Tag Archives: Congress

Dig Once, Gain Broadband Later

Here’s a simple, bipartisan idea for spreading broadband to more places.

When broadband providers construct a network, they need to string wires along utility poles or bury them underground in protective tubing called conduit. And providers want to minimize the disruption to residents caused by these big builds. “Dig once” policies mandate the installation of an oversized conduit bank by any new network builder within the right-of-way, to accommodate future users when new roads are being built or opened for maintenance and conduit is not already in place.

The expense and complexity of digging up streets to install new networks may increase the cost and slow the pace of broadband network investment and deployment. In the context of the U.S. federal highway system, the U.S. GAO points out that “dig once” policies can save up to 25–33% in construction costs in urban areas and roughly 16% in rural areas. Not only is this an attractive option to providers who save the time and expense of digging, but it has the added benefit of reducing future disruption for local citizens (who probably don’t want to deal with a future road closure if it can be avoided). 

Last week, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act of 2015. This follows the introduction of the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act in the Senate by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). The bills both focus on the adoption of “dig once” policies for federal highway projects. The goal of the bills is important -- to reduce barriers to broadband deployment and further infrastructure investment, including in rural areas of the country.

Deploying a large-scale broadband network from scratch is hard. It requires considerable planning, negotiations with municipal officials, property owners, incumbent network and utility providers, contract reviews, etc. And all that has to happen before a network builder can put a shovel in the ground or string a wire.

From the White House to the state house and throughout communities across America, policymakers are increasingly focused on what it takes to deploy high-speed broadband networks. “Dig once” is one great way of doing that.

Furthering Broadband Abundance in America

When we broke ground on Google Fiber in our first group of cities, we ran shovel-first into the old saying that “you never know what you’ll find until you start digging.” Literally, because geological data hasn’t been fully collected in most communities. In early 2014, we created the Google Fiber City Checklist to help cities address this problem by cataloging key data assets ahead of any buildout. While our checklist has helped cities become more fiber-friendly, it doesn’t cover the countless impediments that might be encountered when laying down fiber.

On Monday, the White House released a report drafted by the twenty-five agencies of the Broadband Opportunity Council, outlining specific actions, incentives, and regulatory processes that the federal government can undertake to accelerate broadband deployment and adoption in the United States.

The White House report focuses on four particular areas that are of vital importance and were reflected in the hundreds of comments that the Department of Commerce received back in June:

1. Modernizing federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments. (e.g. expanding USDA and HUD grant programs to include broadband).

2. Empowering communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use. (e.g. the provision of BroadbandUSA best practices, guides, and technical support to cities).

3. Promoting increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets. (e.g. the DOT creation of a broadband rights-of-way policy for broadband on federal highways, agency-level implementations of “Dig Once” policies, etc.).

4. Improving data collection, analysis and research on broadband. (e.g creating an online data inventory of federal broadband assets).

As we wrote back in June, “The U.S. shouldn’t settle for less than ubiquitous, abundant broadband access” and there is still more work to be done for the U.S. government to successfully implement policies that can make the U.S. fiber ready, wireless ready, and consumer ready.

We see firsthand how the power of abundant broadband access can empower and uplift local communities, and we know people all around the country want to see their government work on what matters to them, modernizing infrastructure and expanding their opportunities. It’s great to know that 25 federal agencies as diverse as the Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will now do more to prioritize broadband abundance. 

The Broadband Opportunity Council report, its objectives, and timelines are an excellent starting point toward action that will focus that leadership and move forward on enabling broadband for all Americans in the months and years ahead.

The Time for Reform is Now

As the debate over electronic communications privacy escalates in Congress and around the country, I testified this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss this very issue. The hearing provided an important opportunity to address users’ very reasonable expectations of privacy when it comes to the content in their email and other online accounts. 

Google strongly supports legislation to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which was signed into law almost thirty years ago -- long before email accounts and the Web were part of our daily lives.  As it is currently written, ECPA allows government agencies to compel a provider to disclose the content of communications, like email and photos, without a warrant in some circumstances. This pre-digital era law no longer makes sense: users expect, as they should, that the documents they store online have the same Fourth Amendment protections as they do when the government wants to enter the home to seize documents stored in a desk drawer. 

There is no compelling policy or legal rationale for there to be different rules. Indeed, the law as currently written is unconstitutional, as the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals held back in 2010 in United States v. Warshak.  Google requires that law enforcement secure a warrant to compel Google to disclose content. 

In spite of the tremendous support for the legislation voiced across the political spectrum, some agencies that investigate civil infractions, as opposed to violations of criminal law, have sought to delay fixing the infirmities, and have even asked Congress for new and expanded powers. They seek the authority to force providers to search for and disclose users’ emails, documents and other content, rather than getting the information directly from users as they currently do. Congress should reject these efforts to expand the authority of these agencies, and should remain focused on fixing this broken statute. 

It is undeniable that ECPA no longer reflects users’ reasonable expectations of privacy and no longer comports with the Constitution. The Senate legislation, the ECPA Amendments Act of 2015, and its companion in the House, the Email Privacy Act, will ensure electronic communications content is treated in a manner commensurate with other papers and effects that are protected by the Fourth Amendment. 

The time for reform is now.

Positive Momentum for the Judicial Redress Act

US privacy and security laws make distinctions among US persons and non-US persons that are becoming obsolete in a world where communications primarily take place over a global medium: the Internet.

The Privacy Act of 1974 is one of those laws. It is an important law that creates rights - including judicial redress - against privacy harms that may arise from the US government’s collection and use of personal information. The Privacy Act, however, does not apply to non-US persons.

Last November, Google endorsed legislation that would extend the Privacy Act to non-US persons. Since then, Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Conyers have introduced legislation - the Judicial Redress Act - that would create a process to extend the Privacy Act to non-US persons. Senators Hatch and Murphy have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The Judicial Redress Act is an important first step toward establishing a framework whereby users have comparable privacy protections regardless of their citizenship.

Earlier today, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed this bill, which enjoys support from a broad array of Internet companies and trade associations. We commend the Judiciary Committee’s action today, and we encourage the House leadership to move swiftly to pass this important bill.

How policymakers can support broadband abundance

Nearly three years ago, Nick Budidharma, an 18­ year­ old game developer, drove with his parents from Hilton Head, S.C., to live in a “hacker home” that’s connected to the Google Fiber network. Synthia Payne relocated from Denver to launch a startup that aims to let musicians play together in real­-time online. Kansas City -- America’s first Google Fiber city -- has been transformed.

Today, Google Fiber continues to make the Internet faster and more accessible to more people across the country. Michael Slinger, Director of Google Fiber Cities, will testify today before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology to urge policymakers to play a more active role in expanding nationwide broadband abundance.

Today’s hearing will highlight the expansion of broadband deployment, recent infrastructure developments, and policies that will encourage investment in broadband expansion. Michael will share our experience building out Google Fiber to present ideas for how policymakers can support greater broadband abundance:

“Policymakers’ top broadband goal should be achieving broadband abundance — which requires reducing the cost of network buildout and removing barriers that limit providers’ ability to reach consumers. The key is to focus on competition, investment, and adoption.”

When lawmakers successfully support broadband infrastructure and development, Americans will have more choices at higher speeds, small businesses will have the opportunity to expand, and local economies will grow. Post content

Congress takes a significant step to reform government surveillance

In passing the USA Freedom Act, Congress has made a significant down payment on broader surveillance reform. Today marks the first time since its enactment in 1978 that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has been amended in a way that reflects privacy rights enshrined in our history, tradition, and Constitution.

While most of the focus has been on ending the bulk telephony metadata program under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, there are other meaningful reforms in the bill for Internet users. The USA Freedom Act shuts the door to the bulk collection of Internet metadata under a separate legal authority that the government relied upon in the past to collect Internet metadata in bulk. The USA Freedom Act additionally prevents bulk collection of Internet metadata through the issuance of National Security Letters.

Not all of these legal authorities expired on June 1, and we are pleased that Congress took the initiative to prevent the bulk collection of Internet metadata under these legal authorities.

Today’s vote represents a critical first step toward restoring trust in the Internet, but it is only a first step. We look forward to working with Congress on further reforms in the near future.

A strong vote to reform our surveillance laws

We’re grateful that the U.S. House of Representatives just approved the USA Freedom Act, which -- as I blogged last week -- takes a big step toward reforming our surveillance laws while preserving important national security authorities. It ends bulk collection of communications metadata under various legal authorities, allows companies like Google to disclose national security demands with greater granularity, and creates new accountability and oversight mechanisms.

The bill’s authors have worked hard to forge a bipartisan consensus, and the bill approved today is supported by the Obama Administration, including the intelligence community. The bill now moves to the other side of the Capitol, and we hope that the Senate will use the June 1 expiration of Section 215 and other legal authorities to modernize and reform our surveillance programs, while recognizing the importance of protecting Americans from harm. We believe the bill approved today achieves that goal.

Congress Has Only A Few Weeks Left to Modernize Surveillance Laws

Nearly two years have passed since the initial Snowden revelations. In about a month, Section 215 of the Patriot Act -- one of the key authorities relied upon by the government to undertake bulk collection -- is set to expire. As we and others noted last month, Section 215 should not be reauthorized without significant changes.

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and Senate introduced legislation that represents a step toward broader surveillance reform while preserving important national security authorities. Google supports this measure as introduced, the USA Freedom Act of 2015, and we urge Congress to move expeditiously to enact it into law.

The bill would advance several important goals that Google and other members of the Reform Government Surveillance coalition (RGS) underscored in principles unveiled in 2013:

  • First, the bill would end the bulk collection of communications metadata under various legal authorities. This not only includes telephony metadata collected under Section 215, but also Internet metadata that has been or could be collected under other legal authorities. 
  •  Second, the bill would enable companies like Google to disclose the volume and scope of national security demands in smaller ranges (bands of 500) than we are currently permitted to report national security demands (bands of 1,000). 
  •  Finally, the bill would create new oversight and accountability mechanisms that will shed greater light on the decisions reached by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and enable participation by outside attorneys in cases involving significant interpretations of the law. 

While the USA Freedom Act of 2015 does not address the full panoply of reforms that Congress ought to undertake, it represents a significant down payment on broader government surveillance reform. It is critical that Congress now act to begin to restore consumers’ trust in the Internet. 

Congress Must Reform Our Surveillance Laws

At the end of May, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act is set to expire. Section 215 is one of the legal authorities relied upon by the U.S. government to conduct surveillance through the bulk collection of communications metadata.

Earlier today, we joined other companies in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, civil society groups, and trade associations in a letter that underscores the essential elements of any surveillance reform legislation. These elements include ending the bulk collection of communications metadata under various legal authorities, and establishing transparency and accountability mechanisms to ensure surveillance programs are narrowly tailored and subject to broader oversight.

We have a responsibility to protect the privacy and security of our users’ data.  At the same time, we want to do our part to help governments keep people safe. We have little doubt that Congress can protect both national security and privacy while taking a significant, concrete step toward restoring trust in the Internet.

Google has been working hard for the last two years to reform government surveillance laws, and we will continue to push for broader surveillance reforms in the months ahead.

We invite you to join us in asking Congress to enact surveillance reform by adding your name at google.com/takeaction.

Posted by David Drummond, Chief Legal Officer, Google

Google+ helps constituents connect with Members of Congress on major policy issues

Posted by Sarah Kaehler, Google+ Politics Team

Washington D.C. and the legislative process can feel very far removed from our everyday lives even though what happens in the halls of Congress will have a big impact on our future.  Over the last few months, we have seen more and more Members of Congress turn to Google+ in order to break down traditional barriers of communication and have a candid conversation about serious issues facing our country.

As immigration and student loans become hot topics on Capitol Hill, members are turning to Google+ Hangouts On Air to connect with constituents and advocates across the country.  
Hangouts allow lawmakers to directly engage with people back in their respective districts without leaving their office, allowing for a real conversation to take place beyond the Beltway.

With votes this week on bills about these issues, representatives from both sides of the aisle have been working to make sure their voices are heard one last time. Yesterday, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) joined organization America’s Voice to discuss immigration  and make a final push for reform.

And today
American Action Forum will be hosting conservative thought leaders to discuss strengthening the immigration reform bill with amendments. Tune in to watch live here.

With just under a week until student loan rates are set to double, House Republicans are hosting a series of Hangouts On Air to discuss the issue. Scheduled Hangouts On Air include:

  • June 26th at 11:30 AM ET with Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Rep. Jackie Wolorski (R-IN)
  • June 26th at 3:30 PM ET with Reps. Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • June 26th at 3:30 PM ET with Reps. Larry Buschon (R-IN) and Diane Black (R-TN)
  • June 27th at 12:00 PM ET Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)

Tune in on Google+ this week to see how Congress is voting and to learn more about how the decisions will impact you.