Executive Briefing June 14, 2019

Congratulations to VFI Advisory Task Force Member, Frank Valdivieso, President and CEO of  Gryphon Consulting! Gryphon Consulting will be one of the inaugural employers for the newly announced Franklin Digital Apprenticeships partnership with the Maryland Department of Labor. You can learn more by listening to Frank’s recent podcast appearance on L&R Communications here.


Financial Times Senate talks on US data privacy law grind to a halt (Paywall)
Talks to create the US’s first national data privacy law have ground to a halt, according to those close to the process, as senators argue over how strict the bill should be. People briefed on the talks have told the Financial Times the handful of senators drafting what could become the US version of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation are struggling to agree on key terms of the bill.

The Hill FCC to vote on proposal for improving broadband mapping
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to vote this summer on a proposal aimed at improving the agency’s data collection practices to gauge nationwide access to high-speed broadband. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that he will circulate an order and report that would “result in more granular and more accurate broadband maps.” The commission will vote on the proposal at its monthly meeting in August.

Engadget FCC authorizes second wave of rural broadband funding
The FCC will authorize $166.8 million to carriers in 22 states to expand broadband access beginning this month. It’s the second round of funding this year from the FCC’s Connect America fund auction, which pays carriers to deploy broadband to underserved rural regions. The funding will go to a variety of different regions, including tribal areas in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. In total, the FCC promised to provide $1.5 billion over the next decade as a part of its Connect America initiative to bring high-speed internet access to over 700,000 homes and businesses in rural areas.

CBS House holds hearing on “deepfakes” and artificial intelligence amid national security concerns
The House Intelligence Committee heard from experts on the threats that so-called “deep fake” videos and other types of artificial intelligence-generated synthetic data pose to the U.S. election system and national security at large. Witnesses at Thursday’s hearing included professors from the University of Maryland, University at Buffalo and other experts on AI and digital policy. In a statement, the committee says it aims to “examine the national security threats posed by AI-enabled fake content, what can be done to detect and combat it, and what role the public sector, the private sector, and society as a whole should play to counter a potentially grim, ‘post-truth’ future,” during Thursday’s hearing.


Fortune Microsoft President Says ‘Hipster Antitrust’ Is Coming
Brad Smith was a top lawyer at Microsoft when the company was locked in epic regulatory battles with the U.S. and European governments in the 1990s, so he knows a thing or two about antitrust. Today, he believes that attitudes about corporate monopolies are changing and that this could bring about significant modifications in policy. Speaking Monday evening at Fortune‘s annual CEO Initiative in New York City, Smith said he believes U.S. regulators will start to look beyond consumer prices to companies’ overall behavior as a test for anti-competitive behavior.

Fast Company How the tech industry created a teaching corps for rural schools
Computer science offerings have grown over the past 10 years, but rigorous courses can be hard to come by, especially in rural areas. While 58% of rural schools report teaching some type of computer science class, less than half of those actually teach coding, and only 8% offer an Advanced Placement option. TEALS, a free program run by Microsoft Philanthropies, addresses one of the largest barriers school leaders cite to being able to teach computer science: finding experienced teachers. Now 10 years old, TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) reached nearly 500 schools this academic year across 27 states, D.C., and British Columbia, or 15,500 students.

AP News ‘Homework gap’ shows millions of students lack home internet
With no computer or internet at home, Raegan Byrd’s homework assignments present a nightly challenge: How much can she get done using just her smartphone? She is among nearly 3 million students around the country who face struggles keeping up with their studies because they must make do without home internet. In classrooms, access to laptops and the internet is nearly universal. But at home, the cost of internet service and gaps in its availability create obstacles in urban areas and rural communities alike.

AgriPulse Groups call for rural broadband rulemaking (Paywall)
A group of 25 organizations is calling on the FCC to open a further notice of proposed rulemaking that grease the wheels for rural broadband access using TV “white spaces,” or unused spectrum between TV channels.

The Hill Maine governor signs bill banning internet providers from selling consumer data without consent
Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed into law one of the nation’s strongest privacy bills on Thursday, banning internet service providers (ISPs) from using, selling or distributing consumer data without their consent. The Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Consumer Information would prohibit any ISPs in Maine from refusing to serve a customer, penalizing them or offering a discount in order to pressure consumers into allowing the ISP to sell their data. The law will take effect on July 1.

Reuters EU campaigns to raise data privacy rights awareness as survey shows gap
Less than a third of Europeans are aware of all their rights under last year’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European Union said on Thursday as it launched a campaign to encourage more of them to only share data they want to. Billed as the biggest shake-up of data privacy laws in the internet era, GDPR aimed to give EU citizens more control over their online information and privacy enforcers the power to impose hefty fines on companies such as Facebook and Google that collect large amounts of customer data.

State Scoop More state legislatures are scrutinizing facial recognition technology
Lawmakers in California are considering legislation that would crack down on the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement, joining several other states also weighing limitations to the controversial technology. The California Senate Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would impose a statewide prohibition against the use of facial recognition software on footage collected by police officers’ body-worn cameras. Such a move would follow action taken last month by officials in San Francisco, which approved a citywide ban on the technology for nearly all local government agencies.

The Verge Facial recognition smart glasses could make public surveillance discreet and ubiquitous
From train stations and concert halls to sport stadiums and airports, facial recognition is slowly becoming the norm in public spaces. But new hardware formats like these facial recognition-enabled smart glasses could make the technology truly ubiquitous, able to be deployed by law enforcement and private security any time and any place. The glasses themselves are made by American company Vuzix, while Dubai-based firm NNTC is providing the facial recognition algorithms and packaging the final product.

Fortune How Facial Recognition Will Change Driving
Advances in facial recognition technology mean machines can not only recognize different people, but also how they are feeling. This means the next generation of automobiles may contain features that scan drivers’ faces for fatigue or other signs of impairment. Companies, including Boston-based Affectiva, are already making software to help the auto industry integrate such technology. According to CEO Rana el Kaliouby, software that reads emotion is not focused only on drivers, but on passengers, too.

Fortune The Next Generation of Robots Will Be Powered By Artificial Intelligence: Eye on A.I.
Some of the leading American and Japanese robotics companies and investors recently gathered in Menlo Park, Calif. to discuss artificial intelligence in robotics and its impact on business. Their conclusion? If the recent robotics event in Menlo Park is any indication, some of the next-generation robots could be the result of U.S.-Japanese teamwork.


Microsoft on the Issues

  • Recap on Washington’s 2019 Legislative Session: Earlier this year, I shared Microsoft’s 2019 Washington state legislative priorities as part of our practice to engage constructively on important regional issues. Since then, a lot has happened, and I thought it was a good time to provide an update on where we landed on the issues we feel are important for the future of the state. Washington made some great strides this session on issues like higher education funding, affordable housing and rural broadband — but some important initiatives, including the adoption of consumer data privacy protections, did not get completed and will need to be addressed in the next session. (Microsoft on the Issues – Next Generation Washington: 2019 legislative session recap, June 7, 2019)

New America

  • Article on Georgia’s sluggish internet: No matter where you live in Georgia, internet speeds are almost certainly slower than the federal government says they are. An analysis of Georgia speed test results by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that internet speeds were about one-fourth as fast as those reported by the Federal Communications Commission. (OTI Articles – Internet Far Slower in Georgia Than Reported, June 12, 2019)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.