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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Public Safety Communications and Spectrum Resources: Policy Issues for Congress

Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


Effective emergency response is dependent on wireless communications. To minimize communications failures during and after a crisis requires ongoing improvements in emergency communications capacity and capability. The availability of radio frequency spectrum is considered essential to developing a modern, interoperable communications network for public safety. Equally critical is building the radio network to use this spectrum. Opinions diverge, however, on such issues as how much spectrum should be made available for the network, who should own it, who should build it, who should operate it, who should be allowed to use it, and how it might be paid for. 

To resolve the debate and move the planning process forward, Congress may decide to pursue oversight or change existing law. Actions proposed to Congress include (1) authorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reassign spectrum and (2) changing requirements for the use of spectrum auction proceeds. In particular, legislation in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171) might be modified. This law mandated the termination of analog television broadcasting and the release of those channels for other uses, including public safety. 

Congress may consider additional legislation to meet desired levels of emergency communications performance. A bill that would increase the amount of radio frequency spectrum assigned for public safety has been introduced (H.R. 5081, Representative King). A Senate bill contains similar provisions for spectrum assignment and would add a number of new provisions, including funding (S. 3625, Senator Lieberman). Both bills would require the FCC to transfer a spectrum license intended for commercial use, the D Block, to the license-holder for adjacent frequencies already assigned to public safety, known as the Public Safety Broadband License. Other bills and oversight activities are likely. 

Congress has before it an opportunity to bring public safety communications into the 21st century by assuring that a nationwide, interoperable communications network is put in place. The tools at its disposal include homeland security policy, spectrum policy, funding programs, and leadership. 

Among the actions that Congress might take, those dealing with governance and funding are often cited by public safety officials and others as the areas most in need of its consideration. They have recommended that, for the proposed network project to go forward on a sustainable footing, funding sources need to be identified for investment and operating expenses over the long term. To ensure the resources are wisely used, many analysts point to the primacy of putting in place a well-grounded but flexible governance structure. They argue that good governance is essential to complete development of needed technologies and standards, and to plan for and execute their deployment. In its National Broadband Plan, the FCC proposed that it assume the needed leadership role and has since taken a number of steps to realize the goals it has set for itself. 

Since September 11, 2001, Congress has passed several laws that empowered the Department of Homeland Security to recognize and respond to technological developments in wireless and Internet protocol (IP) communications, and to apply this knowledge to guiding the development of a nationwide, interoperable network for public safety. By choosing to focus on interim solutions, the Department might appear to have passed on the opportunity to provide the needed leadership and planning to move public safety communications toward a next-generation emergency communications network. 
.


Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R40859
Price: $29.95

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Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


Given the large potential impact broadband access may have on the economic development of rural America, concern has been raised over a "digital divide" between rural and urban or suburban areas with respect to broadband deployment. While there are many examples of rural communities with state of the art telecommunications facilities, recent surveys and studies have indicated that, in general, rural areas tend to lag behind urban and suburban areas in broadband deployment. 

Citing the lagging deployment of broadband in many rural areas, Congress and the Administration acted in 2001 and 2002 to initiate pilot broadband loan and grant programs within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Subsequently, Section 6103 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171) amended the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to authorize a loan and loan guarantee program to provide funds for the costs of the construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment for broadband service in eligible rural communities. The RUS/USDA houses two assistance programs exclusively dedicated to financing broadband deployment: the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program and the Community Connect Grant Program. 

The 110th Congress considered reauthorization and modification of the loan and loan guarantee program as part of the farm bill. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 became law on June 18, 2008 (P.L. 110-246). Title VI (Rural Development) contains authorizing language for the broadband loan program. 

Meanwhile, on May 11, 2007, RUS released a Proposed Rule seeking to revise the broadband loan program rules and regulations. Some key issues pertinent to a consideration of the RUS broadband programs include restrictions on applicant eligibility, how "rural" is defined with respect to eligible rural communities, how to address assistance to areas with preexisting broadband service, technological neutrality, funding levels and mechanisms, and the appropriateness of federal assistance. The final rule will reflect language in the enacted farm bill statute (P.L. 110-246). Ultimately, modification of rules, regulations, or criteria associated with the RUS broadband program will likely result in "winners and losers" in terms of which companies, communities, regions of the country, and technologies are eligible or more likely to receive broadband loans and grants. 

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed P.L. 111-5, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Broadband provisions of the ARRA provide a total of $7.2 billion, primarily for broadband grants. The total consists of $2.5 billion for RUS broadband loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations, and $4.7 billion to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce (DOC) for a newly established Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.



Date of Report: June 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL33816
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Assistance to Firefighters Program: Distribution of Fire Grant Funding


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program, also known as fire grants or the FIRE Act grant program, was established by Title XVII of the FY2001 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 106-398). Currently administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the program provides federal grants directly to local fire departments and unaffiliated Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations to help address a variety of equipment, training, and other firefighter-related and EMS needs. A related program is the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters (SAFER) program, which provides grants for hiring, recruiting, and retaining firefighters.

The fire grant program is now in its tenth year. The Fire Act statute was reauthorized in 2004 (Title XXXVI of P.L. 108-375) and provides overall guidelines on how fire grant money should be distributed. There is no set geographical formula for the distribution of fire grants—fire departments throughout the nation apply, and award decisions are made by a peer panel based on the merits of the application and the needs of the community. However, the law does require that fire grants be distributed to a diverse mix of fire departments, with respect to type of department (paid, volunteer, or combination), geographic location, and type of community served (e.g. urban, suburban, or rural).

On February 17, 2009, the President signed P.L. 111-5, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The ARRA included an additional $210 million in firefighter assistance grants for modifying, upgrading, or constructing state and local non-federal fire stations, provided that 5% be set aside for program administration and provided that no grant shall exceed $15 million.

P.L. 111-83, the FY2010 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, provided $810 million for firefighter assistance, including $390 million for AFG and $420 million for SAFER. The Administration's FY2011 budget proposed $305 million for AFG (a 22% decrease from the FY2010 level) and $305 million for SAFER (a 27% decrease). The total amount requested for firefighter assistance (AFG and SAFER) was $610 million, a 25% decrease from FY2010.

Meanwhile, on November 18, 2009, the House passed H.R. 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, which would reauthorize AFG and SAFER through FY2014 and modify the distribution of fire grant funds. On April 27, 2010, S. 3267, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2010, was introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On April 28, the Committee ordered S. 3267 to be reported with an amendment favorably. Debate over the AFG reauthorization has reflected a competition for funding between career/urban/suburban departments and volunteer/rural departments. The urgency of this debate could be heightened by the proposed reduction of overall AFG funding in FY2011, and the economic downturn in many local communities increasingly hard pressed to allocate funding for their local fire departments
.


Date of Report: July 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL32341
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Project BioShield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress


Frank Gottron
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


Many potential chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents lack available medical countermeasures. In 2003, President Bush proposed Project BioShield to address this need. The Project BioShield Act became law in July 2004 (P.L. 108-276).

This law has three main provisions: (1) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending, including hiring personnel and awarding research grants; (2) guaranteeing a federal government market for new CBRN medical countermeasures; and (3) permitting emergency use of unapproved countermeasures. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used each of these authorities. The HHS used expedited review authorities to approve contracts and grants related to CBRN countermeasure research and development. The HHS used the authority to guarantee a government market to obligate approximately $2 billion to acquire countermeasures against anthrax, botulism, radiation, and smallpox. The HHS has also employed the emergency use authority several times, including allowing young children with H1N1 "swine" influenza to receive specific antiviral drugs.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-90) advance appropriated $5.593 billion from FY2004 to FY2013 for CBRN countermeasures acquisition through Project BioShield. Subsequent Congresses have rescinded or transferred to other accounts approximately 19% of the advance appropriation. In FY2004 and FY2005, Congress removed a total of approximately $25 million from this account through rescissions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (P.L. 108-447). In the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8), Congress transferred $412 million from this account to support countermeasure advanced research and development and pandemic influenza preparedness and response. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117) transferred $609 million from this account to support basic research and advanced countermeasure development. P.L. 111-117 also transferred the remaining Project BioShield funds from DHS to HHS. The Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 4899) would rescind up to $2 billion of Project BioShield funds. For FY2011, President Obama has requested the transfer of at least $476 million from this account.

Since passing the Project BioShield Act, subsequent Congresses have considered additional measures to further encourage countermeasure development. The 109th Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act (P.L. 109-417) which created the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in HHS. Amongst other duties, BARDA oversees all of HHS' Project BioShield activities. The Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act also modified the Project BioShield procurement process. Some stakeholders question whether these changes have sufficiently improved countermeasure development and procurement. The Administration is considering implementing additional changes to the countermeasure research, development, and acquisition process.

The 111th Congress continues to address several Project BioShield-related policy issues. These include whether to continue diverting Project BioShield acquisition funding to other purposes; whether to change the countermeasure development and acquisition process; how to replace stockpiled countermeasures as they expire; and whether to alter federal efforts to encourage the development of broad-spectrum countermeasures 
.


Date of Report: July 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41033
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Public Safety Communications and Spectrum Resources: Policy Issues for Congress


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


Effective emergency response is dependent on wireless communications. To minimize communications failures during and after a crisis requires ongoing improvements in emergency communications capacity and capability. The availability of radio frequency spectrum is considered essential to developing a modern, interoperable communications network for public safety. Equally critical is building the radio network to use this spectrum. Opinions diverge, however, on such issues as how much spectrum should be made available for the network, who should own it, who should build it, who should operate it, who should be allowed to use it, and how it might be paid for.

To resolve the debate and move the planning process forward, Congress may decide to pursue oversight or change existing law. Actions proposed to Congress include (1) authorizing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reassign spectrum and (2) changing requirements for the use of spectrum auction proceeds. In particular, legislation in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-171) might be modified. This law mandated the termination of analog television broadcasting and the release of those channels for other uses, including public safety.

Congress may consider additional legislation to meet desired levels of emergency communications performance. One bill that would increase the amount of radio frequency spectrum assigned for public safety has been introduced (H.R. 5081, Representative King) and other bills and oversight activities are likely.

Congress has before it an opportunity to bring public safety communications into the 21st century by assuring that a nationwide, interoperable communications network is put in place. The tools at its disposal include homeland security policy, spectrum policy, funding programs, and leadership.

Among the actions that Congress might take, those dealing with governance and funding are often cited by public safety officials and others as the areas most in need of its consideration. They recommend that, for the proposed network project to go forward on a sustainable footing, funding sources need to be identified for investment and operating expenses over the long term. To ensure the resources are wisely used, many analysts point to the primacy of putting in place a well-grounded but flexible governance structure. They argue that good governance is essential to complete development of needed technologies and standards, and to plan for and execute their deployment. In its National Broadband Plan, the FCC proposed that it assume the needed leadership role and has since taken a number of steps to realize the goals it has set for itself.

Since September 11, 2001, Congress has passed several laws that empowered the Department of Homeland Security to recognize and respond to technological developments in wireless and Internet protocol (IP) communications, and to apply this knowledge to guiding the development of a nationwide, interoperable network for public safety. By choosing to focus on interim solutions, the Department might appear to have passed on the opportunity to provide the needed leadership and planning to move public safety communications toward a next-generation emergency communications network.



Date of Report: July 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R40859
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The National Broadband Plan


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Charles B. Goldfarb
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

On March 16, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan. Mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5), the FCC's National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a 360-page document composed of 17 chapters containing 208 specific recommendations directed to the FCC, to the Executive Branch (both to individual agencies and to Administration as a whole), to Congress, and to nonfederal and nongovernmental entities. The ARRA specified that the NBP should "seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability."

The NBP identified significant gaps in broadband availability and adoption in the United StatesIn order to address these gaps and other challenges, the NBP set six specific goals to be achieved by the year 2020. These six goals are discussed further in this report, and an outline of the NBP is provided at the end of this report.

It is important to note that many aspects of telecommunications policies, regulations, and legal issues would be affected by the NBP. For example:

• The Universal Service Fund (USF) is a fund that was created to provide universal availability and affordability of communications throughout the United States; the issue is whether or how the universal service concept should embrace access to broadband as one of its policy objectives.

• Because wireless broadband can play a key role in the deployment of broadband services, the NBP extensively addresses spectrum policy and the issue of how to make more spectrum available and usable for mobile broadband applications.

• Issues such as intercarrier compensation and set-top boxes are identified by the NBP as having potential significant impact on broadband availability and adoption.

• Broadband will likely play a role in addressing critical national challenges in areas such as health care, education, energy, environment, and public safety; the issue is how, for each national purpose, the existing legislative and regulatory framework and trends in the field might best benefit from better broadband access and services.

• Finally, one potential issue the FCC may face in its attempts to achieve NBP goals is the scope of the agency's authority to regulate broadband Internet access and management.

A major issue for Congress will be how to shape the Plan's various initiatives when and if they go forward, either through oversight, through consideration of specific legislation, or in the context of comprehensive telecommunications reform. A key challenge for Congressional policymakers will be to assess whether an appropriate balance is maintained between the public and private sectors, and the extent to which government intervention in the broadband marketplace would help or hinder private sector investment and competition
.


Date of Report: July 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41324
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Project BioShield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress


Frank Gottron
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


Many potential chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents lack available medical countermeasures. In 2003, President Bush proposed Project BioShield to address this need. The Project BioShield Act became law in July 2004 (P.L. 108-276).

This law has three main provisions: (1) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending, including hiring personnel and awarding research grants; (2) guaranteeing a federal government market for new CBRN medical countermeasures; and (3) permitting emergency use of unapproved countermeasures. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used each of these authorities. The HHS used expedited review authorities to approve contracts and grants related to CBRN countermeasure research and development. The HHS used the authority to guarantee a government market to obligate approximately $2 billion to acquire countermeasures against anthrax, botulism, radiation, and smallpox. The HHS has also employed the emergency use authority several times, including allowing young children with H1N1 "swine" influenza to receive specific antiviral drugs.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-90) advance appropriated $5.593 billion for FY2004 to FY2013 for CBRN countermeasures acquisition through Project BioShield. Subsequent Congresses have rescinded or transferred to other accounts approximately 19% of the advance appropriation. In FY2004 and FY2005, Congress removed a total of approximately $25 million from this account through rescissions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (P.L. 108-447). In the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8), Congress transferred $412 million from this account to support countermeasure advanced research and development and pandemic influenza preparedness and response. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117) transferred $609 million from this account to support basic research and advanced countermeasure development. P.L. 111-117 also transferred the remaining Project BioShield funds from DHS to HHS. The Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 4899) would rescind up to $2,000 million of Project BioShield funds. For FY2011, President Obama has requested the transfer of at least $476 million from this account.

Since passing the Project BioShield Act, subsequent Congresses have considered additional measures to further encourage countermeasure development. The 109th Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act (P.L. 109-417) which created the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in HHS. Amongst other duties, BARDA oversees all of HHS' Project BioShield activities. The Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act also modified the Project BioShield procurement process. Some stakeholders question whether these changes have sufficiently improved countermeasure development and procurement. The Administration is considering implementing additional changes to the countermeasure research, development, and acquisition process.

The 111th Congress continues to address several Project BioShield-related policy issues. These include whether to continue diverting Project BioShield acquisition funding to other purposes; whether to change the countermeasure development and acquisition process; how to replace stockpiled countermeasures as they expire; and whether to alter federal efforts to encourage the development of broad-spectrum countermeasures.



Date of Report: July 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41033
Price: $29.95

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The Future of NASA: Space Policy Issues Facing Congress


Daniel Morgan
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


For the past several years, the priorities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been governed by the Vision for Space Exploration. The Vision was announced by President Bush in January 2004 and endorsed by Congress in the 2005 and 2008 NASA authorization acts (P.L. 109-155 and P.L. 110-422). It directed NASA to focus its efforts on returning humans to the Moon by 2020 and some day sending them to Mars and "worlds beyond." The resulting efforts are now approaching major milestones, such as the end of the space shuttle program, design review decisions for the new spacecraft intended to replace the shuttle, and decisions about whether to extend the operation of the International Space Station. At the same time, concerns have grown about whether NASA can accomplish the planned program of human exploration of space without significant growth in its budget.

A high-level independent review of the future of human space flight, chaired by Norman R. Augustine, issued its final report in October 2009. It presented several options as alternatives to the Vision and concluded that for human exploration to continue "in any meaningful way," NASA would require an additional $3 billion per year above current plans.

In its FY2011 budget request, the Obama Administration proposed cancelling the Constellation spacecraft development program and eliminating the goal of returning humans to the Moon. NASA would instead rely on commercial providers to transport astronauts to Earth orbit, and its ultimate goal beyond Earth orbit would be human exploration of Mars, with missions to other destinations, such as visiting an asteroid in 2025, as intermediate goals. Operation of the International Space Station would be extended to at least 2020, and long-term technology development would receive increased emphasis.

Committees in the House and Senate have held hearings to consider both the Augustine report and the Administration proposals. As Congress considers appropriations and authorization bills addressing these broad space policy challenges, it faces choices about

• whether NASA's human exploration program is affordable and sufficiently safe, and if so, what destination or destinations it should explore;

• whether the space shuttle program should continue past its currently planned termination in early 2011; if so, how to ensure the continued safety of shuttle crews; if not, how the transition of the shuttle workforce and facilities should be managed;

• whether U.S. use of the International Space Station should continue past its currently planned termination at the end of 2015;

• whether the currently planned Orion crew capsule and Ares rockets, being developed as successors to the space shuttle, are the best choices for delivering astronauts and cargo into space, or whether other proposed rockets or commercial services should take their place; and

• how NASA's multiple objectives in human spaceflight, science, aeronautics, and education should be prioritized.



Date of Report: July 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: R41016
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Access to Broadband Networks: The Net Neutrality Debate


Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


As congressional policymakers continue to debate telecommunications reform, a major point of contention is the question of whether action is needed to ensure unfettered access to the Internet. The move to place restrictions on the owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet, to ensure equal access and non-discriminatory treatment, is referred to as "net neutrality." There is no single accepted definition of "net neutrality." However, most agree that any such definition should include the general principles that owners of the networks that compose and provide access to the Internet should not control how consumers lawfully use that network, and they should not be able to discriminate against content provider access to that network.

A major focus in the debate over telecommunications reform is concern over whether it is necessary for policymakers to take steps to ensure access to the Internet for content, services, and applications providers, as well as consumers, and if so, what these steps should be. Some policymakers contend that more specific regulatory guidelines may be necessary to protect the marketplace from potential abuses which could threaten the net neutrality concept. Others contend that existing laws and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policies are sufficient to deal with potential anti-competitive behavior and that additional regulations would have negative effects on the expansion and future development of the Internet. An April 2010 court ruling in FCC v. Comcast that vacated the FCC's application of its Internet principles in an order against Comcast has focused attention on the issue. Although most concede that networks have and will always need some management, the use of prioritization tools, such as deep packet inspection, as well as the initiation of metered/consumption-based billing practices have further fueled the debate.

A consensus on this issue has not yet formed, but one stand-alone measure (H.R. 3458) that comprehensively addresses the net neutrality debate has been introduced in the 111th Congress to date. Two bills (S. 1836, H.R. 3924) to prohibit, with some exceptions, the FCC from proposing, promulgating, or issuing any further regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services, were introduced in response to the adoption, by the FCC, of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) seeking comment on proposed rules to, among other things, codify and expand on rules to "preserve the open Internet." Another measure, H.R. 5257, addresses the possible reclassification of broadband service and would require, among other provisions, that the FCC prove the existence of a "market failure" before regulating information services or Internet access services. The net neutrality issue has also been narrowly addressed within the context of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5). Provisions require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in consultation with the FCC, to establish "nondiscrimination and network interconnection obligations" as a requirement for grant participants in the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). These obligations were released, July 1, 2009, in conjunction with the issuance of a notice of funds availability soliciting applications. The ARRA also required the FCC to submit a report, containing a national broadband plan, to both the House and Senate Commerce Committees; it was released on March 16, 2010. Furthermore, legislation (H.R. 2902) authorizing the Federal Trade Commission, in consultation with the FCC, to review volume usage service plans offered by broadband providers was introduced June 16, 2009.



Date of Report: July 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R40616
Price: $29.95

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


The convergence of wireless telecommunications technology with the Internet Protocol (IP) is fostering new generations of mobile technologies. This transformation has created new demands for advanced communications infrastructure and radio frequency spectrum capacity that can support high-speed, content-rich uses. Furthermore, a number of services, in addition to consumer and business communications, rely at least in part on wireless links to broadband backbones. Wireless technologies support public safety communications, sensors, smart grids, medicine and public health, intelligent transportation systems, and many other vital communications.

Existing policies for allocating and assigning spectrum rights may not be sufficient to meet the future needs of wireless broadband. A challenge for Congress is to provide decisive policies in an environment where there are many choices but little consensus. In formulating spectrum policy, mainstream viewpoints generally diverge on whether to give priority to market economics or social goals. Regarding access to spectrum, economic policy looks to harness market forces to allocate spectrum efficiently, with spectrum license auctions as the driver. Social policy favors ensuring wireless access to support a variety of social objectives where economic return is not easily quantified, such as improving education, health services, and public safety. Both approaches can stimulate economic growth and job creation.

Deciding what weight to give to specific goals and setting priorities to meet those goals pose difficult tasks for federal administrators and regulators and for Congress. Meaningful oversight or legislation may require making choices about what goals will best serve the public interest. Relying on market forces to make those decisions may be the most efficient and effective way to serve the public but, to achieve this, policy makers may need to broaden the concept of what constitutes competition in wireless markets.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP), a report on broadband policy mandated by Congress, has provided descriptions of perceived issues to be addressed by a combination of regulatory changes and the development of new policies at the Federal Communications Commission, with recommendations for legislative actions that Congress might take.

Among the spectrum policy initiatives that have been proposed in Congress in recent years are: allocating more spectrum for unlicensed use; auctioning airwaves currently allocated for federal use; and devising new fees on spectrum use, notably those collected by the FCC's statutory authority to implement these measures is limited. The NBP reiterates these proposals and adds several more.

Substantive modifications in spectrum policy would almost surely require congressional action. The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act introduced in the Senate (S. 649, Kerry) and the similar House-introduced Radio Spectrum Inventory Act (H.R. 3125, Waxman) would require an inventory of existing users on prime radio frequencies, a preliminary step in evaluating policy changes. The Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act of 2009 (H.R. 3019, Inslee) and the Spectrum Relocation Act of 2010 (S. 3490, Warner) would amend the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-494, Title II). The Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 5081, King) would allocate additional radio frequencies for public safety use.



Date of Report: July 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R40674
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Internet Domain Names: Background and Policy Issues


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Navigating the Internet requires using addresses and corresponding names that identify the location of individual computers. The Domain Name System (DNS) is the distributed set of databases residing in computers around the world that contain address numbers mapped to corresponding domain names, making it possible to send and receive messages and to access information from computers anywhere on the Internet.

The DNS is managed and operated by a not-for-profit public benefit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Because the Internet evolved from a network infrastructure created by the Department of Defense, the U.S. government originally owned and operated (primarily through private contractors) the key components of network architecture that enable the domain name system to function. A 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ICANN and the Department of Commerce (DOC) initiated a process intended to transition technical DNS coordination and management functions to a privatesector not-for-profit entity. While the DOC has played no role in the internal governance or dayto- day operations of the DNS, ICANN remained accountable to the U.S. government through the MOU, which was superseded in 2006 by a Joint Project Agreement (JPA). On September 30, 2009, the JPA between ICANN and DOC expired and was replaced by an Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), which provides for review panels to periodically assess ICANN processes and activities.

Many of the technical, operational, and management decisions regarding the DNS can have significant impacts on Internet-related policy issues such as intellectual property, privacy, ecommerce, and cybersecurity. With the expiration of the ICANN-DOC Joint Project Agreement on September 30, 2009, and the announcement of the new AoC, Congress and the Administration continue to assess the appropriate federal role with respect to ICANN and the DNS, and examine to what extent ICANN is positioned to ensure Internet stability and security, competition, private and bottom-up policymaking and coordination, and fair representation of the global Internet community. A related issue is whether the U.S. government's unique authority over the DNS root zone should continue indefinitely. Foreign governments have argued that it is inappropriate for the U.S. government to have exclusive authority over the worldwide DNS, and that technical coordination and management of the DNS should be accountable to international governmental entities. On the other hand, many U.S. officials argue that it is critical for the U.S. government to maintain authority over the DNS in order to guarantee the stability and security of the Internet.

The expiration of the JPA, the implementation of the Affirmation of Commitments, and the continuing U.S. authority over the DNS root zone remain issues of keen interest to the 111th Congress, the Administration, foreign governments, and other Internet stakeholders worldwide. Other specific issues include the possible addition of new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), .xxx and the protection of children on the Internet, the security and stability of the DNS, and the status of the WHOIS database. How all of these issues are ultimately addressed could have profound impacts on the continuing evolution of ICANN, the DNS, and the Internet.


Date of Report: June 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: 98-868
Price: $29.95

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U.S. National Science Foundation: Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction


Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account of the National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the acquisition and construction of major research facilities and equipment that are to extend the boundaries of science, engineering, and technology. The facilities include telescopes, earth simulators, astronomical observatories, and mobile research platforms. Currently, the NSF provides approximately $1.0 billion annually in support of facilities and other infrastructure projects. While the NSF does not directly design or operate research facilities, it does have final responsibility for oversight and management. Questions have been raised by many in the scientific community and in Congress concerning the adequacy of the planning and management of NSF facilities. In addition, there has been debate related to the criteria used to select projects for MREFC support.

The FY2011 request for the NSF is $7,424.4 million, approximately $551.9 million above the FY2010 estimate. Included in the requested funding is $165.2 million for MREFC, a 40.8% increase above the FY2010 estimate of $117.3 million. In FY2011, NSF anticipates construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), at a cost of $20.0 million. The NEON will compile data on the effects of climate changes, land use changes, invasive species on natural resources, and biodiversity. In addition to the support of NEON, NSF will continue its support of four ongoing major construction projects—the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory ($23.6 million), the Atacama Large Millimeter Array ($13.9 million), the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope ($17.0 million), and the Ocean Observatories Initiative ($90.7 million).


Date of Report: June 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS21267
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Project BioShield: Authorities, Appropriations, Acquisitions, and Issues for Congress


Frank Gottron
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


Many potential chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism agents lack available medical countermeasures. In 2003, President Bush proposed Project BioShield to address this need. The Project BioShield Act became law in July 2004 (P.L. 108-276).

This law has three main provisions: (1) relaxing regulatory requirements for some CBRN terrorism-related spending, including hiring personnel and awarding research grants; (2) guaranteeing a federal government market for new CBRN medical countermeasures; and (3) permitting emergency use of unapproved countermeasures. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used each of these authorities. The HHS used expedited review authorities to approve contracts and grants related to CBRN countermeasure research and development. The HHS used the authority to guarantee a government market to obligate approximately $2 billion to acquire countermeasures against anthrax, botulism, radiation, and smallpox. The HHS has also employed the emergency use authority several times, including allowing young children with H1N1 "swine" influenza to receive specific antiviral drugs.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-90) advanceappropriated $5.593 billion for FY2004 to FY2013 for CBRN countermeasures acquisition through Project BioShield. Subsequent Congresses have rescinded or transferred to other accounts approximately 19% of the advance appropriation. In FY2004 and FY2005, Congress removed a total of approximately $25 million from this account through rescissions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-199) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (P.L. 108-447). In the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8), Congress transferred $412 million from this account to support countermeasure advanced research and development and pandemic influenza preparedness and response. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117) transferred $609 million from this account to support basic research and advanced countermeasure development. P.L. 111-117 also transferred the remaining Project BioShield funds from DHS to HHS. The Disaster Relief and Summer Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 4899) would rescind up to $2,000 million of Project BioShield funds. For FY2011, President Obama has requested the transfer of at least $476 million from this account.

Since passing the Project BioShield Act, subsequent Congresses have considered additional measures to further encourage countermeasure development. The 109th Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act (P.L. 109-417) which created the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in HHS. Amongst other duties, BARDA oversees all of HHS' Project BioShield activities. The Pandemic and All-Hazard Preparedness Act also modified the Project BioShield procurement process. Some stakeholders question whether these changes have sufficiently improved countermeasure development and procurement. The Administration is considering implementing additional changes to the countermeasure research, development, and acquisition process.

The 111th Congress continues to address several Project BioShield-related policy issues. These include whether to continue diverting Project BioShield acquisition funding to other purposes; whether to change the countermeasure development and acquisition process; how to replace stockpiled countermeasures as they expire; and whether to alter federal efforts to encourage the development of broad-spectrum countermeasures.



Date of Report: July 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41033
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Spectrum Policy in the Age of Broadband: Issues for Congress


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy


The convergence of wireless telecommunications technology with the Internet Protocol (IP) is fostering new generations of mobile technologies. This transformation has created new demands for advanced communications infrastructure and radio frequency spectrum capacity that can support high-speed, content-rich uses. Furthermore, a number of services, in addition to consumer and business communications, rely at least in part on wireless links to broadband backbones. Wireless technologies support public safety communications, sensors, smart grids, medicine and public health, intelligent transportation systems, and many other vital communications.

Existing policies for allocating and assigning spectrum rights may not be sufficient to meet the future needs of wireless broadband. A challenge for Congress is to provide decisive policies in an environment where there are many choices but little consensus. In formulating spectrum policy, mainstream viewpoints generally diverge on whether to give priority to market economics or social goals. Regarding access to spectrum, economic policy looks to harness market forces to allocate spectrum efficiently, with spectrum license auctions as the driver. Social policy favors ensuring wireless access to support a variety of social objectives where economic return is not easily quantified, such as improving education, health services, and public safety. Both approaches can stimulate economic growth and job creation.

Deciding what weight to give to specific goals and setting priorities to meet those goals pose difficult tasks for federal administrators and regulators and for Congress. Meaningful oversight or legislation may require making choices about what goals will best serve the public interest. Relying on market forces to make those decisions may be the most efficient and effective way to serve the public but, to achieve this, policy makers may need to broaden the concept of what constitutes competition in wireless markets.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP), a report on broadband policy mandated by Congress, has provided descriptions of perceived issues to be addressed by a combination of regulatory changes and the development of new policies at the Federal Communications Commission, with recommendations for legislative actions that Congress might take.

Among the spectrum policy initiatives that have been proposed in Congress in recent years are: allocating more spectrum for unlicensed use; auctioning airwaves currently allocated for federal use; and devising new fees on spectrum use, notably those collected by the FCC's statutory authority to implement these measures is limited. The NBP reiterates these proposals and adds several more.

Substantive modifications in spectrum policy would almost surely require congressional action. The Radio Spectrum Inventory Act introduced in the Senate (S. 649, Kerry) and the similar House-introduced Radio Spectrum Inventory Act (H.R. 3125, Waxman) would require an inventory of existing users on prime radio frequencies, a preliminary step in evaluating policy changes. The Spectrum Relocation and Improvement Act of 2009 (H.R. 3019, Inslee) and the Spectrum Relocation Act of 2010 (S. 3490, Warner) would amend the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-494, Title II). The Broadband for First Responders Act (H.R. 5081, King) would allocate additional radio frequencies for public safety use.



Date of Report: June 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R40674
Price: $29.95

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