Tech Brief: Microsoft Plans to Expand Rural Broadband Using ‘White Space’

Washington Brief

  • An audit of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management found that the agency isn’t vetting its information technology systems and that they are past due for reauthorization. The report comes more than two years after Chinese government-linked hackers gained access to security clearance documents on more than 20 million current and former federal employees and their families. (Nextgov)
  • A new public opinion poll conducted by Freedman Consulting, LLC found that 77 percent of those surveyed support the Federal Communications Commission’s current net neutrality protections. Despite ongoing efforts by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to roll back the rules, the poll found that support for net neutrality crossed political lines and was strongly favored by Republicans, Democrats and independents. (Vice News)
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security delayed implementation of the International Entrepreneur Rule, an Obama-era proposal that would have made it easier for foreign investors and entrepreneurs the opportunity to enter the U.S. for up to 30 months. The rule was set to go into effect July 17 but has been delayed until March 14, 2018, so that DHS officials will have “an opportunity to obtain comments from the public regarding a proposal to rescind the rule.” (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith is expected to announce support for TV white-space technology, which the company says is a frugal way to tap into unused television bandwidth and bring broadband access to rural communities. The company will also reportedly work with rural telecommunications companies on at least 12 projects in 12 states over the next two years to bring broadband connectivity to at least 2 million rural Americans by July 2022. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Hong Kong government’s decision to eliminate tax breaks for electric vehicle owners has had an outsized impact on Tesla Motors Inc., which has long relied on Hong Kong as one of its largest global markets. Since the tax breaks were eliminated, Hong Kong’s transport department reported that zero newly purchased Tesla models were registered in the entire month of April. (Quartz)
  • A German prosecutor’s office announced that it is investigating German and U.S.-based employees of German automaker Porsche AG for suspected fraud and false advertising regarding diesel emissions. Volkswagen AG — the owner of the Audi, VW and Porsche brands — admitted to systemic cheating of diesel engine tests back in 2015. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
Media Institute event with Microsoft’s Brad Smith on rural broadband 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday
Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy event on net neutrality 10:30 a.m.
Thursday
Senate subcommittee hearing on public-private partnerships in space exploration 10 a.m.
FCC monthly commissioner meeting 10:30 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled.

 

General

DHS delays rule allowing entrepreneurs into the United States
Harper Neidig, The Hill

The Trump administration is delaying a rule that would have made it easier for foreign investors and entrepreneurs to enter the U.S. The International Entrepreneur Rule, which was scheduled to go into effect on July 17, has been delayed until March 14, 2018, according to a notice from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted to Federal Register’s website on Monday.

Intel, While Pivoting to Artificial Intelligence, Tries to Protect Lead
Steve Lohr, The New York Times

The computers in modern data centers — the engine rooms of the digital economy — are powered mainly by Intel chips. They animate the computing clouds of the internet giants and corporate data centers worldwide.

China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs by February
Steven Yang and Christina Larson, Bloomberg

China’s government has told telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to virtual private networks by Feb. 1, people familiar with the matter said, thereby shutting a major window to the global internet. Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private government directives.

Stocks Follow Crude Prices Lower as Dollar Climbs: Markets Wrap
Cecile Gutscher and Blaise Robinson, Bloomberg

Stocks fell in Europe as energy producers got caught in a downdraft in crude prices and reversed an earlier gain. Bonds extended a slump triggered by last week’s hawkish rhetoric from central bankers.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Google taps top law firms to fight EU regulatory battles: sources
Foo Yun Chee, Reuters

Google has ramped up its legal firepower as it prepares to do battle with EU antitrust regulators after a landmark 2.4-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) fine and the possibility of a second record sanction before the end of the year. Alphabet unit Google, the world’s most popular internet search engine, is drawing on the expertise of at least five top law firms in Brussels to help it deal with its EU regulatory troubles, people familiar with the matter said.

News Publishers Team Up to Take On Facebook, Google
Lukas I. Alpert and Jack Marshall, The Wall Street Journal

Newspaper publishers are calling on Congress to allow them to negotiate collectively with Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL 1.12% Google and Facebook Inc. as what they call the “digital duopoly” increasingly dominates digital advertising and news distribution online. The News Media Alliance—a trade organization representing some 2,000 organizations across the U.S. and Canada, including The Wall Street Journal’s publisher Dow Jones—says antiquated antitrust laws have had “the unintended effect of preserving and protecting Google and Facebook’s dominant position,” by limiting publishers’ ability to push for changes together.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Microsoft’s Rural Broadband Solution: TV ‘White Space’
Jay Greene, The Wall Street Journal

Microsoft Corp. plans to put its lobbying and financial muscle behind a long-shot technology that taps unused television bandwidth to bring broadband access to underserved areas of America. In a speech Tuesday in Washington, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith is expected to announce support for so-called TV white-space technology, which the company says is a frugal way to address the digital divide between U.S. cities and rural areas.

Most Americans Support the Net Neutrality Rules that Trump’s FCC Wants to Kill
Sam Gustin, Vice News

President Trump’s top telecom regulator is racing forward to kill US net neutrality rules despite strong bipartisan support among Americans for preserving net neutrality under the current federal policy, according to a new public opinion poll released Monday. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T and Verizon shouldn’t be able to discriminate against rival services or sell internet fast lanes to the highest bidder.

Cable Ops Tell FCC DBS Should Pay Up
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Smaller cable operators are telling the FCC that nothing DBS operators have told it should dissuade the commission from its plan to raise the regulatory fees satellite operators pay to get them closer to cable fees. That came in reply comments on the FCC proposal.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Nobody in Hong Kong wants a Tesla anymore
Echo Huang, Quartz

Hong Kong has long been one of Tesla’s biggest markets, but it may not be for much longer—not a single newly purchased Tesla model was registered in April, according to data from Hong Kong’s transport department. The plunge in interest in Tesla cars came after the government eliminated tax breaks for electric-vehicle (EV) owners, a policy that went into effect on April 1 and is expected to last until March next year.

German prosecutor investigating employees at VW’s Porsche
Edward Taylor, Reuters

The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office said on Monday employees at German sports car maker Porsche AG and a U.S.-based subsidiary were being investigated for suspected fraud and false advertising related to diesel emissions. The probe is the latest twist in a sweeping investigation of automakers and their emissions after Volkswagen, which owns the Audi, VW and Porsche brands, admitted systematic cheating of diesel engine tests in 2015.

House panel to unveil self-driving car legislation soon: aide
David Shepardson, Reuters

U.S. House Republicans expect to introduce bills later this week that would bar states from setting their own rules for self-driving cars and take other steps to remove obstacles to putting such vehicles on the road, a spokeswoman said.The legislative action comes as major automakers are joining forces with auto suppliers and other groups to prod Congress into action.

Best Buy Falls as Amazon Service Puts Geek Squad in Jeopardy
Nick Turner, Bloomberg

Best Buy Co. fell the most in more than a year after Amazon.com Inc. introduced a service that helps customers set up smart home devices, a move that threatens the big-box chain’s Geek Squad business.The new program, called Amazon Smart Home Services, is designed to let customers install and configure products, such as smart thermostats.

FCC beware: Facebook, Google like net neutrality just as it is
Marguerite Reardon, CNET

Facebook and Google are throwing their weight behind preserving the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial net neutrality rules. The two internet giants confirmed Friday that they plan to participate in a mass online demonstration to defend the rules as the Republican-led FCC considers gutting the protections, according to spokespeople for the companies.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

2 Years After Massive Breach, OPM Isn’t Sufficiently Vetting It Systems
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

More than two years after suffering a massive data beach, the Office of Personnel Management still isn’t sufficiently vetting many of its information systems, an auditor found.In some cases, OPM is past due to re-authorize IT systems, the inspector general’s audit said. In other cases, OPM did reauthorize those systems but did it in a haphazard and shoddy way during a 2016 “authorization sprint,” the IG said.

Here’s exactly how Russia can hack the 2018 elections
Alex Thompson, Vice News

The year is 2018. Tens of millions of people show up to vote in the midterm elections to discover their names are no longer on the voter rolls.

Digital Privacy to Come Under Supreme Court’s Scrutiny
Peter J. Henning, The New York Times

In October 1986, the top-rated television program was “The Cosby Show,” Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You” headed the pop music charts, and “Crocodile Dundee” dominated the box office. Congress, meanwhile, passed an obscure statute that month called the Stored Communications Act that has become much more relevant 30 years later as the Supreme Court will have two opportunities to help define the scope of digital privacy under a law enacted when cellphones and email hardly existed.

Two-Factor Authentication Is a Mess
Russell Brandom, The Verge

For years, two-factor authentication has been the most important advice in personal cybersecurity — one that consumer tech companies were surprisingly slow to recognize. The movement seemed to coalesce in 2012, after journalist Mat Honan saw hackers compromise his Twitter, Amazon, and iCloud accounts, an incident he later detailed in Wired.

Over many objections, W3C approves DRM for HTML5
Peter Bright, Ars Technica

A system for providing DRM protection to Web-based content is now an official recommendation from W3C. In 2013, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the industry body that oversees the development of Web standards, took the controversial decision to develop a system for integrating DRM into browsers.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Net Neutrality and Broadband Investment for All
Jonathan Spalter, Morning Consult

A wise Federal Communications Commission chairman noted that “the best decision government ever made with respect to the internet was … NOT to impose regulation on it.” Who said that?

Will Trump Punish CNN by Holding Up the AT&T-Time Warner Deal?
Walter Olson, Newsweek

A year ago in this space I discussed one of the more disturbing things then-candidate Donald Trump was saying on the campaign trail: his threats against the business interests of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, whose paper has been consistently critical of Trump. Trump mentioned tax and antitrust as issues on which Amazon, the company founded by Bezos, might find its status under review.

Better Free Will In A Tech-Enhanced World
Gideon Kimbrell, Forbes

Working in the world of tech innovation for my entire professional life, I’ve seen firsthand how new developments can completely change both our day-to-day lives and our understanding of the world. So I’m always paying attention to trends about the interplay of technology and the human experience.

Research Reports

Audit of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Security Assessment and Authorization Methodology
U.S. Office of Personnel Management

OPM has dedicated significant resources toward re-Authorizing the systems that were neglected as a result of the 2015 Authorization moratorium. Although the program has notably improved, the deficit left by the moratorium continues to hamper the agency.