April 23 2021

This Week in Washington

Protocol FTC issues stern warning: Biased AI may break the law
The Federal Trade Commission warned in a blog post that companies that sell or use biased artificial intelligence systems could be violating consumer protection laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and called on companies to test their algorithms for bias and rely on complete demographic datasets.

CyberScoop Biden administration unveils plan to defend electric sector from cyberattacks
The Biden administration is buckling down on cyber threats to U.S. power infrastructure. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a 100-day plan to help shore up the U.S. electric power system against cyber threats Tuesday.

CNBC FTC commissioners agree they should act to protect consumer privacy if Congress doesn’t
A Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday revealed several areas of common ground among the four sitting Federal Trade Commissioners, who are evenly split along party lines. The agency is awaiting the confirmation of a fifth commissioner to fill out its slate – the confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee Lina Khan will take place on Wednesday – but it’s clear there are several areas in which the FTC does not need a tie-breaking vote.

The Hill Hawley introduces legislation targeting Amazon, Google antitrust concerns
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Monday introduced legislation that targets Big Tech groups including Amazon and Google by making it more difficult to market and use certain online services. The Bust Up Big Tech Act would ban tech companies that market search engines, marketplaces, and exchanges from advertising or selling their own goods and services on their websites in a way that competes with third-party groups.

Engadget The FCC is going to hold providers accountable for anti-robocall efforts
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is introducing a new database all voice providers will have to use to allow the agency to track the work they’re doing to stop robocalls. Starting September 28th, 2021, phone companies will be required to block any incoming traffic from providers not listed in the Robocall Mitigation Database.

Multichannel News GOP Leaders Warn FCC’s Rosenworcel Against ‘Stringent’ Net Neutrality Regs
House Republicans have fired a shot across the net neutrality regulation bow before that ship has sailed. According to a copy of a letter to FCC acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel provided to Multichannel News, Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Communications Subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio), joined by the Republican E&C members, warned against imposing “stringent net neutrality regulations” that could result in subs “losing their internet offerings.”

The Hill Democrats push Twitter, Facebook to remove vaccine ‘disinformation dozen’
Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) are asking Facebook and Twitter to take action against a dozen accounts identified in a recent report as spreading the majority of anti-vaccine content on their platforms. Klobuchar and Luján wrote a letter to the two company CEOs urging them to address the “Disinformation Dozen” named in a recent report published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

Protocol Republican tech skeptics are flirting with progressives’ choice for antitrust chief
Jonathan Kanter, a longtime critic of Google and a progressive favorite for the Justice Department’s top antitrust post, is seen as being a more favorable pick for the position among Senate Republicans than his key competitor, Obama administration alum Jonathan Sallet, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions on Capitol Hill. While President Joe Biden has yet to nominate anyone to the role, having at least some Republican backing could help bolster a nominee’s odds of confirmation.

Axios White House pushing vaccine eligibility with media blitz
The White House is partnering with Twitter Inc. and Facebook to send notifications to users about their COVID-19 vaccine eligibility as part of a media blitz to encourage people to get vaccinated, according to an administration official, and Dr. Anthony Fauci is set to appear in Snapchat clips.

Article Summary

USA Today The nation needs Biden’s bold, futuristic infrastructure plan: Microsoft president
As the nation debates a potential infrastructure plan, recent weeks have raised a new question: “what counts as infrastructure?” The answer depends on whether we’re looking at the past or the future. People understand the infrastructure of the past because we can see it. Yet a closer view tells us that new technology constantly reshapes what the future requires.

CNBC Microsoft is sharing previously secret information to help cloud customers save energy
Microsoft plans to tell its customers more about the energy use of the data centers it uses to host Azure public cloud services. With that information, customers can figure out where to deploy their applications in the most efficient possible way. The practice dovetails with the plan Microsoft unveiled last year to remove more carbon than it emits by 2030. It could also help the company stand out to prospective customers in its bid to become larger in the growing cloud-computing market, where Amazon leads.

The Washington Post Cybersecurity experts say elevating and supporting Black professionals is key to workforce shortage
The United States is facing a critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals, one that government watchdogs and experts say is only expected to grow in the coming years. The shortage, which runs into hundreds of thousands of people, has spurred government officials to ramp up their efforts to address two of its driving factors: a lack of professional development opportunities and barriers surrounding diversity.

CNBC Facebook calls for data portability laws as it expands the types of info users can transfer to other services
Facebook is renewing its calls for Congress to create guidelines about how online services should make users’ data available to transfer to other platforms as it expands its own feature to do just that. Facebook announced Monday it’s expanding a tool that allows users to transfer their data to other services.

Reuters Amazon gets 9 ULA satellite launch vehicles for broadband internet program
Amazon.com Inc said on Monday it had secured nine satellite launch vehicles from United Launch Alliance (ULA) to support the initial deployment of its broadband internet initiative, Project Kuiper. Atlas V launch vehicles from ULA, a joint rocket venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, is the first of many vehicles which will be used to deploy Amazon’s satellite constellation to orbit.

Bloomberg Cuomo Signs New York Bill Requiring Low-Cost Broadband Access
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law a bill that caps basic internet service at $15 a month and high-speed internet at $20 a month for low-income families – a drop from the average of more than $50 for a basic high-speed plan in the state, according to numbers shared by state Assembly member Amy Paulin.

Think Tank / Tech Trade Association Highlights

The Brookings Institution

  • Podcast on Closing the Digital Divide
    President Biden has put forth a Build Back Better agenda that now includes physical infrastructure and job creation to stir economic recovery in the United States. Broadband infrastructure is included in his trillion-dollar plan, alongside water, roads, and bridges, as well as the modernization of schools and other institutional assets. Making high-speed broadband and the applications it enables available to all citizens are at the core of his agenda, which resonates with the recent proposal of a “Tech New Deal” by podcast co-host, Dr. Nicol Turner Lee. (TechTank Podcast – With new investments in broadband infrastructure, can we finally close the digital divide?, April 19, 2021)