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“This order recognizes the potential for AI to improve government operations, such as by reducing outdated or duplicative regulations, enhancing the security of federal information systems, and streamlining application processes,” said Trump in a statement.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

Broadband Roundup

Reactions Pour In After State of Union Address, Apple’s 6 GHz Pitch, Digital Skills Necessary

Associations agreed on the need for baseline federal privacy legislation.

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Photo of Apple CEO Tim Cook

February 8, 2023 – President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday elicited mixed reactions from industry, with some applauding the address toward American economic progress while others viewing his hardline against homegrown technology companies as a step too far.

The speech touched on a range of issues Broadband Breakfast covers, including the need to further regulate Big Tech and the need to make the country more reliant on itself to build critical infrastructure components, including fiber cables.

The Fiber Broadband Association said Wednesday that the president’s specific mention of jobs created by broadband projects using funds from the landmark infrastructure law “is an incredible moment for our industry; we should be proud that we are creating these jobs.

“The President underscored the importance of the Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements associated with federal funding, including mentioning that fiber optic cables should be made in the USA,” the FBA statement said. “FBA will be closely engaged with the Administration on this issue to advocate for the diverse interests of our members. We will provide all members with an opportunity to respond and engage on this issue.”

The association has outlined the need for BABA waivers previously, including for components like fiber optic adapters and fiber optic connectors, which it said would cost up to four times more if they were made in America.

The president also encouraged legislation that would stop Big Tech from collecting the personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to those children, and have stricter limits on data collection on all users.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association said it takes issue with Biden touting the country’s economic success but criticizing the companies that contribute to that success.

“Digital services in the connected economy help combat inflation with lower prices, and U.S. tech leadership produced $684 billion in digitally-enabled exports in 2021 alone,” said the association, which counts Big Tech companies as members. It added that it has been advocating for “baseline federal privacy rules online for two decades.”

The president and CEO of the association, Matt Schruers, said American companies compete on a global scale, and previously failed legislation would have made it harder for them to do so, while also weakening national security.

“CCIA agrees with President Biden that children deserve an enhanced level of security and privacy online,” Schruers said. “The digital sector is incorporating protective design features into websites and apps, leading the way in raising the standard for teen safety and privacy with new features, settings, parental tools, and protections that are age-appropriate and tailored to the differing developmental needs of young people.

“CCIA also reiterates its call for baseline federal privacy legislation that would make the internet safer for all users, particularly children,” he added. “We urge Congress to act to give consumers greater protection and businesses greater certainty for how data is to be used and collected, enabling regulators to focus on those particular bad actors, both at home and abroad.”

Hours before his speech, advocacy group Public Knowledge urged the Biden administration to send the message to Congress that federal privacy legislation must move forward, that the Federal Communications Commission needs its fifth member – the Senate has yet to vote on nominee Gigi Sohn – and for Congress to implement anti-preference laws, including those that “prevent dominant platforms from discriminating against smaller competitors on their own platforms.”

Apple urges FCC to open 6 GHz band for mobile devices

Apple has urged the Federal Communications Commission to open up the 6 GHz band to “very low power” mobile applications, according to a letter to the commission Monday.

The FCC is already in the midst of conducting interference testing of fixed devices, such as next generation Wi-Fi technologies, in the band, after it authorized in 2020 that the radiofrequencies be opened up to those applications.

But Apple is pressing for more applications in the band, including for smartphones, watches and headphones. At 16 times lower power than the standard Wi-Fi, VLP “greatly reduces the risk of harmful interference,” the company said in a presentation to the commission.

The company, which conducted testing of those devices in Houston, added that this means these low power devices will not inference with incumbent microwave links.

Some, including the National Spectrum Management Association, are concerned about the flood of unlicensed devices coming into the band and causing interference.

Report finds “overwhelming” demand for digital skills in labor market

A report Monday from the National Skills Coalition has found that 92 percent of all job ads require some digital skills.

“This demand is robust across all industries, and small businesses are just as likely as their larger peers to seek workers with technology skills,” said the report, which received data assistance from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Despite this, many workers in the country do not have the digital skills necessary, the report added.

It recommends that policymakers support the universal goal of digital skills for all, implementing policies and practices supporting digital skills and partnering with industry to collaborate with community colleges and other training providers.

The report notes that public investments in closing the digital divide can help close this gap and help “generate economic benefits for individual workers and the broader economy.”

“Equipping workers with necessary skills requires action by both private employers and public policy[1]makers,” the report said. “Notably, public investments in workforce development and education are especially vital given the unevenness of private investments and the prevalence of digital skill demands among smaller businesses, which depend on publicly funded work[1]force and education partners to upskill employees.”

The labor issue in broadband has been a focus as billions in federal dollars are expected to be allocated to states by this summer.

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Broadband Roundup

New Anti-China Bill in Congress, Outreach Program on Affordable Connectivity, Robocalls Decline

The Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency Act was introduced and is sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats.

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Photo of Elise Stafanik by CBS from the Republican National Convention in August 2020

February 7, 2023 – Three members of Congress have introduced legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission to publish a list of licensed entities in the U.S. with ties to authoritarian regimes. 

The Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency Act also known as FACT Act was introduced by Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconson, last week. 

“I applaud Congresswoman Stefanik’s, Congressman Khanna, and Congressman Gallagher’s strong leadership and thoughtful work to counter the malign influence of the Chinese Communist Party and other authoritarian state actors,” said FCC commissioner Brendan Carr in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation would strengthen American’s national security, and I encourage Congress to move quickly in passing this commonsense bill.

“Increasing visibility into entities with FCC authorizations that have relationships with authoritarian regimes would bring much needed transparency and help strengthen America’s communications networks against threats from malign actors,” Carr added.  

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel had previously supported legislation that would have identified licensees with foreign ties. 

“Consumers deserve to trust that public airwaves aren’t being leased without their knowledge to foreign governments,” she said last year about a bill that would require television and radio broadcasters to reveal who is sponsoring foreign programming. 

Nonprofit to launch course on increasing Affordable Connectivity Program signups 

EducationSuperHighway, a national non-profit organization working to close the digital divide, will release a new learning course called LearnACP on Wednesday to help communities increase the adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Program

The $14.2 billion subsidy program, which provides a connectivity discount of $30 per month and $75 per month on tribal lands, still has millions of eligible Americans that are not signed up. EducationSuperHighway estimates that only about 30 percent of eligible households have signed up. 

“By training up trusted enrollment advocates, the course addresses the trust and enrollment barriers that keep 18 million Americans who have access to the internet offline,” Jessalyn Santos-Hall, director of marketing of EducationSuperHighway, said in a press release. 

Santos-Hall said in a press release that there’s a 45 percent application rejection rate, and many people can’t even finish the 30 to 45-minute enrollment process.

Robocall scams slowed, report claims

Robocall scams have been decreasing significantly due to government and regulatory action since early 2022, according to a report from Robokiller

The company that created an app to block spam calls and texts said it has observed a drop in the most malicious robocall categories: compared to December, January calls about car warranties decreased 35 percent, student loan calls went down 33 percent and home mortgage calls declined by 54 percent. 

“Americans got a bit of a reprieve from robo texts in January, as they returned to normal levels — 14 billion, compared to the 47 billion and 55 billion they received in November and December, respectively,” said Robokiller in a press release. “The change marks a 73% month-over-month decrease.

“In addition, with tax season coming up, Americans should watch out for IRS and social security-related scams as these tend to spike around this time of year,” Robokiller also said. 

The FCC has taken increased actions against robocalls. On December 21, the commission has proposed a nearly $300 million fine against an apparently fraudulent robocall and spoofing operation called “Cox/Jones Enterprise.” 

“So our message is clear to those who would follow in the footsteps of the auto warranty scammers – we are watching, we are working with our state counterparts, and we will find you, block you, and hold you accountable,” FCC chairman Rosenworcel said at the time. 

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Broadband Roundup

CCA Wants Rip and Replace Funding, Executive Movements at Lumen, Rise Closes Buy of GI Partners

Industry associations have agreed that the FCC’s rip and replace program needs more funding.

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Photo of Sham Chotai, Lumen's new executive vice president of product and technology, via Lumen

February 6, 2023 – The Competitive Carriers Association has pressed the Federal Communications Commission on the need for more funding to replace equipment deemed a national security threat.

In a meeting late last month, the industry association said its members are struggling to complete the replacement of equipment that includes Chinese companies flagged by the commission and the government as unsafe because of a lack of funding.

“CCA discussed its members’ progress and participation in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program (Program), and the challenges faced due to lack of full funding for the Program,” said a letter of the interaction published Thursday. “CCA discussed Congressional activity and timing for a potential solution to the funding issue, and emphasized the need for full funding as soon as possible. CCA discussed the consumer, competitive, and national security risks associated with the status quo.”

Congress allocated $1.9 billion to the “rip and replace” program as part of the Secure Networks Act. But the FCC had already identified a shortfall in the funds because requests from applicants far exceeded the amount available.

Last month, a report from the Federal Communications Commission said nearly half of respondents required to submit status reports on their replacement efforts complained about a lack of funding.

The head of the Telecommunications Industry Association had said the association was “stunned” to see that the spending package that would allow the government to run through September did not include additional money for the program.

The Rural Wireless Association had also requested further funding, as it claimed its members could not get loans to bridge them over to their statutory requirements.

Lumen mixes up executive leadership

Lumen Technologies announced Thursday changes to its executive team over the coming weeks.

Sham Chotai will be executive vice president of product and technology, Jay Barrows will be vice president of enterprise sales and public sector, and Ashley Haynes-Gaspar will include marketing organization her responsibilities and will take the title of executive vice president of customer experience officer in wholesale and international.

Chotai, who has previously worked in leadership positions at General Electric and Hewlett-Packard, will work to “evolve IT architectures and solutions.” Barrows, who also held leadership positions at GE and Red Hat, will help business and government on their digital futures.

“Lumen is focused on becoming customer obsessed, rapidly innovating valuable solutions, and aligning our business model to deliver amazing customer experiences,” Kate Johnson, Lumen’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “Sham and Jay will each play a critical role in modernizing our business and improving our execution capability to support these goals. Both are agile leaders who have driven successful strategic corporate transformations with impressive results.”

Fiber provider buys data infrastructure investor

Rise Broadband, which provides fiber infrastructure across 16 states, said Thursday it has completed the acquisition of data infrastructure investor GI Partners.

The deal is said to help the Englewood, Colorado-based Rise to expand its hybrid fiber-to-the-home and fixed wireless network.

“Rise Broadband provides essential broadband connectivity with a focus on customers in rural America,” Brendan Scollans, managing director and co-head of GI data infrastructure, said in a press release.

“Rise’s existing network infrastructure is uniquely positioned to execute a fiber expansion effort that will provide rural communities with next generation broadband service,” Scollans added.

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