Podcast of the Week 

Recode Daily

  • Podcast on U.S. Broadband Access
    The bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed late last year includes a lot of money for expanding fast and affordable broadband internet access in an effort to close the digital divide in America. So how much money is going to be spent, how and when will the funds be allocated, and in what ways can this process best serve the communities that need it the most? (America needs more Internet – February 10, 2022)