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Friday, September 28, 2012

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. 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, Internet freedom, e-commerce, and cybersecurity.

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 played no role in the internal governance or day-today operations of the DNS, ICANN remained accountable to the U.S. government through the MOU, which was superseded in 2006 by a Joint Project Agreement (JPA).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.

Additionally, a contract between DOC and ICANN authorizes the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to perform various technical functions such as allocating IP address blocks, editing the root zone file, and coordinating the assignment of unique protocol numbers. With the current contract due to expire on September 30, 2012, NTIA announced on July 2, 2012, the award of the new IANA contract to ICANN for up to seven years.

With the expiration of the ICANN-DOC Joint Project Agreement on September 30, 2009, the announcement of the new AoC, the renewal of the IANA contract, and the rollout of the new generic top level domain (gTLD) program, the 112th Congress and the Administration are likely to continue assessing 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. Controversies over the new gTLDs and the addition of the .xxx domain have led some governments to criticize the ICANN policymaking process and to suggest various ways to increase governmental influence over that process. How these and other issues are ultimately addressed and resolved could have profound impacts on the continuing evolution of ICANN, the DNS, and the Internet.

Date of Report: August 22, 2012
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: 97-868
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cybersecurity: Authoritative Reports and Resources

Rita Tehan
Information Research Specialist

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities challenge governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide. Attacks have been initiated by individuals, as well as countries. Targets have included government networks, military defenses, companies, or political organizations, depending upon whether the attacker was seeking military intelligence, conducting diplomatic or industrial espionage, or intimidating political activists. In addition, national borders mean little or nothing to cyberattackers, and attributing an attack to a specific location can be difficult, which also makes a response problematic.

Congress has been actively involved in cybersecurity issues, holding hearings every year since 2001. There is no shortage of data on this topic: government agencies, academic institutions, think tanks, security consultants, and trade associations have issued hundreds of reports, studies, analyses, and statistics.

This report provides links to selected authoritative resources related to cybersecurity issues. This report includes information on

  • “Legislation” 
  • “Hearings in the 112th Congress” 
  • “Executive Orders and Presidential Directives” 
  • “Data and Statistics” 
  • “Cybersecurity Glossaries” 
  • “Reports by Topic”
    • Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports
    • White House/Office of Management and Budget reports
    • Military/DOD
    • Cloud Computing
    • Critical Infrastructure
    • National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC)
    • Cybercrime/Cyberwar
    • International
    • Education/Training/Workforce
    • Research and Development (R&D)
    • “Related Resources: Other Websites”

Date of Report: September 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 68
Order Number: R42507
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Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2013

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

Congress has received President Obama’s budget request for FY2013 which includes $140.820 billion for research and development (R&D), a $1.951 billion (1.4%) increase from the FY2012 estimated funding level of $138.869 billion. The request represents the President’s R&D priorities; Congress may opt to agree with part or all of the request, or may express different priorities through the appropriations process. In particular, Congress will play a central role in determining 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.

Funding for R&D is highly concentrated in a few departments. Under President Obama’s FY2013 budget request, seven federal agencies would receive 95.8% of total federal R&D funding, with the Department of Defense (50.6%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (22.3%, primarily for the National Institutes of Health) accounting for nearly three-fourths of all R&D funding.

Among the largest changes proposed in the President’s request, the R&D budget of the Department of Defense would fall by $1.535 billion (-2.1%), while R&D funding for the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would increase by $1.329 billion. The NIST growth is fueled by increases in funding for its core research laboratories and by the establishment of two new initiatives: $1 billion for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, which seeks to promote the development of manufacturing technologies with broad applications, and $300 million for a Wireless Innovation (WIN) Fund to help develop cutting-edge technologies for public safety users.

President Obama has requested increases in the R&D budgets of NIST, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science that were targeted for doubling over 7 years, from their FY2006 levels, by the America COMPETES Act, and over 10 years by the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The funding requested for FY2013 is consistent with a doubling timeframe of 17 years, much longer than authorized by either act.

The President’s budget request continues support for three multi-agency R&D initiatives in FY2013, proposing $1.766 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative, an increase of $70 million (4.1%) over FY2012; $3.807 billion for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development program, an increase of $69 million (1.8%); and $2.633 billion for the U.S. Global Change Research Program, an increase of $136 million (5.6%).

In recent years, Congress has used a variety of mechanisms to complete the annual appropriations process after the start of the fiscal year. This may affect agencies’ execution of their R&D budgets, including delaying or canceling some planned R&D and equipment acquisition.

Date of Report: September 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 56
Order Number: R42410
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Monday, September 24, 2012

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. Nine bills have been introduced during the 112th Congress that would change the operation of the FCC.

For FY2013, the FCC requested a budget of $346,782,000. The FY2012 enacted appropriation was $339,844,000. FY2013 appropriations bills from the Senate and the House have not yet been passed. H.J.Res. 117, which was passed by the House on September 13, 2012, would provide a framework for a six-month Continuing Resolution beginning on October 1, 2013.

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.

There are currently nine bills under consideration in the House and Senate that would affect the operations of the FCC: H.R. 1009, H.R. 2102, H.R. 2289, H.R. 3309, H.R. 3310, S. 611, S. 1780, S. 1784, and S. 1817. These are discussed in more detail in the body of the report.

Date of Report: September 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RL32589
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Online Video Distributors and the Current Statutory and Regulatory Framework: Issues for Congress

Charles B. Goldfarb
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

Digital and Internet protocol technologies have spawned a number of online video distributors (OVDs) whose “over-the-top” video services are in some ways akin to, and in some ways different from, traditional cable and satellite video programming distribution services. However, most of the statutory and regulatory framework for video predates the commercial Internet and was developed within a policy debate that could not consider digital technology and online services. As a result, many statutory provisions apply only to cable companies or satellite carriers, or only to “multichannel video programming distributors” (MVPDs)—a category that includes cable and satellite operators, but as currently interpreted by the Federal Communications Commission excludes online video distributors.

Congress has begun to consider this issue. At both the June 27, 2012, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing on “The Future of Video” and the July 24, 2012, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on “The Cable Act at 20,” questions were posed about which of the existing statutory provisions and regulatory rules, if any, should be applied to the new service providers, which provisions and rules should be modified in light of the new technologies and new market realities, and even whether changed circumstances are so great that major statutory reform is needed. Identical bills introduced in the 112th Congress, H.R. 3675 and S. 2008, would, among other things, make major changes to the statutory framework for video.

Statutory provisions and regulatory rules affecting media and communications typically are shaped by negotiations among the many stakeholders present at the time the statutes and regulations are being developed. The resulting framework creates obligations, prohibitions, privileges, and even rights for the various stakeholders. The industry players construct business models based on these. But statutes and regulations that are tailored to existing technologies may create impediments to the deployment of new technologies, especially if they create privileges or rights that are technology-specific.

Some observers have raised concerns that the current statutory and regulatory framework no longer fosters the long-standing U.S. media policy goals of competition, diversity of voices, localism, and innovation because it does not extend to online video distributors the privileges and rights—and also the obligations and prohibitions—that are applicable to traditional video distributors. For example, competition and innovation may be harmed if online video distributors are denied the access to programming that MVPDs enjoy through the program access and retransmission consent rules or if they are denied the guaranteed low cost compulsory copyright license that cable companies and satellite carriers enjoy. At the same time, localism may be harmed if online video distributors that rebroadcast broadcast television signals are not required to carry their subscribers’ local broadcast stations and are not required to black out distant broadcast signals that duplicate the network and syndicated programming on local stations.

Date of Report: September 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R42722
Price: $29.95

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