Digital rules of the road key to National Broadband Plan

I had the opportunity this week to join the FCC conversation about the development of a National Broadband Plan.  The discussion centered on content and reflected a keen awareness that any strategy aimed at promoting economic opportunities through broadband must include sensible safeguards for the millions of Americans who make their living in today’s digital economy with their ideas and creativity.

What Frank Sinatra sang about “love and marriage” is equally true for content and broadband.  To build a successful digital future, “you can’t have one without the other.”  Robust broadband networks offer the creative community a virtually limitless array of new ways to reach and expand their audiences.  And, compelling content is a primary reason more and more Americans are seeking out the enhanced online experience that the high-speed Internet delivers.

The expansion of broadband can have an enormously positive impact on the ability of consumers to access all sorts of content, from news to government decision-making (including the FCC workshop) to home videos to film and television.  But the Internet economy will not flourish in a lawless environment, where the rights and protections of others are not respected and where there are no rules of the road.


Revamping and securing our country’s civilian cyber infrastructure (Rep. Loretta Sanchez)

Recent cyber attacks against the official websites of the South Korean and American governments have created a new generation of national defense and homeland security issues for the U.S., which we must be ready to meet and defend against in the 21st century. Although the Internet has increasingly brought the world together, it has also added a new layer of threats from terror groups and rogue nations that are building up offensive cyber attack capabilities. Evidence of the crippling effects of cyber attacks was most recently seen during the Russian-Georgian war, when the Russian military shut down critical Georgian government websites in coordination with the ground attack on South Ossetia.

To protect the U.S. from this new era of cyber threats, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced the creation of a new centralized command dedicated to cyber warfare and securing military cyber assets and websites. The U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) will employee thousands of “cyber warriors” to combat the growing number of cyber spies from countries like Russia and China that try to infiltrate our military cyber grid and gain intelligence. Although most Americans don’t realize that we’re engaged in daily combat against cyber warfare, these cyber warriors are truly unsung heroes who protect vital military assets oversees.

The Obama Administration has made revamping and securing our country’s civilian cyber infrastructure a cornerstone in his national security agenda. In recent remarks to the Council of Foreign Relations, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pointed out the critical role DHS has as the sole protector of civilian government websites, as well as its efforts to help secure the private sector. Unlike the Defense Department, which has thousands of cyber warriors, DHS has only 100 employees dedicated to combating civilian cyber threats and building cyber security plans. With the gap between military and civilian cyber security personnel as large as it is, there needs to be strong government leadership to increase recruitment pools and employ the next generation of cyber leaders that will help and protect our civilian networks.

Unlike past Administrations, President Obama has also engaged and asked for counsel from crucial yet unconventional communities. This is most noted by the recent appointment of Jeff Moss, founder of the largest conference of hackers held annually, to the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Further, as the ranking female member on the House Armed Services Committee and Vice-Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, I play a crucial role in making sure the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security have the tools and resources they need to fully defend our civilian and military cyber infrastructure. I believe that these unconventional allies and greater coordination with the private sector will help create a stronger, more resilient cyber security system.

Cross-posted from The Foundry.


Air traffic controller not to blame for Hudson River corridor tragedy

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) took the highly unusual step Monday of breaking National Trasnportation Safety Board (NTSB) protocol and speaking out publicly to refute key portions of the NTSB’s Hudson River mid-air crash investigation sequence of events (released last Friday). The NTSB’s statement gave the mistaken impression that the Teterboro controller who initially handled the Piper aircraft on Aug. 8 could have warned him about the helicopter that he eventually collided with, killing nine people.

We spoke out only after our private attempts to correct the record with NTSB officials were unsuccessful. Our press efforts Monday, while in violation of NTSB prohibitions against public statements from any parties participating in the investigation, were absolutely necessary in our view to reinforce our belief that there is nothing our Teterboro controller could have done to prevent this horrible tragedy from happening.


Attack the Cyberwalls!: The Internet is the pathway to democracy in places like Iran (Sen. Arlen Specter)

The Iranian election crisis is being fought in the reaches of cyberspace as well as the streets of Tehran. Those without power or arms are dictating the flow of events -- and to some extent -- strategy through the power of the Internet.

Their weapons include YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other forms of real-time Internet communication. Tiananmen Square survivor and Internet activist Yang Jianli writes that cyber warfare "is undermining the world's dictatorships and opening a fast lane to democracy."

Embracing web 2.0 technology (Rep. Mike Honda)

Americans will increasingly be empowered to participate in government if they see that their ideas are being considered. When the public believes that they are being heard, they increasingly will involve themselves in the democratic process. The advent of web 2.0 technologies, like Twitter and Facebook, has facilitated new ways to foster this involvement. The existence, however, of these new mediums is not enough to realize the goal of participatory government. It is necessary for elected officials to make use of this new form of citizen input so that it is heard and utilized.

Using a new technique, called Crowdsourcing, to redesign my website was an attempt to utilize these new mediums and give voice to people's ideas. Now more than ever, government websites serve as a critical interface between the public and policy-makers. The design of a Congressional website represents a major endeavor: A regularly updated website, with easily accessible information, plays a critical role in informing the public. So I thought, why not allow constituents to creatively show me exactly what they want?

Rising text message prices a cause for concern (Sen. Herb Kohl)

With more than 270 million subscribers, cell phones are a vital means of communications for the vast majority of Americans. The enormous growth in the use of cell phones means that maintaining competition in this industry is more important than ever.

In recent years, however, consolidation has left the cell phone industry highly concentrated. Four national carriers now control over 90% of the cell phone market. AT&T and Verizon combine to have a market share of 60%. Nowhere is the changed market for cell phones more noticeable than in text message service. In 2008, more than one trillion text messages were sent, more than triple the number just two years before. As their popularity has grown, so has the price charged on a per message basis.


U.S. Facing Shortage of Nuclear Scientists (Rep. Bennie Thompson)

To fortify the nation’s nuclear facilities and strengthen national security as a whole, we must recruit and train more nuclear forensic scientists.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) echoed this sentiment in a recent report entitled Nuclear Forensics: Comprehensive Interagency Plan Needed to Address Human Capital Issues. Validating House conviction, the GAO advised that success in this endeavor requires recruiting and better educating the nation’s scientists in nuclear forensics.

Court Decision Safeguards Video Competition for Consumers

This week, the D.C. Circuit Court delivered great news for the millions of Americans living in apartments and condominiums.  The Court upheld key FCC policy that ensures vigorous video and broadband competition for consumers who reside in multiple dwelling units (MDUs).  This positive ruling affirms an FCC order previously issued to end the practice of cable companies signing exclusive video service contracts for MDUs – a practice that limited choice and competition for individual consumers.

Now, thanks to this pro-competitive policy, Americans across the nation will be able to enjoy the unbridled benefits of enhanced choices and innovative services.  And for the high numbers of minorities and seniors on fixed incomes who live in these residences, improved choices and competitive prices for video and high-speed services are particularly invaluable. 

The Complete Story on the Internet Safety Act (Sen. John Cornyn)

We live in an age where online communication thrives. The Internet has created countless new opportunities for commerce and communication. With that progress, unfortunately, comes exploitation by some, including criminals looking to do harm. For example, sexual predators are using social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to identify and target victims – particularly young children. Just this month, MySpace announced that about 90,000 sex offenders had been identified and removed from their website. That is no doubt a positive step, but we know from experience that child predators and child pornographers will find other means to exploit children.

To strengthen penalties against these predators and enhance safety measures in place to protect our children, I joined forces with my colleague on the House side, Congressman Lamar Smith, to introduce the Internet Safety Act. While Internet crimes like the distribution of child pornography are not new challenges, we recognize more resources and tools need to be available to further combat crimes against children.

Are You Throwing Away Gold? (Rep. Bart Gordon)

Consumer technology is advancing at a break-neck speed.  If we’re lucky enough to get the latest cell phone, TV, or hand-held device, we’re left with two things to figure out:  how to program the new one, and what to do with the old one.

The truth is, a lot of us don’t know what to do with our electronic waste, or e-waste. Between 1980 and 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 2 billion electronic products were sold in the U.S.; of these, a little more than half are still in use and 42 percent were disposed of.  About 11 percent of the disposed products were recycled, and 9 percent were collecting dust in our closets, attics, and junk drawers.