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House and Senate Tackle Semiconductor Chip Shortages and Seek to Boost U.S. Production

How COVID and supply chain woes are driving $52 billion in incentives for domestic production of semiconductor chips.



Photo of Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger courtesy Web Summit

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2022 – Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington have made explicit the need to tackle the supply chain crisis and semiconductor shortage by introducing and pushing forward separate pieces of legislation that emphasize more domestic autonomy. But the path of these pieces of legislation isn’t exactly cut-and-dried.

Despite a key bill that would make available $52 billion in incentives for the domestic production of semiconductor chips – critical for computers, cars and networking equipment – passing both chambers, one key Republican said his party has been largely shut out of contributing to the language of the legislation.

Representative John Curtis, R-Utah, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Broadband Breakfast this month that Republicans have been shut out of legislative discussions for the past year as the Democratic party has enjoyed a majority in the House and the Senate.

Curtis, who is also head of the Conservative Climate Caucus, said he has yet to be approached by the White House on what seems to be a larger piece of the Biden policy plan for semiconductor and supply chain independence.

This sentiment among House Republicans has created friction as the bill heads to conference committee, which is designed to bring both parties to the table to hammer out language they can agree on before it goes to the president for signing.

Conferees were appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on April 7, just before the House began its Easter break. Sorting out difference between the House-passed and Senate-passed versions is likely to be one of the first items of business when representatives return to Washington next week.

Broadband Breakfast has been following the intertwining issue of the supply chain crisis and the U.S.’s ambitions to be more independent when it comes to producing the chips needed to power the future.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has held up key supplies in foreign lands and as domestic law and policy have moved to shore up national security by banning Chinese-made products from the country’s networks and more, this publication will outline the key bills that both chambers are mulling over.

The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and the COMPETES Act

The first of these bills is the United States Innovation and Competition Act, S.1260. Passed by the Senate in June 2021 with a margin of 68-32, this bill provides funding through fiscal year 2026 to support domestic semiconductor manufacturing, research and development and supply chain security. It also targets funding for wireless supply chain innovation.

The initial goal was for this bill to go to the House for votes, but the House instead presented a bill with similar goals – the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength Act of 2022 (America COMPETES Act of 2022, H.R. 4521) – which was introduced in the summer of 2021.

It passed the House on February 4 by a margin of 222-210, demonstrating the tension between the parties, and then passed the Senate in late March by a 68-28 spread.

The Competes Act must now go to the aforementioned conference committee to iron out the party differences. After that is done, the bill will make another voting trip through both chambers and, if successful, out to the president for signing.

“Over the past year, the House and Senate have acted independently to pass their own versions of competitiveness legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on March 17, as he addressed the Senate. “To reconcile the differences between these bills, both chambers must enter a conference before we send the final product to the president’s desk.”

The CHIPS funding proposal

The separate bills have common ground in that they both call for injecting $52 billion over five years into the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) For America Fund, a Treasury Department coffer that was created through the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

That money will be divided into a $39-billion financial incentives program and an $11-billion research and development program.

Mike Molnar, the founding director of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, which is responsible for the Manufacturing USA program, said during a question-and-answer session about the CHIPS program Tuesday that the money is “not too much” and that both the incentives program and the R&D program must be paired for their goal to be achieved.

The federal government has been fielding comments since January about the makeup of the program, which will go toward producing chips and semiconductors that may otherwise be imported from countries like Taiwan, China, and South Korea.

Pressure mounts for some form of legislation

In March, a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard that only 12 percent of chip manufacturing occurs in America, and 6 percent of that comes from Intel. However, while Intel – which appeared with three other technology companies at the hearing – has remained primarily U.S.-based, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said that other countries can make the same chips it makes for 30-80 percent cheaper.

Intel is currently scheduled to break ground this year on a $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing “mega-site” in rural Ohio.

Gelsinger also shared that many overseas companies have government subsidies and incentives, which makes it easier and cheaper for them to make the chips. He said this is a key reason why Congress needs to pass the competitive legislative bill with the CHIPS funding included in the final product.

In February of 2021, President Joe Biden signed the executive order on America’s supply chains to begin efforts to restore America’s supply chains, and this past February, exactly one year later, the administration released a comprehensive plan based on the results of their work correlated with the executive order.

The report evaluated the current state of the supply chain, including as it affects technology, how the U.S. can develop its own manufacturing assets, where those assets would fit in the current supply chain, and how it would affect competition.

It’s reports such as those that add credence to lawmakers pushing for funding pieces such as those under the America COMPETES Act, which may still have some ways to go before the president himself can approve it.

Reporter Ashlan Gruwell studied political science at Brigham Young University. She has immersed herself in principles of American politics and voter behavior. She also enjoys traveling internationally and hopes to visit the Nordic Region of Europe next.

Artificial Intelligence

Sen. Bennet Urges Companies to Consider ‘Alarming’ Child Safety Risks in AI Chatbot Race

Several leading tech companies have rushed to integrate their own AI-powered applications



Photo of Sen. Michael Bennet in 2019 by Gage Skidmore, used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2023 — Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Tuesday urged the companies behind generative artificial intelligence products to anticipate and mitigate the potential harms that AI-powered chatbots pose to underage users.

“The race to deploy generative AI cannot come at the expense of our children,” Bennet wrote in a letter to the heads of Google, OpenAI, Meta, Microsoft and Snap. “Responsible deployment requires clear policies and frameworks to promote safety, anticipate risk and mitigate harm.”

In response to the explosive popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, several leading tech companies have rushed to integrate their own AI-powered applications. Microsoft recently released an AI-powered version of its Bing search engine, and Google has announced plans to make a conversational AI service “widely available to the public in the coming weeks.”

Social media platforms have followed suit, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying the company plans to “turbocharge” its AI development the same day Snapchat launched a GPT-powered chatbot called My AI.

These chatbots have already demonstrated “alarming” interactions, Bennet wrote. In response to a researcher posing as a child, My AI gave instructions for lying to parents about an upcoming trip with a 31-year-old man and for covering up a bruise ahead of a visit from Child Protective Services.

A Snap Newsroom post announcing the chatbot acknowledged that “as with all AI-powered chatbots, My AI is prone to hallucination and can be tricked into saying just about anything.”

Bennet criticized the company for deploying My AI despite knowledge of its shortcomings, noting that 59 percent of teens aged 13 to 17 use Snapchat. “Younger users are at an earlier stage of cognitive, emotional, and intellectual development, making them more impressionable, impulsive, and less equipped to distinguish fact from fiction,” he wrote.

These concerns are compounded by an escalating youth mental health crisis, Bennet added. In 2021, more than half of teen girls reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless and one in three seriously contemplated suicide, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Against this backdrop, it is not difficult to see the risk of exposing young people to chatbots that have at times engaged in verbal abuse, encouraged deception and suggested self-harm,” the senator wrote.

Bennet’s letter comes as lawmakers from both parties are expressing growing concerns about technology’s impact on young users. Legislation aimed at safeguarding children’s online privacy has gained broad bipartisan support, and several other measures — ranging from a minimum age requirement for social media usage to a slew of regulations for tech companies — have been proposed.

Many industry experts have also called for increased AI regulation, noting that very little legislation currently governs the powerful technology.

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VON Evolution Conference Will Address Intersection of Telecom, AI, 5G and Blockchain

The New York City event on April 18 aims to foster conversations through a salon-like atmosphere.



Screenshot of Vonage Founder Jeff Pulver from video introducing VON: Evolution

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2023 — Industry leaders and innovators will come together to discuss the latest advancements in telecom, artificial intelligence, 5G and blockchain at the recently announced VON: Evolution conference on April 18.

Through a series of fireside chats and in-depth conversations, VON: Evolution will examine modern communication technologies and look toward the future. In addition to featuring insights from industry experts, the New York City event aims to foster a salon-like atmosphere, facilitating thought-provoking conversations between attendees.

VON: Evolution will be curated by Jeff Pulver, founder of Vonage and a prominent voice-over-IP entrepreneur.

“Industries and technologies are intersecting and they will continue to at a rapid rate,” Pulver said. “By holding the VON: Evolution salon, the goal is to bring to light what’s really emerging, by having conversations with the actual creators who can bring greater insight and perspective, and enable others at the forefront of advancements to be engaging across the four industries, not just in their own ecosystems.”

Speakers at the conference will address a wide range of topics, with a particular emphasis on the intersections of multiple technologies. The digital program features a full list of topics and speakers, including Althea CEO Deborah Simpier, Foursquare Co-Founder Dennis Crowley, Agoric COO Michael Jablon and several others.

Broadband Breakfast is a sponsor of VON: Evolution. Use promo code “broadband” for a 10 percent discount on the registration price.

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Artificial Intelligence

Oversight Committee Members Concerned About New AI, As Witnesses Propose Some Solutions

Federal government can examine algorithms for generative AI, and coordinate with states on AI labor training.




Photo of Eric Schmidt from December 2011 by Kmeron used with permission

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2023 –  In response to lawmakers’ concerns over the impacts on certain artificial intelligence technologies, experts said at an oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday that more government regulation would be necessary to stem their negative impacts.

Relatively new machine learning technology known as generative AI, which is designed to create content on its own, has taken the world by storm. Specific applications such as the recently surfaced ChatGPT, which can write out entire novels from basic user inputs, has drawn both marvel and concern.

Such AI technology can be used to encourage cheating behaviors in academia as well as harm people through the use of  deep fakes, which uses AI to superimpose a user in a video. Such AI can be used to produce “revenge pornography” to harass, silence and blackmail victims.

Aleksander Mądry, professor of Cadence Design Systems of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the subcommittee that AI is a very fast moving technology, meaning the government needs to step in to confirm the objectives of the companies and whether the algorithms match the societal benefits and values. These generative AI technologies are often limited to their human programming and can also display biases.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, raised concerns about this type of AI replacing human jobs. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO and now chair of the AI development initiative known as the Special Competitive Studies Project, said that if this AI can be well-directed, it can aid people in obtaining higher incomes and actually creating more jobs.

To that point, Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts., raised the question of how much progress the government has made or still needs in AI development.

Schmidt said governments across the country need to look at bolstering the labor force to keep up.

“I just don’t see the progress in government to reform the way of hiring and promoting technical people,” he said. “This technology is too new. You need new students, new ideas, new invention – I think that’s the fastest way.

“On the federal level, the easiest thing to do is to come up with some program that’s ministered by the state or by leading universities and getting them money so that they can build these programs.”

Schmidt urged lawmakers last year to create a digital service academy to train more young American students on AI, cybersecurity and cryptocurrency, reported Axios.

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