July 29 2022

This Week in Washington 

Washington Post Senate passes bipartisan bill to subsidize U.S.-made semiconductor chips
The Senate passed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would provide $52 billion in subsidies to domestic semiconductor manufacturers and invest billions in science and technology innovation, in a bid to strengthen the United States’ competitiveness and self-reliance in what is seen as a keystone industry for economic and national security. In a 64-33 vote, the Senate passed the $280 billion “Chips and Science Act,” the final iteration of a bill that was years in the making. About $52 billion would go to microchip manufacturers to incentivize construction of domestic semiconductor fabrication plants — or “fabs” — to make the chips, which are used in a wide variety of products, including motor vehicles, cellphones, medical equipment and military weapons.

The Hill Biden investing $401M for high-speed internet for 31K rural residents, businesses
The Biden administration will invest $401 million to provide access to high-speed internet for 31,000 rural residents and businesses in 11 states, including Nevada, Arkansas, and Idaho, the White House announced on Thursday. There will be 20 projects in these states, which also includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and Texas. The Department of Agriculture plans on making additional investments for rural high-speech internet later this summer. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us over the course of the next several months to roll out a billion dollars in investment in connecting people to a better and more modern future,” Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack told reporters.

FedScoop Bill to streamline federal agency tech acquisition introduced in Senate
Senate lawmakers introduced a new bipartisan bill intended to improve agile technology acquisition within the federal government. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Wednesday introduced the AGILE Procurement Act. The legislation would require the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration to streamline the ability of the federal government to purchase commercial technology and to provide specific training for IT and communications tech acquisition.

Roll Call Halting backdoor government snooping seen as key to data privacy
As the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a federal data privacy bill last week, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee were looking to plug a gap in law that allows government agencies to conduct broad surveillance without obtaining warrants or subpoenas to do so. The Fourth Amendment prohibits law enforcement agencies from conducting searches, seizures and surveillance on Americans without court-approved warrants or subpoenas. But the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement agencies are bypassing the restrictions by turning to commercial data brokers and database providers that collect vast quantities of data on Americans and using that to conduct surveillance. Democrats and Republicans, for different reasons, want to prevent law enforcement agencies from snooping on Americans’ data.

Broadband Breakfast FCC Commits $77M More from Emergency Connectivity Fund
The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday it is committing an additional $77 million for two new funding rounds through the $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Program that helps schools and libraries provide tools for remote learning. The program was launched last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provided schools and libraries three application windows to apply for support.

Nextgov Ransomware Hackers Will Still Target Smaller Critical Infrastructure, CISA Director Warns
Since the large-scale ransomware hacks of the Colonial Oil Pipeline and North American branches of JBS Foods in 2021, federal agencies have doubled down on preventing future attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructures. Leadership at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, however, confirmed that ransomware hackers are not exclusively targeting large organizations and businesses, but smaller entities as well. Speaking at a CyberShare event on Monday, CISA Executive Director Brandon Wales discussed the need for all companies and organizations to invest in the best cybersecurity practices as ransomware becomes a more pervasive and common threat.

The Hill Bills to boost kids’ online safety advance in Senate with bipartisan support
Two bills that would add regulations on tech companies in a way that aims to increase safety for kids online advanced out of a Senate panel Wednesday with broad bipartisan support. The Senate Commerce Committee advanced the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA 2.0. Despite broad support for the proposals debated Wednesday, the hearing highlighted divisions among the top members of the committee. Ranking member Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) criticized the panel for not bringing up the comprehensive data privacy bill he introduced. He voted against advancing Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) COPPA 2.0 bill, not based on the legislation itself but rather because he thinks the committee should be prioritizing the comprehensive American Data Privacy Protection Act (ADPPA).

Article Summary

Microsoft on the Issues Continuing the fight against private sector cyberweapons
Commercialized cyberweapons continue to threaten consumers, businesses and governments. Microsoft believes that allowing private sector offensive actors, or PSOAs, to develop and sell surveillance and intrusion capabilities to unscrupulous governments and business interests endangers basic human rights. We will continue to advocate around policy solutions to address the dangers caused when PSOAs build and sell weapons.

Inside Higher Ed Ransomware Attacks Against Higher Ed Increase
Colleges and universities worldwide experienced a surge in ransomware attacks in 2021, and those attacks had significant operational and financial costs, according to a new report from Sophos, a global cybersecurity leader. The survey included 5,600 IT professionals, including 410 from higher education, across 31 countries. Though most of the education victims succeeded in retrieving some of their data, few retrieved all of it, even after paying the ransom. “The nature of the academic community is very collegial and collaborative,” said Richard Forno, assistant director of the University of Maryland Baltimore County Center for Cybersecurity.

Vox We’re one step closer to robots doing all our housework
A Carnegie Mellon team recently developed software that teaches robots how to learn new tasks, simply by observing humans doing the same tasks first. These robots have figured out how to open cabinets and remove trash bags without any direct instructions and could eventually learn how to complete chores just by watching YouTube videos. While the research is still preliminary, the software offers a glimpse into an uncertain future where robots are more helpful companions around the house.

Los Angeles Times You can get free broadband in L.A. if you’re a lower-income consumer. Here’s what to ask for
Tim Hebb lives in one of more than 1.6 million households in Los Angeles that qualify for a new federal subsidy program for high-speed internet service. The ACP’s hurdles are one factor behind the low percentage of qualified Californians who are using the Affordable Connectivity Program subsidies: 28% statewide, and 32% in L.A. County. Another factor, though, is that the subsidies aren’t well publicized. Some internet service providers tout them on their websites, but if you don’t have an internet connection, you can’t see those promotions. To raise awareness, state and local officials, consumer advocates and a number of the larger internet service providers plan to step up the outreach in August.

Lake County Record-Bee Bill before Congress to save local journalism
Since America’s founding, newspapers have played a vital role in keeping the public informed about what’s going on in the world. Democracy depends on a reliable and shared set of facts in order for the public to exercise control over government and determine its future. As we have seen all too clearly in recent years, that shared set of facts is increasingly elusive as the primary means by which news and information is delivered has shifted from publishers that gather and report the news to platforms that have built lucrative business models on other people’s content. As an ever-increasing share of all advertising flows into the coffers of search and social media behemoths, little is left to support local news gathering, facts become scarce and propaganda prevails.

Featured Podcast

Marketplace Tech

  • Interview with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo
    The Senate voted this week to advance legislation that’s supposed to help the United States compete with China on computer chip manufacturing. The bill would give American companies more than $50 billion in federal subsidies to incentivize them to make semiconductors in the U.S. Marketplace’s Marielle Segarra speaks with Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, an advocate of the bill, who says national security is one reason to make semiconductors a domestic product. (Commerce Secretary Raimondo on why we need to produce chips in the U.S. – July 27, 2022)