Former FCC Commissioners Disagree on Future of AI Regulation

The type and speed of AI regulation has implications for innovation and children’s safety.

Former FCC Commissioners Disagree on Future of AI Regulation
Screenshot of Richard Wiley, Former FCC Chairman

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2023 – Former chairs of the Federal Communications Commission urged for lawmakers to slow down in regulating artificial intelligence at a Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council event Tuesday. 

Richard Wiley, chair of the agency under Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, said that now is not the right time to regulate AI, and neither is the FCC the right agency to do the job. He urged lawmakers to wait until the technology is better developed to write long lasting regulations.

“AI is the future of technology in many respects,” said Wiley. “It will provide a great amount of innovation for our country.” He believes that it should not be regulated to allow for innovation.

Former Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn disagreed, warning that Congress should not work too slowly on AI regulation. AI evolution will not slow down, she said, “we can’t sleep on this.” She did not specify how the technology should be regulated.

Clyburn served as acting chairwoman under President Obama, until the confirmation of Tom Wheeler.

There are 17 states where AI legislation has already been introduced, said Clyburn. “Things will happen whether we [federal agencies] move or not,” she said, warning against a patchwork of laws across states that could increase complications for tech companies.

Clyburn added that artificial intelligence will make potentially dangerous material more accessible to vulnerable populations, including children and vulnerable adults. It is a balance of encouraging good innovation and protecting those who could be further harmed by AI, she said, “we cannot stall” on these conversations.

Wiley argued that children’s protection should be in the hands of parents. He suggested that tech developers could provide parents with a set of best practices to help them understand the threats revolving around AI.

Jonathan Adelstein, former commissioner at the FCC from 2002 to 2009, expressed hope that AI will provide a revenue stream for 5G networks. He said that laws should encourage tech development of AI while ensuring that citizens are protected against potential dangers. “It’s a delicate balance, and I’m not sure the FCC is the right place to do it,” he said.

The FCC is currently considering how AI can be used to make congestion control decisions on dynamic spectrum sharing applications. AI has been flagged as a major opportunity for the United States to improve its competitiveness with China. Last week, seven AI companies pledged to uphold key principles that the White House believes are fundamental to the safe future of AI.

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