Technology

CSG Midwest
Most legislatures do not have firm rules in place, and nearly all committee witnesses still make their statements in person, according to a recent CSG Midwest survey of the region’s legislative service agencies. However, most states in the Midwest do provide remote testimony as an option in certain situations — especially those in which an invited committee guest faces travel-related obstacles.

State leaders must evaluate risks and invest in protecting state government against cyberattacks. That’s according to experts who discussed cybersecurity at the 2015 CSG National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., in an attempt to prepare state leaders for the inevitable.

In practice, Dig Once policies attempt to lower the cost of broadband deployment by providing internet companies access to state- or city-owned rights of way. This is complemented by the mandatory installation of conduit for fiber-optic cable during road construction, or by allowing qualified broadband deployments to be installed during road construction projects.

Last week, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, or CISA, 74-21. The bill is essentially an information-sharing bill, designed to allow companies that are hit by a hacker to share information--called “cyber threat indicators”--with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS. DHS can then put out an alert, share suspicious code and warn other firms about the threat. Cybersecurity is not just a hot topic in Washington, D.C., but also in statehouses across the country.

Economics webcast

What do autonomous vehicles, an aging population and cybersecurity have in common? These are all policy topics in which a basic knowledge of risk management and insurance can help state leaders make better policy decisions. In collaboration with the Griffith Foundation, The Council of State Governments addressed these topics and more throughout a four-part webinar series designed to provide public policymakers with a greater understanding of risk management insurance through the lens of emerging issues. Participants in this series gained a solid understanding of risk management and insurance fundamentals, property, casualty, life and health insurance, and insurance regulation and legislation. <--break->

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.

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