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Senate Commerce Committee Approves Cybersecurity Act

The Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday voted to approve the Cybersecurity Act (S. 773), which would take steps to modernize and coordinate public/private efforts to protect networks and information in a broadband world filled with online threats at home and abroad.

Cybersecurity is one of the national priorities in the FCC's broadband plan.

The bill, co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) would "significantly raise the priority of cybersecurity throughout the federal government and streamline cybersecurity-related government functions, authorities and laws; Protect civil liberties, intellectual property and business proprietary information; promote cybersecurity public awareness, education, and research and development; and foster market-driven cybersecurity innovation and creativity to develop long-term technology solutions and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals," according to the committee.

Rockefeller points out that almost 9 out of 10 networks are privately owned and operated. The relevant industries have expressed their commitment to work with the government on the common threat of cyber crimes.

Among the bill's specific provisions are a government-industry effort to identify what systems need to be classified as "critical infrastructure."

"Unlike physical critical infrastructure such as chemical plants and airports," sais the committee in its outline of the bill, "it is not obvious where the "critical" aspects of IT systems begin and end."

For its part, the FCC as part of the broadband plan said that within six months of the March 16 release of the plan, the FCC and the administration should have teamed on a "cybersecurity roadmap" identifying the top five cybersecurity threats and establishing a two-year time frame for yet another broadband plan for the FCC, this one a cybersecurity plan with performance milestones.

The bill would also provide security clearances for key private industry players so they could have access to classified information on threats to their networks.

A separate bill (S.778) before the Senate Homeland Security Committee would create a national cybersecurity advisor in the executive office of the president. That executive would help coordinate the initiatives in the Rockefeller-Snowe bill.