The Federal Communications Commission is charged with regulating the nation’s technology and telecommunications industries. But in house, the commission’s own equipment is so deficient that its leader came to Congress this week pleading for an upgrade.
“We just simply cannot go on this way,” the visibly frustrated FCC chairman told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday.
At hearings this week before the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees that handle his agency’s budget, Chairman Tom Wheeler told Congress that the FCC needs $13.5 million to upgrade its “antiquated” technology system.
Vulnerability to cyberattacks is a top concern for Wheeler. For example, many of the FCC’s computers still use Windows XP, the 13-year-old operating system that Microsoft is ending support for on April 8.
“As a result of my being here today … we will see a precipitous increase in the amount of attacks on the FCC website,” Wheeler said Thursday. “If we have responsibility for the economic engine of the 21st century, we can’t be sitting here … exposed as we are.”
The outdated technology is also a drag on the agency’s efficiency.
Improving the agency’s efficiency and accountability is a high priority for Congress and the new chairman, and even Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai agreed that the sorry state of its IT makes it difficult to achieve those goals.
According to Wheeler, the agency has more than 200 different computer systems and 40 percent of its technology is at least 10 years old. Money not spent on upgrades next year will be spent within two years on expensive maintenance.
Citing his long career in the private sector, Wheeler said, “There is not a business in America that would put up with this.”
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Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."
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