WASHINGTON, May 27, 2011 – House Subcommittee members received answers long on ideas but short on specifics when they probed Obama administration officials during a hearing Wednesday on the President’s cybersecurity review.
The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet explored the ramifications of the Obama administration’s Cyberspace Policy Review in an oversight hearing that featured two witness panels representing federal and private interests.
The first panel of witnesses testified that the proposed measures would clarify any existing Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice authority regarding information sharing. The proposed measures would help keep consumers informed of what happens with their data in the case of a software system security breach. Additionally, the proposed measures would potentially grant immunity from civil liability to private sector entities that share information with government law enforcement agencies.
Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) expressed concern, however, that the proposal might allow government encroachment on personal privacy if corporate software systems that contain personal data were compromised. Members also voiced concern that the proposal might limit private sector cybersecurity capabilities and preempt stronger state laws already in place.
“Despite the fact that the Federal sector grabs the headlines, in many respects it really is the private sector that stands on the front lines of cybersecurity,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) in his opening statement.
Subcommittee members and private sector witnesses echoed a desire to avoid the creation of what has been referred to by critics as a government controlled Internet “kill switch.” The term references the method by which Egyptian government authorities shut down that nation’s Internet access in an attempt to control political unrest during uprisings earlier this year.
While legislators unsuccessfully introduced a measure earlier this year that would have authorized the shutdown of critical computer systems by the President in the event of a national cyber emergency, no such recommendation was included in the instant proposal.
Subcommittee members also expressed skepticism at the panel’s inability to give specifics to several questions, such as defining terms like ‘critical infrastructure’ and ‘critical information infrastructure.’ It was also not clear which large industries should be excluded from the measures.
Also, it was not clear to members which agency in the Executive Branch had final authority if the newly proposed measures were made into law.
“We have three government agencies testifying, but who’s really in charge of this?” asked Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC). “Who’s running the show?”
“The proposal [the administration] put forward reflects a whole of government approach,” replied James Baker, Associate Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will work to get the right people in front of you.”
Additionally, the new measures would not only clarify existing DOJ and DHS authority, but it would expand authority to prosecute cyber crime in the same manner as organized crime.
“Increasingly, cyber crimes are committed by groups who are organized, “said Baker. “We think we can use RICO to go after those people those people.”
Officially known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, RICO is a United States federal law that allows for the prosecution and penalization for acts committed as part of an organized crime syndicate.
“They are well-organized, they are a threat to the country, and they are effective,” said Baker.
House Democrats Fight Against Anti-Crypto Measures in Senate-Passed Infrastructure Bill
August 20, 2021 – Pro-crypto House Democrats pushed back against the Senate Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s inclusion of crypto regulatory language, seeking to make it less broad.
The additions of cryptocurrency taxes aim to generate revenue to pay for part of the infrastructure spending. Its authors intended to reduce fraud in reports to the IRS.
Democratic California Reps. Ro Khanna, Eric Swalwell, and Anna Eshoo joined cryptocurrency enthusiasts Rep. Bill Foster, D-Illinois, and Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., in urging to amend the infrastructure bill in the House.
In a letter released on August 12, Eshoo advocated to Pelosi that the House should “amend the problematic broker definition,” describing the existing language as “imposing unworkable regulations.”
But there is some feeling that amendments to the bill in the House may not be necessary. According to a Treasury Department official, the agency plans to clarify its definition of a “broker” to be more specific.
Any amendments to the House would force the infrastructure measure back to the Senate.
Senators Reintroduce Bipartisan Digital Equity Act
Sen. Murray re-introduces bi-partisan that would provide grants to states pushing for digital equity.
June 14, 2021– Three Senators have introduced legislation that would provide grants to states that create digital equity plans.
The proposed legislation, reintroduced on Thursday by Patty Murray, D-Washington, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Angus King, I-Maine, would set-aside $60 million to establish a State Digital Equity Capacity Grant within the Department of Commerce that would “promote the achievement of digital equity, support digital inclusion activities, and build capacity for efforts by States relating to the adoption of broadband by residents of those States.”
The funds from the Digital Equity Act in the Senate would be made available to all states, foundations, corporations, institutions, or agencies. The bill was first introduced by Murray in 2019.
Each state will receive a different grant amount depending on a formula that includes population and access to broadband across the state, to be spent within 5 years of receipt.
In addition to funding for states, the bill creates a $125-million Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program. This program is also for state agencies and institutions but is more specifically geared toward those that are responsible for “adult education and literacy activities.”
A final pillar of the bill is to create more infrastructure and resources for future development of policies that will continue to promote a bridging of the digital divide.
During a press conference on the bill, Murray told the Broadband Breakfast that she believes the bill will be successful because it gives states and local communities the ability to decide what their needs are. “We cannot dictate that in D.C.,” she remarked.
When asked why the bill will create more permanent solutions, she stated that it, “Provides for the diversity of needs that are going to continue to be out there.”
The senators co-sponsoring the bill said they are confident it will make its way into any infrastructure legislation passed by Congress.
Senate Committee Hears High Symmetrical Internet Speeds, Up-To-Date Technologies For Future Of Rural America
NTCA’s Shirley Bloomfield on driving improvements for rural broadband.
May 19, 2021– The head of the NTCA — Rural Broadband Association told a Senate Finance Committee that there are a number of improvements that can be made to broadband services and infrastructure for rural Americans, including higher symmetrical internet speeds, up-to-date network technologies, and better coordination of government funding to avoid overbuilding.
Shirley Bloomfield provided six different types of actions at Tuesday’s hearing that the government should take to improve broadband coverage in rural markets.
Bloomfield’s first suggestion was to build networks to last. She argued that building networks that provide insufficient speeds or utilize technology that is already outdated will not be sufficient to address the broadband needs of the future generation. During her testimony, Bloomfield specifically voiced support for 100 Mbps symmetrical service.
“We have a once in a generation opportunity—on the investment side—to do this right—to aim higher and to do better,” she said.
Her second suggestion was to take steps to limit overbuilding. To do this, she suggested that state and local governments coordinate with existing programs that provide mapping and funding for broadband projects. She clarified during her testimony that those without broadband service need to be prioritized before those with insufficient broadband service. She argued that the best way to do this would be ensuring that there is coordination with federal and state regulatory bodies with access to mapping data.
Bloomfield’s third suggestion was that network maintenance must be prioritized, and that modern networks will only stay modern and efficient if they are kept working and up to date.
Bloomfield also recommended clearer standards for broadband providers and that un(der)served rural communities should not be treated as “test labs” for new technologies. She stated that technologies should not be deployed until they have been sufficiently tested and established as viable strategies to serve communities in need of broadband. This includes not just the current needs of the communities in question, but also the projected needs of future generations.
Her sixth recommendation was to encourage consumers to look for local ISPs to provide broadband service. She noted that these smaller, local ISPs have cultivated relationships with the communities they serve, and those who work for the ISP often live among those they serve. She stated that it is this intimate connection that has allowed them to navigate the unique issues that these rural communities face.
Finally, Bloomfield encouraged the Committee to push for lower barriers to entry for broadband expansion projects, stating that bureaucracy and costs associated with many projects are simply too high. She also stated that a concerted effort must be made to sure-up supply chain issues that are currently applying significant pressure to ISPs and hampering expansion.
- Digital Infrastructure Investment 2021: Pathbreaking Mini-Conference Monday at 1 p.m. ET
- Christopher Ali: Is Broadband Like Getting Bran Flakes to the Home?
- Lack of Public Broadband Pricing Information a Cause of Digital Divide, Say Advocates
- Christopher Ali’s New Book Dissects Failures of Rural Broadband Policy and Leadership
- Washington’s Antitrust Push Could Create ‘Chilling Effect’ on Startups, Observers Say
- Apple Blacklists Fortnite, T-Mobile Expands Home Internet, Ajit Pai Reflects on Virginia’s Broadband Leadership
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