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Bono Mack: Sony Data Breach Is Cybersecurity ‘Ground Zero’

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 – The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade met on Thursday to learn the lessons from recent large-scale customer data breaches at Sony and Epsilon.

The hearing examined the risks of the unprecedented data breaches, which Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Chair of the subcommittee, called a ‘ground zero’ for cyber attacks. Other members of the subcommittee also assessed current investigation efforts by those companies, and gathered input and support to craft new data breach legislation.



WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 – The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade met on Thursday to learn the lessons from recent large-scale customer data breaches at Sony and Epsilon.

The hearing examined the risks of the unprecedented data breaches, which Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Chair of the subcommittee, called a ‘ground zero’ for cyber attacks. Other members of the subcommittee also assessed current investigation efforts by those companies, and gathered input and support to craft new data breach legislation.

Bono Mack, along with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and other members of the subcommittee, used the hearing to consider measures for the first phase of broader privacy legislation.

The breaches at Sony and Epsilon are the two largest in what has been a string of recent virtual break-ins at companies internationally.  Google announced the breach of several hundred personal Gmail accounts – including those of several senior U.S. government officials, military personnel and political activists – a day prior to the hearing.

Bono Mack is not the first to attempt to draft data breach legislation. Waxman, in an opening statement to the subcommittee, urged Congress to pass the Data Accountability and Trust Act, from the 111th Congress.

During comments she made after the hearing, however, Bono Mack emphasized that the increased sophistication of hackers and their support from organized crime, along with the increased consumer reliance upon cloud-based technologies necessitates new legislative action.

“You don’t want to reinvent the entire wheel, and you never want legislation that’s going to stifle the growth of the Internet,” said Bono Mack, “but the world has changed in the past two and four years.”

While 45 U.S. states and territories have data breach laws in place, companies expressed their frustration that current state data breach notification laws only create confusion and unnecessary burdens on consumers and businesses.

“A uniform national law would provide predictability and equity for consumers, regardless of their state of residence, and would make it easier and less costly for businesses to ensure any applicable notification requirements are met,” said Jeanette Fitzgerald, General Counsel for Epsilon Data Management, LLC. “

Republicans and Democrats alike emphasized the bi-partisan nature of the legislative action being considered. While there is no certain date for when legislation can be expected, the recent breaches stressed need for action.

“I’d rather get it right, and create something that’s going to move and become law,” said Bono Mack.

“Data security is not a partisan issue,” said Waxman. “It is an issue that affects all of us because sooner or later everyone is vulnerable to cyber attacks: private sector companies of all sizes; federal, state, and local governments; and the American public.”

Between April 19 and May 25 of this year, Sony reported five major data security breaches affecting over 100 million of its account holders in North America, Europe, and Japan. Sony denied that customers’ personal financial information were compromised. Sony’s investigations, however, confirmed that hackers accessed names, email addresses, passwords, physical addresses, and birthdates.

On April 1, Epsilon announced that a criminal intrusion into its systems affected an estimated 60 million email accounts. Internal investigations conducted in conjunction with the Secret Service and FBI determined that hackers had accessed only email addresses and customer names.

Members, while pleased with the aggressive action that both companies took to address the issue, expressed frustration with Sony for its methods in which it chose to announce the breaches to its customers.

Along with sending out 77 million emails, Tim Schaaff, President of Sony Network Entertainment International, said that Sony also notified its account holders by way of the company’s blog.

In a follow up email after the hearing, Patrick Seybold, Senior Director of Corporate Communications & Social Media of Sony Computer Entertainment & Sony Network Entertainment, explained the company chose to utilize its blog to announce the breach due to the blog’s high ranking on Technorati, a website that measures the influence, reach, and authority of blogs.

“During the crisis, the Playstation blog was [ranked] 19th, just behind the White House blog the day after they announced the news on Osama Bin Laden. It is now currently the number-31 blog on the internet, on all topics,” said Seybold.

Sony also waited several days before notifying its customers of the breach. Epsilon notified its customers and relevant Federal authorities immediately.

Bono Mack stressed in her opening statement, however, that the hearing was not about pointing fingers, but about finding solutions to protect the American consumer. She reiterated these same sentiments during further comments after the hearing. The congresswoman stressed the need for companies to institute faster customer notification times when a data security breach occurs.

“The consumer needs to be empowered to protect themselves. If they think their credit cards were hacked, they should call their banks.”

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

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Congress Working to Enact Permitting Reforms for Broadband

‘Red tape really does have the possibility to kill project,’ argued a House subcommittee chief counsel.



Photo of Kate O'Connor from LinkedIn.

WASHINGTON, November 2, 2022 – Congress is advancing a series of proposals to reform broadband permitting, which include the elimination of unnecessary historical and environmental reviews and streamlining the process to deploy broadband on federal lands, staffers from the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a Fiber Broadband Association web event, Evan Viau, a staff member for the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, said the House is working to generally liberalize the permitting process for new deployments and upgrades to existing infrastructure as well.

“Red tape really does have the possibility to kill project,” argued Kate O’Connor, chief counsel for the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

“$42 billion (from the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program) seems like a lot of money…but if we don’t change all of the processes that allow that $42 billion to actually get spent to deploy this infrastructure, it could all be wasted,” she added.

O’Connor called for an “all-hands approach” to permitting reform, saying the federal government should encourage such reforms at the state and local levels, as well.

In 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated $65 billion to broadband funding – America’s largest investment in connectivity to date. The IIJA followed the American Rescue Plan Act, passed earlier that year, which also provided money for broadband to the states.

Republicans plan to oversee federal agencies

In addition to permitting reform, agency oversight is a top priority of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–Wash., ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, O’Connor said. In September, McMorris Rodgers warned Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel against acting beyond the statutory limits of the Commission’s authority.

And McMorris Rodgers isn’t the only high-ranking Republican with the oversight itch. In September, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R–Penn., ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, told Broadband Breakfast he would likely issue subpoenas to the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration following the agencies’ refusal to testify at a hearing.  

Should the GOP retake the house in the November midterms, McMorris Rodgers, Thompson, and other Republicans will be better positioned to take action against President Joe Biden’s executive agencies.

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National 6G Strategy Bill Passes Senate Commerce Committee

The Next Generation Telecommunications Act received bipartisan support.



Photo of Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by Senate Democrats, via Wikimedia

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2022 – Legislation that would create a council to advise Congress on 6G and other wireless technologies and how they may power smart cities on Tuesday passed the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation committee with bipartisan support.

In addition to advising Congress on the state of technology in the telecommunications industry, the council would also develop a comprehensive, national telecom strategy, which will address topics related to technology, workforce demands and security.

The bill, Next Generation Telecommunications Act, S.3014,was introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who said in a press release that the legislation is a key part of her state’s goal of being “on the cutting edge of new technologies.

“We’ve got to promote American competitiveness in these kind of cutting-edge technologies that we’re building in Nevada,” Cortze Masto said in a statement on the bill. “That means improving access to quality broadband, ensuring we have the necessary workforce, and putting in safeguards to make sure we protect emerging technologies.”

The council would be comprised of 15 members including the deputy secretary of Commerce, the assistant secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, the undersecretary of the National Institute of Standards, the chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission, and the director of the National Science Foundation.

The council would also feature three members appointed by the majority leader of the Senate, two members appointed by the minority leader of the Senate, three members appointed by the Speaker of the House, and two members appointed by the minority leader of the House.

The bill has received notable bipartisan support: it is co-sponsored by two Republicans and two additional Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Luján, D-N.M.

“As China and other countries seek to exploit communications networks for surveillance and intellectual property theft, the U.S. needs a cohesive strategy for the safe deployment of next-generation wireless technologies,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

South Dakota senator and Senate Republican minority whip John Thune also came out in support of the bill. “This bill would allow the United States to continue competing on the global stage, and it would help prepare the United States to lead the way in deploying next-generation technology, including 6G. I’ll continue to work on bipartisan solutions that will increase innovation and bolster the private sector’s ability to compete in this emerging space.”

The bill must now get through a general vote in the Senate, at which point it will need to also pass the House.

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Gigi Sohn Nomination for FCC Advances Out of Commerce Committee on Party Lines

Nomination of Alvaro Bedoya to the FTC can also advance to the floor following a party-line vote.



Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2022 –  President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Federal Communications Commission Gigi Sohn saw her nomination advance out of the Senate Commerce Committee Thursday following a vote split along party lines.

Sohn, as well as Biden’s nominee to the Federal Trade Commission Alvaro Bedoya, did not receive the vote of a single Republican on the committee while receiving the support of all Democrats including more moderate senators such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., allowing for their nominations to advance to a full vote on the Senate floor.

Republican ranking member of the committee Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi stated that on the FCC Sohn would have the appearance of conflicts of interest related to her involvement in past legal battles and cited her past recusals on retransmission consent as problematic.

The controversy is related to Sohn’s involvement with nonprofit streaming service Locast which attempted to make local broadcast network content available to the public for free, sparking copyright lawsuits.

Wicker stated that Bedoya was too divisive and not unifying enough to serve on the FTC, a trend of partisanship that he says is new to the agency.

Strong Democratic support for both nominees makes their confirmations in the Senate seem quite plausible. Should all Republicans vote against the nominations, the approval of all Democratic senators will be required in the deadlocked Senate so that the vice president may break vote ties in the nominees’ favors.

Both the FCC and FTC remain split along party lines, and the confirmations of Sohn and Bedoya would give Democrats the upper hand at the agencies.

The nominations’ advancements out of committee earned praise from telecom industry groups such as think tank New America, the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, and intellectual property nonprofit Public Knowledge – the organization Sohn formerly headed.

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