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Trump Signs Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence, How Not to Wreck the FCC, Broadband Performance in Europe

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Photo of Lynne Parker, Trump administration Assistant Director for Artificial Intelligence, leading a panel discussion on how Federal agencies have adopted AI, with Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan speaking about the Defense Department's Joint AI Center aside Dr. Patti Brennan of NIH and Mr. Charles Keckler of HHS by the White House

On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aiming to guide how federal agencies adopt artificial intelligence, as part of an ongoing effort to build public trust in government use of AI.

The order includes four important actions by the Trump Administration. The order itself directs federal agencies to be guided by nine principles when designing, developing, and using AI. These principles emphasize that AI use by federal agencies be lawful, purposeful and performance-driven, responsible and traceable, regularly monitored, and transparent.

The order also aims to establish a process for implementing these principles through common policy guidance across agencies, by directing the Office of Management and Budget to create a roadmap by the end of May 2021 for how the government will better support the use of AI.

This roadmap will include a schedule for engaging with the public and timelines for finalizing relevant policy guidance.

Thirdly, the order directs each federal agency to prepare an inventory of AI use cases by the agency, and review and assess these use cases for consistency with the order.

Finally, the executive order directs the General Services Administration to establish an AI track within the Presidential Innovation Fellows program to attract experts from industry and academia to work within agencies to further the design, development, acquisition, and use of AI in government.

“This order recognizes the potential for AI to improve government operations, such as by reducing outdated or duplicative regulations, enhancing the security of federal information systems, and streamlining application processes,” said Trump in a statement.

“It also directs agencies to ensure that the design, development, acquisition, and use of AI is done in a manner that protects privacy, civil rights, civil liberties, and American values.”

During Trump’s time in the White House, he has issued various initiatives on AI, with the most recent one, excluding the newest executive order, being a guidance on how to regulate AI applications that are produced in the US. Trump also signed a separate executive order almost two years ago, which was created with the intent of fast-tracking the development and regulation of artificial intelligence in the United States.

One broadband industry expert’s regulatory wish list for the incoming Biden FCC

The upcoming Presidential transition has many broadband industry experts wondering what the shift will mean for telecommunications policy, as a change in administration will bring along with it a change at the FCC, with the agency’s majority swinging from Republican to Democratic.

The approaching transition has many telecom enthusiasts, such as Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting, airing their regulatory wish lists. Dawson listed what he hopes the public will see out of the new FCC in his most recent POTs and PANs blog post.

Among other recommendations, Dawson urges the new FCC to keep politics out. He references talk of the new Congress refusing to seat a new Chairman and a fifth commissioner in an attempt to thwart any attempt to re-regulate broadband. “A partisan FCC with no voting majority is going to accomplish very little and will deadlock on most issues,” says Dawson, noting that it would be a disaster for the industry.

He further urges the Biden FCC to say no to big internet service providers. “The current FCC approved everything on the big ISP’s regulatory wish lists,” he writes. “The role of a regulator is to strike a balance between the companies it regulates and the public – we need to get back to a balance between those two interests.”
Dawson further urges the incoming FCC to drop 5G rhetoric. The FCC has no business pushing 5G as the solution to everything, writes Dawson. “The FCC is supposed to be a neutral regulator and has no business supporting 5G over other technologies. The cellular companies behind 5G are extremely well-funded and we should let 5G play out as the market sees fit.”

Finally, Dawson calls for the Biden FCC to bring broadband regulation back, following the Trump FCC’s attempt to gut the agency’s ability to regulate broadband. “The FCC currently can’t even scold big ISPs for abusing customers,” says Dawson, adding that “one of the most important industries in the country needs a cop at the top to protect citizens against monopoly abuses.”

Europe vs. U.S. broadband performance annual report

American internet users had a speedy 2020. According to research performed by Fair Internet Report, median U.S. internet speeds in 2020 doubled to 33.16 Megabytes per second, up from 17.34 Mbps in 2019.

Covering the five years of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, this is the largest speed increase seen in the U.S., with speeds staying essentially the same between 2016 and 2017, at 8.91 Mbps and 9.08 Mbps respectively, and 2018 recording a median speed of 12.83 Mbps.

Average US broadband speeds overtook western European Union countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany for the first time in 5 years, although U.S. speeds still lag behind some of the most covered European nations, including Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

This year’s internet speed test data showed an interesting correlation between population and broadband speeds. A chart comparing a country’s population against the median download speed experienced by its users, revealed an emerging pattern. According to FIR, the data implies that if you live in a country with a small population, you are vastly more likely to experience faster internet speeds.

FIR generated this custom dataset using NDT5 and NDT7 speed test datasets from Measurement Lab covering the years 2016 to 2020.

Former Assistant Editor Jericho Casper graduated from the University of Virginia studying media policy. She grew up in Newport News in an area heavily impacted by the digital divide. She has a passion for universal access and a vendetta against anyone who stands in the way of her getting better broadband. She is now Associate Broadband Researcher at the Institute for Local Self Reliance's Community Broadband Network Initiative.

Broadband Roundup

Senate Bill Would Alter Google Advertising, DOJ Cybersecurity Policy Reversal, Comcast on Hybrid Fiber-Coax

Senate introduces bill breaking up Google’s digital advertising business

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Photo of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, from March 2016 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

May 20, 2022 – On Thursday a bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would force Google to break up its industry-leading online advertising exchange.

The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act would prohibit large companies like Google from both operating an ad exchange and a supply- or demand-side platform, should they process more than $20 billion in ad transactions.

The bill would also require Facebook to divest some of its advertising business.

“Companies like Google and Facebook have been able to exploit their unprecedented troves of detailed user data to obtain vice grip-like control over digital advertising,” said bill sponsor Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

In late 2020, a coalition of 10 state attorneys general brought a lawsuit against Google alleging that its market dominance lets it overcharge businesses seeking to place ads online.

Justice Department changes directions on cybersecurity prosecution policy

On Thursday the Department of Justice announced it would reverse its charging policy on a federal computer fraud law, saying it will not prosecute “good-faith security research” efforts.

The change by the department relates to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, defining good-faith research as “accessing a computer solely for purposes of good-faith testing, investigation, and/or correction of a security flaw or vulnerability” without any intention of harming the public.

Last year, Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren was successful in appealing his conviction under the CFAA to the Supreme Court.

DOJ argued that he should not have taken a bribe to access a woman’s license plate information during a 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation, while Van Buren claimed that he had legitimate access to the database.

Comcast plans to release hybrid fiber-coaxial multi-gig speeds in the coming months.

Comcast is preparing to roll out faster multi-gigabit speeds across its hybrid fiber-coaxial network, Fierce Telecom reported Thursday.

Multi-gig rollout is expected in the coming months.

At an investor conference Comcast CEO Dave Watson stated that his operator’s choice to roll out mid-split upgrades on the way to Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification 4.0 technology will allow it to take speeds to the next level.

“We have a very fast, very efficient path to multi-gig symmetrical at scale that we can do,” said Watson.

He feels comfortable that despite Comcast fiber deployments in select locations, the company feels comfortable that its HFC network will remain competitive.

He also reiterated previous comments that fixed wireless access service is not a threat and that it does not materially impact churn from fixed wireless competitors.

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Broadband Roundup

AT&T and DISH Agreement, FCC Adds More States in Robocall Fight, $50M from Emergency Connectivity Fund

Dish said its customers will now have access to AT&T’s gigabit fiber services.

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

May 19, 2022 – On Wednesday, AT&T and Dish Network announced an internet distribution agreement in which Dish customers will have access to AT&T internet services, including its gigabit fiber services.

“Adding AT&T Internet to our robust lineup of TV and home integration services enhances our ability to provide better overall service, technology and value to our customers,” Amir Ahmed, executive vice president of DISH TV, said in a press release.

“At AT&T, we’re constantly thinking of ways we can better serve and provide for our customers. Through this new arrangement with DISH, we’re able to do just that by seamlessly offering our super-fast broadband services to more customers across the nation,” said Jenifer Robertson, executive vice president and general manager of mass markets at AT&T Communications.

“This is another step towards our goal of becoming the best broadband provider in America,” said Robertson.

FCC adds more state partners to tackle illegal robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday new partnerships with nine additional state attorneys general to combat illegal robocalls.

The agency said Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have all signed on to help with robocall investigations.

That raises the number of states that have signed a memoranda of understanding with the FCC to 36, after the agency last month signed on a handful more states for the initiative. The agency has already credited at least one state with helping it nail one suspected robocall violator.

As part of the agreement, the parties will “share evidence, coordinate investigations, pool enforcement resources, and work together to combat illegal robocall campaigns and protect American consumers from scams,” according to the FCC.

“We are better positioned to help protect consumers from scammers than ever before,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Together we are stronger. Together we will continue our work to protect American consumers.”

The FCC already has robocall investigation agreements with Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

FCC commits additional $50 million from Emergency Connectivity Fund

The FCC announced on Wednesday that it has approved an additional $50 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund program that is intended to help students with virtual learning.

The FCC said this funding will go to help 46 schools, seven libraries and two consortia across the country for students in American Samoa, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The FCC estimates that, so far, nearly $4.9 billion has been committed to connect over 12.6 million students across the country.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel added in a press release that “this program is providing funding for nearly 11 million connected devices and 5 million broadband connections throughout the country and moving us closer toward closing the Homework Gap.

“With help from the Emergency Connectivity Fund, millions of students across the country now have online tools to support their education,” added Rosenworcel.

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Broadband Roundup

FCC June Meeting, Ookla Speeds at Airports, FCC Cautioned About Overstepping on Digital Discrimination

The FCC laid out its agenda for the June open meeting.

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Screenshot of TechFreedom President Berin Szóka

May 18, 2022 – In a press release Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced the agenda for its June 2022 open meeting.

The FCC will explore ideas for wireless innovation at sea following increasing demand for spectrum to support offshore operations. The FCC will consider offshore spectrum policies to ensure efficient use of scarce spectrum resources.

In 2018, the FCC launched an inquiry to explain why some wireless 911 calls were misrouted to the wrong call center. The past four years showed a decrease in the frequency of this error but not its elimination. The FCC will seek comment on improvements that would reduce misrouted 911 calls and improve emergency response time.

During the June open meeting, the FCC will also consider preserving established local radio programming on FM6 radio service, if they meet certain conditions.

Ookla speedtest shows divide on speeds for Wi-Fi at airports

Analytics company Ooka analyzed airport Wi-Fi speeds at some of the busiest airports in the world and found that all surveyed airports met the recommended speed for streaming on mobile, but found a large divide between them.

The four fastest free airport Wi-Fis were all located in the United States: San Francisco International, Seattle-Tacoma International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, and Chicago O’Hare International. Following that came Dubai International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and Los Angeles International.

According to Speedtest Intelligence data, there is a wide gap between median speeds of the first 8 airports and the other airports on the list with the fasted being 176.25 Mbps. Airport lounges were found to have faster Wi-Fi on average than the airport itself.

Ookla, a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast, used its Speedtest Intelligence, which provides global insights into fixed broadband and mobile performance data using billions of consumer-initiated tests.

Tech lobbyists says FCC must not overstep authority to prevent digital discrimination

Tech lobbyist TechFreedom filed comments on Monday claiming that the Federal Communication Commission is overstepping its authority to regulate digital discrimination, following the FCC’s inquiry on how to prevent such a practice.

“If Congress had wanted the FCC to implement a new civil right law for broadband, it would have legislated a clear prohibition on discrimination – the essential element in all civil rights laws,” TechFreedom President Berin Szóka said in a release. “Instead, Congress wrote a law entirely about ‘facilitation.’”

The FCC’s inquiry follows an order under the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to make rules to “facilitate” equal access to broadband and “prevent digital discrimination.”

“It is simply not plausible that Congress could have intended to change how broadband deployment is regulated in an obscure amendment tacked onto a spending bill on the Senate floor with no discussion or legislative history,” Szóka argued.

He concluded that there are other routes the FCC can take to prevent digital discrimination and facilitate equal access. Szóka called on the commission to “focus on directing funding towards remedying unequal access to broadband and preventing potential digital discrimination- not only under the infrastructure act but also the FCC’s various other broadband programs.”

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