Category Archives: Federal

September 20, 2013

Updating Americans’ First Amendment Right to Petition Their Government
HarvardLawSchoolLogo--JPEGJ.H. Snider’s luncheon presentation sponsored by theHarvard Journal of Law & Technology, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The presentation includes a Powerpoint and webcast (compatible with Apple’s Quicktime).

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August 20, 2013

Is Online Transparency Just a Feel-Good Sham?
NationalJournalLogoNational Journal cites J.H. Snider on the intermixing of real and fake participatory democracy as illustrated by the White House’s We The People petition website and the House Majority Leader’s Citizen Cosponsor Project.

August 8, 2013

Think Tanks’ Dirty Little Secret: Power, Public Policy, and Plagiarism
Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for EthicsThe Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University publishes J.H. Snider’s working paper on the incentives for credit taking vs. giving at Washington, DC public policy think tanks.  Covered in Think Tank Watch, August 13, 2013.

January 21, 2013

The Huffington PostThe Presidential Inaugural Ticket Sweepstakes
The Huffington Post publishes J.H. Snider’s commentary critiquing the misleading and undemocratic way Congress has been allocating tickets to the presidential inaugural swearing-in.

January 15, 2013

TheHillLogoPresidential Inaugural Pork
The Hill publishes J.H. Snider’s op-ed critiquing the way the President and Congress have been allocating inaugural tickets to their supporters at public expense.

January 14, 2013

When We the People Talk It’s Not Always Pretty
NextgovNextgov, a publication of the National Journal Group, Inc., cites J.H. Snider on the merits of the White House’s We The People petition website.

January 11, 2013

Obama online petition site: Direct democracy or empty gesture?
WashingtonTimesLogoThe Washington Times cites J.H. Snider’s critique of the White House’s We The People petition website.

January 4, 2013

Education WeekIn the Dark About Early School Buses
Education Week publishes J.H. Snider’s commentary on school bus scheduling secrecy in K12 public schools.

January 3, 2013

White House’s ‘We The People’ Petitions Find Mixed Success
NPR LogoNPR’s All Things Considered interviews J.H. Snider about the strengths and weaknesses of the White House’s We The People petition website.  For J.H. Snider’s most recent Huffington Post commentary on the We The People website, see The White House’s We The People Petition Website: First Year Report Card.

December 12, 2012

PoliticoWashington’s Evolving Think Tanks
Politico publishes J.H. Snider’s commentary on what Senator DeMint’s move to the Heritage Foundation reveals about Washington’s evolving think tanks.  Covered in Think Tank Watch.

September 23, 2012

The Huffington PostThe White House’s We The People Petition Website: First Year Report Card
The Huffington Post publishes J.H. Snider’s 1st year report card on the White House’s We the People petition website.

May 30, 2012

Paul Kirby, ‘NTIA Sets Framework for Industry-Agency Review of 1755-1850 MHz Band,” TRDaily, May 30, 2012.

National Telecommunications and Information Administration officials today outlined for the Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee (CSMAC) a framework to enable the wireless industry and federal agencies to discuss ways to free up the 1755-1850 megahertz and 1695-1710 MHz bands for use by wireless carriers. The plan calls for five working groups to study the spectrum, with one completing its work by September and the other four by January 2013.

At the meeting at NTIA’s headquarters, several CSMAC members said there is a need for the working groups to use common parameters for the operations of wireless networks. Otherwise, the members said, the groups could arrive at different conclusions.

In March, NTIA released a report that concluded it is possible to repurpose the 1755-1850 MHz band for commercial broadband services, but it proposed that NTIA and the FCC sponsor discussions between federal agencies and industry entities to address a number of challenges, including relocation costs that could reach $18 billion and sensitive government operations that may have to stay in the spectrum indefinitely (TRDaily, March 27). The report emphasized the need for spectrum sharing.

During today’s meeting, Karl Nebbia, NTIA’s associate administrator-Office of Spectrum Management, stressed the importance of collaboration between representatives of federal agencies and wireless entities if they are to make progress in finding ways to relocate federal systems to other spectrum or enable sharing of federal bands. He also acknowledged the difficult work ahead but said NTIA wants the working groups to reach a consensus on their recommendations, which will then be forwarded to the CSMAC, which will decide which recommendations to give to NTIA.

“We’re looking for a cooperative environment, and outcomes that meet both the commercial needs and the government needs,” Mr. Nebbia said. “We are looking for output that represent a consensus outcome. So, as people are working together, we need to continue to keep ourselves in the same room until we work through whatever hurdles and difficulties we find.” Earlier, he said, “We have to set aside kind of our canned bullet points and sound bites.”

Mr. Nebbia said that NTIA is hoping to have the memberships of the working groups completed soon, saying the agency plans to invite agency and industry representatives to serve on the working groups over the next week or so, while firming up CSMAC liaisons to the groups and co-chairs of the groups. Each group will have an industry and agency co-chair. NTIA and the FCC will also each have participants in each group.

The working groups will tackle the following spectrum matters: (1) WG1: the 1695-1710 MHz meteorological-satellite band, which was identified for fast-track reallocation by NTIA in 2010 (TRDaily, Nov. 15, 2010), (2) WG2: law enforcement surveillance, explosive ordnance disposal, and other short-distance links in the 1755-1850 MHz band, (3) WG3: satellite control and electronic warfare in the 1755-1850 MHz band, (4) WG4: tactical radio relay and fixed microwave in the 1755-1850 MHz band, and (5) WG5: airborne operations, including air combat training systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, precision-guided munitions, and aeronautical telemetry, in the 1755-1850 MHz band.

Working group 1 is to complete its work by September, while the other groups are to complete their tasks by January 2013. Mr. Nebbia said the January 2013 date was chosen to provide time to prepare the 1755-1780 MHz band for possible pairing and auction with the 2155-2180 MHz AWS (advanced wireless services)-3 band. The FCC must auction the 2155-2180 MHz band by February 2015.

Mr. Nebbia said the analysis each working group will have to conduct “will be different depending on the applications” in the band under study.

For example, he said, working group 1 will be tasked with assessing the likely wireless network operations in the band in an effort to reduce the size of exclusion zones around National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earth stations, which receive information from NOAA weather balloons.

By contrast, working group 2 will try to come up with city by city relocation plans for law enforcement surveillance. “This is really a challenging issue,” Mr. Nebbia said. “We know that they’re not compatible,” he said of law enforcement and commercial systems.

Working group 3 will look to define protection zones around satellite sites, and it will also look at rules to protect electronic warfare systems. Working group 4 will consider ways to narrow protection zones around tactical relay sites while looking at the relocation of fixed microwave links beginning from the 1755-1780 MHz band. Working group 5 will determine what protection is needed for airborne operations.

“The Working Groups will produce written outputs recommending to the CSMAC concerning approaches to sharing, transition and/or relocation of the band that will determine the steps that will have to be taken and any factors that may reduce the projected costs, or limitations or restrictions on spectrum availability,” NTIA said in its framework document. “In the case of the 1755-1850 MHz band, the work should consider the steps that might support earlier auction and entrance of service providers into the 1755-1780 MHz portion, where feasible, while maintaining the goal of the entire 1755-1850 MHz band. A critical decision point for each group is a determination of whether incoming industry can or cannot share with a particular incumbent federal system. Where sharing is feasible, the groups should explain the proposed manner of sharing in a way that could potentially be incorporated into service rules.”

“Success of the discussions will require cooperation,” NTIA also said in its framework document. “Participants will determine what information they can share and how to manage its use in the context of the Working Group’s deliberations. NTIA expects the members of the Working Groups to be prudent in their conduct as participants in the Working Group. Each Working Group would be free to adopt its own ‘ground rules’ to avoid premature release of information, if necessary. Similarly, individual Working Group members should be able to meet or exchange sensitive information ‘offline’ and bring it to the group if they believe it would inform the deliberations. If a group identifies a requirement for discussion of classified or otherwise sensitive information, the government participants will identify any appropriate method and controls to do that.”

Mr. Nebbia said the need for a discussion of classified information during the process can probably be avoided, but he said it’s possible some “sensitive” spectrum issues could arise, such as the bandwidths of spectrum used for law enforcement surveillance, although he said agencies might be less sensitive in some cases after the experience of clearing their systems from the 1710-1755 MHz band.

Several CSMAC members said there is a need to ensure that each of the working groups is using the same assumptions for how the wireless networks will operate. “I really think that we do need to have an agreement on the kinds of parameters that are needed and … how the systems are going to be deployed,” said Charles Rush, a consultant for Qualcomm, Inc., and Aerospace Corp. But other panel members said that wasn’t possible.

“You’re not going to have a completely uniform approach,” said Bryan Tramont, managing partner of Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP. He noted that all of the working groups will have industry representation and said the groups should communicate with each other.

Kevin Kahn, a technology policy consultant for Intel Corp., suggested that it would be adequate to make sure that any recommendations take into account the expected technical standards for wireless systems.

Janice Obuchowski, a former NTIA administrator and president of Freedom Technologies, Inc., a consulting firm, said she wanted to raise the “somewhat thorny question” about how agencies will have a “guarantee” that the FCC will endorse the same deployment architecture recommended by the CSMAC. She noted the difference between focusing on sharing or attempting to free up spectrum for exclusive use by wireless carriers.

Mr. Nebbia noted that each of the groups will have industry members, and he said NTIA will rely on them to come up with recommendations that reflect carrier parameters. He also said the FCC will have representation on each working group and noted the FCC worked with NTIA and industry in freeing up 5 gigahertz band spectrum years ago.

Regarding the $18 billion cost estimate for moving most federal systems from the 1755-1850 MHz band, which NTIA has not validated, Mr. Nebbia said those figures will be assessed as “part of a formal process” under the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act. He said the initial $900 million estimate to relocate agencies from the 1710-1755 MHz band was actually lower than the actual cost of about $1.5 billion. “Coming up with initial estimates is just that,” he said. He said he doesn’t expect the working groups to focus on “changing the numbers.”

In opening remarks at today’s meeting, Tom Power-deputy U.S. chief technology officer-telecommunications, acknowledged that “whether you’re a federal agency or a commercial provider, sharing is probably not the first option you would jump to in a perfect world,” adding that “exclusive access, if nothing else, bring some certainty.”

He also said that “sharing can encompass a lot of approaches,” including the use of databases such as those being used in the TV “white spaces,” cognitive radios, lower power, or small cells.

“We really are going to be looking at a more refined focus on what the needs of the federal agencies are, the costs and opportunities involved in relocating vs. staying put” and sharing,” said Mr. Power, NTIA’s former chief of staff. But he acknowledged that “getting certainty out of this process is certainly going to be hard.” He also stressed the need to both protect the classified nature of some government systems and the proprietary nature of commercial networks.

“There really is a ton of work to get done,” said NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.

After the meeting, Mr. Strickling told TRDaily that he was pleased with the general sharing theme of a report approved Friday by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The report calls for President Obama to issue a new spectrum memorandum calling for the immediate identification of 1,000 MHz of federal government spectrum for sharing with the private sector (TRDaily, May 25). Mr. Strickling said he has not yet seen the report, which has not been released publicly.

“We’re glad that they’re embracing the same high-level concept that we’ve got to do more of this through sharing,” Mr. Strickling said.

The CSMAC agreed that at least two of its subcommittees – ones dealing with spectrum sharing and the search for 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband services – would go on hiatus during the process involving the 1755-1850 MHz and 1695-1710 MHz bands. More may do so as well.

During today’s meeting, J.H. Snider, an open-government advocate who is founder and president of iSolon.org, raised a point about why there was no public comment period scheduled. Brian Fontes, co-chair of the CSMAC, told Mr. Snider that was because today’s session was an “information meeting” that did not include discussion or votes on any reports. He said there is no plan to eliminate the public comment period at future such meetings. Mr. Snider also reiterated complaints about the CSMAC’s subcommittee process not being open to observers.- Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com

TRDaily – May 30, 2012

May 10, 2012

Kirby, Paul, “Critic Contrasts the FCC and NTIA to GSA,” TRDaily, May 10, 2012

CRITIC CONTRASTS THE FCC AND NTIA TO GSA

J.H. Snider, founder and president of iSolon.org who has studied spectrum management, said in a column on “The Huffington Post” that the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration have wasted more government assets than the General Services Administration, which came under criticism for a lavish conference near Las Vegas. “Which has wasted more taxpayer assets: the GSA or FCC NTIA? In my judgment, the FCC NTIA wins hands down,” Mr. Snider wrote. “The GSA could never get away with giving away tens of billions of dollars of worth of government buildings to mega corporations and billionaires. Nor could it get away with having most of its government building space lie empty and unleased.” He asked, “What accounts for the different treatment? Why is a million dollars of waste at the GSA a scandal but not tens of billions of dollars at the FCC NTIA? I believe public ignorance and apathy are the immediate cause of blame. The public is scientifically illiterate and doesn’t understand the physical properties and economics of spectrum, which also appear to bore the public silly.” He said Congress should hold oversight hearings on the federal agencies’ spectrum management.

TRDaily – May 10, 2012

May 8, 2012

The Huffington PostThe Real Meaning of the GSA Scandal
J.H. Snider’s Huffington Post article critiquing public’s fixation on a scandal involving negligible waste.  TR Daily reports on the comparison drawn between the GSA and NTIA-FCC.TR Daily


March 12, 2012

The Federal Agency You’ve Never Heard of
J.H. Snider’s Huffington Post article critiquing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s management of spectrum, including its culture of secrecy.  For more information, see NTIA Corruption Initiative.

January 17, 2012

Personal Democracy Media, including TechPresidentEvery Bill Coming Before the House Should Soon Be Available Online in Machine-Readable Format
Personal Democracy Media’s TechPresident cites J.H. Snider on the U.S. House of Representatives’ new legislative information website.

December 8, 2011

Government-wide Information Sharing for Democratic Accountability
The Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution publishes J.H. Snider’s paper on why the politics of using unique identifiers to track powerful political players across government databases may be less dismal than widely believed.  The Open Government Coalition gives it the lead spot in its weekly newsletter.  It was also covered in the U.K.’s Great Emancipator, the Campaign for a Stronger Democracy’s December Newsletter, and American City & County‘s December Newsletter.


October 22, 2010

Connecting the Dots for Democratic Accountability
The National Press Club
iSolon sponsored event at the National Press Club, 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm.  At the event, J.H. Snider presented his working paper: Connecting the Dots for Democratic Accountability: Semantic Web-Based Information Sharing Policy and the Future of Investigative Reporting.  An updated draft was posted here on Thursday, October 28, 2010.  The Powerpoint presentation of the paper can be found here.

March 10, 2010

How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?
The Federal Trade CommissionJ.H. Snider presents his proposal for using semantic web technologies to automate conflict-of-interest reporting at this FTC workshop.  The proposal consisted of apresentation (an audio recording of the presentation starts at 143:20) and accompanying working paper, both with the same title, “Automating Conflict-of-Interest Reporting.”

September 5, 2009

 

If Men Were Angels….: Should the Checks & Balances System Include Electoral Reform Juries?
Paper presented at the Representation and Electoral Systems Division’s theme panel, Citizens’ Assemblies and Deliberative Democracy, at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, Canada.

May 4, 2009

 

Hudson InstituteReforming American Redistricting:  Lessons from British Columbia
Conference on redistricting reform cosponsored by the Hudson Institute and iSolon.org.