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Monday, December 27, 2010

Emergency Communications: Broadband and the Future of 911


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Today’s 911 system is built on an infrastructure of analog technology that does not support many of the features that most Americans expect to be part of an emergency response. Efforts to splice newer, digital technologies onto this aging infrastructure have created points of failure where a call can be dropped or misdirected, sometimes with tragic consequences. Callers to 911, however, generally assume that the newer technologies they are using to place a call are matched by the same level of technology at the 911 call centers, known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs). However, this is not always the case. To modernize the system to provide the quality of service that approaches the expectations of its users will require that the PSAPs, and state, local, and possibly federal emergency communications authorities invest in new technologies. As envisioned by most stakeholders, these new technologies—collectively referred to as Next Generation 911 or NG9-1-1—should incorporate Internet Protocol (IP) standards. An IP-enabled emergency communications network that supports 911 will facilitate interoperability and system resilience; improve connections between 911 call centers; provide more robust capacity; and offer flexibility in receiving and managing calls. The same network can also serve wireless broadband communications for public safety and other emergency personnel, as well as other purposes.

Recognizing the importance of providing effective 911 service, Congress has passed three major bills supporting improvements in the handling of 911 emergency calls. The Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-81) established 911 as the number to call for emergencies and gave the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authority to regulate many aspects of the service. The most recent of these laws, the NET 911 Improvement Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-283), required the preparation of a National Plan for migrating to an IPenabled emergency network. Responsibility for the plan was assigned to the E-911 Implementation Coordination Office (ICO), created to meet requirements of an earlier law, the ENHANCE 911 Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-494). Authorization for the ICO terminated on September 30, 2009. ICO was jointly administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The FCC has included recommendations for advancing NG9-1-1 as part of the National Broadband Plan it presented to Congress on March 16, 2010. It has proposed that the FCC take on an expanded role in assuring that NG9-1-1 services meet future consumer expectations for broadband-based communications. Congress may evaluate whether additional actions are needed on its part in order to support a cohesive policy for transitioning to NG9-1-1.

Other types of citizen-activated emergency calls are handled in call centers. Increasingly many calls for assistance are placed by dialing 211. The number has been provisionally designated for community information and referrals. Service levels and response times for 211 calls would benefit from a transition to IP-enabled networks and in many cases could share infrastructure with 911 networks.



Date of Report: December 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41208
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings


Linda K. Moore
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is built on a structure conceived in the 1950s when over-theair broadcasting was the best-available technology for widely disseminating emergency alerts. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) jointly administers EAS with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in cooperation with the National Weather Service (NWS), an organization within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA/NWS weather radio system has been upgraded to include an all-hazard warning capability. Measures to improve the NOAA network and a new Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS) are ongoing. DEAS benefits from the additional capacity that digital technology provides for message transmission. In addition, FEMA is developing the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) to meet requirements for an alert system as specified by an executive order issued by President George W. Bush. When completed, IPAWS should be able to accept any legitimate alert or action announcement, verify it, and relay it to a wide variety of communications devices.

Legislation was passed at the end of the 109
th Congress (Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act, or WARN Act, as signed into law as Title VI of P.L. 109-347) to assure funding to public television stations to install digital equipment to handle alerts. The law also required the establishment of a committee to provide the FCC with recommendations regarding the transmittal of emergency alerts by commercial mobile service providers to their subscribers. Committee recommendations provided the structure for a Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), regulated by the FCC. Under the timetable agreed to by the FCC and FEMA, CMAS is scheduled to become operational by April 7, 2012.

The federal agency responsible for completing critical work on CMAS, DEAS, and IPAWS is FEMA’s National Continuity Program Directorate. IPAWS began as a federal program that would be available for state and local alerts. Its mission was then redefined to apply only for federal messages, placing the program at odds with the broader goals of DEAS and the broadcasters that transmit alerts. According to testimony in September 2009 before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, IPAWS will once more be developed as a comprehensive system to support the broader goal of combining federal participation with state, local, and tribal emergency management practices. Indecision and shifting goals in the past have, however, contributed to a lack of progress and significant delays in implementing IPAWS and related programs.

IPAWS is incorporating leading-edge technologies for Internet Protocol (IP) enabled communications. Its deployment going forward will likely face challenges such as standards development, user acceptance, system management, and infrastructure funding.



Date of Report: December 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL32527
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 22, 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, the 112
th Congress and the Administration may 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 interest to the 112
th 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: December 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 19
Order Number: 97-868
Price: $29.95

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Monday, December 20, 2010

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 (DOD, 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 DOD would receive the largest reduction in R&D funding, $3.542 billion (4.4%) below its FY2010 level.

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%).

As of December 10, 2010, no regular appropriations bill had been enacted by Congress. Two of the 12 regular appropriations bills had passed the House (the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011, and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011); none had passed the Senate. To provide for continuity of government operations into FY2011, on September 29, 2010, the Senate passed a continuing resolution (H.R. 3081, Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, as amended) providing funding for federal agencies through December 3, 2010, including their R&D activities, “at a rate for operations as provided in the applicable appropriations Acts for fiscal year 2010 and under the authority and conditions as provided in such acts.” On September 30, 2010, the House passed H.R. 3081 and President Obama signed it into law (P.L. 111-242). A second continuing resolution (P.L. 111-290) extended funding through December 18, 2010.

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: December 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 53
Order Number: R41098
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy


Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

There is ongoing interest in the pace of U.S. technological advancement due to its influence on U.S. economic growth, productivity, and international competitiveness. Because technology can contribute to economic growth and productivity increases, congressional attention has focused on how to augment private-sector technological development. Legislative activity over the past 25 or more years has created a policy for technology development, albeit an ad hoc one. Because of the lack of consensus on the scope and direction of a national policy, Congress has taken an incremental approach aimed at creating new mechanisms to facilitate technological advancement in particular areas and making changes and improvements as necessary.

Congressional action has mandated specific technology development programs and obligations in federal agencies. Many programs were created based upon what individual committees judged appropriate within the agencies over which they had authorization or appropriation responsibilities. However, there has been recent legislative activity directed at eliminating or significantly curtailing many of these federal efforts. Although, for the most part, this approach has not been adopted, the budgets for several programs have declined.

The proper role of the federal government in technology development and the competitiveness of U.S. industry continues to be a topic of congressional debate. Current legislation affecting the research and development (R&D) environment has included both direct and indirect measures to facilitate technological innovation. In general, direct measures are those which involve budget outlays and the provision of services by government agencies. Indirect measures include financial incentives and legal changes (e.g., liability or regulatory reform; new antitrust arrangements). As Congress develops its appropriation priorities, the manner by which the government encourages technological progress in the private sector again may be explored and/or redefined.



Date of Report: December 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RL33528
Price: $29.95

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