February 26 2021

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Insider Experts warned of the digital divide for years. Now it’s ‘life or death’ as people struggle to sign up for online COVID-19 vaccinations.
Newly minted college graduates Jay Shah and Santosh Nori started a mobile health-care clinic in October 2019, using a van to provide care to the homeless and low-income population in Philadelphia. Neither could have predicted how the need for such a service would quickly grow. Just months after beginning work out of the van, called the Sayre Mobile Care Unit, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US.

Politico Facebook political ad ban blocks pro-vaccine messages
Facebook’s efforts to police online ads for vaccine misinformation are unintentionally blocking messages from cities, health care providers and community and faith-based groups promoting Covid shots. Paid-for messages from at least 110 groups aimed at raising awareness of how the vaccines work or where to get inoculated were flagged and sent to Facebook’s register of political messages, a POLITICO review of barred ads dating from last September shows.


The New York Times F.C.C. Broadband Plan Includes $50 Monthly Subsidy for Millions
The acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday announced a proposal to use $3.2 billion in emergency funds to significantly subsidize broadband service for millions of households, an attempt to narrow the digital divide that has punished low-income families during the pandemic.

The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Congress looks towards new data breach laws as Russian hack scope remains unknown
Companies responding to a massive Russian hack urged Congress to update laws dictating how the private sector shares information about cybersecurity breaches with the government. “It is time not only to talk about, but to find a way to take action, to impose in an appropriate manner some kind of notification obligation on entities in the private sector,” Microsoft president Brad Smith told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I think it’s the only way we’re going to protect the country and I think it’s the only way we’re going to protect the world.”

The Hill House Democrats urge Biden to make his pick for acting FCC chair permanent
More than 30 Democratic congresswomen sent a letter to the Biden administration Monday urging it to appoint acting Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on a permanent basis. President Biden appointed Rosenworcel, a Democrat, to lead the agency in an acting capacity in January.

The Washington Post Biden administration preparing to sanction Russia for SolarWinds hacks and the poisoning of an opposition leader
The Biden administration is preparing sanctions and other punitive measures against Russia for its roles in the monthslong cyberattack on the U.S. government and private sector, as well as a range of other malign cyber activities and the near-fatal poisoning of a Russian opposition leader, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg FCC Moves Toward Offering Another Set of 5G Airwaves at Auction
The Federal Communications Commission will vote on an order at its March meeting that would set up an auction for another set of 5G airwaves in October. The auction, if approved, will focus on airwaves in the 3.45 to 3.55 gigahertz range, which is currently used by the military.

The Hill Biden calls for creating ‘rules’ on cyber, tech to combat China and Russia threats
President Biden on Friday called on the United States and other democratic nations to shape the “rules of the road” on cybersecurity and tech issues, particularly as part of efforts to confront China and Russia. “We must shape the rules that will govern the advance of technologies and the norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, so they are used to lift people up, not used to pin them down,” Biden said during remarks at the White House as part of the virtual Munich Security Conference.

The Hill Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office
A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) will reintroduce legislation Tuesday intended to increase the ability of the State Department to address international cybersecurity cooperation issues. The Cyber Diplomacy Act, first introduced in 2017, would require the State Department to open a Bureau of International Cyberspace Policy.


Microsoft Official Blog A digital strategy to defend the nation
For two centuries, technology has changed the nature of what it takes to defend a nation. In early 1940, improved tanks rendered worthless two decades of French investment along the fortified Maginot Line, as the German army simply plowed around it. And in late 1941, the United States learned that advances in naval aviation meant that battleships could no longer defend Pearl Harbor. Today, foreign cyberweapons pose a similar threat for the future.

Axios Pandemic puts money, political muscle behind broadband
Now that the pandemic has made it clear just how essential it is to be connected to high-speed internet, lawmakers are finally putting billions of dollars into funding government programs to expand access to it. Why it matters: The big lesson from the pandemic is that broadband service is no longer a nice-to-have amenity — it’s critical for virtual school, remote work and telemedicine.

FedScoop Citing JEDI, a top Microsoft executive calls for reform of contract protests
The president of Microsoft told lawmakers Tuesday that legal reforms are needed to shorten the timeline for federal contract award protests – a process the company is all too familiar with as it’s tied up in disputes around the Pentagon’s multibillion-dollar cloud contract for more than a year now. Microsoft President Brad Smith didn’t offer specific recommendations on what the federal government could change to speed up protests, but he broadly suggested there should be a more efficient adjudication process without sacrificing the chance for companies to make their voices heard.

CNBC Elon Musk says SpaceX ‘will double’ Starlink satellite internet speeds later this year
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the company’s Starlink satellite internet service “will double” speeds to customers “later this year,” as it continues to build out the global consumer network. “Speed will double to ~300Mb/s & latency will drop to ~20ms later this year,” Musk said in a tweet on Monday, responding to a user who showed speed tests ranging between 77 and 130 Mbps.

CNET States couldn’t afford to wait for the FCC’s broadband maps to improve. So they didn’t
Three years ago, Georgia state officials knew they had a problem. The state needed federal funding to bring broadband to unserved parts, but no one knew where those gaps actually were. The US Federal Communications Commission maps weren’t precise enough, and Georgia didn’t have any of its own. So those officials decided to build their own maps.


The Brookings Institute

  • Podcast on Section 230
    In the days leading up to the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, social media platforms were flooded with hate speech and misinformation. Months before, there were also denouncements by former President Donald J. Trump about the proposed content moderation practices of private companies, as well as their use of Section 230 protections. It took only days after armed mobs stormed the U.S. Capitol, for platforms like Facebook and Twitter to decide Trump’s tweets were more than just “saber rattling.” (TechTank Podcast – Should free speech be regulated online?February 22, 2021)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Podcast on Section 230
    Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is at the center of a contentious, high-stakes debate about free speech, intermediary liability, and the future of the Internet. Why is a 1996 law so important today? Why have Presidents Biden and Trump both said they want to repeal it? Was it to blame when Twitter and Facebook banned Trump from their platforms, or was it the reason they didn’t ban him sooner? Rob and Jackie discuss the issue with ITIF policy analysts Ellysse Dick and Ashley Johnson. (Innovation Files Podcast – The Ins and Outs of the Section 230 Debate, With Ellysse Dick and Ashley JohnsonFebruary 22, 2021)

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