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“This order recognizes the potential for AI to improve government operations, such as by reducing outdated or duplicative regulations, enhancing the security of federal information systems, and streamlining application processes,” said Trump in a statement.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

House Passes Ban on Chinese Equipment, 3.45 GHz Auction Reaches Reserve Price, Against a ‘Wi-Fi Tax’

Bipartisan Senate bill clears the House, FCC auction prices climb higher, tech groups oppose newly proposed fee

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florids

October 22, 2021—The House of Representatives passed the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 on Wednesday, with a goal of mitigating perceived national security threats from equipment manufacturers, particularly Chinese companies.

The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission issue rules prohibiting new equipment licenses to potentially dangerous companies on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List.”

Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., initially introduced the act before its passage in the Senate. The House version of the bill was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.

Chinese state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE are among the companies included in the FCC’s list of technology companies that the agency has deemed a national security threat. The agency was required by the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 to detail which companies it believes to pose a severe threat to U.S. safety.

The new measure would make it impossible for U.S. telecommunications carriers to continue using equipment from companies deemed threats by the FCC if that equipment was purchased with private or non-federal government dollars. That practice was previously allowed, even those using such equipment with federal funds had already been effectively banned.

FCC 3.45 GHz auction proceeds reach reserve price

The 3.45 GHz auction at the FCC hit the agency’s reserve price of $14.77 billion Wednesday.

Many doubts existed about whether the auction would not hit the reserve price and become the first to do so in the FCC’s history.

Should this auction follow the same progression as this year’s C Band auction, it is possible proceeds could reach $20 billion. Current proceeds total $16.43 billion.

Success of the auction would come as a large relief to AT&T, which is projected to be the auction’s largest spender ahead of T-Mobile and Dish.

Analysts at New Street Research stated that they believe it is likely that the auction will meet the reserve price and that the actions of the Department of Defense will serve as a strong indicator of the auction’s success because it uses the mid-band spectrum that is most sought after by carriers.

CCIA opposes a proposed ‘Wi-Fi tax’

The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Thursday in submitting comments to the FCC on Thursday in opposition to a proposal that would charge regulatory fees to users of unlicensed spectrum.

The CCIA was joined in its opposition by the Internet Association, Digital Media Association and Incompas.

The organizations said that the FCC’s proposed fees would “effectively result in something like a Wi-Fi tax.”

CCIA said that the proposal would be “unworkable to implement” and that it exceeds the legal authority and mission of the FCC. Further, they state it would also harm innovators who use unlicensed spectrum to create services for consumers.

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Broadband Roundup

‘Squid Game’ Exposes Traffic Problem, Virginia’s $2B Broadband Investment, West Virginia Mapping

Netflix hit’s traffic struggle, Virginia expects $2B from P3, op-ed says FCC expects states to get good maps before FCC.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

October 20, 2021––A South Korean broadband company is suing Netflix to cover the cost of the surge in traffic from its hit television show “Squid Game.”

The show, which according to Netflix has more than 100 million streams, became a global hit last month.

The Financial Times reports that SK Broadband, owned by SK Telecom, South Korea’s largest mobile operator, argues that streaming platforms should pay for the congestion on its networks.

The company said that the traffic Netflix generated on its network increased to 1.2 trillion bits of data processing per second since September, an increase that’s equal to 24 times the company’s normal traffic over three years. The company said its network had to be upgraded twice to accommodate the traffic surge caused by customers streaming the show on Netflix.

Local law in South Korea requires the companies with more than 1 million users and using more than 1 percent of total network traffic to pay internet fees to distribute the maintenance costs incurred by broadband providers.

Netflix accounted for almost 5 percent of internet traffic in the fourth quarter and had more than 1.7 million paid subscribers. SK Broadband argues that Netflix must pay more in network usage fees.

Virginia announces $2 billion public-private broadband partnership

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Tuesday that the state expects more than $2 billion in funding for high-speed broadband investments after announcing a public-private partnership with local governments and private internet service providers, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Northam announced that the state received requests to fund 57 projects to expand broadband across 84 localities across Virginia, totaling $943 million in grants. It would be matched by $1.15 billion in private and local government funds.

“Broadband is as critical today as electricity was in the last century,” said Northam. “Making sure more Virginians can get access to it has been a priority since I took office, and the pandemic has pushed us all to move even faster.

“Virginia is now on track to achieve universal broadband by [2024], which means more connections, more investments, more online learning and expanded telehealth options, especially in rural Virginia,” he said.

Northam and the Virginia general assembly appropriate $700 million of the $4.3 billion that Virginia received under the federal emergency aid package to accelerate Virginia’s universal broadband coverage goal. The expected completion has been moved up from 2028 to 2024.

The plan is expected to bring internet access to more than 250,000 homes and businesses.

The state is using federal emergency aid from the American Rescue Plan Act to close the digital divide in Virginia.

Op-Ed: West Virginia being asked to produce quality broadband maps before FCC

Advocates for more accurate maps say that the federal government is hypocritical in asking West Virginia for more accurate maps than the Federal Communications Commission can produce.

“The state is being asked to produce accurate maps, which the federal government knows full well its own agency did not produce” for the state the invest millions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan funding for broadband expansion, writes a Wednesday op-ed in the Weirton Daily Times.

The FCC has been under fire for flaws in its broadband mapping data, which was relied upon to produce winners for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which forced the commission to clean-up the result of the reverse auction after finding that some of the money would go toward wasteful spending.

West Virginia’s effort to expand broadband is led by the state Department of Economic Development. State Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael said that if self-reported maps show no service in an area “you can bet your life there’s no service there.”

“There’s a lot more at stake as the department works to get these maps right. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of education and employment in West Virginia is riding on it,” said the Times. “Good luck, then, to Carmichael and his department as they work to clean up yet another federal government mess that has left the Mountain State struggling for too long.”

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Broadband Roundup

New Senate Antitrust Bill Reaction, Charter Making Executive Changes, T-Mobile, Verizon Top Charts

Trade association doesn’t like new antitrust bill, Charter makes changes at the top, T-Mobile leads wireless, Verizon on wireline.

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Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

October 19, 2021 – A Senate antitrust bill introduced Monday that would empower the Federal Trade Commission to further regulate technology companies will harm start ups and small business, according to the Consumer Technology Association.

The trade association, which represents companies across the tech sector, said the American Innovation and Consumer Choice Act – introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – will “cause irreparable harm to small businesses and startups and put U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage against China and other nations eager to overtake our country as global tech leader.”

The bill would prohibit “dominant platforms” from favoring their own products and services to the detriment of competition, stop conduct that is harmful to small businesses including preventing interoperability with big platforms, requiring payment to receive preferential treatment on the big platform, bias search results, and misuse business data to compete against the small companies.

Amazon, for example, was accused of having taken the information of products of smaller companies on its platforms to create their own competing products.

According to the release, the bill received the support of at least 10 other Senators across party lines and companies including Spotify and Roku.

But the CCA said the bill, in empowering the FTC, would allow it to “ignore the consumer welfare standard, while imposing massive fines with minimal due process.

“Further, the bill will take away features and functions that millions of Americans love and use in their everyday lives,” the CCA statement said. “Say goodbye to Amazon Prime free shipping, Google maps in search results, preinstalled iPhone apps and many more.”

The House already has before it six antitrust bills that are awaiting votes.

Charter makes executive changes

Charter announced Tuesday that it is promoting chief financial officer Chris Winfrey to chief operating officer and Jessica Fischer will move from executive vice president to the COO position.

John Bickham will be vice chairman before he retired at the end of 2022, the company also announced in a press release, while chief product and technology officer Rich DiGeronimo will oversee the company’s network operations as an additional responsibility.

“I have worked with John for three decades and at every turn, his knowledge, leadership and steady hand have not only contributed greatly to the success of the companies we led, but made a profound impact on the growth of our industry,” said CEO Tom Rutledge. “I am grateful that John will continue to serve Charter in this new capacity as a strategic advisor to me and the executive team, and his guidance will help ensure a successful transition for Chris into the COO role.”

T-Mobile gets top billing for wireless, Verizon for wireline

According to an Ookla report Monday, T-Mobile ranked as the fastest mobile operator in the country in the third quarter with a median download speed of 62.35 Megabits per second, as Verizon took home the top rank for wireline download speeds at 178.38 Mbps.

For wireless, AT&T was second in speed at 47.42 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 39.91 Mbps. T-Mobile also ranked first in 5G performance with a median speed of 135.17 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 78.94 Mbps and then AT&T at 72.46 Mbps. T-Mobile was also top in 5G availability with 64.4 percent, with AT&T second at 44.8 percent and Verizon third at 34.3 percent.

T-Mobile completed its merger with Sprint last year. It proposed that the combined entity was the only way the companies could compete against the top players and offer a competitive 5G product.

On the wireline side, Cox was second to Verizon on download speed at 168.56 Mbps, followed by Comcast’s Xfinity at 161.87 percent, Spectrum fourth at 143.57 Mbps, AT&T Internet at 132.48 Mbps, and CenturyLink at 59.80 Mbps.

New Jersey had the fastest median download speed on wireline at 158.19 Mbps, followed by New York at 147.46 Mbps, California at 142.56 Mbps, Florida at 141.88 Mbps, and Texas at 140.15 Mbps.

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