House Approves FY 2018 Approps Package

The House today approved on a 211-198 vote a fiscal 2018 funding package (HR 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act) that covers all federal discretionary funding for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, including the budgets of agencies with major roles overseeing the telecom and tech industries and programs that directly or indirectly benefit them, such as the FCC, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the Rural Utilities Service, and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers public safety and first responder grants.

Courtesy TRDaily

Nelson Asks Phone, Cable, Internet Providers to Give Rebates for Irma Service Outages

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has asked AT&T, Inc., CenturyLink, Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Corp., Cox Enterprises, Inc., Frontier Communications Corp., Sprint Corp., T-Mobile US, Inc., and Verizon Communications, Inc., to give subscribers rebates for service disruptions due to Hurricane Irma and to refrain from imposing late fees and other penalties on people dealing with the storm’s physical and economic devastation.

In letters sent to the chief executive officers of those companies today, Sen. Nelson said, “As you know, Florida is beginning to come back from the depths of Hurricane Irma, a monster storm that swallowed much of the state, flooding neighborhoods and knocking out power for millions of people.  I know your company is hard at work restoring communications service to the citizens of my state as quickly as possible, and I continue to urge you to make restoration of service a top priority.”

The senator from Florida added, “As we begin the recovery process, it’s important that consumers not be saddled with late fees and other unnecessary costs—particularly those without the means to deal with such costs. Therefore, I ask that you provide a 60-day moratorium on late fees, interest accrual, penalties, and any other unnecessary costs, to give people time to recover and get back on their feet.  I also would request that your companies provide rebates or credits to your subscribers for any interruption in voice, video, or internet service that occurred due to Hurricane Irma.” Continue reading

House OKs Bill Directing DHS to Evaluate Cyber Threats

Legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security to produce annual reports on terrorist activity in the U.S., including cyber threats, cleared the House yesterday on a voice vote. The Homeland Threat Assessment Act (HR 2470) contains language already approved by the House as part of the DHS Authorization Act of 2017 (HR 2825), which cleared the House in July (TR Daily, July 20) but has not moved in the Senate.

HR 2470 would require DHS to assess a variety of terrorist threats, “including cyber threats, to the homeland, including to critical infrastructure and federal civilian networks.”

“By requiring the department to consider specific cyber, transportation, and border security threats, in addition to traditional terrorism threats, HR 2470 ensures that DHS will focus on critical mission areas where it can provide real value,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wisc.), who spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor. —Tom Leithauser, tom.leithauser@wolterskluwer.com

Courtesy TRDaily

FirstNet’s Finance Committee Proposes Slimmer Budget Due to Streamline

The First Responder Network Authority’s Finance Committee has proposed a fiscal year 2018 budget that would represent a 13% reduction, enabled by streamlined processes, improved efficiency, and a shift away from the use of contractors. The budget proposal was one of several issues discussed today at FirstNet’s combined committee meetings in Boulder, Colo., in advance of a board meeting tomorrow.

In opening remarks at today’s meeting, FirstNet Chairwoman Susan Swenson noted the slate of recent natural disasters in the U.S. from the hurricane damage and flooding suffered in Texas and Florida and wildfires in Oregon.  The recent spate of disasters “reinforces that we need to be urgent about what we’re going,” she said.  “I think we feel pretty good about where we are, but we need to press forward … And make sure this technology gets deployed as quickly as possible.”

The Finance Committee proposed a $73.5 million budget for fiscal year 2018, representing a 13% decrease from its $84.6 million FY17 budget.   The reduction is based on streamlined processes in a post-award environment, a focus on improving resource optimization, and reduced reliance on contractors, said Chief Financial Officer Kim Farington. “We’re very proud of this process because we started with a zero-based budget approach and had every business unit provide the status of their business today and how they’re using their dollars,” Ms. Farington said.  “Every requested item in the fiscal year 2018 budget matches up with our strategic goals.”

Priorities for FY18 include initiating RAN buildout for opt-in states, testing current and future network features and capabilities, evolving and delivering applications for stakeholders, completing the FirstNet core, updating services and security of that core, and initiating Band 14 network and FirstNet field operations, Ms. Farington said. Continue reading

Renewal of Surveillance Law Needed, DNI Coats, AG Sessions Tell Congress

Reauthorization of a foreign intelligence statute that critics say sometimes results in warrantless surveillance of Americans “is vital to protect the nation against international terrorism and other threats,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told lawmakers this week. “We are writing to urge that the Congress promptly reauthorize, in clean and permanent form, Title VII of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which is set to sunset at the end of this year,” Messrs. Coats and Sessions wrote in a letter released yesterday to congressional leaders.

“Title VII of FISA allows the intelligence community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States,” they said.

“Reauthorizing this critical authority is the top legislative priority of the Department of Justice and the intelligence community,” they added. Continue reading

Free Digital Trade Seen Requiring Focus on Data Localization, Beneficial Regulations

Ensuring digital trade is essential to promoting U.S. economic growth and trade talks, including renegotiations of existing trade agreements, should aim to raise the bar for those goods that are subject to customs and taxes, and push for beneficial approaches on data localization and cybersecurity, panelists said in a congressional hearing this morning. During a Joint Economic Committee hearing on the dynamic gains from free digital trade for the U.S. economy, Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), vice chairman of the committee, said, “We are swiftly approaching the point where the word ‘digital’ will be an unnecessary adjective for trade. Although, I’m sure trade lawyers will want to maintain the extra level of specificity for billing purposes.

“But we need to work both domestically and internationally to facilitate trade and innovation,” Sen. Lee continued.  “We should seek to ensure that sensible regulations and standards are put in place for the protection of intellectual property and private information. Continue reading

NTIA Group on IoT Security Upgrades Nearing Finish Line

Participants in the multistakeholder group convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to consider security upgradability and patching for IoT (Internet of things) devices are in the finishing stages of the three remaining work group products, and are looking ahead to where those outputs might be housed and updated going forward, as well as what IoT security issues the NTIA multistakeholder process might tackle next.

Evelyn Remaley, deputy associate administrator of NTIA’s Office of Policy Analysis and Development, said, “At NTIA right now it’s very difficult for us to host more than one multistakeholder meeting at a time.”  However, the agency is hearing “about challenges in this area” and “would like to be able to continue,” she said, adding, “We get questions about it daily from our government colleagues.” Among the possible issues for such an endeavor mentioned by participants were user authentication by devices and the length of time security support should reasonably be provided.

The remaining groups are working on technical capabilities and patching expectations; existing standards, tools, and initiatives; and incentives, barriers, and adoption. Guidance on how manufacturers of Internet of things (IoT) devices should communicate with consumers about security upgrades for those devices was adopted at the group’s last meeting (TR Daily, July 18). Continue reading