June 4 2021

This Week in Washington

Multichannel News FCC Seeks Budget Boost, Pursues 100% Broadband Policy
As part of the Biden Administration’s 2022 Budget, the FCC has asked for $387,950,000, a 3.7% increase ($13,950,000) over fiscal year 2021, as it pledges to work toward universal affordable broadband and a more inclusive communications landscape. covering that increase through those fees. Part of that increase will go to paying 78 additional employees, which the FCC says it will need to meet its “increased mission demands.”

CNET FCC commissioner pushes for Big Tech to pay to close digital divide
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr says it’s time that Big Tech companies, like Amazon, Facebook and Google, which have reaped huge fortunes from the internet, pay their fair share to help the federal government fund its efforts to close the digital divide. In an op-ed published in Newsweek last week, Carr outlined a new approach for funding the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which provides money the federal government uses to help subsidize the build-out of broadband in rural areas, phone and broadband service for low-income Americans, and internet access for schools and libraries.

The Wall Street Journal Biden Budget Aims Squarely at Modernizing Government Tech
The White House is doubling down on longstanding efforts to modernize the aging information-technology systems of federal agencies, focusing the bulk of a proposed $58.4 billion information-technology spending plan on agency-wide upgrades, maintenance, cybersecurity and an accelerated push to the cloud. Unveiled Friday, the plan is part of President Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal 2022.

The Washington Post DHS nominees say they’ll prioritize cybersecurity
Top nominees for President Biden’s Department of Homeland Security vowed to prioritize protecting critical infrastructure after SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline cyberattacks. The confirmation hearing  for Biden’s picks for the department’s deputy secretary, general counsel and undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans — John Tien, Jonathan Meyer and Robert Silvers, respectively — came just weeks after a ransomware attack aimed at a major U.S. pipeline.

Politico A U.S. privacy law seemed possible this Congress. Now prospects are fading fast.
If one effort to check the power of Silicon Valley was supposed to be easy under the Biden administration, it was passing a national data privacy law. That hope is quickly evaporating. Even amid a surge in Covid-related scams stealing consumer data and a recent Facebook leak that exposed the personal information of half a billion users, privacy legislation shows signs of having stalled.

The Washington Post Colonial hack exposed government’s light-tough oversight of pipeline cybersecurity
Three times over the past year, Colonial Pipeline and the Transportation Security Administration discussed scheduling a voluntary, in-depth cybersecurity review — an assessment the federal agency began doing in late 2018 to strengthen the digital defenses of oil and natural gas pipeline companies, according to a company official and an industry official familiar with the matter. But no such review of Colonial’s systems has occurred, according to a Colonial spokesman.

Article Summary

WIRED Microsoft’s Vote Tracking Software Clears a Major Hurdle
In the ever-urgent quest to ensure United States elections are safe and secure, Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software has been a tantalizing development. The project, launched in 2019, offers what’s known as “end-to-end verifiability,” meaning that all vote data is encrypted and private, but there’s still full transparency into how the votes were tallied and whether the determination of a winner is correct. It’s open source and designed to be incorporated into existing voting systems. Last year, Microsoft successfully piloted the software in a real-world election.

The Hill Microsoft president: Orwell’s ‘1984’ may ‘come to pass in 2024’ without AI protections
The acceleration of artificial intelligence technology could lead to a reality that looks very much like George Orwell’s “1984,” a top Microsoft executive warned Thursday. Company President Brad Smith said during an interview on the BBC that he believes there would be serious consequences if government regulations don’t keep up with the development of new technology.

Security Microsoft warns of Russian Nobelium phishing campaign
Microsoft has warned that Nobelium is currently conducting a phishing campaign after the Russian-backed group managed to take control of the account used by USAID on the email marketing platform Constant Contact. The phishing campaign has targeted around 3,000 accounts linked to government agencies, think tanks, consultants, and non-governmental organizations. According to Microsoft, while organizations in the United States received the largest share of attacks, targeted victims span at least 24 countries.

The Associated Press Largest meat producer getting back online after cyberattack
The world’s largest meat processing company has resumed most production after a weekend cyberattack, but experts say the vulnerabilities exposed by this attack and others are far from resolved. JBS notified the federal government the ransom demand came from the ransomware gang REvil, which is believed to operate in Russia, according to a person familiar with the situation who is not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The New York Times A Rural-Urban Broadband Divide, but Not the One You Think Of
Whom should the government help get superfast internet access? The question is not addressed directly in President Biden’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, which devotes tens of billions of dollars to expanding access to broadband but does not provide much detail about how the money will be spent. But veterans of the nation’s decade-long efforts to extend the nation’s broadband footprint worry that the new plan carries the same bias of its predecessors: Billions will be spent to extend the internet infrastructure to the farthest reaches of rural America, where few people live, and little will be devoted to connecting millions of urban families who live in areas with high-speed service that they cannot afford.

Space News Viasat wants FCC to review Starlink’s government funding
Satellite operator Viasat is stepping up efforts to stop Starlink’s growing constellation, taking aim at the nearly $900 million of rural broadband subsidies that SpaceX won in December. The operator is asking the Federal Communications Commission to review decisions made around the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), claiming differential treatment and a lack of transparency.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Blog on Big Tech and Antitrust
    At many points during the 2020 U.S. presidential election, social media platforms demonstrated their power over speech. Twitter decided to ban political advertisements permanently in October 2019, sparking a vigorous debate over free speech and so-called “paid disinformation.” One year later, Facebook and Google imposed temporary restrictions on political ads shortly after the polls closed. In May 2020, Twitter assigned fact-check labels to two misleading tweets from then-President Donald J. Trump about mail-in ballots; Facebook initially refused to follow, but later adopted its own fact-checking policy for politicians. (TechTank – Addressing Big Tech’s power over speech, June 1, 2021)