Government Relations Update January 2017
This is the first in a series of monthly blogs that will highlight Internet2 Government Relations activities and general policy matters of interest to the Internet2 community. We will focus on the administration, key federal agencies, and Congress. If you have any comments or feedback on the blogs, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Innovation and Competitiveness Act Signed Into Law
Early this month, President Obama signed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act into law. This comprehensive law aims to maximize research efforts nationwide through a series of directives, particularly for the National Science Foundation (NSF). These include issuing and periodically updating policy guidance for evaluating grant proposals in the merit review process, evaluating the existing and future needs of mid-scale projects in all NSF-supported disciplines, and strengthening oversight over the full life-cycle of large-scale research facility projects.
Additionally, the law directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help implement a strategic plan for laboratory programs to expand interactions with academia, international researchers, and industry, and to address forward-looking cybersecurity needs. The law also renames and revises the program requirements for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), now named the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, and the National High Performance Computing Program, now named the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program. Finally, several agencies including the Department of Commerce Office of Security, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are directed to create new positions and groups to coordinate and facilitate improvements in research capabilities.
AAU Offers Policy Recommendations to New Administration
The Association of American Universities (AAU) recently offered a series of policy recommendations to the new administration. These recommendations cover issues related to research, innovation, technology, and higher education to strengthen the U.S. economy, global competitiveness and job creation, health, national security, and quality of life. AAU also echoes Internet2's recommendations for a national infrastructure and broadband strategy.
Internet2 Recommends Broadband Infrastructure Proposals for the New Administration
To address the pending broadband challenges facing the United States, Internet2 has identified four essential proposals for the new Administration to consider as it develops and refines its national infrastructure and broadband strategy, which are clarified in a white paper that Internet2 released this month. These proposals include supporting the construction of broadband networks as part of any infrastructure plan, using public-private partnerships for broadband funding, and promoting trust and identity access management frameworks to safeguard research from cyber attacks.
State of the Net 2017
Last week, the annual State of the Net Conference was held in Washington, D.C., bringing together representatives from government, industry, and academia to discuss key policy issues affecting the Internet. A variety of issues were discussed, including cybersecurity under the new administration, securing the Internet of Things, and the future of communications policy. Members of the House and Senate, Congressional staff, and current and former regulators from the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spoke at the event. Sessions from the conference are available to view.
Pai Named Next FCC Chairman
The decision by the President to elevate Commissioner Ajit Pai to FCC chairman was widely hailed by Republicans in Congress who expect the agency to be quite active over the next four years. Pai has been an outspoken opponent of the Open Internet Order, which codified net neutrality. Removing that policy appears to be the top priority for the administration, Congressional Republicans, and Pai. To undo the rules, the President and Congressional Republicans are reportedly considering doing more than just an FCC action, since that can be undone by the next administration. Senator John Thune (R-SD) and Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) — chairmen of the Senate and House Commerce committees, respectively — have both said that they are open to a legislative compromise with Democrats that would preserve the underlying principles of net neutrality while eliminating the reclassification provisions.
Senate Commerce Committee Gets to Work
The Senate Commerce Committee approved seven technology-related bills last week, including legislation to boost broadband networks and streamline reports from the FCC. It was the first Commerce Committee markup of the 115th Congress, and lawmakers quickly got to work on bills with bipartisan support. Among those, the panel approved the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2017, which would require the agency to condense eight separate reports on competition in the communications marketplace into one report released every two years.
The committee also voted to approve the President's pick to head the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross. Ross has shared little about his positions on tech issues. But during his confirmation hearing, he told lawmakers he believed broadband infrastructure is "essential." In addition, the committee also passed the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE). This bill is one of Congress's introductory efforts to address the Internet of Things. The bill proposes creating a working group to analyze best practices.
Senate Dems Propose Infrastructure Package
While members of Congress await the President's Infrastructure bill, Senate Democrats have released a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. The bill, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY) would provide billions of dollars in funding to expand broadband access in rural areas, as well as many other projects.