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Panel Analyzes Benefits and Challenges of Cloud Computing for Government Agencies

in Broadband's Impact/Congress/Cybersecurity/House of Representatives/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 – A panel of experts discussed the potential for the use of cloud computing by federal agencies at an event held by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Wednesday morning.

The security of cloud computing was a primary concern for many of the panelists. Matt Wood, General Manager of Data Science for Amazon Web Services, described the cooperative approach that Amazon takes to security on its cloud services. He said Amazon secures the infrastructure itself, but customers are responsible for securing its systems that utilize cloud computing.

Terry Halvorsen, Chief Information Officer of the Department of the Navy, also suggested careful consideration of what data to put in cloud storage as another solution to security concerns. Data that is accessible to the public under the Freedom of Information Act can be placed on public cloud storage without fear, he noted.

Frank Baitman, Chief Information Officer for the Department of Health and Human Services, and Joseph Klimavicz, Chief Information Officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both agreed that continuous monitoring was key to secure cloud computing. With such access, federal agencies would be able to instantly identify and track any breaches of security.

Baitman also noted that the transition to cloud computing brings new security challenges that are not encountered with internal storage of data. Consequently, Halvorsen recommended a careful evaluation of the tradeoffs between those new concerns and the lower cost of cloud storage.

These lower costs were also a highlight of the discussion. Baitman pointed out that the frequent hardware and software updates that agencies currently must undergo would be eliminated by utilizing third-party cloud storage.

According to Wood, Amazon’s goal is to reduce the cost of cloud computing to such a degree that customers do not even think about the cost, much like utilities. Such low costs would allow agencies to switch from a capital expenditure model, which can be costly and unpredictable, to an operational expenditure model, which is relatively stable and cheap.

Consequently, these agencies would be more able to try new approaches with their programs, spurring innovation.

“As you move into this operational model, the cost of experimentation is much lower,” Wood said.

Cloud computing also opens the door to other innovations through practices such as open data and collaboration, as David Robinson, Chief Innovation Officer for SAP Public Sector, asserted.

“What’s really powerful is the whole new range of outcomes,” he said.

However, Halvorsen also argued that no single approach could be taken to guarantee the best next-generation government services. For example, he disputed a complaint of Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., that too many agencies were failing to close and adequate number of data centers.

Halvorsen countered that total cost of data storage rather than number of data centers should be the metric for measuring the efficiency of data storage. Because many data centers are part of larger facilities, he argued that such closures would do little to cut costs. Instead, the government should look at various strategies that have been proven successful in commercial industries.

“There will not be one single answer,” Halvorsen said.

FCC Readies Plan to Bring Affordable Broadband to 100 Million Homes, Dubs Plan ‘Connecting America’

in Broadband Stimulus/FCC/National Broadband Plan/Universal Service/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2010 – The Federal Communications Commission will present its congressionally mandated plan to bring high-speed internet access throughout the United States to lawmakers tomorrow, outlining six long-term goals and detailing its views on better ways to encourage broadband competition, free up available spectrum and modernize health care, among other things.

The agency hopes that its 360-page document will help bring affordable broadband to at least 100 million U.S. homes, which would enjoy download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and uploads speeds of at least 50 mbps.

It also strives to make the United States a leader in mobile innovation “with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation,” according to the “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan” document.

Under the plan, every American community would have access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service at institutions like schools and hospitals. Additionally, first responders would be able to access a national, wireless public safety network if the plan’s recommendations were implemented.

It also pushes for each American to be able to use broadband to track and manage their energy consumption.

FCC officials reiterated in a Monday press briefing for reporters that the plan’s goals are a directional compass that will constantly be evaluated.

The officials said they expect that within the next few years most people will access broadband services via mobile devices, and their plan reflects that.

The plan calls for making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 megahertz should be made available for mobile use within five years. In some cases spectrum could be reallocated or the FCC could change technical rules that would free it up, FCC officials said Monday.

The vast majority of the plan does not require government funding, but its ideas “seek to drive improvements in government efficiency, streamline processes and encourage private activity to promote consumer welfare and national priorities,” the plan reads.

The funds that are requested relate to public safety, deployment to unserved areas and broadband adoption efforts.

The plan argues that if the spectrum auction recommendations are implemented, the plan is likely to offset the potential costs.

The plan also calls for shifting up to $15.5 billion over the next decade from the existing Universal Service Fund to support broadband, and says that if Congress wants to accelerate broadband deployment to unserved areas, “it could make available public funds of a few billion dollars per year over two to three years.”

Officials declined to put a price tag on how much an implemented plan might cost.

The agency also seeks to expand the Lifeline and Link-up programs for bringing telephone service to low-income Americans to include broadband, and to launch a Digital Literacy Corps to organize and train youth and adults to teach digital literacy skills.

Officials also said the don’t see the plan as a major call for reform of telecommunications law, but lawmakers could consider a privacy act to encourage consumers that their privacy when using broadband would be protected.

The plan also reaches out to many other agencies and departments. For example, it recommends that Congress and the secretary of Health and Human Services consider developing a strategy that documents the proven value of electronic care, or e-care, technologies.

An executive summary of the plan is available on the FCC’s web site, http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-296858A1.pdf

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