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Digital Literacy Legislation, Scott Woods Interview, Kim Kardashian Crypto Scam

Brenda Lawrence, a democratic representative from Michigan, introduced new legislation that will help measure the nation’s digital literacy.

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Scott Woods, director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration

January 13, 2022 — Representative Brenda Lawrence, D-Michigan, introduced legislation Wednesday that would bring government agencies together to address digital literacy.

The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission Act hopes to streamline the federal government’s approach to digital literacy by bringing together agency heads and experts to assess digital literacy in the United States, recommend how to measure digital literacy, and promote interagency cooperation. Right now there is no commonly used metric to measure digital literacy.

“As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re investing billions to expand access to broadband,” Lawrence said of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in November. “Laying down the fiber is a strong first step to connect Americans around the country, but this effort won’t be as effective if people can’t use the online tools they’ve been given.”

The Digital Literacy and Equity Commission would be chaired by the Secretary of Education and the chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel.

The legislation would require the commission to submit a report to Congress that contains recommendations on how to improve and maintain the digital and information literacy of individuals in the United States.

The commission will need to address low-income and disadvantaged areas and submit a final report with strategies to improve digital literacy through early education and community outreach.

Interview with Scott Woods at Broadband.Money

Scott Woods, director of the Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives in the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, will meet on Friday with Broadband Breakfast reporter, Justin Perkins for an “Ask Me Anything!” style interview for Broadband.Money.

“Scott is a broadband funding, implementation and stakeholder engagement expert and a key member of the OIGC leadership team responsible for implementing the historic $65 billion broadband funding program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA),” Broadband.Money said.

The Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives was established in 2021 to continue the work of the 2018 Minority Broadband Initiative. The intent of both the office and the original initiative was to close the digital divide in underserved communities by partnering with Historically Black Universities.

Woods’ office is the operator of a multitude of broadband and digital equity grant programs, which is why Friday’s conversation will center on providing opportunities for public and private partners wanting to strengthen broadband within their communities.

Kim Kardashian sued for crypto scam

Both celebrity Kim Kardashian and former boxer Floyd Mayweather are being sued by investors for allegedly falsely promoting a cryptocurrency called EthereumMax on their social media accounts.

CNN reports that a “class action lawsuit filed last Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California accuses EthereumMax and its celebrity promoters of working together to artificially inflate the price of the token by making “false or misleading statements” in social media posts.”

The lawsuit alleges that investors who purchased EthereumMax in the early summer of 2021 lost money as a result of the celebrities’ false advertising.

CNN reported that a spokesperson for EthereumMax disputed the lawsuit stating that it was “riddled with misinformation.” Furthermore, CNN said that “representatives for Kardashian and Mayweather were not immediately available when contacted.”

Broadband Roundup

AI Regulation Bill, Quantum Fiber in More Cities, Charter Awarded $60M in Florida Broadband

The AI Disclosure Act would require disclosures on all AI-generated content.

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Photo of Ritchie Torres

Representative Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y. will introduce a bill this week that would require any content generated by artificial intelligence to include a disclaimer noting the source of the content. 

The AI Disclosure Act of 2023 would require that any AI-generated content include the statement, “Disclaimer: this output has been generated by artificial intelligence.” The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for implementation and enforcement of the law. 

“AI is the most revolutionary technology of our time. It has the potential to be a weapon of mass disinformation, dislocation, and destruction,” Torres said in a statement. Regulation of the technology will be “one of the central challenges confronting Congress in the years and decades to come.”  

According to Torres, the disclosure is “the simplest place to start” AI regulation. “Disclosure is by no means a magic bullet but it’s a common-sense starting point to what will surely be a long road to regulation,” Torres said.  

A group of AI experts issued a statement in May claiming that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

The warning comes as Congress focuses its attention on AI regulation, as a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated AI chatbots emerge in the market. 

Quantum Fiber in 18 more cities

Quantum Fiber, a Lumen Technologies brand, announced Monday its gigabit internet speeds are now available in 18 additional cities across the country. 

The additional cities are: Boise in Idaho; Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples and Orlando in Florida; Colorado Springs and Denver in Colorado; Des Moines in Iowa; Las Vegas in Nevada; Minneapolis in Minnesota; Omaha in Nebraska; Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona; Portland in Oregon; Salt Lake City in Utah; and Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver in Washington.

“With each new city, thousands more people gain access to our reliable internet. It’s an investment with rippling benefits for not only families and businesses, but also our larger work to support digital inclusion,” Maxine Moreau, Lumen president of mass markets, said in a press release. 

The company is set to connect more than 500,000 homes and small businesses this year, it said. “We’re excited to expand our fiber footprint with gig and multi-gig internet into these markets,” said Moreau. 

Charter awarded $60M in Florida broadband funding program 

Florida announced Friday that Charter Communications will receive approximately $14.3 million for eight projects across the state as part of the Broadband Opportunity Program. 

The 22 announced awards this round make up $60 million in broadband investments. Providers are required to deploy fiber broadband with 1 Gbps symmetrical download and upload speeds. 

More than $226 million has been awarded through Florida’s Broadband Opportunity Program, which will connect more than 250,000 addresses in the state. The state allocated $400 million of the funds to increase reliable broadband service within the state in a competitive reimbursement grant program

The state was awarded nearly $9 billion through the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Program under the American Rescue Plan Act, which delivered $350 billion to states to support the response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

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Broadband Roundup

Debt Ceiling Bill Passes House, China Warns of AI Risks, Rural Internet Exchanges

Debt legislation will limit federal discretionary spending, facilitate environmental permitting for infrastructure projects.

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Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo of Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday via Shutterstock

June 1, 2023 — The House passed a bill Wednesday night to suspend the debt limit for a further two years on a bipartisan 314-117 vote. 

The legislation was negotiated by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in late May that would suspend the debt ceiling for two years. In exchange, the Biden Administration would be required to limit growth of federal discretionary spending over the next two years to one percent, a budget cut when accounting for increasing inflation rates.  

Biden will also be required to adjust work requirements for certain recipients of food stamps and the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program. 

Suspending the debt limit, which caps U.S. borrowing and is currently set at $31.4 trillion, will allow the government to keep borrowing money as needed to pay its bills. Under this legislation, the new cap will be set at the spending level it has reached when the suspension expires in 2025. 

The legislation includes some minor steps addressing environmental permitting for energy project reviews, although the changes are less sweeping than those proposed by Republications. The agreement as passed by the House amends the National Environmental Policy Act by requiring a single federal agency to lead environmental reviews for infrastructure projects. It also sets a one-year deadline for agencies to issue environmental assessments and a two-year deadline for environmental impact statements.

“These changes will help us build more quickly and responsibly; build more solar, build more wind, EV chargers, transmission, and the other infrastructure we need to secure a clean energy economy,” a White House official said during a media briefing.

The agreement must now pass the Senate and be signed by the president before Monday, June 5, which the U.S. Treasury marked as the day it runs out of funds, to take effect. It now heads to the Senate for a vote where it is expected to pass after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., endorsed it.  

Although the bill received bipartisan support, conservative Republican representatives opposed the bill because it contains only a fraction of the deficit reduction they initially lobbied for, and progressive Democrat representatives opposed the bill over its expansion of work requirements for welfare programs.  

Chinese president warns of AI security risks 

The Chinese Communist Party warned in a statement Tuesday against the possible risks artificial intelligence can pose to political and social issues. 

Chinese President Xi JinPing urged for China to adopt “dedicated efforts to safeguard political security and improve the security governance of internet data and artificial intelligence.”  

He highlighted security concerns regarding advancing technologies and called for the CCP to stay “keenly aware of the complicated and challenging circumstances facing national security and correctly grasping major national security issues.” 

The CCP must be prepared to “deal with worse-case and extreme-case scenario,” Xi said. He called for the establishment of a risk monitoring and early warning system and a “new pattern of development with a new security architecture.” 

This comes a week after State Department officials called for a U.S-led global coalition to set AI regulations. Jennifer Bachus, assistant secretary of state for Cyberspace and Digital Policy, said that the United States and China should not pit against one another, claiming it would “ultimately always lead to a problem.” 

Instead, Bachus called for an alliance of the U.S., the European Union, and Japan to take the lead in creating a legal framework to govern AI.  

“This is the exact moment where the US needs to show leadership,” she said. “This is a shared problem and we need a shared solution.” 

IXP operator to offer solutions to rural regions in U.S. 

Germany-based operator of internet exchanges, DE-CIX, and Connected Nation Internet Exchange Points, a joint venture between nonprofit Connected Nation and Newby Ventures, announced in May a strategic partnership for operation of edge internet exchange points in unserved and underserved markets across the United States. 

The deal will foster the development of new connectivity hubs in rural areas and will seek to “significantly improve” regional internet performance and build new carrier-neutral interconnection facilities in at least 125 communities in 43 states, a press release said. 

With the deal, DE-CIX becomes the IXP platform operator inside CNIXP facilities. IXP’s enable the interconnection and exchange of internet traffic between more than two independent systems. 

“People and businesses – and in particular the research and educational sector – in American cities beyond the major hubs need and deserve better Internet performance – faster, lower latency, more resilient, and more secure access to content, clouds, and applications,” said Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX. 

“An IXP and its ecosystem of connected networks and data centers increases the speed and resilience of Internet connectivity through optimizing the routes for data transport and offering greater redundant data pathways,” read the press release. “It also brings down the costs of connectivity and enables locally bound data to remain local.” 

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Broadband Roundup

Mississippi Gets $151M for Broadband, FCC Commits $15M from ECF, FCC Proposes Fine Against SkySwitch

Mississippi will receive $151 million from Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund.

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Photo of Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo from August 2016 by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi

May 31, 2023 – The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced the approval of  $151.5 million toward high-speed internet projects in Mississippi.

The money Mississippi will receive will be put toward the Broadband Expansion and Accessibility of Mississippi fund. The program will fund three different types of broadband investments: community-based broadband projects, line extensions, and large-scale projects. The state is estimating these funds will connect approximately 47,300 business and homes to affordable, high-speed internet.

The money is being allocated from the Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund, which is part of the Biden administration’s Investing in America agenda.

“The pandemic upended life as we knew it and exposed the stark inequity in access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet in communities across the country, including rural, Tribal, and other underrepresented communities,” Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the treasury, said in a press release. “This funding is a key piece of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments to increase access to high-speed internet for millions of Americans and provide more opportunities to fully participate and compete in the 21st century economy.”

FCC commits another $15 million from Emergency Connectivity Fund

FCC announced Wednesday it is committing another $15 million from the Emergency Connectivity Fund toward connectivity for students away from school.

The latest funding round will go to support approximately 50 schools, five libraries, and 35,000 students, including in New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Delaware, Indiana, and California.

“This program has helped millions of students get the digital tools they need for online learning and connecting with teachers,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a press release. “Today’s funding round is another step in our ongoing work to close the Homework Gap.”

In total, the program has supported 120 consortia, 1,000 libraries, 11,000 schools, and has funded more than eight million broadband connections and almost 13 million connected devices.

Almost $6.7 billion in funding commitments has been approved so far out of the $7.1-billion program

FCC proposes $1.4 million fine against communications service provider

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing a fine of $1.4 million on a communications service provider that allegedly failed to pay fees to four agency funds and regulatory costs.

The FCC says PayG – which is doing business as communications service provider SkySwitch – has between 2018 to 2021 failed to pay $404,416.28 into the Universal Service Fund, the North American Numbering Plan, the Local Number Portability, and the Telecommunications Relay Service Fund.

“Each of these funding mechanisms play a critical role in supporting vital programs for the public that make the United States a global leader in the provision of communications services. Providers must fulfill their responsibilities to meet their deadlines and obligations to pay the full amount of what they owe in a timely manner,” FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Loyaan Egal said in a press release.

PayG will have the opportunity to present its case to the FCC addressing the proposed fine.

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