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Loopholes Allowing Private Purchase Of Chinese Goods Must Be Closed: Commissioner Carr

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Screenshot taken from CSIS event

April 5, 2021 – Loopholes that allow U.S. companies to use private funds to purchase equipment from Chinese-based companies like Huawei and ZTE should be closed, Federal Communications C Commissioner Brendan Carr said Tuesday.

Carr said last week at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that while the U.S. government has been able to prevent companies from spending federal dollars on Chinese telecom equipment, legal loopholes still persist that allow companies to use private funds to purchase such equipment, leaving agencies like the FCC helpless in preventing these transactions.

Communist China has made it clear it wants to dominate the global semiconductor and chip market, and it is not opposed to using forced labor to achieve that goals. Be it garage door openers or computers, nothing should be allowed if it has ties to Uighur-related forced labor, Carr said.

“The CCP is committing genocide—crimes against humanity—in Xinjiang,” he noted.

Carr spoke broadly about the continued threats Chinese telecom equipment poses to U.S. national security interests.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the new Biden administration’s strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy and identified China as the top geopolitical challenge facing the United States.

Commissioner Carr said there are bipartisan commitments to address threats from China, and that the FCC can continue to take steps to protect the U.S.’s 5G network infrastructure, including moving to block approval of devices that contain parts made from companies with ties to “Communist China,” or forced labor from places like Xinjiang.

Born in China and adopted to American Fork, Utah, Reporter Derek Shumway graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in international strategy and diplomacy. At college, he started an LED lightbulb company. word

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Artificial Intelligence

U.S. Chip Export Restrictions Will be ‘Huge Roadblock’ for Chinese AI Competitiveness: Expert

China will need to manufacture advanced chips domestically if it wants to continue researching and implementing AI.

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Photo of Qiheng Chen from the Asia Society

WASHINGTON, August 24, 2023 – China’s ability to remain competitive in the global artificial intelligence race will depend on its ability to produce its own chips, as U.S. restrictions on the export of that product to the adversarial nation will hobble its ability to move forward, experts said Thursday.

“U.S. chip export sanctions are a huge roadblock” for AI development in China, said Qiheng Chen, a senior analyst at consulting firm Compass Lexecon.

The ability to manufacture advanced chips domestically will be essential for the country to continue researching and implementing AI, Chen added at the AI event hosted by the Asia Society Policy Institute.

The Commerce Department imposed in October 2022 restrictions on exports of advanced semiconductors and chip manufacturing equipment to China and required U.S. citizens to get a permit before working with Chinese chip manufacturers.

The move was designed to limit China’s ability to compete with the U.S. by curbing its access to hardware required for cutting-edge military technology. It also makes AI research and development, a highly chip-dependent process, more difficult.

Other panelists Tuesday emphasized chip making as a top priority of the Chinese government.

The country has already moved toward independence from the U.S. in other areas, like satellites and fiber optics, as a response to Trump administration policies.

This has continued under President Joe Biden, with a 2021 executive order restricting investment in Chinese firms drawing criticism from Huawei, the Chinese telecom company.

Experts have previously said the threat of restricting access to global trade even further could make China hesitant to retaliate for the sanctions. This is because advanced chip manufacturing requires materials, components, and processes that would be difficult for a single nation to source entirely within its borders.

“It’s too complex, too global, too interdependent for one country to be able to produce all these technologies on their own,” said Jimmy Goodrich, vice president of Global Policy at the Semiconductor Industry Association, at a conference earlier this year.

A Huawei spokesperson estimated at a conference following the investment ban that it would take three to five years for Chinese chip manufacturing to become self-sufficient and rely less on American components and investments.

Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law last year, two months before the export restrictions went into effect. It allocates $52 billion for American semiconductor manufacturing and gives tax credits for investments in the industry.

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China

Former National Security Advisor Warns of American Semiconductor Weakness Against China

The semiconductor industry in America is vulnerable, warned a former National Security Advisor.

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Screenshot of Robert O'Brien at the Hudson Institute event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2023 – The United States needs to collaborate with its allies to ensure semiconductor supply chain resilience, said a former National Security Advisor.

Robert O’Brien, chairman of strategic advisory firm American Global Strategies, said at a Hudson Institute event Tuesday that the semiconductor industry — the chips that run all electronic devices — is a primary industry of concern for competition with China.

O’Brien urged the government to cooperate with allies to onshore, moving plants onto domestic land, and “friend-shore,” moving plants into allying countries, manufacturing plants. Failing to do so will subject the U.S. and its allies to additional risks in the future, he said. 

The United States’ advantage is that it has “real allies” that share its beliefs and values, particularly for liberty and a free market, said O’Brien. In contrast, China has very few allies that share its values and are not paid for their loyalty, he said. He urged the U.S. to capitalize on its strengths. 

There are many countries, including Philippines, Thailand, India, and Mexico that have manufacturing capability that can support American demand in place of China, he said. 

Beijing is not interested in being an economic partner, O’Brien warned. In 2020, the country had over 22,000 companies in the semiconductor industry. The sector only continues to grow as China’s policies provide incentives for companies to produce at scale.  

Appeasement and negotiation are not options when dealing with China, said O’Brien. China does not play by the same rules as western states, it generates wealth by stealing the intellectual property of American companies. There is no way to compete with China if we continue to allow theft to happen, he said. 

Ultimately, the competition between the countries is not a squabble over ideals, but instead a fight between liberty and the “worst form” of totalitarianism, claimed O’Brien. For this reason, he suggested that the Biden Administration take measures to limit American private investment in the Chinese government. 

President Joe Biden’s Investing in America initiative is investing billions of dollars into the United States’ domestic manufacturing. Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS and Science Act in 2021 which invest in America’s electric vehicle and green energy plans and semiconductor manufacturing. 

Biden ran his presidential election campaign on his initiative to move companies onshore, defend American supply chains, and create more jobs. According to the White House, the agenda has “already attracted hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment and created nearly 800,000 new manufacturing jobs in everything from semiconductors and electric car batteries to clean energy technology and more.” 

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Experts Debate TikTok Ban, Weighing National Security Against Free Speech

Although many experts agree TikTok poses a threat, some believe a ban is the wrong solution.

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WASHINGTON, May 26, 2023 — With lawmakers ramping up their rhetoric against TikTok, industry and legal experts are divided over whether a ban is the best solution to balance competing concerns about national security and free speech.

Proponents of a TikTok ban argue that the app poses an “untenable threat” because of the amount of data it collects — including user location, search history and biometric data — as well as its relationship with the Chinese government, said Joel Thayer, president of the Digital Progress Institute, at a debate hosted Wednesday by Broadband Breakfast.

These fears have been cited by state and federal lawmakers in a wide range of proposals that would place various restrictions on TikTok, including a controversial bill that would extend to all technologies connected to a “foreign adversary.” More than two dozen states have already banned TikTok on government devices, and Montana recently became the first state to ban the app altogether.

TikTok on Monday sued Montana over the ban, arguing that the “unprecedented and extreme step of banning a major platform for First Amendment speech, based on unfounded speculation about potential foreign government access to user data and the content of the speech, is flatly inconsistent with the Constitution.”

Thayer contested the lawsuit’s claim, saying that “the First Amendment does not prevent Montana or the federal government from regulating non expressive conduct, especially if it’s illicit.”

However, courts have consistently held that the act of communicating and receiving information cannot be regulated separately from speech, said David Greene, civil liberties director and senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“This is a regulation of expression — it’s a regulation of how people communicate with each other and how they receive communications,” he said.

Stringent regulations could protect privacy without suppressing speech

A complete ban of TikTok suppresses far more speech than is necessary to preserve national security interests, making less intrusive options preferable, said Daniel Lyons, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

TikTok is currently engaged in a $1.5 billion U.S. data security initiative that will incorporate several layers of government and private sector oversight into its privacy and content moderation practices, in addition to moving all U.S. user data to servers owned by an Austin-based software company.

This effort, nicknamed Project Texas, “strikes me as a much better alternative that doesn’t have the First Amendment problems that an outright TikTok ban has,” Lyons said.

Greene noted that many online platforms — both within and outside the U.S. — collect and sell significant amounts of user data, creating the potential for foreign adversaries to purchase it.

“Merely focusing on TikTok is an underinclusive way of addressing these concerns about U.S. data privacy,” he said. “It would be really great if Congress would actually take a close look at comprehensive data privacy legislation that would address that problem.”

Greene also highlighted the practical barriers to banning an app, pointing out that TikTok is accessible through a variety of alternative online sources. These sources tend to be much less secure than the commonly used app stores, meaning that a ban focused on app stores is actually “making data more vulnerable to foreign exploitation,” he said.

TikTok risks severe enough to warrant some action, panelists agree

Although concerns about suppressing speech are valid, the immediate national security risks associated with the Chinese government accessing a massive collection of U.S. user data are severe enough to warrant consideration of a ban, said Anton Dahbura, executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute.

“Will it hurt people who are building businesses from it? Absolutely,” he said. “But until we have safeguards in place, we need to be cautious about business as usual.”

These safeguards should include security audits, data flow monitoring and online privacy legislation, Dahbura continued.

Thayer emphasized the difference between excessive data collection practices and foreign surveillance.

“I think we all agree that there should be a federal privacy law,” he said. “That doesn’t really speak to the fact that there are potential backdoors, that there are these potential avenues to continue to surveil… So I say, why not both?”

Lyons agreed that TikTok’s “unique threat” might warrant action beyond a general privacy law, but maintained that a nationwide ban was “far too extreme.”

Even if further action against TikTok is eventually justified, Greene advocated for federal privacy legislation to be the starting point.  “We’re spending a lot of time talking about banning TikTok, which again, is going to affect millions of Americans… and we’re doing nothing about having data broadly collected otherwise,” he said. “At a minimum, our priorities are backwards.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023 – Debate: Should the U.S. Ban TikTok?

Since November, more than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government devices. Montana recently became the first state to pass legislation that would ban the app altogether, and several members of Congress have advocated for extending a similar ban to the entire country. Is TikTok’s billion-dollar U.S. data security initiative a meaningful step forward, or just an empty promise? How should lawmakers navigate competing concerns about national security, free speech, mental health and a competitive marketplace? This special session of Broadband Breakfast Live Online will engage advocates and critics in an Oxford-style debate over whether the U.S. should ban TikTok.

Panelists

Pro-TikTok Ban

  • Anton Dahbura, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute
  • Joel Thayer, President, Digital Progress Institute

Anti-TikTok Ban

  • David Greene, Civil Liberties Director and Senior Staff Attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Daniel Lyons, Nonresident Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Moderator

  • Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Anton Dahbura serves as co-director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Assured Autonomy, and is the executive director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Since 2012, he has been an associate research scientist in the Department of Computer Science. Dahbura is a fellow at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, served as a researcher at AT&T Bell Laboratories, was an invited lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Princeton University and served as research director of the Motorola Cambridge Research Center.

Joel Thayer, president of the Digital Progress Institute, was previously was an associate at Phillips Lytle. Before that, he served as Policy Counsel for ACT | The App Association, where he advised on legal and policy issues related to antitrust, telecommunications, privacy, cybersecurity and intellectual property in Washington, DC. His experience also includes working as legal clerk for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen.

David Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has significant experience litigating First Amendment issues in state and federal trial and appellate courts. He currently serves on the steering committee of the Free Expression Network, the governing committee of the ABA Forum on Communications Law, and on advisory boards for several arts and free speech organizations across the country. Before joining EFF, David was for twelve years the executive director and lead staff counsel for First Amendment Project.

Daniel Lyons is a professor and the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Boston College Law School, where he teaches telecommunications, administrative and cyber law. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on telecommunications and internet regulation. Lyons has testified before Congress and state legislatures, and has participated in numerous proceedings at the Federal Communications Commission.

Drew Clark (moderator) is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Graphic by SF Freelancer/Adobe Stock used with permission

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As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

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