On 3 August, the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Government Operations Subcommittee held its most recent biannual hearing on how United States government agencies are faring in meeting the metrics as laid out in a few key statutes on information technology (IT) development, security, transparency, and other related areas. However, the subcommittee, for reasons that are not immediately clear, did not release the actual scorecard (aka the FITARA Scorecard), and so I’m posting a version of it released by a trade publication.
As for the substance, you can compare to the last scorecard released in December 2019 and see that things mostly remain the same. I think the incentive structure for federal agencies (and probably companies providing these products and services to the federal government) will need to change further before greater gains are made with with the more than $90 billion spent annually in Washington on IT. A big part of the problem is that agencies are still not following the requirements of the “Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act” (FITARA) (P.L. 113-291) regarding the authority of Chief Information Officers (CIO) to manage and acquire IT. These officials should be deciding these matters, and it is not happening in agencies, likely because more CIO authority means less authority elsewhere over significant funding and programs. Hence, good old institutional resistance and warring over turf is part of the problem. There are others, as have been chewed over, and were discussed at the hearing.
Anyway, I just wanted to make the FITARA Scorecard available for those interested but unable to find it.
The primary committee of jurisdiction over a bill to create a White House Cyber Director held a hearing on the ramifications of creating just such a position.
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.
On 14 July, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a virtual hearing to discuss the recently introduced “National Cyber Director Act” (H.R.7331) that would implement one of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s (CSC) most significant recommendations. Representative James Langevin (D-RI), who served on the CSC, introduced the bill a few weeks ago when it appeared clear that neither Armed Services Committee will include the CSC’s recommendation that a position be established inside the Executive Office of the President of a National Cyber Director to coordinate much of the United States’ cyber policy that would need to be confirmed by the Senate. Langevin and a number of others submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee for consideration of the “William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021” (H.R.6395) that would add H.R.7331 to the House’s FY 2021 NDAA. It is possible this amendment is made in order and will be debated on the House floor when the chamber turns to H.R.6395, which could happen as soon as next week.
The holding of this hearing is likely part of an effort to convince House Democratic Leadership and the House Rules and Armed Services Committees of the support for H.R.7331 so that it can be debated during consideration of the FY 2021 NDAA. The chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee cosponsored Langevin’s amendment as did a number of Republicans, demonstrating its bipartisan nature. Also, having held a hearing at which a number of witnesses endorsed the idea will lend further weight to it being allowed to be offered to the annual Department of Defense policy package.
The Senate’s NDAA does not include language establishing a National Cyber Director position. Rather, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021“ (S.4049) would require “the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall seek to enter into an agreement with an independent organization with relevant expertise in cyber policy and governmental organization to conduct and complete an assessment of the feasibility and advisability of establishing a National Cyber Director.” It is possible that CSC co-chair Senator Angus King (I-ME) succeeds in getting this recommendation included in the Senate’s FY 2021 NDAA when the body continues with debate next week.
Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) stated
Cyberattacks are a critical, complex, prevalent, and growing threat to the nation’s safety and economic security, touching nearly every aspect of our lives. This assessment was upheld by recent findings from the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which was established by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act to review the state of our cybersecurity posture and develop bipartisan solutions for defending America against cyberthreats. This commission of Congressional, Executive Branch, and private sector cybersecurity leaders sounded the alarm that, in addition to millions of intrusions that disrupt operations in America on a daily basis, we remain vulnerable to catastrophic attacks on critical infrastructure and economic systems that could cause widespread damage and death.
Maloney noted “[a] number of the commission’s recommendations fall within the legislative jurisdiction of this Committee…[and] [t]his includes one that has sparked a high level of interest on both sides of the aisle—the recommendation for a centralized cybersecurity position at the White House to develop and streamline the federal government’s strategy, coordination, and response to cyberthreats.” She said that “[t]his role was first formalized during the George W. Bush Administration, and then elevated and expanded during the Obama Administration…[b]ut in 2018, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton eliminated the role, reportedly to cut “another layer of bureaucracy.”
Maloney said that “we will review H.R. 7331, which would implement the Commission’s recommendation to establish a National Cyber Director in the Executive Office of the President.” She said that “[t]his new position would restore that cyber coordination and planning function at the White House…[and] [i]n addition, for the first time, it would be backed with resources and statutory authority to lead strategic planning efforts, review cybersecurity budgets, and coordinate national incident response.” Maloney stated “[a] challenge as complex and pervasive as cybersecurity requires that our government be strategic, organized, and ready…[and] Democrats and Republicans agree we need a National Cyber Director to ensure we are fully prepared for, and coordinated in, our response to cyberattacks as our nation fights this silent war.” She explained “[o]ur mission today is to gain a detailed understanding of the threats we face, and to thoroughly examine H.R. 7331 as the vehicle for preparing our country against those threats.”
Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) said the federal cyber domain is dispersed with varying jurisdictions and expertise among agencies organized to fight cyber-crime, defend national security, and support the private sector’s critical cyber infrastructure. He noted the increasingly reliance in the US on technology and growing inter-connected nature of the American economy. Comer said foreign actors, terrorist groups, domestic agitators, and criminal enterprises all have a vested interest in exploiting US networks. Comer said the remote operations of the pandemic have created new cyber vulnerabilities that malicious actors are taking advantage of. He added the same threats face private sector and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments. Comer stressed that fostering relationships across the private sector and state and local partners, vital cyber threat information can be shared that helps secure critical infrastructure.
Comer noted the witnesses have vast experience in combatting cyber threats from nations like the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that has historically hacked into agencies like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, stolen intellectual property, and paid professors and researchers for research and development information. He stated he would welcome the opportunity to work with Democrats to hold the PRC accountable for these bad acts as well as their deceptive tactics over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Comer said the present hearing would, instead, examine a proposal to create a National Cyber Director. He stressed that Members have a duty to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and not create more bureaucracy. Comer commended the Trump’s Administration’s performance in fending off threats to medical and health facilities and to teleworkers during the pandemic.
Comer asked whether it is truly necessary to establish a new position to coordinate cybersecurity, and, if so, would this official actually have the authority necessary to execute her responsibilities. Moreover, will other stakeholders fall in line and work in harmony, he asked. Comer said it is already he case the multiple federal agencies have cybersecurity jurisdiction and wondered whether another official would help the US government’s cyber posture. He expressed his concern that the bill may create a duplicative, bureaucratic layer of government that will hinder future responses to cyber-attacks.
First and foremost, the Executive Branch must establish a National Cyber Director to centralize and coordinate the cybersecurity mission at the national level. The National Cyber Director would work among Federal departments and agencies to bring coherence in both in the development of cybersecurity policy and strategy and in its execution. The position would provide clear leadership in the White House and signal cybersecurity is an enduring priority in U.S. national security strategy.
Langevin and Gallagher stated “[l]ooking at the history and the current structure of the Executive Branch, four clear institutional challenges emerge:
First, the Federal government lacks consistent, institutionalized leadership in the White House on cybersecurity strategy and policy.
Second, due to the absence of a consistent advocate, cybersecurity is inconsistently prioritized in the context of national security.
Third, the United States lacks a coordinated, cohesive, and clear strategic vision for cyber.
Fourth, the lack of centralized Executive Branch leadership complicates and prevents effective congressional oversight. In the March 2020 Commission report, the Commission recognized the need for a single individual at the highest level in the Federal government to take on these responsibilities.
Langevin and Gallagher explained
On the issue of whether to recommend the creation of new Executive Branch structures, or strengthen the existing structures, the Commission explored several different options. These models included the creation of a new cabinet department for cyber led by a Secretary, an independent agency for cyber led by a Director reporting to an existing cabinet department, an equivalent to a Homeland Security Advisor for cyber within the National Security Council, or a new office within the White House Executive Office of the President (EOP) led by a Director. Ultimately, the Commission decided that the Federal government would be better served by strengthening existing department and agency efforts in cybersecurity, including strengthening CISA and Sector-Specific Agencies, rather than the creation of a new department. While the creation of a new cabinet department or independent agency would give the position gravitas, the Commission recognized the protracted development of a new department would prevent, or even eliminate, much-needed near-term progress.
First, cybersecurity’s cross-cutting nature does not fit with the US government’s bureaucratic structure, making the issue difficult to deal with during policy development.
Second, agencies are not incentivized to sustain the degree of coordination required for effective cybersecurity over the long term.
Third, a lack of central coordination hinders effective incident response actions.
Fourth, cybersecurity’s complexity and unusual nature make it tough for the President and other senior leaders to tackle without access to expertise.
Daniel stated “[a]ddressing these impediments would be challenging under normal circumstances, but this Administration has chosen to take a step backward by eliminating the cybersecurity coordinator position at the White House, which makes it even harder.” He said that “[c]learly, no single policy action will solve these problems…[and] [t]hey are too complicated for a one-shot solution.” Daniel said “[t]hat said, creating a position like a National Cyber Director along the lines the Cyberspace Solarium Commission recommends or that Representative Langevin has proposed is a necessary part of the solution.”
Cybersecurity is a strategic, national level problem that defies easy categorization. Cyberspace and the Internet are permanent features of our society, economy, public safety, and national security. We will not “solve” our cybersecurity problems; cyber threats are now a permanent feature in society and international relations. Instead, we will manage and mitigate the threat. Thus, we need a strategic level leader focused on this problem with a government-wide perspective. Moreover, we will need a national cyber director for the long-term.
The EOP is the only part of the executive branch with a sufficiently broad scope to look across all the different aspects of cybersecurity. It is the only part of the executive branch that can overcome the “you’re not the boss of me” effect and incentivize agencies to engage in regular, sustained, and intense coordination. It is the logical place to organize a cyber crisis response because it can serve as a neutral, inter-agency hub and activate resources across the entire Federal government. Finally, it is the primary organization for direct Presidential advisors.
Daniel said that “[a]s Congress debates this issue, I would urge it to consider certain parameters in crafting the position: The NCD Office should be big enough to run effective processes, but not so big that it tries to be operational.” He claimed “[i]f we want the office to succeed, then it cannot be so small that the staff do not have time to do anything right…[and] [o]n the other hand, it should not be so large that its staff are tempted to try to run operations directly.” Daniel stated that “[t]he NCD Office should integrate tightly with OMB’s budget process and NSC’s policy process, otherwise it will be irrelevant.”
The NCD Office should have insight into and a policy oversight role for all Federal government cyber functions, including military, intelligence, or law enforcement activities; this insight must extend to offensive cyber operations. We cannot exclude those activities from the NCD’s purview and expect the position to succeed. For the record, I strongly support the independence of indictment and prosecutorial decisions from the White House, but that separation does not mean the NCD should not understand what law enforcement operations are occurring or influence our strategic level policy toward cybercrime. If the NCD only has oversight and coordination roles for network defense activities and working with the private sector, then the position would largely duplicate the CISA director, which we do not need.
NCD staff should not participate in policy execution. Law enforcement agencies investigates and prosecutes crime, intelligence agencies collect information, the military conducts offensive cyber operations, and the sector specific agencies work with their industries. Policy execution should remain the domain of the departments and agencies.
The office will need a clear relationship with the Federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This existing office has worked hard to improve the security of Federal networks. The NCD’s office will need to work closely with the Federal CISO to ensure that Federal agencies are following the general guidance and advice the government gives the private sector. We must walk our talk.
Beyond the authorities already included in H.R. 7331, I recommend additional authorities for the National Cyber Director that would improve the nation’s cybersecurity risk management for both the public and private sectors. These additional authorities include developing a national encryption policy, managing the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP), coordinating with regulatory entities, driving cybersecurity workforce development, and leading all international cybersecurity efforts, to include the development of international cyber strategies and international engagement.
Yoran added that
The Cyberspace Solarium Report also included recommendations on how to further strengthen the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in order to ensure the national resilience of critical infrastructure, promote a more secure cyber ecosystem and serve as the central civilian authority to support federal, state, local and private sector cybersecurity efforts. CISA has established information sharing capabilities across the government, provides technical assistance to cybersecurity operators in the public and private sectors, and engages stakeholders both inside and outside the federal government. However, CISA’s role has clear limitations:
CISA’s convening power is not widely understood or consistently recognized.
CISA does not have jurisdiction over law enforcement, the Department of Defense or federal intelligence agencies, which are all critical pieces of a unified approach to U.S. cyber defense, nor are these organizations required to collaborate and share their activities with CISA.
CISA does not have the budget or the analytic capacity to assess, plan for and lead a unified effort to mitigate national systemic cyber risk.
Yoran said that “[t]he creation of the National Cybersecurity Director role should be done in conjunction with efforts to empower and appropriately resource CISA as a critical player to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.” He contended “[t]o strengthen CISA, Congress should elevate the Director position as recommended by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and provide additional funding and program support that will enable the organization to enhance current operations.” Yoran stated that “[a]n expanded budget would also allow CISA to increase funding for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program in order to meet surge capacity to protect .gov networks, support state and local cybersecurity networks and systems, and expand other programs that support the private sector, including many of the public-private operations that comprise the U.S. critical infrastructure.”
Given the general agreement that such [cyber] coordination is advisable, and indeed, necessary, one needs wonder why the Commission’s approach might be controversial. The first and most obvious issue that would likely trouble any White House—regardless of political party and relationship with Congress—is the idea of having yet another Senate-confirmed appointee in the White House Office.
The challenge, of course, with a National Cyber Director, particularly as it relates to a position in the White House Office and as described in H.R. 7331, is that this individual would have responsibilities that are generally understood by Presidents to be squarely in their control, namely matters related to the execution of the President’s textual Commander-in-Chief responsibilities. And while Congress may certainly argue that it has a number of textual commitments in this area also, like the declaration of war authority and the provisioning of the armed forces, the reality is that Presidents have long taken the view that matters of national security decisionmaking, particularly in the White House, are firmly committed to their discretion. Thus, it is likely that any President, regardless of party or relationship with Congress, would be strongly opposed to Senate-confirmation of such an individual and, if such confirmation was ultimately required, it may actually undermine rather than buttress the individual position’s influence and role within the White House.
Moreover, making such a position Senate-confirmed essentially seeks to elevate it to an Assistant to the President role, namely a principal officer inside the White House Office. The challenge with doing so, of course, is that the vast majority of issues such an individual would deal with likely also fall squarely within the ambit of the existing responsibilities of the Assistant to the President for National Security (i.e., the National Security Advisor).
The legislation clearly envisions the former approach—that is, direct advice to the President—which could very well create its own set of coordination and integration challenges within the White House and with the interagency. This challenge is enhanced, in particular, when it comes to areas of clear overlap between existing White House officials like the National Security Advisor (e.g., in the case of offensive and defensive cyber operations), as well as the Director of OMB (e.g., in the case of budgetary authority). Where the situation becomes even more problematic, however, is where the NCD’s assigned authorities appear to directly conflict with the authorities of another cabinet-level official.
Finally, the size of the office likewise presents its own challenges. While it is true that the USTR has an office of over 200 individuals and OMB has nearly 500, even at 75 authorized individuals, when one adds in the authority for other outside experts, consultants, and other government agency personnel in support, this number is likely to be viewed as too high for the mission. This is particularly the case given that such an office would be roughly1/3 the size of the entire National Security Council staff, which itself is currently seen as fairly bloated (even after the Trump-directed staff reductions in 2019)
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.
The Senate invoked cloture on the nomination of acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Russell Vought to be confirmed in that role and will vote on the nomination on 20 July. OMB has been without a Senate-confirmed Director since Mick Mulvaney resigned at the end of March, but he was named acting White House Chief of Staff in January 2019, resulting in Vought serving as the acting OMB head since that time.
The United States Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Suzette Kent announced she is stepping down in July, and Deputy Federal CIO Maria Roat is expected to be named acting Federal CIO. Given the Trump Administration’s approach to submitting nominations to the Senate for confirmation and the Senate’s truncated work schedule due to the election, it is likely no nomination is made this year. Kent technically held the position of Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and her portfolio includes a range of technology related matters including cybersecurity, information technology IT policy and procurement, workforce, data security, data management and others.
The General Services Administration (GSA) announced the next step in “establish[ing] a program to procure commercial products through commercial e-commerce portals for purposes of enhancing competition, expediting procurement, enabling market research, and ensuring reasonable pricing of commercial products.” GSA “awarded contracts to three e-marketplace platform providers…[to] Amazon Business, Fisher Scientific, and Overstock.com, Inc. allows GSA to test the use of commercial e-commerce portals for purchases below the micro-purchase threshold of $10,000 using a proof-of-concept (for up to three years).” Section 846 of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (P. L. 115-91) directed GSA to implement such a program, and the agency claimed in a blog posting:
These contracts and platforms will be available to federal agencies as part of a governmentwide effort to modernize the buying experience for agencies and help them gain insights into open-market online spend occurring outside of existing contracts. It is estimated that open market purchases on government purchase cards represent an addressable market of $6 billion annually.
The goal of the proof of concept is to provide a modern buying solution for federal customers and increase transparency on agency spending that’s already taking place with better data through this solution. Further, this solution leverages the government’s buying power and increases supply chain security awareness with a governmentwide approach.
In response to the ongoing and growing advertising boycott, Facebook announced in a press release some changes to the platform’s policies regarding voter suppression or hateful content. CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated “Three weeks ago, I committed to reviewing our policies ahead of the 2020 elections…[and] [t]hat work is ongoing, but today I want to share some new policies to connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression, and fight hate speech:
1. Providing Authoritative Information on Voting During the Pandemic
Last week, we announced the largest voting information campaign in American history, with the goal of helping 4 million people register to vote. As part of this, we’re creating a Voting Information Center to share authoritative information on how and when you can vote, including voter registration, voting by mail and early voting. During a pandemic when people may be afraid of going to polls, sharing authoritative information on voting by mail will be especially important. We’ll be showing the Voting Information Center at the top of the Facebook and Instagram apps over the coming months.
2. Additional Steps to Fight Voter Suppression
Since the most dangerous voter suppression campaigns can be local and run in the days immediately before an election, we’re going to use our Elections Operations Center to quickly respond and remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day. Learning from our experience fighting Covid misinformation, we will partner with and rely on state election authorities to help determine the accuracy of information and what is potentially dangerous. We know this will be challenging in practice as facts on the ground may be uncertain and we don’t want to remove accurate information about challenges people are experiencing, but we’re building our operation to be able to respond quickly.
We will also ban posts that make false claims saying ICE agents are checking for immigration papers at polling places, which is a tactic used to discourage voting. We’ll also remove any threats of coordinated interference, like someone saying “My friends and I will be doing our own monitoring of the polls to make sure only the right people vote”, which can be used to intimidate voters. We will continue to review our voter suppression policies on an ongoing basis as part of our work on voter engagement and racial justice.
3. Creating a Higher Standard for Hateful Content in Ads
This week’s study from the EU showed that Facebook acts faster and removes a greater percent of hate speech on our services than other major internet platforms, including YouTube and Twitter. We’ve invested heavily in both AI systems and human review teams so that now we identify almost 90% of the hate speech we remove before anyone even reports it to us. We’ve also set the standard in our industry by publishing regular transparency reports so people can hold us accountable for progress. We will continue investing in this work and will commit whatever resources are necessary to improve our enforcement.
We believe there is a public interest in allowing a wider range of free expression in people’s posts than in paid ads. We already restrict certain types of content in ads that we allow in regular posts, but we want to do more to prohibit the kind of divisive and inflammatory language that has been used to sow discord. So today we’re prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads. Specifically, we’re expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others. We’re also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.
4. Labeling Newsworthy Content
A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm. Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms.
We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.
To clarify one point: there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down. Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today.
The United States Department of Commerce suspended “regulations affording preferential treatment to Hong Kong… including the availability of export license exceptions.” The Trump Administration took this latest action in its trade war with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because of “the Chinese Communist Party’s imposition of new security measures on Hong Kong” and “the risk that sensitive U.S. technology will be diverted to the People’s Liberation Army or Ministry of State Security has increased, all while undermining the territory’s autonomy.” The United States Department of State added “the United States will today end exports of U.S.-origin defense equipment and will take steps toward imposing the same restrictions on U.S. defense and dual-use technologies to Hong Kong as it does for China.”
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) updated its “social media comparative analysis to reflect changes companies have made in recent months to their counter disinformation and election integrity policies.” The DNC is working with Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, Google/YouTube, and now Snapchat to “to combat platform manipulation and train our campaigns on how best to secure their accounts and protect their brands against disinformation.”
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and three privacy agencies for provinces of Canada announced an investigation “into a Tim Hortons mobile ordering application after media reports raised concerns about how the app may be collecting and using data about people’s movements as they go about their daily activities.” A journalist made a request to Tim Hortons under Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and learned the company’s app had logged his longitude and latitude coordinates over 2,700 times in five months, sometimes when he was not using the app even though the company has claimed it only tracks users when the app is being used. Moreover, Tim Hortons combines data from sister companies also owned by Restaurant Brands International like Burger King and Popeyes.
The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released an “investigation report into the use of mobile phone extraction (MPE) by police forces when conducting criminal investigations in England and Wales” which “found that police data extraction practices vary across the country, with excessive amounts of personal data often being extracted and stored without an appropriate basis in existing data protection law.” The ICO made a range of recommendations, many of which will require a legislative revamp of the laws that currently govern these practices.
An Garda Síochana–reprimand and corrective powers applied in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.
Tusla; The Child and Family Agency –reprimand and fine applied in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.
Tusla; The Child and Family Agency –reprimand and fine applied in accordance with the Data Protection Act, 2018.
Twitter–Inquiry completed and draft decision forwarded to EU concerned data protection authorities in accordance with Article 60 of the GDPR.
DEASP-Enforcement notice issued regarding the use of the Public Services Card (currently under appeal).
59 Section 10 decisions issued.
15,000 breach notifications assessed and concluded.
9 litigation cases concluded in the Irish Courts.
Hearing in CJEU Standard Contractual Clauses case brought by DPC to Irish High Court.
80 % of cases received under the GDPR have been concluded.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued its “American Broadband Initiative Progress Report,” an update on a Trump Administration inter-agency effort to implement “a cohesive government-wide strategy to reform broadband deployment” started in 2019. NTIA highlighted the following accomplishment:
Through the ReConnect program, as of March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded over $744 million in funds to support more than 80 broadband projects benefiting more than 430,000 rural residents in 34 states. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and USDA also established processes to coordinate awards for rural broadband deployment to ensure that USDA-funded grants do not overlap with the FCC’s $20 Billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) or the $9 Billion 5G Fund for Rural America
The Department of the Interior (DOI) launched a Joint Overview-Established Locations (JOEL) mapping tool to make site locations visible to service providers looking to locate equipment on Federal property, and added new data layers from the General Services Administration, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Postal Service. Since its release, the map has been viewed 4,294 times, averaging 7 views per day.
In June 2019, the General Services Administration (GSA) published the FY 2018 Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) public data set, updated with a set of filters allowing users to identify Federal property that could be candidates for communications infrastructure installation. This publicly available data now includes the height of buildings and facilities and the elevation above mean sea level, helping the communications industry to determine a structure’s suitability for siting communications facilities. In June 2020, GSA will update the FRPP public data set with more current data from FY 2019.
In March 2019, the Department of Commerce’s NTIA updated its website with information about Federal Agencies’ permitting processes and funding information to provide easier, “one-stop” access to the information. NTIA continues to update this information with support from Agencies.
In September 2019, NTIA completed the first phase of its National Broadband Availability Map (NBAM), a geographic information system platform which allows for the visualization and analysis of federal, state, and commercially available data sets. As of June 2020, the NBAM program includes 18 States who are partnering on this critical broadband data platform.
In February 2020, GSA and USDA’s Forest Service (FS) finalized a revised Standard Form (SF-299), making this Common Application Form suitable for telecommunications purposes.
“Google will start paying some publishers for news articles” – The Verge. In part because of pressure from regulators in Australia and France, Google will begin paying some new outlets for articles. This could be the start of a larger trend of online platforms compensating media which has long argued this should be the case. However, similar systems in Germany and Spain earlier this decade failed to bolster the media in those countries financially, and Google responded to the Spanish statute by ceasing to operate its News platform in that country.
“Column: With its Sprint merger in the bag, T-Mobile is already backing away from its promises” – The Los Angeles Times. Critics of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger have pounced on a recent filing with the California Public Utilities Commission in which the company has asked for two additional years to build out its 5G network despite making this a signal promise in selling California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on the deal. Likewise, the company is trying to renegotiate its promise to create 1,000 new jobs in the state.
“Facebook policy changes fail to quell advertiser revolt as Coca-Cola pulls ads” – The Guardian. Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of policy changes (see Other Developments above), advertisers continue to join a widening boycott that some companies are applying across all major social media platforms. Unilever, Coca Cola, Hershey’s, Honda, and other joined the movement. The majority of Facebook’s income comes from advertising, so a sustained boycott could do more than pushing down the company’s share value. And, the changes announced at the end of last week do not seem to have impressed the boycott’s organizers. It would be interesting if pressure placed on companies advertising on Facebook affects more change than pressure from the right and left in the United States, European Union, and elsewhere.
“Trump administration tells Facebook, Twitter to act against calls to topple statues, commit violent acts” – The Washington Post. The Department of Homeland Security sent letters late last week to the largest technology companies, asserting they may have played a role in “burglary, arson, aggravated assault, rioting, looting, and defacing public property” by allowing people to post on or use their platforms. The thrust of the argument seems to be that Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Google, and other companies should have done more to prevent people from posting and sharing material that allegedly resulted in violence. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf argued “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, America faced an unprecedented threat from violent extremists seeking to co-opt the tragedy of his death for illicit purposes.” These letters did not mention President Donald Trump’s tweets that seem to encourage authorities to use violence against protestors. Moreover, they seem to be of a piece with the recent executive order in that there is a scant legal basis for the action designed to cow the social media platforms.
“Inside Facebook’s fight against European regulation” – Politico. Through until now unavailable European Commission documents on meetings with and positions of Facebook, this article traces the slow evolution of the company’s no-regulation approach in the European Union (EU) to a public position ostensibly amenable to regulation. It is also perhaps the tale of using lobbying tactics that work in Washington, DC, that have largely failed to gain traction in Brussels.