Government Relations Update January 2018
White House Infrastructure Proposal
A six-page draft of the forthcoming White House infrastructure proposal was released to the press this month, revealing a look at the administration's plans for funding a broad infrastructure package. Broadband is mentioned specifically in the available portion of the draft as one of five components of a proposed Rural Infrastructure Program. This rural element of the plan is set to account for 25 percent of the total infrastructure appropriation called for by the administration. While final figures are not set, estimates suggest that the White House will request roughly $200 billion in federal funding from Congress.
Executive Order on Broadband Regulation Released
The president issued an Executive Order entitled "Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America." The order is aimed at speeding up rural broadband projects by directing federal agencies to reduce barriers to investment and remove obstacles to broadband service. Additionally, it directs the General Services Administration to continue development of a common form and master contract for wireless sitings on federal property as part of the administration's implementation of the requirements of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.
Nationalized 5G Proposal
A draft proposal developed by the National Security Council was released last month publicly calling for a plan to bring a nationwide 5G network under federal authority to ensure security and reliability within the next three years. The proposal suggests that this is the only way to ensure a secure IOT environment in the United States, particularly against potential malicious actors in China. The document presents multiple options for how this outcome might be achieved. The proposal was immediately met with stiff criticism from industry and other corners of government, with the FCC and key Congressional leaders voicing a variety of concerns.
FCC Releases Net Neutrality Order
Following its December 2017 vote, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its order repealing the rules protecting net neutrality that it approved in 2015. The "Restoring Internet Freedom" order seeks to revert to classifying broadband internet access service as an "information service," which is not subject to Title II regulation under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. The FCC also adopted a new rule to ensure transparency on network management practices from ISPs. A detailed analysis is available.
Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Releases Report
The USDA-led task force released a report advising the President on issues impacting rural America, including broadband deployment. The key points regarding rural broadband and the task force's recommendations include: (1) establish executive leadership to expand e-connectivity across rural America; (2) assess the state of rural e-connectivity; (3) reduce regulatory barriers to infrastructure deployment; (4) assess the efficacy of current programs; and (5) incentivize private capital investment.
NTIA Releases Request for Comment on Stakeholder Action Against Botnets and Other Threats
On January 5, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a request for comments (RFC) on Promoting Stakeholder Action Against Botnets and Other Automated Threats. Submissions to the RFC are due on February 12. The draft report lays out five goals intended to reduce the threat of automated, distributed attacks and improve the resilience of the internet ecosystem. Internet2 has been proactive in this area, and currently offers a cloud-based volumetric Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Mitigation Service to the R&E community, in collaboration with Zenedge.
NIST Cybersecurity Framework
The public comment period for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) latest draft of its Cybersecurity Framework closed on January 19. The final draft is expected in Spring 2018. The framework is intended to provide a flexible, voluntary, and effective tool to help organizations better manage their cybersecurity risks. NIST has an aggressive action plan for 2018, including developing technical standards for everything from online authentication to encryption to risk management. Internet2 will continue to monitor NIST's activities for any updates to the framework.
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Holds Hearing on 25 Broadband Bills
The Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to review 25 pieces of broadband legislation, both new and old on January 30. These bills and resolutions from both Democrats and Republicans are aimed at addressing a wide range of issues affecting broadband deployment, from mapping and siting requirements to funding and environmental reviews. While disagreements still exist on the best way forward, the members of the subcommittee were largely in agreement that there is a demonstrable need for federal funding to drive successful broadband deployment into unserved and underserved areas. A full list of all 25 pieces of legislation is available.