Speaking of regulatory oversight, Somini Sengupta of the New York Timesreports tech companies are gearing up for more attention from regulators:
“Now that the election is over, Silicon Valley companies each are thinking through their strategy for the second Obama administration,” said Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University and a former White House privacy official. “The F.T.C. will have a new Democratic chairman. A priority for tech companies will be to discern the new chair’s own priorities.”
One issue sure to heat up again this year is online privacy, with Facebook and Google front and center.
Cybersecurity continues to be a concern in Washington, and as The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso reports, the Obama administration is launching a new offensive:
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a series of steps aimed at combatting botnets — networks of computers that hackers take over and use to spread spam or attack websites.
Botnets have become a favorite weapon of hacker groups such as Anonymous that use them to overwhelm the servers of government and industry websites.
After discussions with government agencies, an industry working group outlined a set of voluntary principles for companies to reduce the impact of botnets, while a financial industry group announced a pilot project for sharing information about the attacks.
As part of the efforts, government agencies and private companies are also launching an education campaign with the catchy name “Keep a Clean Machine.”
Over at The American, Entropy Economics president Bret Swanson (he’s also an IIA Broadband Ambassador) has penned an op-ed on the FCC’s efforts to stop the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. Stating the FCC (and the Obama administration) have “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” Swanson writes:
Only in Washington could such an ideal marriage look bad. The chief challenge of the U.S. wireless industry is not competition. Prices are dropping and consumers are gobbling up mobile devices and services. The big obstacles are capacity and coverage. But even if we grant the FCC’s old-school priority of a kind of perfect competition in a mature industry, its case still makes no sense. Deutsche Telekom is getting out of the business. If T-Mobile is not a viable competitor, then how does AT&T’s acquisition of it “reduce competition”? Moreover, as spectrum-hobbled companies, AT&T and T-Mobile couldn’t effectively compete in 4G services with more spectrum-rich Verizon and Sprint-Clearwire. The only conclusion to be drawn is that the FCC wants someone else to get T-Mobile’s assets and will decide who that someone is. Central planning at its finest.
At the New York Times, Natasha Singer breaks down a new initiative from the Obama administration to help soothe fears about online fraud:
The plan, called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace and introduced earlier this year, encourages the private-sector development and public adoption of online user authentication systems. Think of it as a driver’s license for the Internet. The idea is that if people have a simple, easy way to prove who they are online with more than a flimsy password, they’ll naturally do more business on the Web. And companies and government agencies, like Social Security or the I.R.S., could offer those consumers faster, more secure online services without having to come up with their own individual vetting systems.
On Tuesday, September 13, we held our latest broadband Symposium, “Realizing Deployment of Next Generation Broadband Services and Applications to All of America,” at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Kicking off the symposium was featured speaker Jessica Zufolo, Deputy Administrator of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service. Appointed by President Obama in July of 2009, Zufolo offered the perspective of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) on the critical importance of mobile broadband and bringing the Internet to rural America.
Zufolo began her speech by highlighting the Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) perspective on the importance of expanding broadband access:
”As we all know, the availability of fixed and mobile broadband is one of the pillars for economic growth in any community. It’s also one of the most important economic development tools to attract businesses and increase the quality of life for millions of Americans who live in rural areas and tribal lands. Without access to high-speed communications, rural communities will simply not survive in this information economy”
Zufolo then outlined the President’s goals for bringing broadband to more people:
”The Obama administration is focused on the important link between broadband and job growth across rural America. You saw the President’s interest in this topic as he visited rural communities in Iowa and Minnesota throughout the summer. We’re unified in our vision that rural America plays a vital part in this administration’s efforts to transform the economy and create good jobs and encourage investments.”
To illustrate RUS’s efforts to expand access in rural communities, Zufolo offered some impressive numbers:
”The RUS has invested close to 3 million in funding for nearly 300 broadband projects… [We] will bring broadband to 70 million rural residents, 360,000 businesses, 30,000 community anchor institutions, as well as Native American lands in 45 states and one U.S. territory. In total, these projects are expected to create 30,000 jobs in building out new high-speed networks across rural America.”
After touching on efforts to build out a public safety network and smart grid initiatives, Zufolo closed by talking about the Obama administration’s new rural initiative:
”A lot of policymakers in the telecommunications Internet space often forget a very important fact that our President tries to remind us of every day, and that is over 16 percent of Americans live in rural communities. This is a fact that needs to be reminded when we talk about Internet access and broadband deployment, because it’s a crucial fact that drives our economic goals and capital priorities. So to enhance the federal government’s efforts to address the employment needs of rural America, on June 9 President Obama signed an executive order establishing the first White House rural council, which is focused on accelerating the work on increasing access to capital and expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas.”
Our thanks to Jessica Zufolo for participating in the symposium. More information on the Rural Utilities Service and its initiatives can be found on the Department of Agriculture website.
Via Josh Peterson of Broadband Breakfast, the Department of Defense is focusing heavily on the threat of cyberattacks:
The DoD Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace (DSOC) is the first unified strategy for conducting operations in cyberspace between the Defense Department’s military, intelligence and business operations. The DoD is coordinating its cyber security efforts with the Department of Homeland Security and private companies responsible for maintaining critical infrastructure through threat information sharing and more robust network protection.
But while preparing for battle against cyber attackers is definitely smart, The Hill‘s John T. Bennett reports that questions linger about the difference between an attack and an all-out act of war:
[The DoD’s document] does not define what the Obama administration considers an act of cyberwar, nor does it detail how the military would respond to a major electronic attack. It also features no description of the kinds of actions the military is conducting in the electronic domain.
Those omissions brought fresh questions Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about whether the Defense Department, White House, federal agencies and industry are truly prepared for a major attack on the U.S. through the Internet.
At an event today, the Obama administration showed off some plans to make America’s electrical grids smarter. At GigaOm, Katie Fehrenbacher has a good breakdown of the initiatives, but some of the highlights include at least $250 million in loans for rural smart grid programs, a crowd-sourced map to showcase progress, and keeping an emphasis on grid security as the infrastructure is made smarter.
The House Communications subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow on the so-called D Block spectrum, reports Sara Jerome of The Hill.
Meanwhile, over at Multichannel News, John Eggerton looks at a House majority staff memo making the rounds that outlines Republican concerns over the Obama administration’s proposal to dedicate D Block spectrum for public safety:
“There are a number of spectrum bands that hold the potential to help us meet our goals, but there are tough decisions to be made about how, when, and for what purpose spectrum is put to use,” according to the Republican staff memo on the upcoming April 12 hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee. The memo pointed to some of broadcasters concerns about the option of auctioning more of their spectrum.
“While there are few that have outright opposed incentive auctions,” the memo said, “there are concerns as to how they could be done with what spectrum. Broadcasters are emphasizing that incentive auctions be truly ‘voluntary.’ Broadcasters have also raised concerns about how repacking will be handled once licensees voluntarily auction off their spectrum.”
At the Metro West Daily News, a musician by the name of Erin McKeown has penned a great op-ed on the need to ensure America connects everyone to the Internet:
Before wireless, those in rural communities like mine faced tremendous cost and infrastructure obstacles to getting connected. Today, access may be in reach of so many more Americans. As long as this access remains open and allows for direct participation, it could transform local economies and creative culture. In the same way that it makes my tiny rural cabin a concert venue of infinite size.
The time is now for this historic investment. We must urge Congress to support the President’s call to ensure that every American has access to the economic, educational and artistic opportunities that universal access to high-speed wireless can create.
At The Hill, Sara Jerome reports on a rumor floating around that a big change could be coming to the FCC:
The White House is considering FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as a potential successor to Gary Locke as Secretary of Commerce, according to tech industry sources and prominent Democrats close to the White House.
Genachowski is among a list of names the White House has floated internally, along with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, other government officials, and top business executives, the sources said.
Gary Locke, former Governor of Washington State, is expected to be named U.S. Ambassador to China.
The Wall Street Journal’s Amy Schatz reports the Obama administration is gearing up for a major push to allocate D-block spectrum for a nationwide public safety network:
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission proposed auctioning off a valuable block of airwaves to wireless carriers and using the proceeds to help fund this new public-safety network. The White House projected that the government would raise about $3 billion from the auction.
At the time, agency officials said it would be more cost effective to auction off the airwaves and require commercial wireless providers to provide priority access to public-safety agencies.
But the FCC didn’t go forward with this auction and the White House Thursday formally rejected the FCC’s plan, saying that giving the airwaves to public-safety groups was a better option. Administration officials are expected to lay out details of their new national wireless plan in the coming fiscal 2012 budget request.
Speaking at CES yesterday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke warned that the U.S. is behind when it comes to technology and innovation. Via The Hill, Locke said:
“A report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation concluded that no advanced economy in the world has done LESS than the United States to improve its competitive position over the last decade. No wonder then that this past decade featured the slowest average annual GDP growth in America since World War II.”
Locke then went on to talk about the Obama administration’s attempts to right the ship, including reducing the backlog at the U.S. Patent Office and increased national funding for research and development.
IIA Broadband Ambassador Gary Smith has been nominated by President Obama to be an Appointee for Member, President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. From the official White House press release:
Gary Smith has served as Chief Executive Officer of Ciena since 2001. He also serves as President and Director, positions he has held since October 2000. Prior to his current roles, he served as Chief Operating Officer, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Sales, and Vice President, International Sales. From 1995 through 1997, Mr. Smith served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for INTELSAT. He also previously served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Cray Communications, Inc. Mr. Smith currently serves on the board of directors for CommVault Systems, Inc. and is a commissioner of the Global Information Infrastructure Commission. He is also a Broadband Ambassador for the Internet Innovation Alliance and participates in initiatives at the Center for Corporate Innovation. He received his M.B.A. from Ashridge Management College, United Kingdom.
Rarely is there an opportunity to simultaneously catalyze private-sector investment, help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and increase much needed government revenue. President Obama is seizing just such an opportunity with his commitment to nearly double the amount of available commercial wireless spectrum over the next 10 years. Today, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will take the first step by announcing a plan to free up 115 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum.
Given wireless broadband’s potential not just in job creation and innovation, but in helping close America’s digital divide, we praise the Obama administration and NTIA for taking this important step.
The Obama administration continues to embrace social media to interact with the public. Their latest foray: Asking citizens to submit their ideas via Twitter. GigaOm explains:
In a post on the official White House blog, Thomas Kalil — the deputy director for policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy — described what the government is calling the “Grand Challenges of the 21st Century” project. In addition to emailing ideas to the White House, citizens can post their ideas as a response to the White House Twitter account @whitehouse with the #whgc hashtag.
Up until now, the broadband grant process has been slower than anticipated. But with the unemployment rate now over 10%, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration wants to speed the process up:
Officials at the Commerce and Agriculture Departments outlined plans to consolidate into a single round a grant process originally projected to go for two more rounds. The first round of grants is scheduled to be made in December. The departments asked for comments on how the program could be changed to make it easier for companies to apply.
“This will get the funds out the door faster to stimulate the economy and create jobs,” said Jonathan Adelstein, the Agriculture Department official overseeing the program in a statement. The Agriculture Department oversees a program to build broadband lines in rural areas and will distribute loans as part of the stimulus program.
In other national broadband plan news, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has announced the next round of broadband mapping grants. This time, seven states were on the list: Alabama, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.
Count the White House’s proposed health care plan as one of the now 300 million Facebook users worldwide. Reports Read Write Web:
In an effort to personalize healthcare reform benefits, WhiteHouse.gov launched a “Reality Check” Facebook quiz application to rally for President Barack Obama’s widely disputed Health Insurance Reform Plan. While the application was only shared with Facebook users 6 hours ago, 350 people have already commented on everything from education, to war, to congressional travel records to general partisanship.
The New York Times examines efforts — and struggles — in turning health records digital:
Encouraged by the billions of dollars in government funding, technology companies are making a big push to help bring computerized health records into small-office physician practices.
This is crucial if the goal of bringing doctors’ offices into the computer age is to be achieved, with its promise of improving care and curbing costs. Three-fourths of all the nation’s physicians practice medicine in offices with 10 or fewer doctors.
But the challenge ahead is daunting, for reasons that have more to do with economics than technology.
According to the Times, practices that are successful in making the digital transition fall into two groups: large physician groups with the resources the make the shift, and small practices willing to take the challenge on. Up until now, however, very little help has been available for most smaller practices. That’s sure to change now that the Obama administration has pledged $19 billion in incentives to help make the digital shift.
An editorial in today’s New York Times warns that as the Obama administration pushes for a more open government online, the privacy of citizens must always be at the forefront:
In recent years, the government has monitored some Americans’ library use and illegally eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mail. Privacy groups are concerned that the new rules could pave the way for third parties to collect large amounts of data through government sites — for example, if an agency site posted a YouTube video carrying its own cookies.
The Office of Management and Budget is developing the new rules. Officials say they recognize that people must be told that their use of Web sites is being tracked — and be given a chance to opt out. More is needed. The government should commit to displaying such notices prominently on all Web pages — and to making it easy for users to choose not to be tracked.
The Internet can certainly inspire people to be more engaged with their government, but only if they feel secure while they’re doing it.
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