October 29 2021

This Week in Washington

Axios Biden names Jessica Rosenworcel first female leader of FCC
President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Jessica Rosenworcel to be chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Alan Davidson to be head of the telecom arm of the Commerce Department, and Gigi Sohn to be commissioner at the FCC.

WIRED Biden’s FCC Picks Are a ‘Dream Team’ for Broadband Advocates
The names themselves are familiar. Jessica Rosenworcel, who has been acting FCC chairwoman since January, was designated the permanent chair. Biden will also fill the empty Democratic slot on the commission by nominating Gigi Sohn, a longtime consumer advocate who was an FCC official during the Obama years. Then-FCC-chair Tom Wheeler chose Sohn in 2013 to serve as his counselor, a role in which she advocated for strong net neutrality rules and Title II common-carrier regulation of internet service providers.

The Hill McMorris Rodgers worried broadband funding will miss mark without new maps
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said Tuesday that broadband maps need updates so proposed funding in the Senate-passed infrastructure bill can be distributed to the right places. “We need to close this digital divide once and for all, but in order to do that, we have to have maps that actually reflect where the needs are,” Rodgers said at The Hill’s A More Perfect Union event on Tuesday.

Bloomberg Government Broadband Group Urges Infrastructure Passage
Connect Americans Now, a group of companies and organizations advocating for increased broadband deployment, sent a letter yesterday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling on Congress to boost broadband deployment, in part by clearing the bipartisan infrastructure bill (H.R. 3684), which the Senate passed in August.

Next Gov Senate Committee Chair: ‘Ransomware Has Changed the Equation’
When Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., talks about cybersecurity, his sense of urgency is palpable. Peters, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, listed a range of issues the committee is addressing in an interview with the Washington Post that was livestreamed on Oct. 26. “We have an awful lot on our plate,” he said. Peters named border security, the rise of violent extremist groups, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s role in responding to fires, storms and the pandemic as examples.

The Hill Consumer bureau chief bashes FTC and pledges focus on tech giants, big firms
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra found rare common ground with Republicans on Wednesday over efforts to address market-shifting actions by tech giants. Chopra told the House Financial Services Committee during a hearing that the CFPB would “focus most of its resources on the largest firms that are engaged in nationwide harm,” instead of smaller companies less capable of fighting back.

The Wall Street Journal State Department to Form New Cyber Office to Face Proliferating Global Challenges
The State Department plans organizational changes to confront international cybersecurity challenges such as ransomware and waning global digital freedom, U.S. officials said, the latest overhaul by the Biden administration aimed at treating cyber threats as a top-tier national-security issue. The restructuring will include the creation of a new bureau of cyberspace and digital policy to be led by a Senate-confirmed ambassador-at-large and a new, separate special envoy for critical and emerging technology, officials said.

Article Summary

CNBC Microsoft passes Apple to become the world’s most valuable company
Microsoft passed Apple in market cap on Friday, making it the world’s most valuable publicly-traded company, after Apple missed earnings expectations on Thursday. As of 11:15 a.m. ET Microsoft had a market cap of more than $2.47 trillion while Apple’s stood at about $2.42 trillion.

Reuters Microsoft to work with community colleges to fill 250,000 cyber jobs
Microsoft said it will provide scholarships or assistance to about 25,000 students and will provide training for new and existing teachers at 150 community colleges across the country. The company also said that it will provide curriculum materials for free to all community colleges, as well as four-year schools, in the country.

The New York Times The Metaverse Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch
As with most of Facebook’s strategy announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a shift that has been underway for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division — roughly twice as many people as are on Twitter’s entire staff — and has said it plans to hire 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would spend about $10 billion on metaverse-related investments this year, and it has been acquiring V.R. start-ups in what could amount to a metaverse land grab.

State Scoop AI use grew among states during the pandemic, NASCIO says
State governments adopted new technologies backed by artificial intelligence at a heightened rate during the pandemic, but in survey results published Tuesday by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, state technology leaders said workforce and strategic deficits could impede further adoption of AI.

The Wall Street Journal Companies From IKEA to Microsoft Call for Clear Climate Policy as They Head to Glasgow
Senior executives at global companies weigh in on their goals and concerns ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow starting next week.

Vice US Citizens Sue Company That Processes Billions of Texts For Exposing Their Data
Seven U.S. citizens are suing Syniverse, a critical company in the global telecommunications infrastructure used by AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and several others, after the company discovered a data breach that lasted from 2016 until this year and that potentially exposed data of millions of users.

CyberScoop Russian spies compromised 14 tech providers, aiming to ‘piggyback’ on customer access, Microsoft says
The Russian nation-state hacking group Nobelium — also known as Cozy Bear — has since May 2021 sought to infiltrate technology resellers, cloud software companies and managed services providers in an attempt to “piggyback” on those firms’ access to other customers, Tom Burt, corporate vice president of customer security and trust, said in an Oct. 24 advisory. The group’s goal, Burt suggested, is to more effectively impersonate an organization in order to breach its clients and partners, a similar tactic that the spies used when they breached U.S. agencies in 2020 by masquerading as SolarWinds.

EdSurge Colleges Are Providing Tech to Students to Shrink the Digital Divide
When colleges in the California State University system sent students home from campus in spring 2020, it quickly became clear that some students lacked reliable access to the internet or computers through which to participate in their pandemic-era emergency remote courses. Institutions did what they could to help in the moment, trying “band-aid remedies” such as loaning out laptops or expanding Wi-Fi service into parking lots, says Mike Uhlenkamp, senior director of public affairs for the system.

Health Analytics Artificial Intelligence Capable of Predicting COVID-19 Symptoms
Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University researchers created a new artificial intelligence-based tool to assist clinicians in predicting which symptoms COVID-19 patients will experience based on comorbidities. Additionally, the AI tool can suggest specific FDA-approved drugs for treatment. The new tool is called MOATAI-VIR (Mode Of Action proteins & Targeted therapeutic discovery driven by Artificial Intelligence for VIRuses.)

Seattle Times Attorney General Bob Ferguson on why local newspapers matter
Led by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a coalition of 16 AGs is urging U.S. House and Senate budget leaders to pass the Local Journalism Sustainability Act. The LJSA would help stop a death spiral of newspaper layoffs and closures that accelerated during the pandemic. It would increase retention and hiring of local journalists with temporary tax credits to small and regional news outlets. It would also provide credits to subscribers and small businesses advertising locally. “Local news is essential to the health of our states, communities, and our democracy,” the AGs wrote in an Oct. 14 letter.

Tech Video of the Week

Harvard Business Review

  • Episode 1 of HBR’s new “The New World of Work” video series
    “Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggests that technology can create a metaverse that will help bridge the virtual and real worlds. He also talks about experiments at Microsoft and elsewhere that ensure both weak and strong ties remain strong in hybrid work, and discusses the overriding power of empathy as a leader and as a catalyst for innovation. (Microsoft’s Satya Nadella on Flexible Work, the Metaverse, and the Power of Empathy – October 28, 2021)