On February 4, 2020, the United Kingdom’s Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (“DEI”) published its final report on “online targeting” (the “Report”), examining practices used to monitor a person’s online behaviour and subsequently customize their experience. In October 2018, the UK government appointed the DEI, an expert committee that advises the UK government on how to maximize the benefits of new technologies, to explore how data is used in shaping peoples’ online experiences. The Report sets out its findings and recommendations. Continue Reading
The German Federal States are likely to adopt a new law in 2020, known as the Interstate Media Treaty (Medienstaatsvertrag – “MStV”). The MStV will impose new regulations on firms or technologies that serve as intermediaries to online media services. It will also introduce new rules in other areas, e.g., for online content providers and advertising, but the rules for intermediaries are likely to generate the most interest.
After intense debate and two public consultations, which prompted over 1,200 comments, the prime ministers of the German Federal States agreed on a draft of the new law on December 5, 2019. Because the law also implements certain provisions of the latest revision of the EU Audiovisual Media Directive, which Member States must implement by September 2020, it is expected that the Federal State parliaments will adopt the MStV in the first half of this year. Germany notified the MStV to the EU under Directive 2015/1535 in January, and the European Commission is currently reviewing it. Continue Reading
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally adopted a draft order aimed at supporting the buildout of robust wired broadband networks in underserved rural areas. The Commission created the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which targets up to $20.4 billion over ten years for investment in high-speed broadband networks. In addition to narrowing the digital divide, these networks could help facilitate the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, autonomous vehicles, and connected cities (or towns) in more remote and hard-to-reach areas.
With so much attention paid to spectrum allocation and the 5G rollout, it is easy to forget the critical role wired networks play in supporting the Internet of Things, which often requires high bandwidth and lower latency. In areas lacking the wired infrastructure necessary to support high-speed broadband, connectivity challenges can severely limit the utility of IoT devices. That’s why the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Order is relevant not only to internet service providers and rural consumers but also to stakeholders in the IoT ecosystem.
The FCC’s order, among other measures, sets forth the following major directives:
- Establishing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which will use competitive bidding to allocate up to $20.4 billion over ten years to support broadband networks in underserved areas;
- Increasing the minimum speed to 25/3 Mbps from the 10/1 Mbps benchmark used in prior rural buildout initiatives; and
- Prioritizing support going to areas entirely lacking even 10/1 Mbps broadband, as well as rural Tribal areas.
The New Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.
The core of the FCC’s plan is the creation of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund itself, which will assign annual financial support for a ten-year term to companies that offer voice and broadband support to all eligible homes and small businesses within specified geographic areas. The Commission will select support recipients through a competitive bidding process, giving priority to companies offering higher speeds, greater usage allowances, and lower latency. This competitive bidding process will also take place in two phases. Phase I, which the FCC expects to commence this year, will allocate up to $16 billion and will target census blocks that FCC data deems “wholly unserved” with broadband at speeds of 25/3 Mbps. Phase II will assign at least $4.4 billion to locations in census blocks that FCC data demonstrates as only partially served, as well as any areas not won in Phase I.
Increasing the Minimum Speed to 25/3 Mbps.
The FCC is also focusing on providing higher network speeds and lower latency to these areas. The FCC’s order increases the minimum download/upload speeds for subsidized broadband deployments from 10/1 Mbps—which was the minimum required for participation in the Connect America Fund—to 25/3 Mbps, harmonizing it with the definition of “advanced communications services” that the FCC adopted in 2015. This increase could help level the playing field between rural and urban areas and pave the way for adoption of IoT devices in areas where they have previously failed to gain traction.
Prioritizing Support to Unserved Areas.
Because insufficient network speed is fatal to the effectiveness of IoT devices, the lack of broadband support in rural areas creates geographic “dead zones” where the IoT sphere essentially ends. The Commission’s order aims to open up these areas for rural users, as Phase I of the auction focuses on entirely unserved locations. It also emphasizes connectivity on Tribal lands, which historically have fallen on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The Commission’s two Democratic members supported the overarching plan to create the Fund and do all that can be done to close the digital divide. They made partial dissents, however, to raise certain concerns. For example, Commissioner Starks expressed concern that Phase I funds would be allocated based on “bad data,” referencing ongoing concerns over the FCC’s mapping data as to where broadband is, and is not, built out. Commissioner Rosenworcel, who also partially dissented, commented that the 25/3 Mbps speed tier may soon be obsolete and stated that the minimum network speed should have been set higher.
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The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Order is the latest FCC action aimed at strengthening the nation’s wired broadband infrastructure. The increased connectivity spurred by these investments could broaden the market for IoT devices in areas where they previously could not function.
On January 23, 2020, the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee approved a resolution on artificial intelligence (“AI”) and automated decision-making (“ADM”). The resolution references several major pieces of work carried out by the European Commission on AI and provides a list of existing EU instruments that are relevant to AI and ADM — which together present a potential roadmap of areas of reform.
The resolution was approved in committee by 39 votes in favor, none against and four abstentions. It will next be voted on by the full Parliament in an upcoming plenary session. If adopted, it will be transmitted to the EU Council and the Commission for consideration. The Commission’s Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager is expected to present plans for a European approach to AI in a Commission meeting on February 19, 2020.
U.S. federal policymakers continued to focus on artificial intelligence (“AI”) and the Internet of Things (“IoT”) in the fourth quarter of 2019, including by introducing substantive bills that would regulate the use of such technology and by supporting bills aimed at further study of how such technology may impact different sectors. In our fourth AI & IoT Quarterly Legislative Update, we detail the notable legislative events from this quarter on AI, IoT, cybersecurity as it relates to AI and IoT, and connected and autonomous vehicles (“CAVs”). Continue Reading
This month, situated among foldable tablet computers and flying taxis, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (“CES”) the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) long-anticipated fourth round of automated vehicles guidance, “AV 4.0.” Formally entitled, “Ensuring American Leadership in Automated Vehicle Technologies,” AV 4.0 is less regulatory guidance and more regulatory aggregator. The document lists in great detail the various Administration efforts—across 38 federal departments and agencies—geared toward promoting, supporting, and providing accountability for users and communities with respect to autonomous mobility. Continue Reading
The World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) recently announced a public consultation process on Artificial Intelligence and Intellectual Property Policy. As part of the consultation process, WIPO concurrently published and has requested feedback on a wide-ranging draft IP Policy and AI Issues Paper that is intended to help define the most pressing AI-related questions likely to face IP policy makers in the areas of patents, copyright, and data.
The Issues Paper follows other recent WIPO activity pertaining to AI-related IP issues. In January 2019 WIPO issued a publication that surveyed the landscape of AI innovation since the field first developed in the 1950s, and in September 2019 WIPO held a Conversation on IP and AI.
Recognizing the significance and potential implications of the intersection of AI and intellectual property, two of the leading patent offices have now requested public comment. As discussed in a previous blog, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a “Request for Comments on Patenting Artificial Intelligence Inventions” on August 27, 2019. The USPTO subsequently issued a “Request for Comments on Intellectual Property Protection for Artificial Intelligence Innovation” on October 30, 2019, in which it seeks comments on the copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property rights issues that may be impacted by AI. Continue Reading
On January 7, 2019, pursuant to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a draft Guidance for Regulation of Artificial Intelligence Applications, including ten principles for agencies to consider when deciding whether and how to regulate AI. The White House announced a 60 day public comment period following the release of the Guidance, after which the White House will issue a final memorandum and instruct agencies to submit implementation plans. Comments should be submitted to the White House via Regulations.gov Docket ID OMB_FRDOC_0001-0261.
5G wireless technology has captured the attention of Congress. At least 30 5G-related bills have been introduced in the House and Senate this Congress, signaling widespread interest by lawmakers in 5G. Several of these bills, addressing a range of issues including national security concerns, the promotion of U.S. leadership in international 5G standards-setting bodies, and the deployment of domestic 5G infrastructure, have passed through committee with strong bipartisan support. Continue Reading
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has issued and is consulting on draft guidance about explaining decisions made by AI. The ICO prepared the guidance with The Alan Turing Institute, which is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. Among other things, the guidance sets out key principles to follow and steps to take when explaining AI-assisted decisions — including in relation to different types of AI algorithms — and the policies and procedures that organizations should consider putting in place.
The draft guidance builds upon the ICO’s previous work in this area, including its AI Auditing Framework, June 2019 Project ExplAIN interim report, and September 2017 paper ‘Big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and data protection’. (Previous blog posts that track this issue are available here.) Elements of the new draft guidance touch on points that go beyond narrow GDPR requirements, such as AI ethics (see, in particular, the recommendation to provide explanations of the fairness or societal impacts of AI systems). Other sections of the guidance are quite technical; for example, the ICO provides its own analysis of the possible uses and interpretability of eleven specific types of AI algorithms.
Organizations that develop, test or deploy AI decision-making systems should review the draft guidance and consider responding to the consultation. The consultation is open until January 24, 2020. A final version is expected to be published later next year.