May 7 2021

This Week in Washington

The Washington Post The Biden administration will prioritize cybersecurity in the distribution of $1 billion in federal IT funding
Cybersecurity defenses will take top priority in the spending of $1 billion in tech modernization funding passed by Congress earlier this year, according to plans shared first with The Cybersecurity 202. The Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration will also prioritize projects addressing critical IT modernization, public-facing services and cross-agency programs.

The Washington Post The Justice Department launched a 120-day review into its cybersecurity strategy
The Justice Department will launch a wide-ranging four-month review into its strategy for defending and deterring emerging cyberthreats, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in her first comments on the international stage since her confirmation. The review will take a sweeping view of emerging risks including supply-chain attacks such as Russia’s SolarWinds hacking campaign, and the exploitation of artificial intelligence by cybercriminals.

Nextgov OMB Prioritizes Cyber, COVID Tech For New TMF Payback Model
The federal agencies managing a central fund for loaning money to other agencies to upgrade aging IT—a fund that just received $1 billion from Congress as part of the second COVID-19 stimulus package—released an outline Tuesday updating priorities and making fundamental changes to how the fund works. The Technology Modernization Fund was created as part of the 2017 Modernizing Government Technology Act, or MGT Act, envisioned as a self-sustaining fund that would loan money for projects with wide potential impact and a solid return on investment that would replenish the fund on a three- to five-year cycle.

Axios White House launches new artificial intelligence website
The White House has launched a new website,, to make artificial intelligence research more accessible across the nation, Axios has learned. Why it matters: The U.S. once led significantly in the global artificial intelligence race, but now risks being overtaken by China. This is one step the White House is taking to drum up excitement for AI and broaden educational opportunities in the field.

The Washington Post Lawmakers want greater resources, authorities for CISA to protect critical infrastructure
Leading voices in Congress say the nation’s top cybersecurity agency needs better resources to handle growing threats to critical services like water and power. One step: centralizing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s authority to track vulnerabilities in industrial control systems that power the nation’s critical infrastructure, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) said yesterday. The top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee touted legislation he helped introduce earlier this year that would grant CISA leadership the authority to coordinate federal response to such vulnerabilities.

Nextgov Intel Community Needs Next-Gen Microelectronics for Future of AI
The intelligence community wants to take advantage of upcoming advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence but needs smaller, more powerful hardware to run those algorithms. The Intelligence Advanced Research Programs Activity — the advanced research arm of the intelligence community — released a broad agency announcement in support of research into the next generation of microelectronics, including processors, semiconductors and other hardware technologies.

Article Summary

The Associated Press Phone scammers take advantage of Wyoming information breach
Telephone scammers are trying to take advantage of an accidental Wyoming Department of Health data release affecting over a quarter of the state’s population, department officials said Friday. Scammers request insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other financial information and in some cases look like they’re calling from state government numbers, department administrator Jeri Hendricks said in a statement.

The Associated Press Effort to protect consumer data privacy stalls in Florida
A campaign by Gov. Ron DeSantis to help Floridians regain ownership of the troves of data that companies collect came to a halt Friday, when state lawmakers could not agree on how tightly to limit how Big Data harvests and uses people’s information. It was a rare defeat for DeSantis in his bid to regulate how Big Tech treats people. Earlier this week, lawmakers sent him a measure that would punish social media companies that he and other Republicans contend discriminate and censor conservatives. Unlike the social media proposal, the legislative effort to address consumer data privacy was mostly bipartisan.

The Hill Washington keeps close eye as Apple antitrust fight goes to court
Apple will head to federal court in California on Monday to defend itself in an antitrust trial with Epic Games, a case that is expected to be closely watched in Washington as lawmakers and regulators crack down on the market power of Silicon Valley giants. Epic Games is suing Apple over claims of anti-competitive behavior. The dispute stems from Apple’s decision in August to kick Epic’s popular Fortnite game out of its app store after the developer set up its own payment system in an attempt to avoid the 30 percent commission fees charged by Apple.

The Associated Press Judge: New Mexico must give at-home students fast internet
A New Mexico judge has ordered education officials to provide computers and high-speed internet to students who still don’t have them in a landmark ruling that for the first time in the state has set a standard for internet speeds for public school children. The ruling requires state officials to immediately determine which students covered by the sweeping lawsuit are still lacking quality internet, or devices, and to provide them with what they need, including transportation if they can’t get fast internet from home.

Protocol Tech’s favorite legal shield could be closer to the Supreme Court
A federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled on Tuesday that Snap can’t use Section 230 to get out of a lawsuit by parents who said the app’s “Speed Filter” pushed their sons into a fatal car crash in 2017.That decision, which some scholars of the provision say is at odds with appeals court rulings elsewhere in the U.S., could nudge the Supreme Court toward taking up a case on the law. “The chances of the Supreme Court interpreting Section 230 for the first time ever increased substantially today,” Jeff Kosseff, a law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy who wrote a history of the provision, tweeted.

Bloomberg Bank of America Tech Chief Says Cyber Attacks Have Surged ‘Dramatically’
Bank of America Corp. is devoting more resources to fighting cyberattacks after seeing a jump in threats amid the pandemic. The company’s centralized global information-security unit has boosted spending in recent years to about $1 billion annually, according to chief operations and technology officer Cathy Bessant. That’s mostly allocated to staff and technology to bolster cyber defenses. The lender is constantly assessing threats from individuals, groups and governments, and is also scanning the horizon to protect itself against an “Armageddon scenario,” she said.

The Associated Press Tennessee to move ahead with new broadband coverage map
Tennessee officials are moving forward with a plan to map out just where hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans without access to high-speed Internet live, following the lead of other states that no longer rely on federal maps that overstate coverage in some communities. The plan involves collecting and validating service data from broadband providers in Tennessee for about a year, with an anticipated completion of summer 2022, said Crystal Ivey, broadband director for the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Tech Video Highlight

Watch Story Labs 360: A datacenter in the deep. This interactive video offers a glimpse at Microsoft’s Project Natick, the company’s experimental underwater data center, which provides several advantages over land-based data centers.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on President Biden’s Broadband Plans
    In President Biden’s joint address to Congress, he highlighted his promise to improve America’s broadband. Under the American Jobs Plan, all Americans will have access to high-speed internet, including the 35% of rural American’s that still don’t have it. Access to the Internet is essential to our daily lives, and there are tremendous benefits to society if everyone can assume everyone else is online. But as Doug Brake writes in National Review, Biden’s proposal appears to transform something that is already a dynamic and innovative sector, to something much more like an old-fashioned and stagnant utility. (ITIF Blog – Biden’s Broadband BoondoggleApril 29, 2021)

The Brookings Institution

  • Podcast on the Biden Administration and Antitrust
    The nation’s current antitrust laws have historical regulatory and enforcement precedents. Recent congressional hearings featuring Big Tech companies have begun to question whether existing laws are adaptable to current corporate behaviors and provide sufficient policing of deceptive or anti-competitive practices. In this episode of TechTank, host Nicol Turner Lee discusses the Biden administration’s potential approach to antitrust and competition policies, particularly those affecting Big Tech, with Brookings Fellows Bill Baer and Tom Wheeler, and MIT Professor Nancy Rose. (TechTank Podcast – What to expect from the Biden administration on antitrust regulation and Big Tech, May 3, 2021)