Appropriations Move Ahead

Congress has started the new fiscal year as it usually does with a short-term bill. However, full appropriations may not be enacted until next spring. And yet, another stimulus bill may infuse more money into technology programs.

Congress and the White House agreed to a short-term bill to fund the federal government and all its activities through mid-December, removing a contentious, must-pass issue from the list of pending items that might get enacted before the election. Talks are ongoing regarding another COVID-19 stimulus package, and House Democrats revised and passed their proposal without a single Republican vote.

Last week, the President signed a continuing resolution (CR) into law that would keep government agencies and departments funded at the same level as the previous fiscal year that ended on 30 September. It is customary in most years to pass a short-term CR to give the two bodies more time to work out a final package. However, it bears note that in the last two elections in which the White House changed parties (2008 and 2016), regular appropriations were kicked well into the next calendar year resulting in long-term CRs passed after the election. So, if former Vice President Joe Biden wins next month’s election, FY 2021 appropriations may not get sorted until next spring.

As noted, the “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act” (H.R.8337) extends FY 2020 appropriations until December 11, 2020 at the same level that departments and agencies were funded in FY 2020 with some exceptions (aka anomalies.) There was the customary bar on using these funds for any programs or activities not approved for FY 2020, meaning any new programs proposed for FY 2021 could not be funded. This prohibition includes the Department of Defense (DOD), and the CR explicitly bars the use of funds provided for

(1) the new production of items not funded for production in fiscal year 2020 or prior years;
(2) the increase in production rates above those sustained with fiscal year 2020 funds; or
(3) The initiation, resumption, or continuation of any project, activity, operation, or organization (defined as any project, subproject, activity, budget activity, program element, and subprogram within a program element, and for any investment items defined as a P–1 line item in a budget activity within an appropriation account and an R–1 line item that includes a program element and subprogram element within an appropriation account) for which appropriations, funds, or other authority were not available during fiscal year 2020.

The CR also bars the use of DOD funds “to initiate multi-year procurements utilizing advance procurement funding for economic order quantity procurement unless specifically appropriated later.”

As noted, the CR does allow some departments and agencies to have more funds for specified programs via so-called anomalies, and some of the more notable ones are:

  • $1.4 billion for the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program
  • Language allowing the Department of Agriculture to spend at a level sufficient to ensure that a program to feed needy children during the summer is ready in 2021
  • A provision allowing the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to continue feeding low-income seniors, women, infants, and children aged six and below
  • $1.5 billion for the Bureau of the Census
  • “The Navy may enter into a contract, beginning with fiscal year 2021, for the procurement of up to two Columbia class submarines…in an amount not to exceed $1.62 billion.”

The CR also carried an extension for the current surface transportation bill that was set to expire on September 30, 2020 that funds programs at the current level until September 30, 2021 to give Congress more time to pass a full surface transportation reauthorization. $14.6 billion is appropriated to supplement Highway Trust Fund proceeds, and the Airport and Airway Trust Fund would also get an infusion of $14 billion to fund Federal Aviation Administration programs. The package also has Medicare and Medicaid extenders. There is also an extension of the “Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004” “to strengthen public and private antitrust enforcement by providing incentives for antitrust violators to cooperate fully with government prosecutors and private litigants through the repeal of the sunset provision.”

Finally, the CR extends the Pandemic EBT program, the waivers for the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the administrative flexibility provided to states for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

On a party line vote, the House passed a slimmer version of the “HEROES Act,” the Democratic stimulus package. This bill would make available $2.2 trillion in comparison to the $3.4 trillion package passed in May. However, just because this bill passed the House does not mean another COVID-19 stimulus package would look like this. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is still in negotiations with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and the White House is also negotiating with Senate Republicans who generally favor a smaller bill. It is unclear whether these different stakeholders will reach agreement before the election.

According to the House Appropriations Committee summary, the HEROES Act would fund the following technology programs:

  • Elections – $3.6 billion for grants to states for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office.
  • Broadband – $12 billion to close the homework gap by providing funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, $3 billion for emergency home connectivity, $200 million for telemedicine grants, and $24 million for broadband mapping.
  • General Services Administration Technology Modernization Fund – $1 billion in funding for technology-related modernization activities to respond to coronavirus.
  • House of Representatives – $37 million to support expanded House operations such as tele-town halls, video conferencing, remote hearings, and cybersecurity. Funding will also support changes to Member office space, such as providing plastic barriers.
  • Senate– $6.345 million for teleworking and IT needs as well as funds to supplement daycare operations.
  • E-Rate Support for Wi-Fi Hotspots, Other Equipment, and Connected Devices During Emergency Periods Related to COVID-19. Authorizes a temporary disbursement to be administered through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-rate Program for schools and libraries to provide internet service in a technologically neutral way to students and teachers, prioritizing those without internet access at home. It allows authorized funding to be used for internet service and providing connected devices, like laptops and tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, and routers, to students and teachers to help keep them in the digital classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Five percent of the emergency funds authorized are set aside to help serve schools and libraries that serve people living on tribal lands.
  • Benefit for Broadband Service During Emergency Periods Relating to COVID-19.Entitles households in which a member has been laid off or furloughed, among other households that will be eligible, to get a $50 benefit, or a$75 benefit on tribal lands, to put toward the monthly price of internet service during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Internet service providers would be required to provide eligible households service at a price reduced by an amount up to the emergency benefit, and those providers can seek a reimbursement from the FCC for such amount.
  • Continued Connectivity During Emergency Periods Relating to COVID-19. Prohibits broadband and telephone providers from terminating service due to a customer’s inability to pay their bill because of financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or imposing late fees incurred because of hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also prohibits broadband providers from employing data caps or charging customers from going over data caps and requires them to open Wi-Fi hotspots to the public at no cost during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Requirement for Confinement Facility Communications Services, During the Covid-19 Pandemic and Other Times. Sets a mandatory, immediate, interim cap on all rates charged in connection with voice calls and video calls made to or from prisons or jails —both for calls within a state and calls between states — of .04 cents per-minute for debit calls and .05 cents per-minute for collect calls. It also gives the FCC the authority to set rates in connection with voice calls and video calls in prisons and jails both for calls within a state and calls between states. Finally, it requires the FCC to adopt rules to replace the mandatory interim caps within 18 months of passage and to review those rates every two years. Prohibits prisons or jails from charging site commissions.
  • Preempts any state law that permits a higher rate for voice or video calling but allows state laws mandating a lower rate to persist.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and, 2019-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Further Reading and Other Developments (29 June)

First things first, if you would like to receive my Technology Policy Update, email me. You can find some of these Updates from 2019 and 2020 here.

Other Developments

  • The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held an oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with the FCC Chair and four Commissioners.
  • New Zealand’s Parliament passed the “Privacy Act 2020,” a major update of its 1993 statute that would, according to New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, do the following:
    • Mandatory notification of harmful privacy breaches. If organisations or businesses have a privacy breach that poses a risk of serious harm, they are required to notify the Privacy Commissioner and affected parties. This change brings New Zealand in line with international best practice.
    • Introduction of compliance orders. The Commissioner may issue compliance notices to require compliance with the Privacy Act. Failure to follow a compliance notice could result a fine of up to $10,000.
    • Binding access determinations. If an organisation or business refuses to make personal information available upon request, the Commissioner will have the power to demand release.
    • Controls on the disclosure of information overseas. Before disclosing New Zealanders’ personal information overseas, New Zealand organisations or businesses will need to ensure those overseas entities have similar levels of privacy protection to those in New Zealand.
    • New criminal offences. It will be an offence to mislead an organisation or business in a way that affects someone’s personal information or to destroy personal information if a request has been made for it.  The maximum fine for these offences is $10,000.
    • Explicit application to businesses whether or not they have a legal or physical presence in New Zealand. If an international digital platform is carrying on business in New Zealand, with the New Zealanders’ personal information, there will be no question that they will be obliged to comply with New Zealand law regardless of where they, or their servers are based.
  • The United States’ National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) submitted its annual report to the White House and found:
    • Our Government’s ability to protect and share Classified National Security Information and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) continues to present serious challenges to our national security. While dozens of agencies now use various advanced technologies to accomplish their missions, a majority of them still rely on antiquated information security management practices. These practices have not kept pace with the volume of digital data that agencies create and these problems will worsen if we do not revamp our data collection methods for overseeing information security programs across the Government. We must collect and analyze data that more accurately reflects the true health of these programs in the digital age.
    • However, ISOO noted progress on efforts to better secure and protect CUI but added “[f]ull implementation will require additional resources, including dedicated funds and more full-time staff.”
    • Regarding classified information, ISOO found “Classified National Security Information policies and practices remain outdated and are unable to keep pace with the volume of digital data that agencies create.”
  • The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre released its most recent “Covid-19 Disinformation & Social Media Manipulation” report titled “ID2020, Bill Gates and the Mark of the Beast: how Covid-19catalyses existing online conspiracy movements:”
    • Against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has become the subject of a diverse and rapidly expanding universe of conspiracy theories. As an example, a recent poll found that 44% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats in the US now believe that Gates is linked to a plot to use vaccinations as a pretext to implant microchips into people. And it’s not just America: 13% of Australians believe that Bill Gates played a role in the creation and spread of the coronavirus, and among young Australians it’s 20%. Protests around the world, from Germany to Melbourne, have included anti-Gates chants and slogans.
    • This report takes a close look at a particular variant of the Gates conspiracy theories, which is referred to here as the ID2020 conspiracy (named after the non-profit ID2020 Alliance, which the conspiracy theorists claim has a role in the narrative), as a case study for examining the dynamics of online conspiracy theories on Covid-19. Like many conspiracy theories, that narrative builds on legitimate concerns, in this case about privacy and surveillance in the context of digital identity systems, and distorts them in extreme and unfounded ways.
  • The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) released “TOP CHALLENGES FACING FEDERAL AGENCIES:  COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Response Efforts” for those agencies that received the bulk of funds under the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act” (P.L. 116-136). PRAC is housed within the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) is comprised of “21 Offices of Inspector General (OIG) overseeing agencies who received the bulk of the emergency funding.” PRAC stated
    • CIGIE previously has identified information technology (IT) security and management as a long-standing, serious, and ubiquitous challenge that impacts agencies across the government, highlighting agencies’ dependence on reliable and secure IT systems to perform their mission-critical functions.  Key areas of concern have included safeguarding federal systems against cyberattacks and insider threats, modernizing and managing federal IT systems, ensuring continuity of operations, and recruiting and retaining a highly skilled cybersecurity workforce.  
    • These concerns remain a significant challenge, but are impacted by (1) widespread reliance on maximum telework to continue agency operations during the pandemic, which has strained agency networks and shifted IT resources, and (2) additional opportunities and targets for cyberattacks created by remote access to networks and increases in online financial activity.
  • Following the completion of a European Union-People’s Republic of China summit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed to a number of ongoing technology-related issues between the EU and the PRC, including:
    • [W]e continue to have an unbalanced trade and investment relationship. We have not made the progress we aimed for in last year’s Summit statement in addressing market access barriers. We need to follow up on these commitments urgently. And we also need to have more ambition on the Chinese side in order to conclude negotiations on an investment agreement. These two actions would address the asymmetry in our respective market access and would improve the level playing field between us. In order to conclude the investment agreement, we would need in particular substantial commitments from China on the behaviour of state-owned enterprises, transparency in subsidies, and transparency on the topic of forced technology transfers.
    • We have raised these issues at the same time with President Xi and Premier Li that we expect that China will show the necessary level of ambition to conclude these negotiations by the end of this year. I think it is important that we have now a political, high-level approach on these topics.
    • I have also made it clear that China needs to engage seriously on a reform of the World Trade Organization, in particular on the future negotiations on industrial subsidies. This is the relevant framework where we have to work together on the topic – and it is a difficult topic – but this is the framework, which we have to establish to have common binding rules we agree on.
    • And we must continue to work on tackling Chinese overcapacity, for example in the steel and metal sectors, and in high technology. Here for us it is important that China comes back to the international negotiation table, that we sit down there and find solutions.
    • We also pointed out the importance of the digital transformation and its highly assertive approach to the security, the resilience and the stability of digital networks, systems and value chains. We have seen cyberattacks on hospitals and dedicated computing centres. Likewise, we have seen a rise of online disinformation. We pointed out clearly that this cannot be tolerated.
  • United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement titled “The Tide Is Turning Toward Trusted 5G Vendors,” in which he claimed:
    • The tide is turning against Huawei as citizens around the world are waking up to the danger of the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state. Huawei’s deals with telecommunications operators around the world are evaporating, because countries are only allowing trusted vendors in their 5G networks. Examples include the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Romania, Denmark, and Latvia. Recently, Greece agreed to use Ericsson rather than Huawei to develop its 5G infrastructure.
  • Germany’s highest court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), ruled against Facebook’s claim that the country’s antitrust regulator was wrong in its finding that it was abusing its dominant position in combining data on German nationals and residents across its platforms. Now the matter will go down to a lower German court that is expected to heed the higher court’s ruling and allow the Bundeskartellamt’s restrictions to limit Facebook’s activity.
  • France’s Conseil d’État upheld the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés’ (CNIL) 2019 fine of €50 million of Google under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) “for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization.”
  • A Virginia court ruled against House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) in his suit against Twitter and Liz Mair, a Republican consultant, and Twitter accounts @devincow and @DevinNunesMom regarding alleged defamation.
  • The California Secretary of State has listed the ballot initiative to add the “California Privacy Rights Act” to the state’s law, in large part, to amend the “California Consumer privacy Act” (CCPA) (AB 375) as having qualified for November’s ballot.

Further Reading

  • Wrongfully Accused by an Algorithm” – The New York Times. In what should have been predictable and foreseeable given the error rate of many facial recognition algorithms at identifying correctly people of color, an African American was wrongly identified by this technology, causing him to be released. Those in the field and experts stress positive identifications are supposed to only be one piece of evidence, but in this case, it was the only evidence police had. After a store loss specialists agreed a person in low grade photo was the likely shoplifter, police arrested the man. Eventually, the charges were dismissed, initially with prejudice leaving open the possibility of future prosecution but later the district attorney cleared all charges and expunged the arrest.
  • Pentagon Says it Needs ‘More Time’ Fixing JEDI Contract“ – Nextgov. The saga of the Department of Defense’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract continues. Amazon and Microsoft will need to submit revised bids for the possibly $10 billion procurement as the Department of Defense (DOD) is trying to cure the problems turned up by a federal court in the suit brought by Amazon. These bids would be evaluated later this summer, according to a recent DOD court filing. The next award of this contract could trigger another bid protest just as the first award caused Amazon to challenge Microsoft’s victory.
  • EU pushing ahead with digital tax despite U.S. resistance, top official says” – Politico. In an Atlantic Council event, European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager stated the European Union will move ahead with an EU-wide digital services tax despite the recent pullout of the United States from talks on such a tax. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development had convened multi-lateral talks to resolve differences on how a global digital services tax will ideally function with most of the nations involved arguing for a 2% tax to be assessed in the nation where the transaction occurs as opposed to where the company is headquartered. EU officials claim agreement was within reach when the US removed itself from the talks. An EU-wide tax is of a piece with a more aggressive stance taken by the EU towards US technology companies, a number of which are currently under investigation for antitrust and anti-competitive behaviors.
  • Verizon joins ad boycott of Facebook over hateful content” – Associated Press. The telecommunications company joined a number of other companies in pulling their advertising from Facebook organized by the ADL (the Anti-Defamation League), the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color Of Change, Free Press and Common Sense. The #StopHateforProfit “asks large Facebook advertisers to show they will not support a company that puts profit over safety,” and thus far, a number of companies are doing just that, including Eddie Bauer, Patagonia, North Face, Ben & Jerry’s, and others. In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson stated “[o]ur conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.” While Facebook has changed course due to this and other pressure regarding content posted or ads placed on its platform by most recently removing a Trump campaign ad with Nazi imagery, the company has not changed its position on allowing political ads with lies.
  • The UK’s contact tracing app fiasco is a master class in mismanagement” – MIT Technology Review. This after-action report on the United Kingdom’s National Health Service’s efforts to build its own COVID-19 contact tracing app is grim. The NHS is basically scrapping its work and opting for the Google/Apple API. However, the government in London is claiming “we will now be taking forward a solution that brings together the work on our app and the Google/Apple solution.” A far too ambitious plan married to organizational chaos led to the crash of the NHS effort.
  • Trump administration sees no loophole in new Huawei curb” – Reuters. Despite repeated arguments by trade experts the most recent United States Department of Commerce regulations on Huawei will not cut off access to high technology components, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross claimed “[t]he Department of Commerce does not see any loopholes in this rule…[and] [w]e reaffirm that we will implement the rule aggressively and pursue any attempt to evade its intent.”
  • Defense Department produces list of Chinese military-linked companies” – Axios. Likely in response to a letter sent last year by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), the Department of Defense has finally fulfilled a requirement in the FY 1999 National Defense Authorization Act to update a list of “those persons operating directly or indirectly in the United States or any of its territories and possessions that are Communist Chinese military companies.” The DOD has complied and compiled a list of People’s Republic of China (PRC) entities linked to the PRC military. This provision in the FY 1999 NDAA also grants the President authority to “exercise International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) authorities” against listed entities, which could include serious sanctions.
  • Andrew Yang is pushing Big Tech to pay users for data” – The Verge. Former candidate for the nomination of the Democratic Party for President Andrew Yang has stated the Data Dividend Project, “a movement dedicated to taking back control of our personal data: our data is our property, and if we allow companies to use it, we should get paid for it.” Additionally, “[i]ts primary objective is to establish and enforce data property rights under laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which went into effect on January 1, 2020.” California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a similar program in very vague terms in a State of California speech but never followed up on it, and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) has introduced the “Own Your Own Data Act” (S. 806) to provide people with rights to sell their personal data.

© Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog and, 2019-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Kans, Michael Kans Blog, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

CARES Act Largely Bypasses Tech Funding and Issues

On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) (P.L. 116-136), the third stimulus package in the last month, that could cost $2.5 trillion, or even more, once all the spending is accounted for. There are provisions in the package loosening restrictions and increasing funding for telehealth and telework as the demand for both have skyrocketed during the COVID-19 crisis.

There is also additional funding to address cybersecurity issues. Most notably, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) was given an additional $400 million “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for the 2020 Federal election cycle.” The EAC was provided with $380 million and $       425 million, respectively in FY 2018 and 2019, to help states tighten the security of their election systems in large part because of Russian hacking and interference during the 2016 election. Additionally, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was provided with an additional $9.1 million for FY 2020 and 2021 “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, which shall be for support of interagency critical infrastructure coordination and related activities.”

Congress will likely pass additional COVID-19 relief and stimulus packages, and there are likely more funding and programmatic changes for technology programs coming. For example, House Democrats released the “The Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act” (H.R.6379) last week when Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House were negotiating the final version of the CARES Act. This $2.5 trillion package embodies many Democratic priorities, including technology policy. For example, the bill would provide CISA with $14.4 million to combat the effects of COVID-19, but that figure is likely the House Democrat’s preferred funding level as compared to the $9.1. million that was enacted as part of the CARES Act. And yet, the $4 billion House Democrats wanted for the EAC could augur significantly more funding for the agency to parcel out to states so they can improve and better secure their election systems.

However, the bill would provide $3 billion for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF), a program that set up a revolving fund in the General Services Administration (GSA) to lend funds to agencies to refresh and replace dated information technology, especially legacy systems. In FY 2020, the Trump Administration asked for $150 million for the program but received only $25 million.

Broadband and 5G could both see additional funding. House Democrats allocated $25 million in extra funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for “Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program.” The first draft of the bill included $2 billion for a new Emergency Connectivity Fund to be established and administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the agency would also receive $1 billion for an “Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund.” And, there are additional provisions as detailed in a section-by-section summary prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

  • Section 102. Anti-Price Gouging During COVID-19 Emergency. This section provides the Federal Trade Commission and State attorneys general the authority to seek civil penalties from individuals and companies engaging in price gouging of goods and services during the COVID- 19 public health emergency.
  • Section 201. Broadband Hotspots and Connected Devices for Schools and Libraries During COVID-19 Emergency. This section authorizes increased funding and provides flexibility to the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program to enable schools and libraries, including tribal schools and libraries, to offer broadband hotspots and connected devices to facilitate distance learning and connectivity during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Section 301. Expansion of Low-Income Broadband Subsidies During COVID-19 Emergency. This section authorizes increased funding and provides flexibility for the FCC’s Lifeline program to expand access to broadband for low-income Americans during the COVID- 19 public health emergency.
  • Section 401. Telecommunications Consumer Protections During COVID-19 Emergency.
  • This section makes certain practices, including the stopping of telephone or broadband services, if a consumer is unable to pay for reasons related to the COVID-19 emergency, unlawful during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Section 501. Public Safety Use of the T-Band. This section repeals the requirement on the FCC to reallocate and auction the T-Band (470-512 MHz), which allows first responders to continue the use of the band for their public safety communications.

House Democrats could also use existing legislation or proposals. In the technology space, In May 2019, the chair and most Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced the “Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrow’s America Act” (H.R.2741), which was mostly about messaging and establishing a program to differentiate House Democrats from the White House and Senate Republicans. In a summary, Committee Democrats pointed to highlights of the package, most of which are technology-related:

Action to Combat the Climate Crisis and Protect Our Environment:

  • Over $33 billion for clean energy, including $4 billion to upgrade the U.S. electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy and make it more resilient. It also includes $4 billion for the expansion of renewable energy use, including $2.25 billion for the installation of solar panels in low-income and underserved communities. LIFT America also includes $23 billion for energy efficiency efforts – namely retrofitting and weatherizing buildings, including schools and homes, to ensure they produce fewer carbon emissions – and funding the nationwide deployment of more clean energy fuels.
  • $2.7 billion to spur the development of Smart Communities, including $850 million in technical assistance to help cities and counties integrate clean energy into their redevelopment efforts, and $1.4 billion to support the development of an electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

Expanding Access to Broadband Internet:

  • $40 billion for the deployment of secure and resilient high-speed broadband internet service to expand access for communities nationwide and bring broadband to 98 percent of the country.
  • $12 billion in grants for the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 services to make 9-1-1 service more accessible, effective, and resilient, and enable Americans to send text messages, images, or videos to 9-1-1 in times of emergency.
  • $5 billion in federal funding for low-interest financing of broadband infrastructure deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure build out projects.

Investing in America’s Health Infrastructure:

  • $2 billion in funding to reauthorize the Hill-Burton hospital infrastructure program, including targeted assistance to support cybersecurity in the health system.
  • $1 billion for Indian Health Service infrastructure projects to reduce health disparities in Indian Country.
  • $100 million to support state labs on the frontlines of fighting infectious diseases.
  • $100 million to establish a community-based care infrastructure program and to develop teaching health centers and mental health care centers.
  • $3.5 billion to improve public health infrastructure at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and at state, local, tribal and territorial health departments.

A first draft of the bill contained language requiring the Federal Reserve Bank to set up a system of ‘‘pass-through digital dollar wallets” so that direct payments from the U.S. government to Americans as a means of stimulating the economy. So, it is possible this new program or similar language gets included in a fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill.

Finally, there may be growing consensus that a surface transportation reauthorization could be passed that would be much larger than normal and most likely front-loaded in order to stimulate the economy. This week, President Donald Trump called for a $2 trillion-dollar package, which was echoed by House Democrats but It is possible that this bill could be the vehicle by which more broadband, 5G, or technology funding is pushed through existing programs or newly created programs.

Michael Kans’ Technology Policy Update (3 April)

First things first, if you would like to receive my Technology Policy Update, email me. You can find some of these Updates from 2019 here. These are the articles from last week’s issue:

  • CARES Act Largely Bypasses Tech Funding and Issues
  • Revised CISA Essential Workers Guidance
  • U.S. and Other Governments Respond To Privacy and Data Implications of COVID-19
  • OIG Finds More Flaws in FBI FISA Process
  • White House Releases 5G Strategy
  • White House Unveils COVID-19 Technology Initiatives
  • EAC Meeting/VVSG 2.0
  • “White Hat” Hackers May Violate Terms of Service In Order To Carry Out Research, Court Rules
  • U.N. Group Releases Pre-Draft Report On International Cyber Norms
  • Continuation of National Emergency To Allow For Enhanced Cyber Sanctions