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California Social Media Law, Rosenworcel Deep in Space, Changes at I3 Connectivity Explorer

The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom will limit the online collection of children’s data.

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September 16, 2022 – California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law a bill designed to shield children from data gathering and other online harms.

Effective July 1, 2024, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will limit the online collection of children’s data by any business that “provides an online service, product, or feature likely to be accessed by children.” The act also forbids the usage of children’s data in a manner “the business knows, or has reason to know, is materially detrimental to the physical health, mental health, or well-being of a child” and limits businesses’ ability to dispose of such data, among other measures. To ensure compliance, businesses would be required to establish the age of online users and issue reports to state officials.

“We’re taking aggressive action in California to protect the health and wellbeing of our kids,” said Newsom. “As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online.”

Critics of the act say that the age verification requirement jeopardizes the privacy of all Californians – young and old alike. Professor Eric Goldman of Santa Clara Law wrote: “Identity authentication functionally eliminates anonymous online activity and all unattributed activity and content on the Internet. This would hurt many communities, such as minorities concerned about revealing their identity (e.g., LGBTQ), pregnant women seeking information about abortions, and whistleblowers.”

This isn’t the Golden State’s only stab at internet regulation this week: Newsom signed a social media and transparency bill into law on Tuesday.

A.B. 587 will require social media platforms to submit to the state attorney general a semiannual report including terms of service, definitions of certain categories of content including “hate speech,” “disinformation,” and “foreign political interference,” and content-moderation policies – as well a detailed history of how those policies were implemented.

 Platforms will also be required to publicize terms of service, the process by which users can flag content in violation thereof, and content moderation polices. The bill applies only to platforms with an annual gross revenue of $100 million or more.

Rosenworcel looks to the sky

Federal Commutations Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Wednesday laid out the agency’s three-point plan to promote space commerce, including the reformation of existing regulatory framework, the support for the innovation of in-space technologies, and the shortening of the window for removal of satellite debris from 25 years to five.

Speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit in Washington, Rosenworcel committed to fostering in-space service, assembly, and manufacturing technologies, which allow work to be done on satellites while in orbit. In addition, she cited the FCC’s recent opening of the 17 GigaHertz (GHz) band as a model for future spectrum permitting to support of space projects.

The FCC’s chairwoman also hailed the FCC’s historical role in space commerce going back to the launch of the Telstar 1 satellite in 1962.

“Telstar 1 reminds us that the United States is the place where we look to the skies, dream big, and make it happen,” Rosenworcel said. “That’s why I’m here today. I’m here because the FCC had big dreams for America’s first space age. And we have big dreams now for America’s second space age.”

CrowdFiber to begin operating I3 Connectivity Explorer

Broadband-network facilitator CrowdFiber will take control of the I3 Connectivity Explorer effective September 21, the Center for Internet as Infrastructure announced Thursday.

A subsidiary of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, CrowdFiber provides mapping services, gathers member and non-member feedback, and financial analysis – among other features. The NRTC markets it as a one-stop solution for any entity building or operating a broadband network.

“This welcome development will introduce the resource to the 1,500 member organizations of the NRTC,” said Robert Ballance, founder of the Center.

The CII’s I3 Connectivity Explorer maps the operations of internet service providers, integrating local and regional-level data – i.e., at the level of towns, counties, congressional districts, etc. – from government agencies and other public sources.

Ballance said that his group would prioritize the needs of its users: “We’re working together to make this transition as frictionless as possible for current users while fully respecting your privacy and ensuring the privacy of your data.”

Broadband Roundup

CHIPS Act Rules Against China, Idaho State Broadband Funds, FCC Combats Hidden Fees

Commerce Department’s new proposal would limit CHIPS Act recipients from investing in other countries

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March 23, 2023 – The Department of Commerce released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to limit recipients of the CHIPS and Science Act from investing in the expansion of semiconductor manufacturing in foreign countries of concern such as People’s Republic of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to Commerce department press release Tuesday.

“The innovation and technology funded in the CHIPS Act is how we plan to expand the technological and national security advantages of America and our allies; these guardrails will help ensure we stay ahead of adversaries for decades to come,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“CHIPS for America is fundamentally a national security initiative and these guardrails will help ensure malign actors do not have access to the cutting-edge technology that can be used against America and our allies.”

In addition to the national security guardrails the CHIPS and Science Act already included, these new proposed rules would prohibit significant transactions for leading-edge and advanced facilities in foreign countries of concern for 10 years from the date of award; limit the expansion of existing legacy facilities and prohibit recipients from adding new production lines or expanding a facility’s production capacity beyond 10 percent; classify semiconductors as critical to national security; and impose restrictions on joint research and technology licensing efforts with foreign entities of concern.

The Commerce Department is now seeking comments for 60 days.

Idaho invests $125 million in state funds for broadband deployment

Idaho on Monday passed legislation to spend $125 million in state funds on broadband deployments as a part of it’s “Idaho First” plan, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The state plans to spend an additional $100 million is nearing legislative approval.

“In a data-driven society, connectivity is imperative for a strong economy. Improved broadband infrastructure means both urban and rural Idaho will be connected and well-positioned to attract business and enhance our citizens’ quality of life,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

“I appreciate my legislative partners for prioritizing these new ‘Idaho First’ investments in broadband expansion,” said Little. “Together, we are ensuring a kid in Pierce can learn online with a kid from Pocatello and a senior citizen in Challis can connect to her doctor in Chubbuck. This is about all about connecting Idaho and improving lives.”

Both of these two states could receive millions more in broadband funding through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program.

Cable and broadcast satellite providers must offer customers what they charge and why they charge

A new proposal introduced by Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel would require cable operators and direct broadcast satellite providers to specify their prices for video programming service in both their promotional materials and on subscribers’ bills, so that customers will not be confused, according to a Wednesday press release.

According to the proposal, cable and DBS providers need to include separate lines on each payment bill and promotional material for broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and fees for other programs that customers might sign up but without clear understanding.

“Consumers deserve to know what exactly they are paying for when they sign up for a cable or broadcast satellite subscription. No one likes surprises on their bill, especially families on tight budgets,” Rosenworcel said in the statement.

“We’re working to make it so the advertised price for a service is the price you pay when your bill arrives and isn’t littered with anything that resembles junk fees.”

This proposal of consumer protection is “latest in the Commission’s price transparency and increased competitiveness initiatives” which also includes the nation’s first Broadband Nutrition Label, that requires broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels to allow consumers to compare broadband service shop and choose for their own, according to the press release.

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Space Bills Get Markup, Cybersecurity Reserve Bills Introduced, Gigabit Center Opens in Crown Heights, NY

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act are scheduled for mark-up on Thursday.

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Photo of Cathy McMorris Rodgers in 2015 by Gage Skidmore

March 23, 2023 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a mark-up meeting on Thursday to consider pieces of legislation that will “keep America at the forefront of next-generation communications technology,” according to a press release.

The Secure Space Act and the Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act introduced by Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. in December last year will be among those going through the line-by-line process on Thursday.

The Secure Space Act prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from issuing satellite licenses or other related authorizations to untrusted actors, based on the framework adopted in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Satellite and Telecommunications Streamlining Act clarifies FCC authority with the goal of promoting responsible use of space, incentivizing investment and innovation, and advancing U.S. leadership.

“America is leading the way in next-generation satellite technologies, which are contributing to a revolution in the communications marketplace,” the representatives said in a statement. “To make sure the U.S. – not China – continues to lead this global industry, we must streamline our regulatory processes to unleash innovation while also ensuring our laws fully protect the American public.”

Bills to ensure cybersecurity reserves in government introduced

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Sens. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., would establish pilot programs that would hire civilian cybersecurity personnel in reserve to “ensure the U.S. government has the talent needed to defeat, deter, or respond to malicious cyber activity, especially at times of greatest need.”

The bills, some versions of which were previously introduced but did not pass, would establish the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve pilot programs within the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Cybersecurity threats targeting the United States continue to grow in scale and scope, demonstrating the urgent need for robust civilian cyber reserves capable of addressing these threats and protecting our nation,”  Rosen said in a press release on Tuesday“Our bipartisan legislation will help ensure the U.S. government can leverage existing cybersecurity talent from the private sector to help our nation deter and swiftly respond to cyberattacks.”

The bills comes at a time when federal agencies are “experiencing a growing shortage of cybersecurity talent,” the release said.

“As the cyber domain continues to expand in size and complexity, so should our cyber workforce,” Blackburn said. “By creating a reserve corps similar to our National Guard or Army Reserve, we can ensure the U.S. has qualified, capable, and service-oriented American talent that is necessary to address cyber vulnerabilities and keep our nation secure.”

Gigabit Center to provide free internet to students in Crown Heights, NY

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, which will provide free internet resources for students, opened in Crown Heights, New York on Wednesday.

The center will provide free high-speed Wi-Fi, technology, education and school supplies to Crown Height, New York, an area where 36 percent of households lack broadband, according to the press release.

The center opened with a press conference hosted by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams, LinkNYC, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation, digital infrastructure company ZenFi Networks, and tech education non-profit Digital Girl, according to a ZenFi Networks press release.

ZenFi Networks has previously opened centers in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens to help the local communities to learn and adopt to modern technologies.

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DOJ Investigates TikTok, Google’s Generative AI Tool, Charter Counsel Retiring

An internal TikTok investigation found employees had allegedly spied on journalists, the Times reported.

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Photo of Sundar Pichai from 2021 by World Economic Forum used with permission

March 21 – Federal authorities are investigating Chinese-owned video sharing app TikTok over allegations its spying over journalists, reported The New York Times on Friday.

Three people familiar with the case told the Times that the Department of Justice has been investigating the company ByteDance after internal emails showed the company had conducted an internal investigation and “found employees gained access to data from two journalists and people associated with them,” the Times said.

According to the Times, a spokesperson said the company “strongly” condemns the actions of the four employees who obtained the data on the journalists and are no longer working for the company.

The investigation comes during a time Washington and state governments are on heightened alert of the app they say is a national security risk. A new memorandum by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget published in February outlines how agencies are to identify and ban problematic software, like TikTok, from government devices and networks.

Senators have also introduced the RESTRICT Act to further strength national cybersecurity by empowering the Department of Commerce to examine critical infrastructure products and ensure “comprehensive actions to address risks of untrusted foreign information communications and technology products.”

Google releases new Bard generative AI tool for trialing  

Google has released an artificial intelligence tool intended to assist users in daily tasks, the search engine giant’s attempt to enter the generative AI space shared by the popular ChatGPT application.

Called Bard, the tool allows users to use the generative AI software as a personal assistant to ask the machine to come up with ways to accomplish tasks. The tool presents a chat box that the user inputs questions into, with the “large language model” generating tips automatically.

Google said the machine is in “experiment” mode and is asking users to contribute to its refinement.

Bard comes a week after OpenAI, the company behind generative AI tool ChatGPT, announced the latest version of the tool that has been able to craft novels using basic prompts. In the latest version, the tool has been able to create websites and versions of 2D video games.

Its power has concerned lawmakers and has sparked calls by experts for its regulation.

Aleksander Mądry, professor of Cadence Design Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent subcommittee hearing that generative 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.

In January, ChatGPT eclipsed 100 million monthly users.

Charter’s executive vice president is retiring

Richard Dykhouse, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Charter Communications, is set to retire from his position, but will remain until the company picks a successor, the cable company announced Monday.

“Rick has played a significant role in Charter’s transformation and growth story – including its reorganization in 2009, the acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and the largest-ever integration of cable companies,” Chris Winfrey, Charter’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “I am grateful for Rick’s leadership, advice and sound judgment over the years and pleased that he will continue to assist us throughout the transition to his successor.”

Once the company finds the right person, Dykhouse will remain as executive counsel to support the transition, the release said.

Dykhouse joined Charter in 2006.

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