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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rural Broadband: The Roles of the Rural Utilities Service and the Universal Service Fund



Angele A. Gilroy
Specialist in Telecommunications Policy

Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy


Since the initial deployment of broadband in the late 1990s, Congress has viewed broadband infrastructure deployment as a means towards improving regional economic development, and in the long term, to create jobs. According to the National Broadband Plan, the lack of adequate broadband infrastructure is most pressing in rural America, where the costs of serving large geographical areas, coupled with low population densities, often reduce economic incentives for telecommunications providers to invest in and maintain broadband infrastructure and service.

Historically, the federal government has provided financial assistance to give telecommunications providers the capital to invest in rural telecommunications infrastructure and to maintain an adequate return on their investment. Currently, there are two ongoing federal vehicles which direct money to fund broadband in rural areas: the broadband and telecommunications programs at the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Universal Service Fund (USF) programs under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

While both the RUS and USF programs share some of the same goals (e.g., improving broadband availability and adoption in rural areas), the two programs are different with respect to their funding mechanism, scope, and emphasis. For example, RUS grants and loans are used as upfront capital to invest in broadband infrastructure, while the USF provides ongoing subsidies to keep the operation of telecommunications and broadband networks in high cost areas economically viable for providers. Another key difference is that the RUS programs are funded through annual appropriations, while USF is funded through mandatory contributions from telecommunications carriers that provide interstate service, and is not subject to the annual congressional budget process.

Both programs are at a pivotal point in the 113
th Congress. The statute authorizing the Rural Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee program was significantly modified in the 2008 farm bill, and will likely be addressed once more in the 2013 farm bill. Meanwhile, the USF is undergoing a major and unprecedented transition through a series of reforms being developed by the FCC, and Congress has adopted an oversight role with respect to those reforms. In shaping and monitoring the future evolution of these programs, Congress is assessing how best to leverage these programs to ensure that the goals of the National Broadband Plan—including universal broadband service by 2020—are met to the greatest extent possible. .


Date of Report: February 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R42524
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Privacy and Data Security: A Compendium



This Compendium provides an extensive overview of federal statutes governing wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping. Online advertising as it relates to privacy law is examined including a detailed review of the advertising industry in the digital age. The growing threat of at-risk customer financial risk is emphasized.

Spyware, the not only annoying but often exceedingly dangerous invader of computers, is the focus on one section of the Compendium. Another section deals with legal developments relating to the collection, disclosure, and confidentiality of Social Security numbers. A separate section concerns itself with compulsory DNA collection. The Compendium is rounded out with a discussion of the ever-present threat of identity theft.

Updated February 4, 2013


Date of Report: February 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 332
Order Number: C12016
Price: $79.95

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United States Fire Administration: An Overview



Lennard G. Kruger
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The United States 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.

P.L. 112-74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2012, provided $44.038 million for USFA in FY2012. The FY2013 budget proposal requested $42.52 million for USFA, a 3.4% reduction from the FY2012 level. Of the requested total appropriation, $13.327 million would be allocated to the National Fire Academy. On May 16, 2012, The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2013 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill (H.R. 5855). The committee recommended $42.46 million for USFA, which is $60,000 below the Administration request and $1.578 million below the FY2012 level (a 3.6% reduction). On May 22, 2012, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $44.020 million for USFA for FY2013 (S. 3216). The Senate mark is $1.5 million above the Administration request. The Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2013 (P.L. 112-175) funds the USFA through the first six months of FY2013 at an increase of 0.612% of the FY2012 level. Therefore, under the FY2013 continuing resolution, AFG is funded at $44.307 million through March 2013.

On January 2, 2013, the President signed P.L. 112-239, the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act. Title XVIII, Subtitle B is the United States Fire Administration Reauthorization Act of 2012, which authorizes USFA at an annual level of $76,490,890 for FY2013 through FY2017.

Concerns in the 113
th Congress over the federal budget deficit could impact future funding levels for the USFA. Debate over the USFA budget has focused on whether the USFA is receiving an appropriate level of 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: January 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS20071
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Monday, February 25, 2013

First Amendment Concerns raised by Section 5 of the Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012




To:
Senator Ron Wyden
Attention: Jayme White

From:

Kathleen Ann Ruane, Legislative Attorney, 7

 This memorandum responds to your request for an analysis of whether Section 5 of S. 3609, the Internet Radio Fairness Act of 2012[IRFA]raises First Amendment concerns.1 This memorandum is provided on a rush basis and, therefore, may not address each possible argument that may be made regarding this question.


Date of Report: November 28, 2012
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: M-112812
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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Federal Funding and Issues



Glenn J. McLoughlin
Section Research Manager

Mark Gurevitz
Information Research Specialist


The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) receives virtually all of its funding through federal appropriations; overall, about 15% of all public television and radio broadcasting funding comes from the federal appropriations that CPB distributes. CPB’s appropriation is allocated through a distribution formula established in its authorizing legislation and has historically received two-year advanced appropriations. Congressional policymakers are increasingly interested in the federal role in supporting CPB due to concerns over the federal debt, the role of the federal government funding for public radio and television, and whether public broadcasting provides a balanced and nuanced approach to covering news of national interest.

It is also important to note that many congressional policymakers defend the federal role of funding public broadcasting. They contend that it provides news and information to large segments of the population that seek to understand complex policy issues in depth, and in particular for children’s television broadcasting, has a significant and positive impact on early learning and education for children.

On June 20, 2012, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting released a report, Alternative Sources of Funding for Public Broadcasting Stations. The report was undertaken in response to the conference report accompanying the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Appropriations Act of 2012 (incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2012, H.R. 2055, P.L. 112-74). The CPB engaged the consulting firm of Booz & Company to explore possible alternatives to the federal appropriation to CPB. Among its findings, the report stated that ending federal funding for public broadcasting would severely diminish, if not destroy, public broadcasting service in the United States.

On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) of federal funding for FY2013 into law (H.J.Res. 117, P.L. 112-175). It maintains CPB’s advanced appropriations for FY2013 at $445 million from October 1, 2012, through March 27, 2013.



Date of Report: February 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22168
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