On Tuesday, we presented five potential stories that we believe will be among the most noteworthy this year. Today we present five more, as well as a list of things that we’d like to see occur in 2014.

Fallout from NSA controversy impacts myriad surveillance policies

Whether you consider Edward Snowden a traitor or a patriot—and there are many in each camp—his disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices that enabled the monitoring of online activity has generated a firestorm of controversy about the delicate balance between government security and personal privacy. While online surveillance likely will be the focus of subsequent investigations and hearings on Capitol Hill, don’t be surprised if other similar practices—particularly video surveillance—receive more scrutiny than usual when being implemented throughout the country as a symptom of the Snowden debate.

Fitzgerald saga gets more complicated for FirstNet

More than eight months ago, FirstNet board member Paul Fitzgerald alleged that the board engaged in a series of improper practices, including poor procurement methodology and conflicts of interest. Those matters are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General, whose report on the issues certainly will be of interest. Meanwhile, the legal battle over whether to publicly release Fitzgerald’s FirstNet-related e-mails sent from his work e-mail address for Story County, Iowa—where Fitzgerald is the elected sheriff—is expected to heat up this month. Regardless how all of this plays out, it seems clear that several legal/policy issues questions need to be answered, including:

  • What does it mean for FirstNet to be “an independent authority within NTIA”?
  • Is it practical—and, in some cases, is it legal—for FirstNet board members to work as federal employees on the board during such a busy time while also fulfilling commitments to their “day jobs” in the private sector, in the public sector, or as an elected official serving a local jurisdiction?
  • If some sort of conflict of interest is found within the inspector-general investigation, what happened during the background-check process—conducted less than 18 months ago—that prevented such conflicts from being discovered before they could become issues.

U.S.-Mexico spectrum treaty for 700 MHz will prove to be challenging

For all of the excitement surrounding FirstNet and the availability of 20 MHz of prime 700 MHz broadband spectrum, the reality is that the spectrum plan has to be aligned with our international neighbors of Canada and Mexico. In the case of Canada, this appears to be doable, because key Canadian officials seem determined to have that country’s spectrum plan align with the U.S. The prospects surrounding a deal with Mexico apparently are not as optimistic, with some sources saying that Mexico may want to use a different flavor of LTE than will be used in the U.S. But the bigger issue may be that it always seems to be harder for the U.S. to finalize a treaty with Mexico than with Canada—remember, the U.S.-Mexico treaty for 800 MHz rebanding trailed the U.S.-Canada version by several years.