AI Transparency Bill, Counties Opposed Permitting Bill, Robocalls Down But Costs Up

The bill would require the federal government to notify the public when agencies use AI.

AI Transparency Bill, Counties Opposed Permitting Bill, Robocalls Down But Costs Up
Photo of Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., in 2018 from his website

April 12, 2023 – Senators introduced another bill last week to regulate how the government communicates its use of artificial intelligence.

The Transparent Automated Governance Act aims to improve transparency of the government use of AI. It would require federal agencies to notify the public each time they employ AI for public interaction or “critical” decision making.

“This bipartisan bill will ensure taxpayers know when they are interacting with certain federal AI systems and establishes a process for people to get answers about why these systems are making certain decisions,” Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan — who introduced the bill last Thursday along with Mike Braun, R-Indiana, and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma — said in a statement.

The proposed bills are the most recent in a long line of efforts calling for the government to take the lead in AI regulations and provide greater AI transparency in federal agencies.

On Friday, senators introduced a bill that would create a new office tasked with assessing U.S. leadership in science, technology and innovation in advanced manufacturing, workforce development, supply chain resilience and research and development initiatives.

Local government oppose permitting bills that passed committee

Local governments have come out in opposition of a bill passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that preempts their authority over the deployment of telecommunication equipment on infrastructure.

The National Association of Counties released a statement on May 26 expressing concerns over certain parts of the American Broadband Deployment Act of 2023, which would limit local governments’ regulatory power over the placement of wireless technologies on structures to speed up deployment. The NAC also flagged the “deemed granted” provisions which automatically grant requests for telecommunications projects if the local government failed to decide within a certain timeframe.

Introduced in May, the bill aims to “streamline federal, state, and local permitting and regulatory reviews to expedite the deployment of communications facilities.” In a letter to the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, the association of counties and other local stakeholders pointed out that the lack of local inputs would do more harm than good.

“We fear the unintended consequence of some of these bills will be to impose costs on local governments, burdens on our taxpayers, interference with public safety and otherwise harm local protections that are the heart of localism without substantively improving broadband deployment,” read the letter.

This bill was part of a markup process of 19 bills, one of which would restore the Federal Communications Commission’s spectrum license authority. The House has yet to take action on these legislations.

Robocalls have decreased, but cost of scams have gone up

A report from Robokiller on June 8 shows the number of robocalls has decreased, but the total cost of phone scams has gone up.

While the number of robocalls has decreased by 10 percent for the third month in a row, the number of robotexts has increased by 9 percent to 14.2 billion texts in May, the data company said. Many of these fraudulent texts pose as delivery updates and include links soliciting sensitive information or asking the user to install malware on the recipient’s phone.

Robokiller predicts the number of robotexts will continue to rise through 2023, with losses already reaching $12 billion, up 58 percent from the previous year.

Despite the decline in overall spam call volume, Americans continue to lose more money to scammers, the report said. So far in 2023, consumers have lost $29 billion to robocalls, outpacing the $20.6 billion lost in 2022.

“Scammers are getting better results despite fewer calls, signifying they continue to refine their tactics and double down on scams that work,” said the report.

The Federal Communications Commission has been trying to tackle the robocall problem, instituting increasingly strict rules on providers, fines on those who don’t follow the rules, and booting off the networks those that do not comply. Yet some experts have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the robocall enforcement framework.

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