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EFFector - Volume 5, Issue 7 - Congressman Boucher Introduces NREN Applications Bill

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EFFector Online Volume 5 No. 7       4/30/1993       editors@eff.org
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation   ISSN 1062Ð9424
400 lines

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                        In this issue:
       Congressman Boucher Introduces NREN Applications Bill 
        "Future of Computing" Program in Palo Alto, CA
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       Congressman Boucher Introduces NREN Applications Bill 

      --Offers greatly expanded vision of applications program 
                  for widespread social benefit

        by Andrew Blau
        EFF Associate for Telecommunications Policy

On April 21, Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) introduced legislation 
to create computer and networking applications to serve the 
education, library, and health care communities, and to promote 
access to government information. The bill, H.R. 1757, significantly 
expands on similar provisions found in last year's "Information 
Infrastructure and Technology Act" (often referred to as "Gore II," 
then-Senator Gore's follow-up to his NREN bill, the High Performance 
Computing Act ("HPCA")), and the Senate bill to promote U.S. 
competitiveness, S. 4. 

Boucher, who chairs the House Science Subcommittee which oversees 
the NSF, has held oversight hearings on the development of the NREN 
program at which EFF Chairman Mitch Kapor testified. Many of EFF's 
suggestions, and the suggestions of EFF's partners in the education, 
library, and health care sectors, have been included in this 
legislation. 

Highlights include:

  *a substantial broadening of the focus of NREN to accelerate 
   progress toward "a universally accessible high-capacity and high 
   speed data network for the nation";
  *a significant commitment to public libraries, K-12 schools, and 
   support for hardware purchases;
  *the creation and inclusion of local 'civic networks' of local libraries, 
   schools, and local and state government offices, which would be 
   connected to the Internet;
  *an emphasis on promoting access to government information; and 
  *a codification of the distinction between research and production 
   networks. 

This bill also shifts away from the manufacturing focus of the earlier 
bills; it has no provisions for manufacturing applications at all. 

There are a handful of weak spots, most notably that the bill seems 
to emphasize broadband connections to the Internet, which EFF 
believes could drive up the costs of the connections program and 
reduce the number of beneficiaries; and the lack of any coordinating 
or responsible agency for the government information program, the 
network security program, the privacy program or the ease of use 
program. 

EFF supports the approach outlined in this bill, and will be working 
to secure passage of it. We will also seek some minor modifications in 
order to improve the bill at the margins -- for example, to improve 
the access to information section in order to support putting federal 
information online and enabling innovative non-profit groups to 
make it available as demonstration projects, and to clarify that the 
broadband provisions are an option, not a mandate. Overall, however, 
EFF believes this is a substantive advance that merits widespread 
discussion and support. 

EFF will make a copy of the full text of the bill in our ftp archives 
(ftp.eff.org). 

Section-by-section review:
*************************

Sections 1 and 2 include the bill's title ("High Performance Computing 
and High Speed Networking Applications Act of 1993") and the 
Congressional findings that support the need for this legislation. 

Sec. 3. Applications of the High Performance Computing Program. 

Contains the major provisions, which are proposed as an amendment 
to the original HPCA. Sections 301 through 305 cover administrative 
issues. 

Sec. 301 establishes the applications program. The bill improves on S. 
4 by specifying that the applications should be "designed to be 
accessible and usable by all persons in the United States"; adds the 
provision of government information to the program purposes, and 
mandates that the Plan to create applications must take into account 
the recommendations of the High Performance Computing Advisory 
Committee, which this bill also mandates will include representatives 
of the research, K-12, higher education, and library communities, 
consumer and public interest groups, network providers, and the 
computer, telecommunications and information industries. 

Sec. 302 describes the Plan to implement the program. The Plan 
must: (a) be submitted within one year and revised at least once 
every two years; (b) include goals and priorities, specific 
responsibilities of agencies and departments to meet goals, 
recommend funding levels to departments; and (c) include progress 
reports, evaluations and recommendations.

Sec. 303 describes the role of the Federal Coordinating Committee for 
Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) for coordination 
among agencies and budget review.

Sec. 304 creates a new "Coordinator" position, which is to be chosen 
from the staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology 
Policy. The Coordinator is to monitor the agencies, report any 
discrepancies to the OSTP Director, assist in interagency coordination, 
and act as Congressional and public liaison.

Sec. 305 describes the annual reports that each agency is to submit 
to OMB and OMB's review and report to the President. 


The major application areas:
***************************

Sec. 306 creates a program to foster network access. This is a new 
provision to create local networks of K-12 schools, libraries, state and 
local governments, etc. It includes support for buying hardware and 
connecting those local nets to the Internet; it also expands training to 
teachers, students, librarians, government personnel to use networks 
and the Internet. Note however, that the provisions specify 
broadband connections, which could slow down the program, 
increase the costs, and reduce the beneficiaries if institutions are not 
free to choose the most appropriate-sized connection for their needs. 
NSF is the lead agency. Over the next five years, it authorizes 20, 60, 
70, 80 and 80 million dollars (i.e., $310 million).

Sec. 307 calls for research into security and privacy of information, 
integrity of digital information, and ease of use for non specialists. 
This is also a new provision with no counterpart in S. 4. It authorizes 
10, 30, 35, 38, and 38 million dollars over the next five years for 
these activities (i.e., $151 million). No lead agency is specified. 

Sec. 308 outlines educational applications. H.R. 1757 broadens the 
range of educational applications compared to S. 4, and adds 
additional features to support the intent of this section. New 
provisions include: support for hardware and software purchases in 
order to demonstrate the educational value of the Internet; support 
for systems, software and networks for "informal education" 
including job training and life-long learning applications outside of 
school; a mandate to address the needs of rural and urban 
communities; a clearinghouse of K-12 network projects and available 
educational resources; and the creation of undergraduate level 
course materials for student teachers to familiarize them with the 
Internet and educational uses of computer and networking 
applications. Other elements are similar to or better specified 
versions of provisions found in S. 4 that call for projects to enable K-
12 students and teachers to communicate with peers and university 
level students and teachers, and to gain access to educational 
materials and other computing resources. NSF is directed to be the 
lead agency, and the section authorizes 24, 70, 82, 94 and 94 million 
dollars over the next five years ($364 million) for education. 

Sec. 309 outlines health care applications. This is a substantially 
expanded version of S. 4's health care section. The lead agency is 
shifted from the National Library of Medicine to the Department of 
Health and Human Services, which is to implement it through the 
NLM, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease 
Control. H.R. 1757 also splits health care applications into three 
subsections. Besides clinical information systems, which repeats S. 4's 
six health care provisions for clinicians, H.R. 1757 adds two sections 
of entirely new provisions: health information to public, and health 
delivery systems and population data sets for epidemiology. The 
section authorizes 24, 70, 82, 94, and 94 million dollars ($364 
million) over the next five years. 

Applications for health information to the public include: consumer-
oriented, interactive, multimedia materials for health promotion and 
distribution of such materials to public access points, such as 
community health and human service agencies, schools and public 
libraries; interactive, multimedia materials to assist patients in 
deciding among health care options; interfaces to allow non 
specialists ease of access and use; and the means to provide 
customized preventative and treatment information to non 
specialists.

Applications for health delivery systems and population data sets 
include: networks and software for communication among local 
public and private health and human service providers, e.g., health 
centers, clinics, entitlement offices, and school based clinics to enable 
social service providers to deliver coordinated services; access for 
health care providers to current clinic-based health promotion and 
disease prevention recommendations and two-way links with 
prevention specialists at state and local health departments; and 
database technologies to help clinicians diagnose, treat, and provide 
preventative information to patients and facilitate the gathering of 
systematic population data sets in order to measure treatments and 
national health trends. 

Sec. 310 describes the applications programs for libraries. Most of 
this section describes the same digital library applications found in S. 
4: terabit storage systems accessible by thousands of simultaneous 
users; high speed digitizing of printed and photographic materials; 
tools to search huge volumes of stored text, imagery, data and sound; 
encouragement of the development and adoption of standards; smart 
systems to categorize and organize information; training for 
librarians and database users; making networked databases easy to 
use; and visualization tools to help browse through large volumes of 
imagery. The subsection on the development of prototypes, however, 
is expanded in three significant ways. H.R. 1757 specifies that the 
prototypes should be testbeds for all the features noted above. Most 
importantly, H.R. 1757 specifies that the prototype libraries will be 
accessible to the public via the Internet. Lastly, H.R. 1757 requests 
an evaluation of the suitability and utility of distributing electronic 
information over the Internet, including an assessment of the 
barriers that hinder the use of the Internet for this purpose. H.R. 
1757 also directs NASA to develop databases of remote-sensing 
images to be made available over computer networks. NSF is named 
as the lead agency, and 10, 30, 35, 44, and 44 million dollars ($163 
million) is authorized over five years. For its part, NASA is 
authorized 6, 16, 20, 20, and 20 million dollars ($82 million) for the 
same period. 

Sec. 311 calls for applications for government information. H.R. 1757 
has a set of new provisions to promote public access to information 
generated by Federal, state and local governments. H.R. 1757 calls for 
projects that connect depository libraries and other sources of 
government information to the Internet to enable access to Federal, 
state and local government information, and access to "related 
resources" as well as linkages among libraries in order to enhance 
the use of that information. H.R. 1757 also calls for the creation of 
technologies to increase access to and effective use of government 
information in support of three goals: research and education; 
economic development; and an informed citizenry. Finally, the 
section mandates the creation of a Federal information locator to help 
the public find and retrieve government information. No agency is 
given coordinating or lead responsibilities, but the bill authorizes 8, 
24, 26 30 and 30 million dollars over the next five years ($118 
million). 

Other provisions:
****************

Section 4 changes the High Performance Computing Advisory 
Committee into a Computing *and Applications* Advisory Committee. 
It also adds representatives from K-12, consumer and public interest 
groups, and computer, telecommunications, and information 
industries. Among the Committee responsibilities is to assess 
whether the applications that are developed successfully address the 
needs of the targeted populations and to estimate the number of 
users served by the applications. 

Section 5 rewrites Section 102 of the HPCA. Whereas HPCA proposed 
that portions of the NREN would reach gigabit transmission rates "to 
the extent technically feasible," this bill appears to assume gigabit 
networking and moves on to redefine test-bed networks separately. 
The Network Program now would have three parts: R&D to support 
gigabit transmission speeds; experimental test-beds networks to 
develop advanced networking technologies in the quest for gigabit 
networks and to support applications that exceed what commercial 
networks can handle; and a connections program to help researchers, 
educators and students obtain access to and use of the Internet.

H.R. 1757 adds a new section to the HPCA, 102(d), that would codify 
the distinction between experimental, "bleeding-edge" research 
networks and services available off-the-shelf from commercial 
service providers. The bill specifies that eighteen months after the 
bill is enacted, test bed networks are forbidden to provide services 
that could otherwise be provided satisfactorily over commercial 
networks. 

Other sections include one that creates a new OSTP Associate Director 
to oversee Federal efforts to disseminate scientific and technical 
information, and a handful of miscellaneous provisions. 

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          Program Announcement for Palo Alto, California
              from Ted Haynes of the Churchill Club

Terry Winograd and Jim Warren will speak on "The Future of 
Computing and Its Impact on Society", May 27, 1993, at the Hyatt 
Rickey's, Palo Alto, California; sponsored by the Churchill Club (415-
321-9016).  A reception and a light dinner begin at 6:00 PM with the 
program starting at 6:45 PM.

Terry Winograd is a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford and a 
founder of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.  Jim 
Warren is a MicroTimes columnist, founder of Infoworld, and a 
founder of the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conferences.  They 
will be joined by Denny Brown, founder of Coherent Thought and 
President of Expert Support. 

Will more powerful computers turn into twenty-first century 
servants or Big Brother?  What are the implications for employment, 
economic growth, privacy, education, and the family?  Come and find 
out!

The Churchill Club, founded in 1985, is a non-profit public affairs 
organization in Silicon Valley that provides a non-partisan forum on 
timely issues.  Past speakers include Edward Teller, Bill Joy, Bill 
Clinton and Sandra Kurtzig.  The club has 1100 members of which 
about 66% work in a "high tech" related company.

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