David Kirkpatrick

March 4, 2010

National Broadband Plan seeks $25B

The United States lags in broadband access, plus infrastructure investment of this nature is an investment in the future of the nation. An example of good government spending.

From the link:

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s coming National Broadband Plan will propose up to $25 billion in new federal spending for high-speed Internet lines and a wireless network for police and firefighters as part of a broader plan that appears to be a win for wireless companies.

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October 9, 2009

RAND Corporation — defense is the best cyberattck offense

Cybersecurity news from the RAND Corporation:

U.S. Must Focus on Protecting Critical Computer Networks from Cyber Attack

Because it will be difficult to prevent cyber attacks on critical civilian and military computer networks by threatening to punish attackers, the United States must focus its efforts on defending these networks from cyber attack, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The study finds that the United States and other nations that rely on externally accessible computer networks—such as ones used for electric power, telephone service, banking, and military command and control—as a foundation for their military and economic power are subject to cyber attack.

“Adversaries in future wars are likely to go after each other’s information systems using computer hacking,” said Martin C. Libicki, the report’s lead author and senior management scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “The lessons from traditional warfare cannot be adapted to apply to attacks on computer networks. Cyberspace must be addressed in its own terms.”

Working against connected but weakly protected computer systems, hackers can steal information, make the systems malfunction by sending them false commands and corrupt the systems with bogus information.

In most instances, the damage from cyber attacks is temporary and repeated attacks lead the victim to develop systems that are more difficult to penetrate. The RAND study finds that military cyber attacks are most effective when part of a specific combat operation—such as silencing a surface-to-air missile system protecting an important target—rather than as part of a core element in a long, drawn out military or strategic campaign.

Libicki says it is difficult to determine how destructive a cyber attack would be. Damage estimates from recent cyber attacks within the United States range from a few billion dollars to hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

The study indicates that cyber warfare is ambiguous, and that it is rarely clear what attacks can damage deliberately or collaterally, or even determine afterward what damage was done. The identity of the attacker may be little more than guesswork, which makes it hard to know when someone has stopped attacking. The cyber attacker’s motivation, especially outside physical combat, may be equally unclear.

The weapons of cyber war are amorphous, which eliminates using traditional approaches to arms control. Because military networks mostly use the same hardware and software as civilian networks, they have similar vulnerabilities.

“This is not an enterprise where means and ends can be calibrated to one another,” Libicki said. “As a result, it is ill-suited for strategic warfare.”

Because offensive cyber warfare is more useful in bothering, but not disarming, an adversary, Libicki does not recommend the United States make strategic cyber warfare a priority investment. He says similar caution is needed for deterring cyber warfare attacks, as it is difficult to attribute a given attack to a specific adversary, and the lack of an ability to counterattack is a significant barrier.

Instead, Libicki says the United States may first want to pursue diplomatic, economic and prosecutorial efforts against cyber attackers.

The study, “Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar,” was prepared by RAND Project AIR FORCE, a federally funded research and development center for studies and analysis aimed at providing independent policy alternatives for the U.S. Air Force.

About the RAND Corporation

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

January 22, 2009

Building a broadband superhighway

The New America Foundation has an interesting position paper out on utilizing some of the infrastructure stimulus spending. Interesting and at first glance looks like a great idea for a number of reasons.

This is from an email sent by the think tank:

Last Friday the New America Foundation hosted a debate on proposals to spur investment in broadband in the upcoming economic stimulus bill. There were clear differences on how best to encourage investment and the merits of placing conditions on federal subsidies, which you can view at the video highlights below.

New America also released a paper by Benjamin Lennett and Sascha Meinrath, focusing on a long-term approach to broadband investment. Building a 21st Century Broadband Superhighway seeks to leverage federal spending on traditional infrastructure (road, bridges and possibly railways) to create a fully interconnected, public access fiber infrastructure to bring high-speed connectivity to nearly every community.

The hundreds of billions that will be spent over the next few years to rebuild the nation’s crumbling transportation infrastructure provide a unique opportunity for the U.S. to extend critical middle-mile fiber connections, at an incremental cost to taxpayers. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 90 percent of the cost deploying fiber in public rights of way along roadways is associated with digging up and repairing the road to install the buried fiber. Thus, the U.S. has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the construction, repairing, and upgrading of the nation’s infrastructure that will already occur to deploy fiber at a fraction of the cost of typical deployments. 

The paper calls for the federal government to fund and mandate the installation of conduit and high-capacity, dark fiber bundles along all federally-subsidized and direct federal highway projects. The approach offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to build the middle-mile wholesale fiber links necessary to facilitate high-speed broadband deployment by all providers; creating a foundation for universal and affordable broadband access, improving competition, increasing speeds and lowering prices.   

You can download a copy of the paper at:
http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/building_21st_century_broadband_superhighway .

And this is the conclusion of the paper:

The Interstate Highway System and broader National Highway System serve as the backbone of transportation and commerce in the United States. A 21st Century Broadband Superhighway would serve as the backbone for communication and commerce in the 21st century.  Given the nation’s current woeful standing in terms of broadband adoption, availability, speeds, and prices compared to other developed nations, a dramatic intervention is necessary to maintain U.S. technological and economic competitiveness. 

It was federal leadership and funding that helped build ARPANET and NSFNET, the research networks that served as the foundation for the Internet. Once again, it will take a national effort to regain our technological standing.  The U.S. needs a sustained broadband build-out effort that brings the necessary infrastructure to communities across the country and provides the speeds and capacity to meet, not just the communication needs of today, but the demands of tomorrow.  Mandating and funding the deployment of high-speed, open access fiber bundles along all Federal-aid highway and direct Federal highway projects offers a cost-effective and sustainable means to achieve these goals, bringing high-speed connectivity to nearly every community and providing the foundation for universal, affordable access to high-speed broadband.