ACM Washington Update, Vol. 13.7 (September 9, 2009)

By David Bruggeman
September 10, 2009


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] ACM Urges That Education Funding Include Computer Science
[3] USACM Comments on Government Web Tracking Policies
[4] USACM Reacts to Representative Holt’s Electronic Voting Legislation
[5] Federal Communications Commission to Redefine Broadband
[6] Progress Inches Forward in Health IT
[7] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at]


Congress returns in September with a full agenda focused on health care reform, energy legislation and the annual agency funding bills. There are more details on each item below, as well as on our weblog at

* ACM joined with CRA, CSTA, and NIST to urge the Department of Education to ensure computer science education is part of the $4.5 billion Race to the Top Fund it plans to distribute to states.

* USACM commented on Representative Holt’s latest electronic voting legislation supporting many of its provisions and calling for more flexibility to support innovation.

* In response to the U.S. government’s reexamination of their current restrictions on cookie technology, USACM acknowledged that web-tracking technologies can significantly improve citizens’ interactions with government websites and promote civic engagement, but called for new protections on those technologies.

* The Federal Communications Commission, as part of its responsibility to develop a National Broadband Plan, is seeking public comment on national broadband initiatives.

* The National Coordinator for Health IT and two new Health IT committees continue to work on improving the standards and implementation of Health IT.


In response to the Department of Education’s request for comment, ACM teamed with the Computing Research Association, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to submit comments encouraging the program to acknowledge and count computer science education in measuring education progress and reform. The Race to the Top program, totaling $4.35 billion, is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The competitive grant program is designed to reward and encourage states that are achieving innovation and reform in four key education reform areas: implementing standards and assessments, improving teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution, improving collection and use of data, and supporting struggling schools.

ACM’s joint comments emphasized the need to make sure computer science education receives the same level of support and attention as other STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The comments focus on the need to address the challenges facing computer science specifically at the K-12 level. Details on the comments and recommendations can be read at:


USACM commented on Representative Rush Holt’s electronic voting bill, H.R. 2894, noting that it shows promise to strengthen electronic voting systems in the US. USACM’s comments supported the bill’s efforts to ensure that voter intent is captured in the event of problems with electronic voting machines through the use of voter-verified paper records. The letter also called for the legislation to create a “Innovation Class” of voting machines, similar to what the proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines Version 2.0 proposed.

USACM’s letter can be read at:

The Holt bill, H.R. 2894, can be found at THOMAS:


In response to the U.S. government’s reexamination of their current restrictions on cookie technology, USACM, recently submitted comments on using web-tracking technologies as part of government websites. The government’s review was aimed at developing new requirements to give federal agencies the ability to use new technologies while continuing to protect the privacy of the users. Web tracking technologies include, but are not limited to, cookies – little bits of code that can be deposited on a computer to help websites remember things about the user. Other web tracking technologies include deep packet inspection and web bugs. Specifics on the request and submitted comments can be read at:

USACM’s comments acknowledged that web-tracking technologies are beneficial for both consumers and website operators by “improv(ing) citizens’ interactions with government websites and promot(ing) civic engagement”; however, it also noted the challenges that arise when personally identifiable information (PII) or other personal, sensitive information are used during web tracking. USACM recommended minimizing the collection of PII. In addition, USACM provided numerous other recommendations on web tracking technologies, some of which addressed limiting tracking to HTTP cookies, the use of a Privacy Impact Assessment for privacy risks, and usage of government information by third parties. Further details on USACM’s recommendations can be read at:


The Federal Communications Commissions sought comments from the public in effort to create a National Broadband Plan by February 17, 2010. They are obligated to meet this deadline set by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The plan seeks to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability and establishes clear benchmarks for meeting that goal.To that end, the FCC requested comments on how the plan should interpret the term “broadband”. The FCC currently sees broadband as any network above 786 kilobytes per second. The comments period closed on August 31st. The definition the FCC establishes will be very influential on the final plan, and will likely be more than a simple speed measurement.


Though health care legislation has been at a standstill, health information technology and electronic health records have steadily moved forward with the aid of the National Coordinator for Health IT, Dr. David Blumenthal. Dr. Blumenthal recently outlined how he sees health IT changes unfolding: first an initiative of grants in support of Health IT Regional Extension Centers, followed by a separate grants program for states and qualified entities to develop streamlined and simplified policies, procedures and systems for electronic information exchange.

As part of the Recovery Act, two advisory committees were created: the Health IT Policy Committee and the Health IT Standards Committee. Both have been actively meeting since April and most recently met in late August. The archives of their meetings (on their websites) provide very thorough material worth reviewing. The committees appear to be working from existing Health Care Information Technology Standards, and are guided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the protection and security of health information. Unfortunately, this 1996 law does not address many of the current changes in IT (wireless being the first among many). The Health IT committees are aware of this big gap, but have not yet made definitive choices about how to address it.

Details on current health IT progress, and health IT committee activities can be read at:


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Council of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). With over 90,000 members, ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

USACM acts as the focal point for ACM’s interaction with the U.S. Congress and government organizations. It seeks to educate and assist policy-makers on legislative and regulatory matters of concern to the computing community.

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:


For earlier editions of the ACM Washington Update, see:


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