May 20 2022

This Week in Washington 

StateScoop House sends state and local cyber coordination bill to Biden
The U.S. House on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation encouraging closer cyber coordination between the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and state, local, tribal and territorial governments. The State and Local Cybersecurity Act codifies a number of efforts CISA is already making with regard to state and local governments, putting into writing that the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, DHS’ main threat-analysis facility, share more of its security tools, policies, training procedures and relevant intelligence products.

Nextgov Federal Trade Commissioner Sworn in, Giving Dems Voting Majority
The agency tasked with overseeing tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon is now whole after the swearing in of Alvaro Bedoya Monday. Bedoya, founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University Law Center, was confirmed May 11 after Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie with her deciding vote. The vote itself was the culmination of eight months of contentious hearings and posturing between Republicans and Democrats, given Bedoya gives Democrats a 3-2 majority in the five-commissioner body.

Axios Deadlocked FCC could derail Biden’s digital equity plans
The Biden administration has charged the Federal Communications Commission with prohibiting digital discrimination — but without a third Democratic commissioner to break the agency’s partisan deadlock, those plans are in trouble. One of President Biden’s key domestic priorities, improving internet access and affordability, can’t advance unless the Senate confirms his FCC nominee.

Fierce Telecom NTIA opens floodgates for $45B in broadband funding
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) opened applications for $45 billion in broadband funding, kicking off a campaign from President Joe Biden to deliver “Internet for All.” The money is part of the $65 billion in broadband funding allocated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which passed in November 2021. It will be distributed through three programs overseen by the NTIA. These include the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program; the $1 billion Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure program; and the $1.5 billion State Digital Equity Act program.

Axios FTC to set its sights on ed tech companies
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday will vote on a measure meant to warn companies the agency will prioritize taking action against children’s online privacy violations by education technology companies. Remote schooling during the pandemic led to an explosion in the use of ed tech services, raising concerns about whether those companies are safeguarding children’s data. The FTC, now up to full strength with the addition of privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya as the third Democratic commissioner, will vote on a policy statement on education technology and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA.

Breaking Defense ‘Responsible speed’: DoD emerging capabilities official on race for new tech
The director in charge of the Pentagon’s emerging capabilities policy wants to move with “responsible speed” when it comes to developing and experimenting with new capabilities, while at the same time other DoD officials are pushing to more quickly adopt commercial technologies. Michael Horowitz, who began his role last month as the director of emerging capabilities policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, said during the Nexus 22 symposium Tuesday that the top priority for his office is ensuring emerging capabilities are more effectively integrated into what DoD does, especially artificial intelligence initiatives.

MarketWatch The clock is running out for Congress to pass Big Tech antitrust bills this year
Nearly three years ago, when the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission launched probes into the business practices of Big Tech, antitrust experts and legal talking heads declared a new age in enforcement and a chastening of unbridled financial power. But a pandemic and countless bill markups later — amid feverish lobbying efforts by Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Inc. and Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc. — there is still no significant U.S. law and a real possibility there will be none for several years.

The Hill Congress must act to preserve the future of local journalism
In 2022, with news from around the world available at the touch of a button, how do we stay informed about the events that are shaping our communities? Who is shining a spotlight on city hall or informing our choices at the polls? Who helps consumers when they are wronged or exposed to unsafe conditions in our neighborhoods? Who has educated the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cut through misinformation and helped us stay healthy? Broadcast TV and radio stations, and the thousands of journalists they employ, are providing timely, trustworthy reporting on the issues affecting the places in which we live, work, learn and raise our families.

Article Summary

Microsoft News American Airlines and Microsoft partnership takes flight to create a smoother travel experience for customers and better technology tools for team members
American Airlines and Microsoft Corp. are partnering to use technology to create better, more connected experiences for customers and American Airlines team members, supporting the robust operations of the world’s largest airline. As part of the partnership, American will use Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform for its airline applications and key workloads, significantly accelerating its digital transformation and making Microsoft one of the airline’s largest technology partners.

Fierce Telecom 32 states have already signed up for Biden’s $42.5B broadband program
Just days after the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) opened applications for its $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, the agency announced a majority of states have already stated their intent to participate. As of Wednesday, the DoC’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said 32 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, had signed on to the program.

CyberScoop Water companies are increasingly uninsurable due to ransomware, industry execs say
More water companies are finding they are uninsurable as ransomware attacks against the sector grow, water utility and association executives said Wednesday. Insurers are increasingly requiring water utilities to meet stringent cybersecurity requirements to even consider insuring them, said Nick Santillo, the vice president for digital infrastructure and security at American Water, a public utility. These requirements include a strong secure access management program for protecting administrative credentials with privileged accounts, as well as endpoint detection and response tools.

Detroit News FCC chairwoman promotes equity in internet access in Detroit
Federal, state and local leaders gathered Monday to discuss improving digital equity in Detroit, where a large portion of the population remains offline. In 2019, the latest data available, almost 70% of students in Detroit did not have access to the internet in their homes. Census data shows that 1 in 4 Detroiters lack access at home, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence said. “I’m working with this amazing team to close this digital divide in Congress. Most recently, we passed and signed into law the bipartisan infrastructure law which includes $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable, high-speed internet,” the Southfield Democrat said.

Grist Advocates say robotics and AI will soon revolutionize agriculture
In the United States, the corn industry was valued at $82.6 billion in 2021, but it — like almost every other segment of the agricultural economy — faces daunting problems, including changing weather patterns, environmental degradation, severe labor shortages, and the rising cost of key supplies, or inputs: herbicides, pesticides, and seed. Agribusiness as a whole is betting that the world has reached the tipping point where desperate need caused by a growing population, the economic realities of conventional farming, and advancing technology converge to require something called precision agriculture, which aims to minimize inputs and the costs and environmental problems that go with them.

CyberScoop Ransomware group strikes second U.S. health care system in the last two months
AvosLocker, a prolific ransomware group that was the subject of a recent joint FBI and U.S. Treasury Department warning, claimed this week that it had hit a Dallas-based nonprofit Catholic health system with more than 600 facilities across four U.S. states, Mexico, Chile and Colombia. The attack on CHRISTUS Health marks the second health care system AvosLocker targeted in the last two months. Michigan-based McKenzie Health System began notifying customers this week that patients’ personal data had been stolen from the company’s network in a “security incident” that “disrupted” some of its IT systems in March. The company did not identify the attacker, but AvosLocker posted purported McKenzie data to its dark web leak site on April 6.

Washington Post Tech groups ask Supreme Court to block Texas social media law
Two technology industry groups filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to strike down a Texas law that prevents social media platforms from removing posts based on a user’s ideology, after an appeals court lifted an injunction that blocked it. The groups said the law is unconstitutional and could cause “irreparable harm” to the internet and businesses, and they argued it prevents websites and platforms from making “constitutionally protected editorial decisions” around content moderation.

Tech Podcast of the Week 

Data Privacy Unlocked

  • Podcast on Colorado Data Privacy Law
    In this episode of Data Privacy Unlocked, Husch Blackwell’s David Stauss discusses the Colorado Privacy Act rulemaking process with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. In this conversation, Attorney General Weiser provides background on the rulemaking process, including the expected timeline for completion, topics for rulemaking, and current preliminary rulemaking activities. (Legislating Data Privacy Series, A Conversation with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser – May 9, 2022)