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EU Privacy Deal, NTIA Hires Digital Equity Director, FCC National Security Order

The privacy deal eases worries for American technology companies that sell consumer data.

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Photo of President Joe Biden giving a joint press statement with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, Belgium by Evelyn Hockstein

March 25, 2022 – A provisional agreement may allow European’s personal information to be stored in the United States.

President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on a deal on Friday that would resolve uncertainty about companies’ ability to send data between the U.S. and Europe.The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is the EU’s comprehensive privacy law that places limits on technology companies’ ability to collect and share consumer’s personal information.

GDPR, which went into effect across the E.U. in 2018, is stricter than the U.S. privacy laws.  Friday’s agreement strengthens the U.S.-E.U. Privacy Shield Framework, which provides a mechanism to comply with data protection requirements when transferring personal data from the European Union and Switzerland to the United States in support of transatlantic commerce.

Biden said Friday’s action establishes “unprecedented protections for data privacy and security for our citizens,” Biden said. “This new arrangement will enhance the Privacy Shield framework, promote growth and innovation in Europe and the United States, and help companies — both small and large — compete in the digital economy.”

Von der Leyen said the agreement “will enable predictable and trustworthy data flows between the EU and the U.S., safeguarding privacy and civil liberties.”

NTIA hires digital equity director

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration hired its first-ever digital equity director.

Cleveland-based digital equity advocate Angela Thi Bennett has been named to the job. She begins on Monday.

Thi Bennett comes from the Cleveland-based digital equity and literacy non-profit Digital C. She will move from her current position as DigitalC’s director of advocacy. She has worked for years with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.

“Her local digital inclusion experience combined with her active national community involvement means she is equipped to understand the challenges and the need for holistic and collaborative solutions,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA.

This is the first-ever position in the federal government with “digital equity” in the job title.

Thi Bennett will be charged to direct the allocation of $2.75 billion from the Digital Equity Act and help develop guidelines for states to equitably use these funds.

“As my ability to serve scales to the national level, I remain steadfastly committed to amplifying marginalized voices, empowering local communities to drive solutions and creating shared standards of metrics to inform interventions and create accountability,” Thi Bennett said.

Founded in 2015, DigitalC has invested $12 million in technology infrastructure to establish a reliable, affordable wireless internet service provider, EmpowerCLE+, which currently has the capacity to serve 4,000 households in six of Cleveland’s least connected neighborhoods.

FCC network security order

The FCC on Friday added three companies to its list of business posing a threat to U.S. national security.

The agency listed AO Kaspersky Lab, China Telecom (Americas) Corp, and China Mobile International USA Inc. – to its list of communications equipment and services that have been deemed a threat to national security.

The list follows requirements from the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 to investigate and report on services that are national security threats to American networks.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the updated list “is the latest in the FCC’s ongoing efforts, as part of the greater whole-of-government approach, to strengthen America’s communications networks against national security threats, including examining the foreign ownership of telecommunications companies providing service in the United States and revoking the authorization to operate where necessary.”

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act requires the Commission to publish and maintain a list of communications equipment and services that pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons.

The FCC says the initial list, which was published in March 2021, will be continually updated as other communications equipment and services meet the criteria under the law.

 

 

Broadband Roundup

Biden Administration Tour, NTIA Funding Internet for Two Tribal Nations, Ting Partnership in California

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will visit a fiber manufacturer in North Carolina.

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Photo of Joe Biden from 2021

March 27, 2023 President Joe Biden and cabinet members will begin an “Investing in America” tour on Tuesday in Durham, North Carolina, which will highlight the president’s agenda for items including the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the American Rescue Plan Act, according to a White House brief on Friday.

Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will travel to North Carolina to visit manufacturers producing fiber optic cable, while Biden will visit Wolfspeed in Durham, North Carolina, a semiconductor manufacturer, which recently announced a $5 billion investment to build the facility and create 1,800 new jobs in the state.

The new laws are “unleashing a manufacturing boom, helping rebuild our infrastructure and bring back supply chains, lowering costs for hardworking families, and creating jobs that don’t require a four-year degree across the country,” according to the brief.

Before the president starts the tour, the White House “will hold a cabinet meeting on Monday, where members from across the administration will come together to discuss how their agencies are working together to implement the president’s agenda to expand economic opportunities across the country,” the brief added.

In Biden’s the State of the Union address in February, he emphasized the importance of ”made in America” rules, especially for fiber optic cables.

NTIA announces $25.7 million to fund two tribal nations

The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Thursday it has awarded two grants totaling more than $25.7 million to two tribal nations for internet and broadband, according to a press release.

As part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota will receive $11.4 million fund and the Pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico will receive $14. 3 million.

“Tribal communities often face high barriers to Internet adoption that hinder their ability to thrive in the modern digital economy,” said NTIA head Alan Davidson in the release. “Today’s grants to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Pueblo of Acoma will reduce these barriers for more than 1,500 Tribal households, connecting them to economic and educational opportunities that many of us take for granted.”

The Federal Communications Commission partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services last February to raise awareness about the agency’s E-Rate subsidy program, which is federal program used to supply libraries with funding for internet infrastructure and has come under fire for a lack of expansion to tribal communities.

Ting partners to bring fiber to California, Arizona areas

Fiber internet provider Ting, a division of Tucows, announced on Thursday it will partnership with Ubiquity, a company that invests and manage digital communications infrastructure, to bring fiber internet to Carlsbad, California and Mesa, Arizona, according to a Tucows press release.

“Our partnership with Ubiquity allows us to connect more residents and businesses to fiber, faster, while being efficient with construction resources,” said Elliot Noss, CEO of Tucows and Ting, in the release. “We’re excited to work with a team that shares our vision of what future-proofed communities can look like now, and into the future.”

Ubiquity began construction of the network in early 2023 in both Carlsbad, California and Mesa, Arizona. The tenant partnership between these two internet companies “is expected to result in up to 150,000 available fiber addresses across both markets over the build term”, according to the Tucows’s release.

The companies also partnered in 2019 to build in the markets of Solana Beach and Encinitas of Southern California.

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CHIPS Act Rules Against China, Idaho State Broadband Funds, FCC Combats Hidden Fees

Commerce Department’s new proposal would limit CHIPS Act recipients from investing in other countries

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Photo of Brad Little from his website

March 23, 2023 – The Department of Commerce released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to limit recipients of the CHIPS and Science Act from investing in the expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in foreign countries of concern such as People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to Commerce department press release Tuesday.

“The innovation and technology funded in the CHIPS Act is how we plan to expand the technological and national security advantages of America and our allies; these guardrails will help ensure we stay ahead of adversaries for decades to come,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“CHIPS for America is fundamentally a national security initiative and these guardrails will help ensure malign actors do not have access to the cutting-edge technology that can be used against America and our allies.”

In addition to the national security guardrails the CHIPS and Science Act already included, these new proposed rules would prohibit significant transactions for leading-edge and advanced facilities in foreign countries of concern for 10 years from the date of award; limit the expansion of existing legacy facilities and prohibit recipients from adding new production lines or expanding a facility’s production capacity beyond 10 percent; classify semiconductors as critical to national security; and impose restrictions on joint research and technology licensing efforts with foreign entities of concern.

The Commerce Department is now seeking comments for 60 days.

Idaho invests $125 million in state funds for broadband deployment

Idaho on Monday passed legislation to spend $125 million in state funds on broadband deployments as a part of it’s “Idaho First” plan, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The state plans to spend an additional $100 million is nearing legislative approval.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a strong economy. Improved broadband infrastructure means both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

“I appreciate my legislative partners for prioritizing these new ‘Idaho First’ investments in broadband expansion,” said Little. “Together, we are ensuring a kid in Pierce can learn online with a kid from Pocatello and a senior citizen in Challis can connect to her doctor in Chubbuck. This is about all about connecting Idaho and improving lives.”

Both of these two states could receive millions more in broadband funding through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program.

Cable and broadcast satellite providers must offer customers what they charge and why they charge

A new proposal introduced by Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite providers to specify their prices for video programming service in both their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills, so that customers will not be confused, according to a Wednesday press release.

According to the proposal, cable and DBS providers need to include separate lines on each payment bill and promotional material for broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and fees for other programs that customers might sign up but without clear understanding.

“Consumers deserve to know what exactly they are paying for when they sign up for a cable or broadcast satellite subscription. No one likes surprises on their bill, especially families on tight budgets,” Rosenworcel said in the statement.

“We’re working to make it so the advertised price for a service is the price you pay when your bill arrives and isn’t littered with anything that resembles junk fees.”

This proposal of consumer protection is “latest in the Commission’s price transparency and increased competitiveness initiatives” which also includes the nation’s first Broadband Nutrition Label, that requires broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to compare broadband service shop and choose for their own, according to the press release.

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Space Bills Get Markup, Cybersecurity Reserve Bills Introduced, Gigabit Center Opens in Crown Heights, NY

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act are scheduled for mark-up on Thursday.

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Photo of Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2015 by Gage Skidmore

March 23, 2023 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a mark-up meeting on Thursday to consider pieces of legislation that will “keep America at the forefront of next-generation communications technology,” according to a press release.

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. in December last year will be among those going through the line-by-line process on Thursday.

The Secure Space Act prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to untrusted actors, based on the framework adopted in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies FCC authority with the goal of promoting responsible use of space, incentivizing investment and innovation, and advancing U.S. leadership.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

Bills to ensure cybersecurity reserves in government introduced

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish pilot programs that would hire civilian cybersecurity personnel in reserve to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity, especially at times of greatest need.”

The bills, some versions of which were previously introduced but did not pass, would establish the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,”  Rosen said in a press release on Tuesday“Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills comes at a time when federal agencies are “experiencing a growing shortage of cybersecurity talent,” the release said.

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Blackburn said. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Gigabit Center to provide free internet to students in Crown Heights, NY

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, which will provide free internet resources for students, opened in Crown Heights, New York on Wednesday.

The center will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi, technology, education and school supplies to Crown Height, New York, an area where 36 percent of households lack broadband, according to the press release.

The center opened with a press conference hosted by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, LinkNYC, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, digital infrastructure company ZenFi Networks, and tech education non-profit Digital Girl, according to a ZenFi Networks press release.

ZenFi Networks has previously opened centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens to help the local communities to learn and adopt to modern technologies.

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