March 25 2022

This Week in Washington 

The Hill FBI ‘concerned’ about possible Russian cyberattacks on critical infrastructure
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday warned the private sector to prepare for potential cyberattacks, saying U.S. agents were “particularly focused on the destructive cyber threat” from Russian agents. The FBI director spoke just a day after The White House warned companies to bolster defenses and prepare for potential cyberattacks while the Russian invasion of Ukraine intensifies as it approaches a month since forces entered the country.

StateScoop State and local governments could gain access to federal network monitoring service
A new bill in Congress includes language creating a pilot program that would extend the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s network monitoring services for federal agencies to state and local governments. The bill, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., proposes a project, over up to three years, in which state, local and tribal governments could enroll in CISA’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program, which monitors federal agencies’ networks in close to real time and gives officials dashboards showing vulnerabilities to be addressed.

Fierce Telecom FCC dangles $1B in third Emergency Connectivity Fund round
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already awarded more than $4.6 billion from the $7.2 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF), but plans to dish out at least another $1 billion in its third – and likely final – funding round.

NextGov Lawmakers Request Agency Support in Broadband Rollouts
A slew of Democratic lawmakers sitting on the House Energy and Commerce Committee penned a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration voicing support for the broadband provisions included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, urging the agency to help implement these programs. Lawmakers wrote to NTIA Assistant Secretary of Commerce Alan Davidson discussing the wide-ranging benefits of provisions outlined in the bill and the role his agency would play.

Washington Post The Technology 202: Warren accuses Raimondo’s Commerce Department of ‘lobbying on behalf Big Tech’
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo sparked outrage among progressives in December for voicing ‘serious concerns’ that two major European proposals to rein in the tech giants would ‘disproportionately impact U.S.-based tech firms’. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a slew of anti-monopoly groups grilled the Commerce chief about the remarks, with Warren writing in a Dec. 14 letter that the comments undermined the Biden administration’s efforts to boost competition online and rein in Silicon Valley. Warren is now ratcheting up criticism of Raimondo, accusing her of dodging congressional scrutiny for months and her department of carrying water for industry giants abroad.

New York Times Biden warns the private sector that Russia is exploring options for cyberattacks
President Joe Biden warned businesses that they may face cyberattacks from Russia in retaliation for economic sanctions, and urged the private sector to strengthen their cybersecurity defenses. While U.S. intelligence agencies have no evidence of a specific cyber threat, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger said analysts have seen “preparatory activity” for the possible hacking of critical infrastructure, actions it briefed companies on last week.

Washington Post Amazon-MGM deal shows the limits of a gridlocked FTC
On Thursday, e-commerce giant Amazon said it closed its $8.45 billion acquisition of entertainment juggernaut MGM after clearing a regulatory review period. The Federal Trade Commission, which reportedly opened an investigation into the deal, has thus far declined to sue to block the deal, as called for by a slew of anti-monopoly groups. While a federal challenge against the deal has long been seen as an uphill battle, regulators’ inaction highlights how the FTC’s aggressive agenda under Chair Lina Khan continues to face major constraints without a Democratic majority.

Engadget US Justice Department says Google misuses attorney-client privilege to hide documents
The US Department of Justice has accused Google of training its employees on how to shield business communications from discovery in cases of legal disputes “by using false requests for legal advice.” As Axios reports, the DOJ has told the judge overseeing its antitrust case against the tech giant that Google instructs employees to add in-house lawyers to written communication, apply attorney-client privilege labels to them and make a request for legal advice even when it’s not needed.

Article Summary

Microsoft Official Blog Closing the cybersecurity skills gap – Microsoft expands efforts to 23 countries
Cybersecurity continues to be a significant threat for governments, businesses and individuals around the world. From supply chain disruptions to ransomware attacks, cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated and the threat landscape more diverse. These cybersecurity challenges are compounded by a workforce shortage; there simply aren’t enough people with the cybersecurity skills needed to fill open jobs.

POLITICO Health data breaches swell in 2021 amid hacking surge, POLITICO analysis finds
Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. had their sensitive health data breached in 2021, a threefold increase in three years, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest HHS data. Health care organizations including providers and insurers in every state except South Dakota reported such incidents last year. About half of states and Washington, D.C., saw more than 1 in 10 of their residents directly impacted by unauthorized access to their health information, according to the analysis. And hacking accounted for nearly 75 percent of all such breaches — up from 35 percent in 2016.

CPO Magazine The Road Ahead for Data Privacy
With heightened consumer consciousness about data privacy, regulators are moving fast to protect the data dignity of their citizens. Amid this wave of new regulations, businesses are looking for the responsible path forward with data privacy programs that operationalize privacy across the data ecosystem. Building sustainable solutions for privacy requires that we solve both micro and macro challenges. We need privacy programs that can scale effectively across existing and future laws.

New York Times Helping A.I. to Learn About Indigenous Cultures
In September 2021, Native American technology students in high school and college gathered at a conference in Phoenix and were asked to create photo tags — word associations, essentially — for a series of images. The exercise was for the workshop Teaching Heritage to Artificial Intelligence Through Storytelling at the annual conference for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. The students were creating metadata that could train a photo recognition algorithm to understand the cultural meaning of an image.

TechCrunch Microsoft improves its AI translations with Z-Code
Microsoft today announced an update to its translation services that, thanks to new machine learning techniques, promises significantly improved translations between a large number of language pairs. Based on its Project Z-Code, which uses a “spare Mixture of Experts” approach, these new models now often score between 3% and 15% better than the company’s previous models during blind evaluations. Z-Code is part of Microsoft’s wider XYZ-Code initiative that looks at combining models for text, vision and audio across multiple languages to create more powerful and helpful AI systems.

Fierce Telecom Are U.S. broadband prices rising or falling?
Last month, independent research firm BroadbandNow published a report which found broadband prices in the country fell significantly between the first quarter of 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2021. The study included data from around 50 U.S. broadband providers. According to the report, the cost of higher-tier services of 500 Mbps or above fell the fastest, dropping 42% to an average of $59.22.

Space News Starlink reaches 250,000 subscribers as it targets aviation and other markets
SpaceX now has a quarter of a million subscribers for its Starlink satellite broadband service as it looks to move into new markets like aviation. Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink commercial sales at SpaceX, said during a panel at the Satellite 2022 conference on March 22 that while Starlink is best known for its consumer broadband service, it was also working to provide services for enterprises and other sectors.

Tech Podcast of the Week 

Broadband Action

  • Podcast on the Affordable Connectivity Program
    This week, we will also be talking about the Affordable Connectivity Program and what community-based broadband providers need to do to begin offering this $30 monthly internet subsidy to qualifying households. Our guest this week is Renee Knoop with Consortia Consulting, who will walk us through the ACP signup process from the provider’s perspective. (The Affordable Connectivity Program – March 15, 2021)