CSG Midwest
If all goes well with a pilot program launched this summer, Iowa may soon be the nation’s first state to offer digital driver’s licenses to residents.

Congress returned from the August break facing the challenge of having to address a long list of critical issues in the dwindling legislative year. These important issues include reaching agreement on the budget and debt ceiling; addressing the expiring highway funding authority; overhauling federal education policy; and discussing cybersecurity legislation.

Rural communities shouldn’t have to settle for slower Internet speeds. The effort to expand broadband Internet to public schools and libraries will draw its funding from the FCC’s E-Rate component of the Universal Service Fund. The Universal Service Fund established by the Communications Act of 1934, was originally created to provide telephony services to low-income and rural areas. With an update from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Universal Service Fund now covers advanced telecommunications services, including Internet service.

CSG Midwest
Iowa and Indiana are moving ahead with a mix of new programs and tax policies designed to expand broadband development in the state’s rural areas. In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad made his “Connect Every Acre” proposal a top priority this past legislative session. With passage of HF 655, the state is establishing a grant program for service providers that install broadband in areas that connect farms, schools and communities.

According to NetIndex, which tracks key metrics related to the Internet, the United States is ranked 24th in terms of average internet speed. However, there is great variation among the states. Some have average download rates similar to the top 10 countries, but others’ rates are comparable to those around number 60.

Although many of the Internet’s technological underpinnings were invented in the United States, the U.S. continues to lag behind other developed countries in terms of broadband adoption and connection speeds. Cloud services provider Akamai Technologies ranks the U.S. 19th in average connection speed and 23rd in broadband adoption based on the Federal Communication Commission’s previous definition of broadband as 4 megabits per second.

Hardly a day goes by without news of a cyberattack on an American business or government agency. The threats all Americans face in the cyber world today have become far more aggressive, the attacks more frequent and the techniques employed far more sophisticated than just five years ago. This advancing threat underscores the need to respond with the tools and authorities necessary to protect the nation’s security and financial resources. President Obama in February signed an executive order, advisory in nature, which urges companies to share cybersecurity threat information with one another and the federal government. The executive order is part of a broader White House effort to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure, which the administration has been pushing on Capitol Hill.

“It’s not a matter of if a [cybersecurity] breach will happen, but when,” said Brenda Decker, Nebraska’s chief information officer. The inevitability of a cybersecurity breach—affecting either a private or public institution—was a common sentiment expressed throughout CSG’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Policy Academy, held May 6-8 in St. Louis. There was consensus from private sector representatives like MasterCard, Walmart, Edison Electric Institute and Facebook to state chief information officers and federal officials: both the frequency of cybersecurity threats and their level of sophistication have and will continue to increase. State leaders need to know what they are facing.

Residents of Chattanooga, Tenn., have access to Internet speeds of one gigabit per second—more than 50 times faster than the rest of the country, leading it to be nicknamed “Gig City.” If Chattanooga were a country, it would be tied for the fastest Internet connection in the world with Hong Kong. The rest of America comes in at 26th, behind Singapore, Romania, Japan and Sweden. Residents of surrounding areas are envious because the service, which is provided by the city’s public utility company, is prohibited by state law from expanding beyond city lines. Chattanooga is one of several cities—including Lafayette, La., and Wilson, N.C.—that has built its own municipal high-speed broadband networks. These cities have been cited as success stories among local governments, taking action to provide faster Internet speeds for residents and to encourage economic development.

Despite political gridlock and partisanship in Washington, D.C., Congress and the president recognize intellectual property as a driver of economic growth in America. Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and intellectual property is oftentimes the primary target of cyber criminals. To protect intellectual property, the White House, Congress, and state governments all are working diligently to enhance cybersecurity.