This Week in Washington
Washington Post Biden’s big broadband ambitions mean historic hurdles for NTIA
When President Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill in November, he made a bold pledge: “This law is going to make high-speed Internet affordable and available everywhere.” Now, the little-known telecom agency tasked with leading those efforts faces the historic challenge of turning Biden’s goal into reality, including by overseeing the bulk of the $65 billion set aside for expanding Internet access.
The Hill FTC, DOJ launch joint inquiry aimed at blocking illegal mergers
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice’s antitrust division on Tuesday launched a new inquiry aimed at updating guidelines to block illegal mergers. The agencies are seeking public input to update guidelines over the next 60 days. “Illegal mergers can inflict a host of harms, from higher prices and lower wages to diminished opportunity, reduced innovation and less resiliency,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement.
The Verge Democrats unveil bill to ban online ‘surveillance advertising’
On Tuesday, Democrats introduced a new bill that would ban nearly all use of digital advertising targeting on ad markets hosted by platforms like Facebook, Google, and other data brokers. The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act – sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) – prohibits digital advertisers from targeting any ads to users. It makes some small exceptions, like allowing for “broad” location-based targeting. Contextual advertising, like ads that are specifically matched to online content, would be allowed.
Protocol Biden promised to digitize the government. Getting it done won’t be easy
Before the pandemic began, anything having to do with filling out government paperwork — renewing passports, filing for assistance, applying for permits — ranked somewhere near getting a root canal on most Americans’ list of favorite activities. Since COVID-19, it’s been more like getting a root canal without novocaine. The dramatic uptick in people relying on government services, combined with the move to remote work, rendered inconvenient government processes downright painful.
Wall Street Journal Big Tech and Foes Spar Over Bill to Curb Market Power of Dominant Internet Platforms
Big technology companies and their critics are ramping up lobbying efforts in Congress this week as a key Senate panel takes up legislation that seeks to blunt the market power of dominant tech platforms. The antitrust legislation, set to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday, would bar dominant online platforms such as Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce site and Alphabet Inc.’s Google search engine from preferring their own goods and services over other companies.
Wall Street Journal Biden to Expand National Security Agency Role in Government Cybersecurity
President Biden on Wednesday expanded the National Security Agency’s role in protecting the U.S. government’s most sensitive computer networks, issuing a directive intended to bolster cybersecurity within the Defense Department and intelligence agencies. The memorandum signed by Mr. Biden mandates baseline cybersecurity practices and standards, such as two-factor authentication and use of encryption, for so-called national security systems, which include the Defense Department and intelligence agencies and the federal contractors that support them.
The Verge Microsoft to acquire Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion
Microsoft is acquiring Activision, the troubled publisher of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Diablo. The deal will value Activision at $68.7 billion, far in excess of the $26 billion Microsoft paid to acquire LinkedIn in 2016. It’s Microsoft’s biggest push into gaming, and the company says it will be the “third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony” once the deal closes.
NextGov Big Tech Anxious About Commerce Plan to Secure Supply Chains from Foreign Influence
The Information Technology Industry Council is uneasy with language in a Commerce Department proposal for securing supply chains that suggests a need to conduct source-code reviews as part of a process for approving U.S. transactions of information and communications technology to guard against threats from China and other foreign adversaries. Fear of information and communications technology used in the U.S. and around the world coming under control of the Chinese government or other foreign adversaries is shared across the political spectrum and the administration is joined by Congress in advancing efforts to scrutinize the supply chains of the critical technologies.
Associated Press A digital divide haunts schools adapting to virus hurdles
As more families pivot back to remote learning amid quarantines and school closures, reliable, consistent access to devices and home internet remains elusive for many students who need them to keep up with their schoolwork. Home internet access for students has improved since the onset of the pandemic with help from philanthropy, federal relief funding and other efforts — but obstacles linger, including a lack of devices, slow speeds and financial hurdles.
Axios Cyberattack on Red Cross compromises data of more than 515,000 people
The personal data of more than 515,000 “highly vulnerable people” were compromised in a cyberattack on a contractor used by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the organization said Wednesday. The attack compromised data from at least 60 Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies worldwide. As of yet, there is no indication that the information has been leaked, according to the ICRC.
StateScoop Fewer ransomware attacks against state and local government in 2021, but still a ‘banner year’
The overall number of ransomware attacks counted against state and local governments declined last year compared to 2020 and 2019, but cybercriminals seeking to extort officials by freezing or stealing data still had a “banner year,” according to a report published Tuesday by the antivirus firm Emsisoft. In total, Emsisoft counted 77 state and local agencies across the United States in 2021 — down from the 113 it tallied in both of the two preceding years, but still enough to cause data breaches, disruptions to public services and significant financial costs to the victims.
Tech Podcast of the Week
WSJ Tech News Briefing
Podcast on Bills to Rein in Big Tech
The Senate Judiciary Committee is meeting on Thursday to discuss two bills that could rein in the power of big tech, and both the tech giants and their detractors are spending big to lobby for or against them. WSJ reporter Brody Mullins joins host Zoe Thomas to discuss what is in the bills and how the lobbying efforts are playing out. (Bills to Rein In Big Tech Face Fierce Lobbying Ahead of Key Meeting – January 20, 2022)