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States, FTC Focusing on AI

Spectrum Sharing Clashes, USF Policy Talks Are Coming, FCC Aides Say

HOT SPRINGS, Virginia -- Expect increasingly heated clashes in coming years between factions advancing exclusive use of spectrum and those supporting spectrum sharing, as well as policy discussions about USF contribution changes, aides to the FCC commissioners said Friday at the FCBA annual seminar here. Meanwhile, AI experts said that in the absence of congressional action they see the FTC and states becoming vigorous in regulating generative AI.

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The temperature seems to be rising” between exclusive use and sharing, said Erin Boone, chief of staff to Commissioner Nathan Simington. She said technology will make sharing easier, but Congress must restore the FCC’s spectrum auction authority in the face of demands that will rocket due to IoT, AI and autonomous vehicles.

Arpan Sura, legal adviser to Commissioner Brendan Carr, said the net neutrality order will be appealed, and likely end up overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, but either way it will have ripple effects on the agency and Congress. He also said policy discussions will emerge as report cards of the efficacy of various funding programs are issued.

Multiple aides said there's a need for changes to the USF.

Elizabeth Cuttner, wireline aide to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, said regardless of the fate of the affordable connectivity program (ACP), attention on affordability policy should be directed toward broadband equity, access and deployment projects. She said privacy is a growing concern, and there are areas where the FCC under Section 222 of the Communications Act, which concerns customer privacy protections, has a role regarding data that providers collect. In addition, the agency wants to have a hand in privacy.

Deena Shetler, Commissioner Anna Gomez's chief of staff, said Gomez's policy concerns include universal connection, as she has pushed for extending ACP funding. In addition, she said the commissioner is focused on public safety matters, such as through multilingual emergency alerts, and broadcaster localism.

Speaking later, Gomez said she has hope that Congress will act on ACP. She applauded the cyber trust mark and hopes it becomes as readily used as the Energy Star labels on appliances or organic food labeling. She said she has been learning about media issues, both from the industry standpoint and the FCC’s regulatory perspective. Media misinformation and disinformation are as concerning as AI deep fakes, as both influence consumers, and the FCC needs to use its bully pulpit to encourage consumers about how they can discern misinformation, Gomez said.

Asked about relationships among the commissioners, Shetler said “definitely there are bridges” and interoffice communication. Added Sura, 10th-floor relations are “solid and collegial.” Pointing to anecdotes he heard about past interoffice relationships, Sura said he is “glad on the 10th floor now.”

States' generative AI regulation is starting with deepfakes, but there are debates about more comprehensive bills covering issues like algorithmic discrimination, raising the possibility of a fragmented approach, said Wiley's Duane Pozza. Connecticut, California and Utah are particularly active, he said.

"The overreach of some of these [state] measures is stunning," Ball said. She said state disclosure requirements vary, making implementation difficult for media companies. Big Tech has floated policies about AI disclosures when it comes to political advertising, but broadcasters have regulatory barriers in that they can't modify or censor ad content aside from putting in sponsor IDs, said Ball. That requirement also is a challenge when trying to follow state disclosure rules, she said.

Video-programming officials see generative AI having a big potential to vastly improve closed captioning. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) was once obvious due to its low quality but it's improving greatly, said Ann Bobeck, vice president-FCC legal and business affairs, at Fox. She said the pool of humans doing live captioning is very small and ASR's improved quality is opening the door to live captioning in multiple languages. She said ASR use in live sports captioning is "99% there" and will likely be tested in high school sports before graduating into national collegiate and professional sports. The media industry is moving toward captioning all content all the time, she said.