The Week in Tech Policy: Sept. 24th Edition

In this edition of The Week in Tech Policy, we have stories on cybersecurity, e-mail privacy and new research that seeks to weigh in on the recent debate on whether college is still worth the investment.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to focus on cybersecurity. FERC announced on Sept. 20 that it will create a new office intended to help the agency focus on “potential cyber and physical security risks to energy facilities under its jurisdiction.” The new office, which will be called the Office of Energy Infrastructure Security (OEIS), “will provide leadership, expertise and assistance to the Commission to identify, communicate and seek comprehensive solutions to potential risks to FERC-jurisdictional facilities from cyber attacks and such physical threats as electromagnetic pulses.”

College is still worth it. The cost of a college education is rising fast, leading some to question whether post-secondary schooling is worth the investment. In this Sept. 17 column, New York Times writer Catherine Rampell highlights a chart compiled by two Hamilton Project researchers that “shows the share of people at each income level who had various levels of educational attainment”. The chart’s conclusion, Rampell writes, is hard to miss: “As you can see, the more income you earn, the more likely you are to have gone to college. Of the Americans who earn over $150,000, 82 percent had a bachelor’s degree. Just 6.5 percent had no more than a high school diploma.”

Senate postpones vote on e-mail privacy reform. On Sept. 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed “until after the November elections whether to approve sweeping digital privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud,” recently reported. According to the report, the delay comes as “law enforcement urged the committee to evaluate how crime fighting would be impacted under what would be the biggest advance to digital privacy following the act’s original adoption during the President Ronald Reagan administration.”

Cable-phone deals deregulated by Federal Communications Commission. The FCC issued an order on Sept. 17 that will allow cable companies to acquire local phone companies, The National Journal’s Tech Daily Dose Blog has reported. “Such deals are prohibited under a strict reading of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, although cable and telephone companies were permitted to enter into joint ventures, and under certain conditions, phone companies are permitted to acquire cable systems,” according to the Tech Daily Dose report. “The order, technically a “limited forbearance,” announces that the FCC will not apply the letter of the law, in an effort to “harmonize” the rules for both cable and telephone companies.”

White House order on cybersecurity could be close at hand. The National Journal reports that a White House executive order focused on cybersecurity is “close to completion”. The news comes after competing visions of what a national cybersecurity bill should look like emerged in Congress earlier this spring and summer. Congress, however, was unable to coalesce around a single bill. According to the National Journal report, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said an executive order won’t be enough to protect American networks from cyber attacks and that Congress will eventually have to act on the issue.

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