Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Net neutrality advocates split on congressional action 

  • Stakeholders in the net neutrality debate submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission on Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to undo the legal classification that provides authority for the current rules. Telecom giants, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., support the repeal, which would reopen the possibility of internet “fast lanes.”
  • The Internet Association, a group that represents major tech companies including Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc., officially called on the FCC to keep net neutrality rules in place. In comments filed with the agency, the Internet Association noted that a net neutrality repeal could cause damage to the markets and limit innovation.
  • The White House weighed in, with now-press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters the administration supports Pai’s plan to roll back rules instituted by the 2015 Open Internet Order. President Donald Trump stopped short of filing comments with the FCC on the matter, but, mirroring sentiments voiced by major internet service providers, Sanders said that the issue should be resolved through congressional legislation.

Reorganizing cybersecurity

  • U.S. Cyber Command will reportedly split from the National Security Agency to operate independently. The move, which is expected to be announced by officials in the next few weeks, will give Cyber Command more autonomy in fighting groups like the Islamic State and put it in the same realm as other independent military commands.
  • The White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, Rob Joyce, said the State Department will still be in charge of negotiating international rules for cyberspace, despite a shakeup that includes the impending departure of State Department Cyber Coordinator Chris Painter and the reported closing of the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues after Painter leaves.
  • Meanwhile, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act with a 16-percent increase for U.S. Cyber Command and various requirements for the Pentagon and State Department aimed at defending against cyberattacks. But the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that would reduce funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sets cybersecurity standards for federal agencies, by $87 million.
  • The House also passed the Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2017, which tasks the Transportation Security Administration with conducting a number of cybersecurity measures. Among its new responsibilities, the TSA would be required to prepare a broad assessment of cyber risks to aviation security, seek to improve information sharing on cyber threats across the aviation sector and look for vulnerabilities to data stored in its PreCheck program.

Elon Musk is making waves

  • Tesla Inc. is adding two media executives to its leadership after investors asked for more independent directors. 21st Century Fox Inc. CEO James Murdoch and Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice will join Tesla. CEO Elon Musk and six others on the company’s board.
  • After sounding the alarm on the threat robots and artificial intelligence pose to human civilization and calling for regulation “pronto,” Musk clarified his statements, suggesting the establishment of a government agency, like the Federal Aviation Administration, that would begin carefully looking at where regulations might be needed.
  • Musk also announced via Twitter that he obtained “verbal approval” from the government to bore the tunnels required for his “Hyperloop” project, which would relieve congestion in the Northeast Corridor by providing fast transport between New York City and Washington, D.C. The technology would reportedly get travelers from one city to the other, a roughly 200-mile journey, in just half an hour. 

  • All this excitement followed a report early in the week of a Tesla driver blaming the car’s self-driving function for a crash in Minnesota. The driver said he was confused after the crash and actually disengaged the autopilot by stepping on the accelerator before it happened.

What’s Ahead

  • The FCC has declared August “Rural Broadband Month.” At their next open meeting Aug. 3, commissioners will discuss reforming Form 477, data from which is used to inform broadband coverage maps used to determine the allocation of public monies for investments to expand access.
  • The commissioners are scheduled to testify on rural broadband development plans, net neutrality and other issues during an oversight hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on technology for reauthorizing the FCC.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

2017 Internet Governance Forum USA 8 a.m.
Brookings event on broadband infrastructure 3 p.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on FCC oversight and reauthorization 10 a.m.
Free State Foundation event on 5G wireless networks 12 p.m.
New America event on high-speed broadband 12 p.m.
Senate Commerce Committee nomination hearings, including Peter Davidson for Commerce Department general counsel 10 a.m.
Cato Institute event on Section 702 and surveillance 10 a.m.
Digital Policy Institute webinar on retransmission consent 11 a.m.
R Street Institute event on NAFTA 2 p.m.

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