• United States
by Staff Writers

Powell puts brakes on UNE-P vote

Feb 17, 20034 mins

Plus: Final HIPAA security standards published; NIST recommends biometrics for border control; Sun disputes memo on Java problems; Microsoft continues to fight Sun suit; turmoil continues at Sprint; government issues final cyberspace protection strategy.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell postponed the commission’s vote on unbundled network element-platform changes scheduled for last week after a Republican commissioner submitted a rival plan that won the support of the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners, according to several media reports citing anonymous insider sources. Powell had hoped to pass a plan that gradually would phase out UNE-Ps. The rival plan would let individual states decide whether to keep UNE-P. The vote is scheduled for this week.

The Health and Human Services Administration announced last week that the final security standards for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 have been published. The security portion deals with the confidential, secure storage and transmission of patient health information. It works in concert with a privacy portion, for which IT organizations have to establish procedures by April 14. Most healthcare organizations will have until April 21, 2005 to fully comply.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has recommended using fingerprint and facial recognition technology for identification purposes at the nation’s borders. A NIST study, mandated under the Patriot Act and the Enhanced Border Security Act, states that at least two fingerprints should be used to positively identify visa applicants. NIST also recommends a dual system of face and fingerprints to verify the identity of visa holders at points of entry into the U.S.

Senior engineers at Sun had serious doubts about using Java to build commercial applications for the company’s Solaris operating system, according to a memo written by a Sun engineer that recently was leaked onto the Internet. “While the Java language provides many advantages over C and C++, its implementation on Solaris presents barriers to the delivery of reliable applications. These barriers prevent general acceptance of Java for production software within Sun,” according to the memo. The undated memo appears as something of an embarrassment for Sun, suggesting that the company had trouble implementing Java, which it invented, on its operating system. The company downplayed the significance of the memo, however, calling it “a 2-year-old document, which refers to an old implementation of Java technology. It doesn’t represent Sun’s position or the reality of our implementation today. The issues mentioned in the memo are irrelevant at this point,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft last week continued its quest to turn the tide in an antitrust case brought against it by rival Sun by asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to set aside an injunction ordering Microsoft to offer Sun’s Java with Windows XP and some versions of Internet Explorer. The initial injunction was granted in December, but delayed last month by the appeals court for further review. Microsoft argues that Sun has not shown it suffered immediate and irreparable harm, which is required to enter a preliminary injunction.

As Sprint and BellSouth work with a court-ordered arbitrator to determine whether BellSouth Executive Vice President Gary Forsee can become Sprint’s new chief, Sprint’s current top executives remain on hold (see related column). Sprint’s board of directors reportedly is pushing Chairman and CEO William Esrey and President and COO Ronald LeMay out the door because of questionable practices regarding their personal taxes. In a new twist last week, Sprint accounting firm Ernst & Young is saying that the stock options involved in the tax shelters it advised for Esrey and LeMay should be taxed after all.

On Friday, the White House released the “National Strategy to Protect Cyberspace,” which pulls back from some of the more controversial statements of the earlier draft,particulary regarding ISPs or universities failing to do as much as they might to help secure networks.But the final report does touch on some newer areas of interest to the White House, which wants to see federal agencies pull together under the newly-formed Department of Homeland Security to have a 24-7 cyberspace response center. The report advocates having the General Service Adminsitration and other agencies set up “test beds” to learn how to patch computer systems quickly. The report also urges agencies to practice “cyberspace preparedness” exercises as the Defense Department now does.