February 4 2022

This Week in Washington

NextGov DOD Debuts Office to Help It ‘Move Faster’ on Artificial Intelligence
The Defense Department’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, a new hub to align disparate AI-centered pursuits across the vast enterprise, officially reached initial operating capacity this week—but much must still be puzzled out before it’s totally realized this summer.  John Sherman, DOD’s recently Senate-confirmed chief information officer, will play a major role in seeing it through. He’s taking the office’s lead as acting chief digital and AI officer until the department completes its search for the right person to fill this first-of-a-kind position.

The Hill Graham, Blumenthal reintroduce controversial Section 230 bill
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) reintroduced the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, which would amend Section 230 and hold tech companies liable for hosting content that features the exploitation of children. The bill received unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in summer 2020 but did not get a floor vote.

Nextgov Broadband Rollout Depends on Fixing ‘Woefully Inadequate’ Maps
Flexibility and adaptivity are key components of the nationwide push to expand broadband access across the country, as the Department of Commerce seeks to understand which geographical regions need to be prioritized, Secretary Gina Raimondo said during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Several lawmakers, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; Lisa Murkowski, R-AK; and Patrick Leahy, D-VT, inquired about the accuracy of broadband accessibility and coverage maps designed by the Federal Communication Commission. These maps will inform Commerce which areas of the country need broadband infrastructure the most.

Axios App store bill sails out of Senate Judiciary Committee
A bill that would upend how Apple and Google run their mobile app stores easily made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Driving the news: Senators on the committee voted 20-2 to pass the Open App Markets Act, with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) voting no. If the bill passes the full Senate and is signed by President Biden, Google and Apple would essentially have to give up full control of their app stores.

Fierce Telecom Commerce chief: $65B in broadband funding will create 200,000 jobs
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stressed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will not use a one size fits all approach as it distributes billions in broadband funding, but instead will work closely with states to meet their individual needs. NTIA, which is part of the Department of Commerce, has been tasked with distributing more than $48 billion of the $65 billion allocated for broadband in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The agency last month began work formulating rules for the grant programs it is overseeing. On Tuesday, Raimondo headed to the Senate to answer questions about how it plans to dole out the funds.

ZDNet US DoJ, Microsoft and 35 states support an appeal of Epic Games-Apple decision
In another twist to the Epic Games lawsuit against Apple, the US Department of Justice (DoJ), Microsoft, and 35 state attorneys-general have all submitted legal filings disputing the lawsuit’s original ruling from September last year. The original ruling had sided with Apple on nine out of 10 counts. It found Apple engaged in anticompetitive conduct under California’s competition laws, but ultimately it ruled the iPhone maker was not an antitrust monopolist.

Nextgov Tribal Broadband Effort Gets $1.5 Million Federal Investment
An additional $1.5 million dollars in federal funding was awarded to Native American communities to continue to establish improved broadband connectivity across tribal lands.  Awarded by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the money will be distributed within the Biden administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, an initiative dedicated to providing high-speed broadband access to remote Native American communities.

National Law Review Biden Administration Announces Immigration Policies to Attract STEM Graduates
The Biden administration recently announced new policies designed to attract international graduates who specialize in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”) to study in the United States. By adjusting immigration provisions for students in these fields, the Biden administration hopes to boost innovation in cutting-edge fields.

Politico Senate moves to shield journalism from ‘Big Tech’
The Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee today will hold a hearing on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, legislation that would enable news publishers to collectively negotiate with social media companies — namely, Facebook and Google — over how news is distributed online. Debate over this legislation has only intensified since it was introduced in both chambers last year, and today’s hearing signals that action is ramping up again as Democrats scramble to fast-track their agenda ahead of the midterms.

Article Summary

The Verge Big Tech drove record clean energy purchases in 2021
Tech companies drove a surge in corporate purchases of clean energy last year, according to a new analysis by BloombergNEF. Overall, corporations bought a record 31.1 GW of clean energy in 2021, equivalent to more than 10 percent of all new renewable energy capacity added worldwide that year. Over half of the power purchase agreements for clean energy made by corporations were signed by tech giants, including Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Google.

Associated Press Cyberattacks increasingly hobble pandemic-weary US schools
For teachers at a middle school in New Mexico’s largest city, the first inkling of a widespread tech problem came during an early morning staff call. On the video, there were shout-outs for a new custodian for his hard work, and the typical announcements from administrators and the union rep. But in the chat, there were hints of a looming crisis. Nobody could open attendance records, and everyone was locked out of class rosters and grades. Albuquerque administrators later confirmed the outage that blocked access to the district’s student database — which also includes emergency contacts and lists of which adults are authorized to pick up which children — was due to a ransomware attack.

Reuters U.S. appeals court will not block California net neutrality law
The 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals voted 3-0 to uphold California’s statewide net neutrality law, as it said the Federal Communications Commission’s reversal of the federal net neutrality policy did not prevent states from taking action themselves. The challenge to the 2018 law had come from telecommunications companies and industry groups, but the court said after the FCC reclassified the internet as information services, it no longer could “regulate in the same manner” as if it were a telecommunications service.

Datamation AI Innovation Coalition Launches With Microsoft
Microsoft is joining a group of organizations in a coalition to “transform” health care through the responsible adoption of artificial intelligence (AI).  The Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Coalition (AI3C) is made up of several other organizations: the Brookings Institution; Cleveland Clinic; Duke Health; Intermountain Healthcare; Novant Health; Plug and Play; Providence; UC San Diego; and University of Virginia, according to Microsoft this month. The coalition’s goal is to maximize technology to “provide recommendations, tooling, and best practices for AI in health care.”

Motherboard Internet Piracy Is Surging, Researchers Say
The pandemic caused piracy to spike in 2020. According to a pair of reports from security researchers, 2021 was another growth year for online piracy. As first spotted by TorrentFreak, new reports from research groups Akamai and MUSO revealed that users visited pirate sites a total of 132 billion times in the first months of 2021, a 16% rise over the previous year. Popcorn Time made headlines earlier this month when it announced it was shuttering due to a lack of interest. It seemed like a nail in the coffin of online piracy. But, as Motherboard pointed out, there are still a ton of Popcorn Time-style sites on the internet and plenty of places to watch stuff for free.

CNBC SpaceX rolls outs ‘premium’ Starlink satellite internet tier at $500 per month
SpaceX has quietly rolled out a new, more powerful “premium” tier of its Starlink satellite internet service that’s targeted at businesses and enterprise customers. The new product, which was added to the company’s website Tuesday night, comes at five times the cost of the consumer-focused standard service. Starlink Premium requires a $500 refundable deposit, a $2,500 fee for the antenna and router, and the service costs $500 per month.

Tech Podcast of the Week

Rural Broadband Today

  • Podcast on Broadband Mapping
    The path forward for efficient and effective development of broadband in rural America depends largely on the accuracy and completeness of maps that depict the unserved and underserved areas of the country. Before becoming Vice President of Government Solutions at LightBox, Bill Price headed up Georgia’s ambitious mapping program. He joins “Rural Broadband Today” to discuss the future of that program and broadband availability, accessibility and affordability. (Broadband Mapping for Rural America, With Bill Price – November 19, 2021)