2024 Solutions Spotlight: Cybersecurity, Broadband Access, Protecting Critical Infrastructure – American Legislative … – American Legislative Exchange Council

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Bad actors, global and domestic, will continue to attack networks for any number of purposes. State networks are still vulnerable and need to improve their cybersecurity infrastructure as recent crippling cyber-attacks demonstrate.

The energy sector’s interdependencies between physical and cyber infrastructure leaves the industry uniquely vulnerable to state-sponsored threats and sophisticated criminals. Although high-level threats are dealt with on the federal level, state and local governments must be prepared to deal with the initial first response to emergencies and disruptions.

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In recent years, the federal government has appropriated over $40 billion to close “digital divide” and make high-speed broadband internet available to all Americans though the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. Federal and state governments have dedicated massive sums of taxpayer funding and resources for rural broadband deployment. With precious taxpayer dollars on the line and dozens of federal and state agencies involved, there is a risk that funds could be wasted on duplicative projects in areas that already enjoy broadband services, or on problematic government owned networks with a long track record of failure in the U.S.

Unfortunately, as the federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) works to implement the BEAD program and allocate broadband funds to the states, the Biden Administration injected unhelpful political priorities into the grant process that threaten to undermine the program’s effectiveness. Many of these NTIA “guidelines” clearly deviate from Congress’ intent in the underlying statute, including preferences for union labor, equity provisions, government rate regulation of broadband service, and favorable treatment for government-owned networks (GONs).

Federal agencies should work in tandem with states and localities to ensure broadband dollars are spent wisely, not squandered on counterproductive pet priorities for the Administration. Such broadband projects must be rooted in free market principles that have been proven to improve access in unserved or underserved communities, particularly in rural areas. State lawmakers should work closely with their broadband program administrators to solve this problem in an all-of-the-above, technology neutral fashion.

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As one of the cornerstones of modern society, power infrastructure plays a critical role in delivering electricity to the vast majority of Americans. However, significant parts of this infrastructure, particularly electrical substations, are vulnerable to unsophisticated attacks that can easily be carried out by a single person.

Although electrical operators are continually working on building redundancy and security into our electrical infrastructure, the fact remains that if a relatively small percentage of the nation’s 2,000+ high-power transformers are taken offline all at once, most of the country could lose power for weeks, if not months. When it comes to critical infrastructure versus free speech, protect both.

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