June 18 2021

This Week in Washington

FedScoop White House launches artificial intelligence task force
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) on Thursday announced the launch of a National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force. The new task force will lay out a road map for expanding critical resources and educational tools that the Biden Administration says it hopes will spur innovation and economic prosperity across the U.S.

Broadcasting & Cable FCC Told Broadband Subsidies Should Reflect Streaming Impact
Rural broadband advocates are telling the FCC that some of the money the commission is spending on subsidizing broadband in high-cost rural areas has to go to compensate for the unrecovered costs of massive amounts of video streaming entertainment, which means flexible subsidies rather than at flat rates, as is currently the practice.

Multichannel News House Transportation Committee Oks Broadband Conduit ‘Dig Once’ Bill
With broadband infrastructure buildouts in the D.C. spotlight as arguably never before, “dig once” legislation may finally be moving from the bully pulpit to the presidential pen. On Thursday (June 10), the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee–after a 19-hour markup–favorably reported the bipartisan Nationwide Dig Once Act out of committee as part of the larger INVEST in America Act transportation reauthorization bill.

Roll Call Enacting tough federal cybersecurity standards an uphill battle, experts say
The spate of recent ransomware attacks on federal contractors and operators of critical infrastructure, culminating in the attack on Colonial Pipeline in May, has built momentum for new federal laws and regulations to require disclosure of breaches as well as mandatory cybersecurity standards. But writing such laws and regulations in a timely manner and ensuring they are finely tailored is likely to pose a challenge involving multiple federal agencies, Congress and the new national cyber director.

The Washington Post Bipartisan group of senators introduces $40 billion bill to close the digital divide
Three senators plan to introduce legislation Tuesday that would spend $40 billion to make broadband Internet more affordable and accessible under one of the largest bipartisan proposals to address the digital divide. The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Angus King (I-Maine), highlights the growing support in both political parties to boost federal funding to bring more Americans online. The senators say the closure of businesses and schools during the coronavirus pandemic made clear the need for expanded Internet access.

Axios House antitrust bill take tight aim at tech giants
The sweeping antitrust bills House lawmakers introduced Friday don’t just propose broad new principles of digital-age competition — they put giant bullseyes on the backs of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. Laws crafted now to tie the hands of today’s dominant companies will still be on the books for years and decades to come, and critics are already flagging possible unintended consequences. The new bills apply to companies that have a market capitalization of $600 billion or more and at least 50 million monthly active US users or 100,000 monthly active U.S. business users.

Multichannel News New Bill Would Force Big Tech to ‘Own’ Filter Bubble
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Mark Warner (D-Va.), have reintroduced a bill that would require more transparency about edge providers’ use of secret algorithms to frame user’s online experience. The Filter Bubble Transparency Act, which was introduced back in 2019, requires large internet platforms (over 1 million users and generating more than $50 million in gross revenues) to inform users how their experience is being shaped and allow them to exit that information bubble if they choose.

NextGov White House Calls for Agencies and Tech Companies to Share Info to Combat Domestic Terrorism
The Biden administration is aiming to work with tech companies to increase information sharing on domestic terrorism threats as part of a new strategy, according to a Tuesday announcement. The White House released a new National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism organized around four main pillars: information sharing, prevention of recruitment and mobilization, disrupt and deter activity, and confront long-term contributors to domestic terrorism.

The Washington Post Biden taps Big Tech critic Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission
In a move that heralds a growing effort to check the power and influence of Big Tech, President Biden on Tuesday appointed Lina Khan, a top antagonist of the tech industry, to chair the Federal Trade Commission, the federal government’s primary antitrust watchdog. Biden’s decision to put Khan in charge of the FTC’s agenda is the clearest sign yet that his administration will take a drastically different approach to regulating the tech giants than did President Barack Obama, whose administration took a largely hands-off approach toward Silicon Valley.

Article Summary

The Washington Post Opinion: The secret gag orders must stop
The past seven days marked another bad week for the collision between technology and democracy. We live in an era when private emails and text messages typically are backed up and stored in the cloud by tech companies. When it comes to cybersecurity, the cloud bolsters protection. But now we’ve learned that the Trump Justice Department exploited this feature as part of a secret effort to obtain emails in investigations of the media and Congress, two institutions where transparency is essential. The government cannot justify secrecy in such probes.

ZDNet Microsoft disrupted this large cloud-based business email scam operation
Business email compromise (BEC) is a huge and profitable scam, but Microsoft has put a dent in one operation by taking down its cloud infrastructure. To counter these scammers, Microsoft has enlisted its Digital Crimes Unit to tackle the infrastructure they use. Just like other businesses, BEC scammers have moved to the cloud to run operations, but Microsoft claims its investigators have disrupted one large BEC group that was using major cloud providers.

NPR U.S. Suffers Over 7 Ransomware Attacks An Hour. It’s Now A National Security Risk
The United States suffered 65,000 ransomware attacks last year – or over seven an hour. And it will likely get worse. What was previously seen as a nuisance is fast becoming a national security problem as cybercriminals target key parts of the country’s infrastructure. A recent attack on Colonial Pipeline sparked panic buying that emptied many gas stations across the Southeast, while another attack on JBS raised fears about the domestic beef supply.

Bloomberg N.Y. State Low-Cost Broadband Law Blocked by U.S. Judge
A federal judge granted a preliminary order blocking New York state from enforcing a law that requires internet service providers to offer high-speed broadband service to low-income customers at a discount. U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip, New York, sided with telecom industry groups representing AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., which sued to block the law. The legislation was enacted in April as part of the state’s 2022 budget and requires broadband service be provided by June 15. Hurley said in a ruling Friday that the service New York seeks to regulate “has never been subject to rate regulation at the federal or state level.”

Vox Why you’re suddenly hearing about ransomware attacks all the time
President Joe Biden’s much-anticipated first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland. There, he’s expected to discuss the recent flurry of cyberattacks on some of the United States’ most crucial systems and infrastructure, many of which have been traced to Russia.

The Colorado Sun Colorado is the third state to pass a consumer-data privacy bill. Now what?
That creepy feeling that someone is tracking your every move online was acknowledged this legislative session by lawmakers who overwhelmingly passed the Colorado Privacy Act. It gives residents the right to tell companies to stop collecting their data — and delete any personal data collected.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Podcast on Tech New Deal
    President Biden’s American Jobs Plan promises to generate more than 19 million jobs for U.S. workers, with an emphasis on blue-collar occupations, rural communities, and communities most impacted by climate change. A key component of the plan is to expand high-quality and reliable broadband internet to all Americans. On this episode of the TechTank podcast, host Nicol Turner Lee talks with experts about economic trends associated with the critical infrastructure investments included in the plan, Why America Needs a Tech New Deal, and what opportunities and challenges exist for job growth in the tech sector. (TechTank Podcast – Is Biden’s American Jobs Plan the beginning of a Tech New Deal?June 14, 2021)