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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response: The SAFER Grant Program

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


In response to concerns over the adequacy of firefighter staffing, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act—popularly called the "SAFER Act"—was enacted by the 108th Congress as Section 1057 of the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 108-136). The SAFER Act authorizes grants to career, volunteer, and combination local fire departments for the purpose of increasing the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry-minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Also authorized are grants to volunteer fire departments for activities related to the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The SAFER grant program is authorized through FY2010. 

With the economic turndown adversely affecting budgets of local governments, concerns have arisen that modifications to the SAFER statute may be necessary to enable fire departments to more effectively participate in the program. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) included a provision (section 603) that waives the matching requirements for SAFER grants awarded in FY2009 and FY2010. The FY2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-32) included a provision authorizing the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive further limitations and restrictions in the SAFER statute for FY2009 and FY2010. 

P.L. 111-83, the FY2010 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, provided $420 million for SAFER, double the amount appropriated in FY2009. The Administration's FY2011 budget proposed $305 million for SAFER, a 27% decrease from the FY2010 level. The FY2011 budget proposal for SAFER could receive heightened interest, given high rates of unemployment and the local budgetary cutbacks that many fire departments are now facing. On June 24, 2010, the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security Appropriations approved $840 million for firefighter assistance, including $420 million for SAFER and $420 million for AFG. On July 19, 2010, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $810 million for firefighter assistance (including $420 million for SAFER and $390 million for AFG), the same level as FY2010. 

Concerns over local fire departments' budgetary problems have also framed debate over the SAFER reauthorization, which is included in H.R. 3791, the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009, passed by the House on November 18, 2009. 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. Congress is considering whether some SAFER rules and restrictions governing the hiring grants should be permanently eliminated or altered in order to make it economically feasible for more fire departments to participate in the program.



Date of Report: August 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RL33375
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Thursday, August 26, 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. Also critical are (1) building the network to use this spectrum and (2) developing and deploying the radios to the new standards required for mobile broadband. Beyond recognition of these common needs and goals, opinions diverge 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. 

Actions being considered by 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. 

Three bills that would increase the amount of radio frequency spectrum assigned for public safety use have been introduced. The bills would require that the FCC transfer a spectrum license intended for commercial use, known as the D Block, to the license-holder for adjacent frequencies already assigned to public safety, known as the Public Safety Broadband License. The Broadband for First Responders Act of 2010 (H.R. 5081, Representative King) deals primarily with reassignment of the D Block. Two Senate bills contain similar provisions for spectrum assignment and would add a number of new provisions, including using the proceeds of future spectrum auctions to fund the needed network (S. 3625, Senator Lieberman and S. 3756, Senator Rockefeller). The development of public safety radios for broadband would be expedited by companion bills H.R. 5907 (Representative Harman) and S. 3731 (Senator Warner). Public safety operations would benefit from this initiative regardless of the eventual assignment of the D Block. Congress may consider additional legislation or oversight to meet desired levels of emergency communications performance. 

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. Many 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, some analysts point to the primacy of putting in place a well-grounded but flexible governance structure
.


Date of Report: August 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R40859
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Current Legal Status of the FCC’s Media Ownership Rules

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney


The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) media ownership regulations place limits on the number of broadcast radio and television outlets one owner can possess in a given market and place cross-ownership restrictions on these outlets and on the cross-ownership of broadcast properties and newspapers. The FCC is under a statutory obligation to review these rules every four years to determine whether the restrictions on ownership remain necessary in the public interest as the result of competition. These media ownership regulation reviews have often been controversial. Since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Commission has had little success in relaxing its media ownership rules. The results of the FCC's 2002 review of the rules was largely invalidated by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC and remanded to the FCC for further consideration. The FCC responded by folding the Third Circuit's remand order into its 2006 Quadrennial Review of the Media Ownership Rules. This review sparked its own controversy, as well, and the resulting rule changes have been appealed to the Third Circuit. In conjunction with this appeal, the FCC has commenced its 2010 Quadrennial Review of its Media Ownership Rules. This report will discuss each of these events in greater detail.


Date of Report: August 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R41337
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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." While there is no single accepted definition of "net neutrality," 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 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 anticompetitive 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. Still another, S. 3624, contains provisions that require the FCC to prove consumers are being substantially harmed by a lack of marketplace choice before imposing new regulations and must weigh the potential cost of action against any benefits to consumers or competition. 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. 

This report will be updated as events warrant.


Date of Report: August 11, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R40616
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights and State Sovereign Immunity

Brian T. Yeh
Legislative Attorney

The Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that "[t]he Judicial Power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." Although the amendment appears to be focused on preventing suits against a state by non-residents in federal courts, the U.S. Supreme Court has expanded the concept of state sovereign immunity to reach much further than the literal text of the amendment, to include immunity from suits by the states' own citizens and immunity from suits under federal law within a state's own court system. 

As a result of two landmark Supreme Court decisions in 1999, Florida Prepaid and College Savings Bank, the Eleventh Amendment currently bars an individual from successfully seeking damages from a state for violations of federal intellectual property laws unless the state clearly consents to being sued through waiver, or Congress legitimately abrogates state sovereign immunity. Valid waiver exists only where a state has clearly submitted itself to federal jurisdiction. Courts have interpreted this rule to validate waiver in several scenarios: where a state voluntarily removes a case to federal court; where a state voluntarily initiates and participates in the litigation; where the case is part of one continuous action in which the state previously waived its immunity; where a state enacts legislation waiving its sovereign immunity; or where a state enters a contract containing a provision in which the state specifically submits to federal court jurisdiction in the case of a dispute. Absent these forms of clear waiver, a state does not relinquish its privilege of sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. 

Congress may limit state sovereign immunity to suit under federal intellectual property laws only by passing a law pursuant to its enforcement power under § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. A valid statute passed pursuant to § 5 will be limited in scope and remedy a pervasive and unredressed constitutional violation. The Supreme Court has previously invalidated congressional attempts to abrogate state sovereign immunity in intellectual property lawsuits against state governments. 

Where there has been no clear waiver by the state, nor abrogation of state sovereignty by Congress, a party cannot obtain damages from a state under federal law. The injured party may, however, sue the individual official responsible for the violation for prospective injunctive relief under the Ex Parte Young doctrine. In order to obtain this kind of non-monetary relief, the party must show a continued violation of federal law and an adequate connection between the named official and the actual violation. 

In response to Florida Prepaid and College Savings Bank, various bills have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress in an attempt to hold states accountable for violations of intellectual property rights. These proposals, however, never made it out of committee
.


Date of Report: July 30, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL34593
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The "digital divide" is a term that has been used to characterize a gap between "information haves and have-nots," or in other words, between those Americans who use or have access to telecommunications and information technologies and those who do not. One important subset of the digital divide debate concerns high-speed Internet access and advanced telecommunications services, also known as broadband. Broadband is provided by a series of technologies (e.g., cable, telephone wire, fiber, satellite, wireless) that give users the ability to send and receive data at volumes and speeds far greater than traditional "dial-up" Internet access over telephone lines. 

Broadband technologies are currently being deployed primarily by the private sector throughout the United States. While the numbers of new broadband subscribers continue to grow, studies and data suggest that the rate of broadband deployment in urban/suburban and high income areas are outpacing deployment in rural and low-income areas. Some policymakers, believing that disparities in broadband access across American society could have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind, assert that the federal government should play a more active role to avoid a "digital divide" in broadband access. One approach is for the federal government to provide financial assistance to support broadband deployment in unserved and underserved areas. 

Economic stimulus legislation enacted by the 111th Congress included provisions that provided federal financial assistance for broadband deployment. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed P.L. 111-5, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA provided a total of $7.2 billion for broadband, consisting of $4.7 billion to NTIA/DOC for a newly established Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and $2.5 billion to RUS/USDA broadband programs. 

The ARRA also directed the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan, which was released on March 16, 2010. The National Broadband Plan will likely spur considerable debate over what actions, if any, the federal government should take in order to close the digital divide in broadband access. As Congress considers various options for encouraging broadband deployment and adoption, a key issue is how to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.


Date of Report: August 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL30719
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America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of2010 (H.R. 5116) and the America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69): Selected Policy Issues

Heather B. Gonzalez, Coordinator
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

John F. Sargent Jr.
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


Enacted in 2007, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act (P.L. 110-69) is being considered for reauthorization this year. The law responded to concerns about long-term U.S. economic competitiveness and innovative capacity by authorizing increased investments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering. 

Statutory authorities for certain America COMPETES Act provisions will expire in 2010. Committees in the House and Senate have begun the process of re-examining the policy rationale behind the law and determining whether to continue, alter, add to, or terminate its various provisions. On May 28, 2010, the House passed a reauthorization measure titled the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5116) by a vote of 262 to 150. Similar legislation, S. 3605, was amended and reported favorably by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on July 22, 2010. 

H.R. 5116 builds upon, and differs from, the original America COMPETES Act. Among its many provisions, the bill augments and amends P.L. 110-69's provisions in STEM education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering. H.R. 5116 seeks to increase the coordination of federal STEM education programs and to improve STEM teaching and learning in higher education. It would also increase authorizations for the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology laboratories, and Department of Energy Office of Science for five years; and would make program changes designed to provide for high-risk, high reward research, increased collaboration, and commercialization. 

H.R. 5116 would also expand provisions of P.L. 110-69 that sought to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM education and employment, and would reauthorize the National Nanotechnology Initiative and Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, two federal multi-agency R&D initiatives. 

In both the debates about H.R. 5116 and the evaluation of P.L. 110-69, critics have raised concerns about appropriations. Some critics argue these measures are fiscally unsustainable in the current economic and budgetary environment. Supporters contend existing weaknesses in STEM education and federal research in the physical sciences and engineering threaten the fundamental underpinnings of the economy and therefore justify national investment even in an era of fiscal constraint
.


Date of Report: July 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41231
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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 both the House and the Senate have held hearings to consider the Augustine report and the Administration proposals. In July 2010, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (H.R. 5781) was reported in the House. In August 2010, the Senate version of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (S. 3729) was passed by the Senate. As Congress considers appropriations and authorization legislation 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 to manage the transition of the shuttle workforce and facilities; 

• 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: August 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: R41016
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program: Reauthorization Efforts

Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982, P.L. 97-219, created Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs within the major federal research and development (R&D) agencies. This effort was intended to increase participation of small innovative companies in federally funded R&D. Government agencies with extramural R&D budgets of $100 million or more are required to set aside a portion of these funds to support research and development in small firms through the SBIR program. The program was extended several times and was scheduled to terminate on September 30, 2008. Although, to date, no specific legislation reauthorized the program, the Small Business Administration determined that P.L. 110-235 temporarily extended the SBIR activity through March 20, 2009. P.L. 111-10 provided an additional extension of the program through July 31, 2009; P.L. 111-43 extended it through September 30, 2009; and P.L. 111-66 extended the effort through October 31, 2009. P.L. 111-89 once again extended the SBIR program through April 30, 2010, after which P.L. 111-214 extended the effort through September 30, 2010. H.R. 2965, a bill to reauthorize and alter the SBIR initiative, passed the House after which the Senate substituted the language of S. 1233 (amended) and approved its version of H.R. 2965.


Date of Report: August 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22865
Price: $29.95

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Distribution of Broadband Stimulus Grants and Loans: Applications and Awards


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided $7.2 billion primarily for broadband grant and loan programs to be administered by two separate agencies: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

There are two rounds of ARRA broadband funding. The first round award announcements have concluded. NTIA and RUS announced first round awards for 150 projects, totaling $2.275 billion in federal funding. The announcement of second round awards began on July 2, 2010. The ARRA mandates that all funding must be obligated and awarded by September 30, 2010.

This report focuses on the distribution of round one ARRA broadband funding with respect to project category, program, technology deployed, state-by-state distribution, and other factors. Based on first round applications and awards data, the following observations can be made:

• The amount of funding awarded in the first round was about 57% of the available funding levels published in the first round Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA).

• Of all broadband infrastructure projects awarded in the first round, middle mile projects received more funding than last mile projects (53% vs. 47% of total funding for infrastructure).

• Of all first round broadband infrastructure funding, most (70%) was awarded to projects serving predominantly rural areas. However, a breakdown of the project categories awards data shows that while all last mile projects have been rural, the majority of middle mile funding has been awarded to projects serving nonrural areas.

• Nonremote last mile rural projects were funded more heavily than remote area last mile rural projects.

• Public notice responses were filed by existing service providers for 71% of all funded first round infrastructure projects. Public notice responses were filed for 89% of all middle mile projects and 70% of last mile nonremote projects. By contrast, one out of the 13 (8%) last mile remote area applications received a public notice response from an existing service provider.

Congress will likely continue to monitor how the stimulus broadband grants and loans are being distributed. To the extent that Congress may consider whether certain broadband grant and loan programs should be expanded, the funding patterns and trends that emerge during rounds one and two could provide insights into whether such programs should be expanded, and if so, how these or similar programs might be fashioned within the context of a national broadband policy. 
.


Date of Report: July 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41164
Price: $29.95


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Federal Research and Development Funding:FY2011


John F. Sargent Jr., Coordinator
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


President Obama has requested $147.696 billion for research and development (R&D) in FY2011, a $343 million (0.2%) increase from the estimated FY2010 R&D funding level of $147.353 billion. Congress will play a central role in defining the nation's R&D priorities, especially with respect to two overarching issues: the extent to which the federal R&D investment can grow in the context of increased pressure on discretionary spending and how available funding will be prioritized and allocated. Low or negative growth in the overall R&D investment may require movement of resources across disciplines, programs, or agencies to address priorities. This report will be updated as Congress acts on appropriations bills that include funding for research, development and related funding.

Under the President's request, six federal agencies would receive 94.8% of total federal R&D spending: the Department of Defense (52.5%), Department of Health and Human Services (largely the National Institutes of Health) (21.8%), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (7.4%), Department of Energy (7.6%), National Science Foundation (3.8%), and Department of Agriculture (1.7%). NASA would receive the largest dollar increase for R&D of any agency, $1.700 billion (18.3%) above its FY2010 funding level. The Department of Defense would receive the largest reduction in R&D funding, $3.542 billion (4.4%) below its FY2010 level.

The President's FY2011 request includes: $31.341 billion for basic research, up $1.339 billion (4.5%) from FY2010; $30.276 billion for applied research, up $1.949 billion (6.9%); $81.455 billion for development, down $2.918 billion (3.5%); and $4.624 billion for R&D facilities and equipment, down $27 million (0.6%). The FY2011 request includes funding for three multiagency R&D initiatives: the National Nanotechnology Initiative, $1.776 billion, down $5 million (0.3%); the Networking and Information Technology R&D program, $4.281 billion, down $9 million (0.2%); and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, $2.561 billion, up $439 million (20.7%).

President Obama has requested increases in the R&D budgets of the three agencies that were targeted for doubling in the America COMPETES Act (over seven years) and by President Bush under his American Competitiveness Initiative (over ten years) as measured using FY2006 R&D funding as the baseline. Under President Obama's FY2011 budget, the Department of Energy's Office of Science would receive an increase of $226 million (4.6%), the National Science Foundation's budget would rise by $551 million (8.0%), and funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's core research and facilities would grow by $48 million (7.3%).

For the past four years, federal R&D funding and execution has been affected by mechanisms used to complete the annual appropriations process—the year-long continuing resolution for FY2007 (P.L. 110-5) and the combining of multiple regular appropriations bills into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 for FY2008 (P.L. 110-161), the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (P.L. 111-8), and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-117). Completion of appropriations after the beginning of each fiscal year may cause agencies to delay or cancel some planned R&D and equipment acquisition.



Date of Report: July 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 53
Order Number: R41098
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Broadband Infrastructure Programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) provided $7.2 billion primarily for broadband grant programs to be administered by two separate agencies: the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of the $7.2 billion total, the ARRA provided $4.7 billion to establish a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) at NTIA, and $2.5 billion as funding for broadband grant, loan, and loan/grant combination programs at RUS. Broadband grants and loans funded by the ARRA are competitive and applicants must apply directly to NTIA and RUS. The NTIA appropriation also included $350 million for a national broadband inventory map, funding for the Broadband Data Improvement Act (P.L. 110-385), and funding to be transferred to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a national broadband plan.

The unprecedented scale and scope of the ARRA broadband programs, coupled with the short time frame for awarding grants, presents daunting challenges with respect to program implementation as well as Congressional oversight. Congress is closely monitoring how equitably and effectively broadband grants are allocated among states and the various stakeholders, and to what extent the programs fulfill the goals of short term job creation and the longer term economic benefits anticipated from improved broadband availability, access, and adoption. A continuing issue is how to strike a balance between providing federal assistance for unserved and underserved areas where the private sector may not be providing acceptable levels of broadband service, while at the same time minimizing any deleterious effects that government intervention in the marketplace may have on competition and private sector investment.

There are two rounds of broadband funding. The first funding round was announced with the release of a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) on July 1, 2009. The NOFA contained eligibility requirements, application rules and procedures, and evaluation criteria for BTOP at NTIA and for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) at RUS. In the first round, NTIA and RUS announced awards for 150 projects, totaling $2.275 billion in federal funding. This includes 82 BTOP projects (totaling $1.206 billion) and 68 BIP projects (totaling $1.069 billion).

The second round NOFAs for BTOP and BIP were released on January 15, 2010. With respect to infrastructure, BTOP will fund middle mile projects, while BIP will focus primarily on last mile projects. Significant changes made from the first round NOFA, include: simplifying application procedures, reorienting BTOP infrastructure grants towards comprehensive community middle mile projects, eliminating the BIP remote last mile project category, and adding a separate BIP Satellite Project category.



Date of Report: July 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R40436
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

United States Fire Administration: An Overview

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA)—which includes the National Fire Academy (NFA)—is currently housed within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The objective of the USFA is to significantly reduce the nation's loss of life from fire, while also achieving a reduction in property loss and non-fatal injury due to fire. The United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 4847/S. 2606) was signed into law on October 8, 2008 (P.L. 110-376). 

P.L. 111-83, the FY2010 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, provided $45.588 million for USFA, the same level as the Administration's proposal. The Administration's FY2011 budget proposal requested $45.930 million for USFA, an increase of 0.7% from the FY2010 level. The House Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Committee both matched the Administration request for the USFA. 

In the 111th Congress, debate over the USFA budget focuses on whether the USFA is receiving sufficient funding to accomplish its mission, given that appropriations for USFA have consistently been well below the agency's authorized level. An ongoing issue is the viability and status of the USFA and National Fire Academy within the Department of Homeland Security.



Date of Report: August 6, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS20071
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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


In 1982, the Small Business Innovation Development Act (P.L. 97-219) established Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs within the major federal research and development (R&D) agencies designed to increase participation of small innovative companies in federally funded R&D. Government agencies with R&D budgets of $100 million or more are required to set aside a portion of these funds to finance the SBIR activity. Through FY2007, over $22.3 billion in awards have been made for more than 100,016 projects. Extended several times, the program was scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2008. Although, to date, no specific legislation has reauthorized the program, the Small Business Administration determined that P.L. 110-235 temporarily extended the SBIR activity through March 20, 2009. Subsequently, P.L. 111- 10 provided an additional extension of the program through July 31, 2009; P.L. 111-43 extended it through September 30, 2009; and P.L. 111-66 extended the effort through October 31, 2009. The SBIR program was once again extended through April 30, 2010, by P.L. 111-89 and through September 30, 2010, by P.L. 111-214. On July 8, 2009, H.R. 2965, a bill to reauthorize and alter the SBIR initiative, passed the House; the Senate substituted the language of S. 1233 (amended) and passed its version of H.R. 2965 on July 13, 2009. For further information on SBIR reauthorization activity see CRS Report RS22865, The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program: Reauthorization Efforts, by Wendy H. Schacht.


Date of Report: August 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: 96-402
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Funding Issues and Activities


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


In the early 1990s, Congress recognized that several federal agencies had ongoing highperformance computing programs, but no central coordinating body existed to ensure long-term coordination and planning. To provide such a framework, Congress passed the High-Performance Computing and Communications Program Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-194) to enhance the effectiveness of the various programs. In conjunction with the passage of the act, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released Grand Challenges: High- Performance Computing and Communications. That document outlined a research and development (R&D) strategy for high-performance computing and a framework for a multiagency program, the High-Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) Program. The HPCC Program has evolved over time and is now called the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, to better reflect its expanded mission.

Proponents assert that federal support of information technology (IT) R&D has produced positive outcomes for the country and played a crucial role in supporting long-term research into fundamental aspects of computing. Such fundamentals provide broad practical benefits, but generally take years to realize. Additionally, the unanticipated results of research are often as important as the anticipated results. Another aspect of government-funded IT research is that it often leads to open standards, something that many perceive as beneficial, encouraging deployment and further investment. Industry, on the other hand, is more inclined to invest in proprietary products and will diverge from a common standard when there is a potential competitive or financial advantage to do so. Finally, proponents of government support believe that the outcomes achieved through the various funding programs create a synergistic environment in which both fundamental and application-driven research are conducted, benefitting government, industry, academia, and the public. Supporters also believe that such outcomes justify government's role in funding IT R&D, as well as the growing budget for the NITRD Program. Critics assert that the government, through its funding mechanisms, may be picking "winners and losers" in technological development, a role more properly residing with the private sector. For example, the size of the NITRD Program may encourage industry to follow the government's lead on research directions rather than selecting those directions itself.

The President's FY2011 budget request calls for $4.261 billion for the NITRD Program, an increase over the FY2010 request of $3.926 billion (the estimated actual expenditure is $4.305 billion).

On February 8, 2010, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4061, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2009, to improve the security of cyberspace by ensuring federal investments in cybersecurity are better focused, more effective, and that research into innovative, transformative technologies is supported. The bill addresses recommendations from the Administration's Cyberspace Policy Review and includes input from four hearings held on cybersecurity during the first session. H.R. 4061 would reauthorize and expand the Cyber Security Research and Development Act (P.L. 107-305). In addition to promoting cybersecurity R&D by the member agencies of the NITRD, the legislation addresses cybersecurity workforce concerns and advances the development of technical standards. H.R. 4061 is a combination of two Committee discussion drafts: the Cybersecurity Research and Development Amendments Act of 2009 and the Cybersecurity Coordination and Awareness Act of 2009. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.



Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL33586
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Text and Multimedia Messaging: Emerging Issues for Congress


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


The first text messages were sent during 1992 and 1993, although commercially, text messaging was not widely offered or used until 2000. Even then, messages could only be sent between users subscribed to the same wireless carrier, e.g., Sprint customers could only exchange messages with other Sprint customers. In November 2001, however, wireless service providers began to connect their networks for text messaging, allowing subscribers on different networks to exchange text messages. Since then, the number of text messages in the United States has grown to over 48 billion messages every month. Additionally, text messages are no longer only sent as "point-to-point" communications between two mobile device users. More specifically, messages are also commonly sent from Web-based applications within a Web browser (e.g., from an Internet e-mail address) and from instant messaging clients like AIM or MSN.

For Congressional policymakers, two major categories of issues have arisen: (1) "same problem, different platform" and (2) issues stemming from the difficulty in applying existing technical definitions to a new service, such as whether a text message is sent "phone-to-phone" or using the phone's associated email address. There are numerous examples of each. An example of the first category would be consumer fraud and children's accessing inappropriate content, which have existed previously in the "wired world," but have now found their way to the "wireless world." An example of the second category would be that spam sent between two phones or from one phone to many phones does not fall under the definition of spam in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act, P.L. 108-187); however, if that same message were to be sent from a phone or computer using the phone's associated e-mail address, it would.

The increasing use of text and multimedia messaging has raised several policy issues: applicability of CAN-SPAM Act to unwanted wireless messages; refusal of some carriers to allow users to disable text messaging; carrier blocking of Common Short Code messages; deceptive and misleading Common Short Code programs; protecting children from inappropriate content on wireless devices; "sexting"; mobile cyberbullying; and balancing user privacy with "Sunshine," Open Government, and Freedom of Information Laws.



Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL34632
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The V-Chip and TV Ratings: Monitoring Children’s Access to TV Programming


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


To assist parents in supervising the television viewing habits of their children, the Communications Act of 1934 (as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996) requires that, as of January 1, 2000, new television sets with screens 13 inches or larger sold in the United States be equipped with a "V-chip" to control access to programming that parents find objectionable. Use of the V-chip is optional. In March 1998, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the industry-developed ratings system to be used in conjunction with the V-chip. Congress and the FCC have continued monitoring implementation of the V-chip. Some are concerned that it is not effective in curbing the amount of TV violence viewed by children and want further legislation.

On August 31, 2009, the FCC released a report implementing the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007. In the act, Congress had directed the FCC to examine "the existence and availability of advanced blocking technologies that are compatible with various communications devices or platforms." Congress defined "advanced blocking technologies" as "technologies that can improve or enhance the ability of a parent to protect his or her child from any indecent or objectionable video or audio programming, as determined by such parent, that is transmitted through the use of wire, wireless, or radio communications." Congress's intent in adopting the act was to spur the development of the "next generation of parental control technology." In a second inquiry issued in October 2009, the FCC is addressing additional issues it was unable to fully address based on its first inquiry
.


Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RL32729
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Spyware: Background and Policy Issues for Congress


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


The term "spyware" generally refers to any software that is downloaded onto a computer without the owner's or user's knowledge. Spyware may collect information about a computer user's activities and transmit that information to someone else. It may change computer settings, or cause "pop-up" advertisements to appear (in that context, it is called "adware"). Spyware may redirect a Web browser to a site different from what the user intended to visit, or change the user's home page. A type of spyware called "keylogging" software records individual keystrokes, even if the author modifies or deletes what was written, or if the characters do not appear on the monitor. Thus, passwords, credit card numbers, and other personally identifiable information may be captured and relayed to unauthorized recipients.

Some of these software programs have legitimate applications the computer user wants. They obtain the moniker "spyware" when they are installed surreptitiously, or perform additional functions of which the user is unaware. Users typically do not realize that spyware is on their computer. They may have unknowingly downloaded it from the Internet by clicking within a website, or it might have been included in an attachment to an electronic mail message (e-mail) or embedded in other software.

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. Additionally, the FTC has consumer information on spyware that includes a link to file a complaint with the commission through its "OnGuard Online" website

Several states have passed spyware laws, but there is no specific federal law and no legislation has been introduced thus far in the 111th Congress.



Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RL32706
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The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape


Patricia Moloney Figliola
Specialist in Internet and Telecommunications Policy


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent Federal agency with its five members appointed by the President, subject to confirmation by the Senate. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 (1934 Act) and is charged with regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The mission of the FCC is to ensure that the American people have available—at reasonable cost and without discrimination—rapid, efficient, nation- and world-wide communication services; whether by radio, television, wire, satellite, or cable.

Although the FCC has restructured over the past few years to better reflect the industry, it is still required to adhere to the statutory requirements of its governing legislation, the Communications Act of 1934. The 1934 Act requires the FCC to regulate the various industry sectors differently. Some policymakers have been critical of the FCC and the manner in which it regulates various sectors of the telecommunications industry—telephone, cable television, radio and television broadcasting, and some aspects of the Internet. These policymakers, including some in Congress, have long called for varying degrees and types of reform to the FCC. Most proposals fall into two categories: (1) procedural changes made within the FCC or through Congressional action that would affect the agency's operations or (2) substantive policy changes requiring Congressional action that would affect how the agency regulates different services and industry sectors. One bill has been introduced during the 111th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC. Representative Bart Stupak has introduced H.R. 4167, which would amend the Sunshine Act to allow more than two FCC commissioners to meet privately to discuss agency business, so long as a commissioner of each political party is present and the content of the meeting is publicly disclosed.

Most of the FCC's budget is derived from regulatory fees collected by the agency rather than through a direct appropriation. The fees, often referred to as "Section (9) fees," are collected from license holders and certain other entities (e.g., cable television systems) and deposited into an FCC account. The law gives the FCC authority to review the regulatory fees and to adjust the fees to reflect changes in its appropriation from year to year. It may also add, delete, or reclassify services under certain circumstances.

For FY2011, the FCC has requested a budget of $352,500,000 to carry out the FCC's functions and meet the expectations of Congress. This budget includes a direct appropriation of $1 million with the remainder to be collected through regulatory fees. The requested budget includes funding to support the Commission's cyber-security role; implement the National Broadband Plan; overhaul the Commission's data systems and processes; and modernize and reform the FCC by ushering in 21st century communications tools and expertise.



Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL32589
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Public Employees’ Right to Privacy in Their Electronic Communications: City of Ontario v. Quon in the Supreme Court


Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public Law


In City of Ontario v. Quon, the Supreme Court held that officials had acted reasonably when they reviewed transcripts of messages sent to and from Sergeant Quon's city-issued pager in order to determine whether service limits on the pager's use should be increased. The Court assumed, without deciding, that Quon had a reasonable expectation of privacy for Fourth Amendment purposes, but found that the search of the transcripts was reasonable.

In O'Connor v. Ortega, the Court had earlier split over the question of what test should be used to assess the reasonableness of a search of a public employee's work space. A plurality favored one test (work-related purpose for a search not excessively intrusive in scope); Justice Scalia another (search that would be considered reasonable in a private-employer context). In Quon, the Court declined to resolve the issue, but concluded that the search at issue was reasonable under either test.



Date of Report: July 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: R41344
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Issues in Green Building and the Federal Response: An Introduction


Eric A. Fischer
Senior Specialist in Science and Technology


The construction, characteristics, operation, and demolition of buildings are increasingly recognized as a major source of environmental impact. Without significant transformation of building construction and operations, such impacts are expected to increase with population growth and changes in other demographic and economic factors. One strategy for achieving that transformation is most widely known by the term green building. However, the term is used differently by different proponents and practitioners, denoting a continuum of practices, from those differing minimally from standard practices, to those aimed at providing buildings with a minimum of environmental impact.

In general, green building can be characterized as integrated building practices that significantly reduce the environmental footprint of a building in comparison to standard practices. Descriptions of green building generally focus on a number of common elements, especially siting, energy, water, materials, waste, and health. Serviceability or utility is also an explicit design element for a class of green buildings known as high-performance buildings.

One of the most salient features of green building is integration. Although individual elements can be addressed separately, the green building approach is more comprehensive, focusing on the environmental footprint of a building over its life cycle, from initial design and construction to operations during the building's useful life, through eventual demolition and its aftermath.

The desire to integrate the various elements of green building has led to the development of rating and certification systems to assess how well a building project meets a specified set of green criteria. The best known system is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, it focuses on site, water, energy, materials, and indoor environment.

Green building has received substantial attention from government, industry, and public interest groups. Several federal laws, executive orders, and other policy instruments have provisions relating to green building. Among these are the energy policy acts (EPACT) of 1992 and 2005 (P.L. 102-486 and P.L. 109-58), the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA, P.L. 110-140), and Executive Orders 13423 and 13514. EISA and other policy instruments require all federal agencies to implement green building practices. However, several agencies have programs and activities that have a broader focus than the facilities of that agency. Among them are the General Services Administration, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Green building raises issues relating to performance, cost, market penetration, and the approach itself. Among the questions Congress and the Obama Administration may face with respect to such issues are the following: How well are current green building programs working? How effective are current methods for coordinating the green building activities of different agencies? To what extent and by what means should Congress extend its efforts to facilitate and support the adoption and effective implementation of green building measures? What priorities should Congress give to the different elements of green building? What actions should Congress do to facilitate the growth of the scientific and technical knowledge base relating to green building?



Date of Report: July 20, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: R40147
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