Information Research Center (IRC)
Embassy of the United States of America
Critical Infrastructure Protection: Sector-Specific Plans' Coverage of Key Cyber Security Elements Varies
Government Accountability Office (GAO). Report to Congressional Requesters. October 31, 2007. 54 pages.
The nation's critical infrastructure sectors -- such as public health, energy, water, and transportation -- rely on computerized information and systems to provide services to the public. To fulfill the requirement for a comprehensive plan, including cyber aspects, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a national plan in June 2006 for the sectors to use as a road map to enhance the protection of critical infrastructure. Lead federal agencies, referred to as sector-specific agencies, are responsible for coordinating critical infrastructure protection efforts, such as the development of plans that are specific to each sector. In this context, GAO was asked to determine if these sector-specific plans address key aspects of cyber security, including cyber assets, key vulnerabilities, vulnerability reduction efforts, and recovery plans. To accomplish this, GAO analyzed each sector-specific plan against criteria that were developed on the basis of DHS guidance.
Internet Infrastructure: Challenges in Developing a Public/Private Recovery Plan
Gregory C. Wilshusen. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. October 23, 2007. 20 pages.
While the Internet originated as a U.S. government-sponsored research project, the vast majority of its infrastructure is currently owned and operated by the private sector. Federal policy recognizes the need to prepare for debilitating Internet disruptions and tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with developing an integrated public/private plan for Internet recovery. GAO was asked to summarize its report on plans for recovering the Internet in case of a major disruption and to provide an update on DHS's efforts to implement that report's recommendations. The report identifies examples of major disruptions to the Internet, identifies the primary laws and regulations governing recovery of the Internet in the event of a major disruption, evaluates DHS plans for facilitating recovery from Internet disruptions, and assesses challenges to such efforts.
Critical Infrastructure Protection: Multiple Efforts to Secure Control Systems Are Under Way, but Challenges Remain
Gregory C. Wilshusen. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. October 17, 2007. 15 pages.
Control systems -- computer-based systems that monitor and control sensitive processes -- perform vital functions in many of our nation's critical infrastructures such as electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, oil and gas refining, and water treatment and distribution. The disruption of control systems could have a significant impact on public health and safety, which makes securing them a national priority. GAO was asked to testify on portions of its report on control systems security being released today. This testimony summarizes the cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential impact of attacks on control systems, identifies private sector initiatives, and assesses the adequacy of public sector initiatives to strengthen the cyber security of control systems. GAO also compared agency plans to best practices for securing critical infrastructures.
Meredith Attwell Baker. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). U.S. Department of Commerce. 3G Americas Keynote Address, Washington, DC. October 17, 2007.
In the past decade, wireless technologies have proliferated at an unimaginable pace across the globe. More so than ever before, the swift delivery of information turns the wheels of commerce. Telecom is 10% of the U.S. economy and is a driver for our overall economic growth. Wireless services are playing an increasingly important role in that regard. Competition in the wireless marketplace has resulted in a vibrant marketplace. The U.S. wireless services market is valued at more than $127 billion, and it is growing at approximately 10% each year. There are 233 million U.S. subscribers that cover 76% of the U.S. population. These figures don’t even factor in the massive growth of Wi-Fi hotspots or the promise of WIMAX technology.
Digital Television Transition: Preliminary Information on Progress of the DTV Transition
Mark L. Goldstein. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. October 17, 2007. 25 pages.
On February 17, 2009, federal law requires all full-power television stations in the United States to cease analog broadcasting, enabling the government to reclaim valuable spectrum that the broadcasters currently use for analog broadcasts. This change, often referred to as the digital television (DTV) transition, requires action by broadcasters and consumers to ensure broadcast television signals are still available and viewable. This testimony provides preliminary information on the progress made by federal entities, and others, to facilitate the transition, the progress in the education of consumers about the transition, the progress made in implementing the converter box subsidy program, technical issues of the transition, and future GAO work on the progress of the DTV transition.
Electronic Rulemaking in the Federal Government
Curtis W. Copeland. Congressional Research Service (CRS). October 16, 2007. 48 pages.
E-rulemaking is one of about two dozen e-government initiatives launched as part of the George W. Bush Administration’s President’s Management Agenda. In the first phase of the initiative, the Administration established a website through which the public can identify all federal rules that are open for comment and provide comments on those rules. The second phase involves the creation of a government-wide docket system that can allow the public to review rulemaking materials (e.g., agencies’ legal and cost-benefit analyses for their rules) and the comments of others. E-rulemaking has been described as a way to increase democratic legitimacy, improve regulatory policy decisions, decrease administrative costs, and increase regulatory compliance. The implementation of e-rulemaking in the federal government, however, has been controversial.
High-Speed Services for Internet Access: Status as of December 31, 2006
Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Industry Analysis and Technology Division. Wireline Competition Bureau. October 2007. 27 pages.
Congress directed the Commission and the states, in section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to encourage deployment of advanced telecommunications capability in the United States on a reasonable and timely basis. To assist in its evaluation of such deployment, the Commission instituted a formal data collection program to gather standardized information about subscribership to high-speed services, including advanced services, from wireline telephone companies, cable system operators, terrestrial wireless service providers, satellite service providers, and any other facilities-based providers of advanced telecommunications capability. Statistics released in this report reveal that high-speed connection to the Internet increased by 61% in 2006.
Public-Private Partnership for a Public Safety Network: Governance and Policy
Linda K. Moore. Congressional Research Service (CRS). September 28, 2007. 22 pages.
This report summarizes salient points of the FCC rules regarding the creation of a public-private partnership to build and manage a national communications network for public safety use. The Communications Act of 1934, as amended, empowers the FCC to set rules for auctions and to take steps to ensure the safety of the public. The FCC has used this authority to create a governance structure allowing a Public Safety Broadband Licensee to share spectrum rights with a commercial enterprise and to collaborate in the construction and management of a shared network. The two licensees and the network will operate according to requirements set out by the FCC as part of its rulemaking for the upcoming auction of frequencies within the 700 MHz band. These frequencies are being vacated by television broadcasters in their switch to digital technologies.
Spyware: Background and Policy Issues for Congress
Patricia Moloney Figliola. Congressional Research Service (CRS). September 26, 2007. 12 pages.
The term "spyware" generally refers to any software that is downloaded onto a computer without the owner's or user's knowledge. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a consumer alert on spyware in October 2004. It provided a list of warning signs that might indicate that a computer is infected with spyware, and advice on what to do if it is. Several states have passed spyware laws, but there is no specific federal law. Thus far, two bills have been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 964 and H.R. 1525) and one has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1625). Both of the House bills have been reported and referred to the Senate. The Senate bill was referred to committee and no further action has been taken.
The Transition to Digital Television: Is America Ready?
Lennard G. Kruger. Congressional Research Service (CRS). September 7, 2007. 13 pages.
The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171) directs that on February 18, 2009, over-the-air television broadcasts will become digital only. Households with over-the-air analog-only televisions will no longer be able to receive television service unless they either: buy a digital-to-analog converter box to hook up to their analog television set; acquire a digital television or an analog television equipped with a digital tuner; or subscribe to cable, satellite, or telephone company television services, which will likely provide for the conversion of digital signals to their analog customers. The preeminent issue for Congress is ensuring that American households are prepared for the February 17, 2009 DTV transition deadline. Specifically, Congress is actively overseeing the activities of federal agencies responsible for the digital transition while assessing whether additional federal efforts are necessary, particularly with respect to public education and outreach.
REFERENCE BOOK of Rates, Price Indices, and Household Expenditures for Telephone Service
Pedro A. Almoguera. Industry Analysis & Technology Division. Wireline Competition Bureau. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). September 2007. 59 pages.
This report presents historical and current information on local and long distance telephone rates paid by residential and business consumers, household expenditures, and telephone price indices. The local rate data compiled for 2005 and 2006 reflect the inclusion of various taxes and surcharges and, as such, provide an estimate of the monthly charges residential and single-line business customers pay for local telephone service provided by wireline telephone companies. This publication focuses on domestic telecommunications.
THINK TANKS AND RESEARCH CENTERS:
The opinions expressed in these publications do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government
Parent and Teenager Internet Use
Alexandra Rankin Macgill. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data Memo. October 24, 2007. 11 pages.
Teens are more likely than their parents to say that the Internet and related technology has made their own lives easier. Contrarily, while a majority of parents with online teens still believe the Internet is a beneficial factor in their children’s lives, there has been a decrease since 2004 in the number of parents who believe the Internet is a good thing for their children. At the same time, there has not been a corresponding increase in the percentage of parents who think the Internet has been a bad thing for their children. Instead, more parents are neutral about whether their children have been positively affected by the Internet, saying the Internet has not had an effect on their child one way or another.
Broadband: What's All the Fuss About?
John B. Horrigan. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data Memo. October 18, 2007. 3 pages.
With nearly half of all Americans having high-speed internet connections at home, online interactivity means something different for a lot of Americans than it did when it was mainly about e-mail. Many-to-many communication is now buttressed by many-to-many participation in the online world through user-created media. Still, questions remain about the use of advanced communications networks. Among them: Why does access to a high-speed connection at home matter? The fuss about broadband extends beyond access to information to active participation in the online commons as people with shared interests or problems gather at various online forums to chat or collaborate.
Teens and Online Stranger Contact
Aaron Smith. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data Memo. October 14, 2007. 4 pages.
Fully 32% of online teens have been contacted by someone with no connection to them or any of their friends, and 7% of online teens say they have felt scared or uncomfortable as a result of contact by an online stranger. Several behaviors are associated with high levels of online stranger contact, including using social networking sites (SNS), social networking profile ownership and posting photos online. Although several factors are linked with increased levels of stranger contact in general, gender is the only variable with a consistent association with contact that is scary or uncomfortable -- girls are much more likely to report scary or uncomfortable contact than boys.
E-patients With a Disability or Chronic Disease
Susannah Fox. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Report. October 8, 2007. 25 pages.
Adults living with a disability or chronic disease are less likely than others to go online, but once online, are avid health consumers. About a fifth of American adults say that a disability, handicap, or chronic disease keeps them from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities. Half (51%) of those living with a disability or chronic disease go online, compared to 74% of those who report no chronic conditions. But fully 86% of Internet users living with disability or chronic illness have looked online for information about at least one of 17 health topics, compared with 79% of Internet users with no chronic conditions.
An Economic Approach to Evaluating a National Wireless Regulatory Framework
George S. Ford, Thomas M. Koutsky and Lawrence J. Spiwak. Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies. Policy Bulletin No. 19. October 2007. 14 pages.
In this paper, the authors provide an economic analysis of the welfare effect of state and local regulation on communications services and, in particular, on the wireless segment of the telecommunications industry. They find that when local regulation in one jurisdiction has sufficiently large “extra-jurisdictional” effects in other locations, overall social welfare can be reduced even if state and local governments act as efficient regulators. This finding is important because it shows that the debate over the proper regulatory framework for the wireless industry need not be driven by an assessment of which set of regulators, federal or state, is more competent. Accordingly, their analysis suggests that society is likely better to be off with a single, national regulatory framework for wireless services.
Unplugging Plug-and-Play Regulation
Adam Thierer. The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Progress on Point 14.21. October 2007. 7 pages.
Cable operators and some consumer electronics companies are engaged in a heated technical dispute over “digital cable ready” equipment and “plug-and-play” interactive applications. Basically, it’s a fight about how various features or services available on cable systems should work, including electronic programming guides (EPGs), video-on-demand (VOD), pay-per-view (PPV) services, and other interactive television (ITV) capabilities. This battle has grown more intense over the past few months. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has an open proceeding asking what new regulations, if any, it should impose on the industry to facilitate the further development of those services.
Maggie Griffith and Susannah Fox. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data Memo. September 19, 2007. 8 pages.
The Internet has become the hobbyist's playground. In a published survey, 83% of online Americans say they have used the Internet to seek information about their hobbies and 29% do so on a typical day. Looking for information about hobbies is among the most popular online activities, on par with shopping, surfing the web for fun, and getting news. The size of the daily online hobbyist population has increased substantially in the past five years. The Internet’s effect on hobbies can range from being an integral research tool for a genealogist, to being a connection and communication tool for collectors, to being the very source of a hobby’s existence, as in the case of online gaming.
Perspectives on U.S. Competitiveness in Science and Technology
Titus Galama and James Hosek. The Rand National Defense Research Institute. September 2007. 162 pages.
Concern has grown that the United States is losing its competitive edge in science and technology (S&T). The factors driving this concern include globalization, the rise of science centers in developing countries such as China and India, the increasing number of foreign-born Ph.D. students in the United States, and claims of a shortage of S&T workers in the United States. A loss of prowess in S&T could hurt U.S. economic competitiveness, standard of living, and national security. The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness asked the RAND Corporation to convene a meeting in November 2006 to discuss these issues. The papers contained in this report were prepared for the meeting.
The Feasibility of Unlicensed Broadband Devices to Operate on TV Band ‘White Space’ Without Causing Harmful Interference: Myths & Facts
Sascha D. Meinrath and Michael Calabrese. Wireless Future Program. New America Foundation. Policy Brief. September 2007. 4 pages.
White space devices (WSDs) present new opportunities for consumers to efficiently use currently unused spectrum and for America’s technology sector to promote ubiquitous, more affordable broadband deployment -- particularly in underserved rural areas -- as well as stimulate new innovations in consumer products, services, and applications. With the growing use of Wi-Fi and other unlicensed devices in everything from laptops to next-generation PDAs and cell phones, WSDs provide much-needed additional capacity for everything from broadband connectivity to home and community networking. The remaining challenge for the FCC is to define explicit operating rules to govern device certification, so that high-tech industries can embark on the R&D necessary to bring compliant consumer devices to market.
Two Sensible, Education-Based Legislative Approaches to Online Child Safety
Adam Thierer. The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Progress Snapshot 3.10. September 2007. 4 pages.
In the first week of August, two bills were introduced in the House and Senate seeking to better coordinate and expand federal online safety efforts. Specifically, the bills propose the creation of a nationwide public awareness and educational campaign about online safety, something that is very much needed to supplement ongoing private efforts. These two measures are important because education must serve as the cornerstone of any serious effort to deal with the issue of protecting children from either objectionable content or online cyber-dangers.