Our guest blogger is Peter Swire, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and the C. William O’Neill Professor of Law at the Ohio State University.
The front page of the April 8 Wall Street Journal blared: “Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated by Spies.” The article reports that cyberspies from Russia, China, and other countries “have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system.”
The same day, I released a report on “Smart Grid, Smart Broadband, Smart Infrastructure: Melding Federal Stimulus Programs to Get More Bang for the Buck.” Among other points, I specifically discusses how better broadband deployment can improve the cybersecurity of the electricity grid.
Parts of the Recovery Act’s stimulus spending can be integrated to save money and improve our long-term infrastructure. One section of the act provides billions of federal dollars to fund a “smart grid” for electricity that connects a far more flexible and efficient grid for long-distance transmission to regional feeder lines and local hubs, and then to the “last mile” to residences and businesses. A different part of the act provides billions in funding to upgrade broadband networks for unserved and underserved areas around the country.
Construction of the electricity grid and the broadband network should go hand in hand. We should follow the principle of “dig once” — when bulldozers are in place to build electricity transmission lines, the crews should be laying fiber where possible and otherwise upgrading the communications network at the same time. This approach will speed the deployment of high-speed broadband to dispersed geographic areas, including to far-flung cell phone towers that are often near power transmission lines.
In addition to non-security goals (e.g., energy conservation), the upgrade and spending in the electric utility grid should include providing a sufficiently trustworthy network for control. The requirements are different enough for this sector that funding for cybersecurity research and implementation should be an integral part of the electricity grid stimulus spending. Read more