Policy Highlights from Communications of the ACM – May 2010 (Vol. 53, No. 5)

Below is a list of items with policy relevance from the May issue of Communications of the ACM. As always, much of the material in CACM is premium content, and free content one month may slip behind a pay wall the next. You need to be a member of ACM or a subscriber to CACM to access premium content online.

Editor’s Letter
Globalization and Offshoring of Software Revisited by Moshe Vardi
Vardi, one of the chairs of the ACM Offshoring Report, revisits the topic.

Cloud Computing and Developing Nations by Samuel Greengard
A discussion of how cloud computing can help provide services in developing nations.
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ACM Education Policy Committee and USACM Offer Support for COMPETES Reauthorization Bill

The House Science and Technology Committee recently marked up a bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. In recognition of this effort, the ACM Education Policy Committee and the U.S. Public Policy Council of ACM sent the Committee a letter expressing its support for the reauthorization.

The letter focused on the provisions of the bill that cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. While very supportive of the bill, the letter expresses ACM’s concerns about making sure that computer science education is a part of STEM education and STEM programs. Unfortunately, it is often assumed that computer science is part of STEM at the K-12 level, but the work of the Education Policy Committee has indicated this is not the case, and that computer science is often squeezed out in favor of other disciplines. As described in the letter, the need for computer science educated employees is expected to stay strong for years.
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ACM Washington Update, Vol. 14.3 (May 6, 2010)


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Competes Act Reauthorization Gets Rolling
[3] Open Government Plans Released and Guidance Issued on Social Networking
[4] FCC Broadband Plan Stalled by Court Case
[5] Draft Internet Privacy Bill Released to Public
[6] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at
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Draft Internet Privacy Bill Released

Representative Rick Boucher, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet released a discussion draft of an internet privacy bill. The bill, which was released with the Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Representative Cliff Stearns, addresses consumer information collected online by companies. A copy of the discussion draft is available via Rep. Boucher’s website:

An internet privacy law has been the goal of many in Congress – particularly the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, for several years now. The main policy tension has been between concerns over the privacy of individual information (which can and has been sold to third parties) and the ability of online advertising to function effectively (thus making it easier for websites and online companies to function and contribute to the economy). This discussion draft is the first step in this year’s effort to pass a law. Reps. Boucher and Stearns are seeking feedback on the bill before it is formally introduced and marked up by the subcommittee and then by the full Energy and Commerce Committee.

The major provisions of the discussion draft are:
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COMPETES Act Reauthorization Takes First Step Through Congress

Last Wednesday at the end of a long markup session, the House Science and Technology Committee approved a bill that would reauthorize the American COMPETES Act, passed in 2007. That bill covered many things, most prominently budget authorizations that would – if followed – double the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy over a 10 year period. You can read the full bill, H.R. 5116, online.

The reauthorization measure would continue the doubling trend for these agencies. It also covers reauthorization of the new ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy. While created by the initial COMPETES legislation, it was not funded until 2009. Other parts of the reauthorization bill deal with other innovation programs in nanotechnology (the National Nanotechnology Initiative), information technology (Networking and Information Technology Research and Development), and energy (Energy Innovation Hubs). The bill would also require the Office of Science and Technology Policy to examine government policy on public access to research, and to establish a federal committee for coordinating STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) education programs across federal agencies.

The long markup session reflected a large number of amendments offered on the bill. A number of these amendments were attempts to roll back the authorized spending amounts while others concerned ARPA-E and a reluctance to give the agency much of an authorization having only just started its work. Most of theses amendments were defeated. The bill is headed to the House floor, where Science and Technology Chairman Gordon hopes to see a vote by June.