But improving Internet access is only part of the battle. Legislators have long expressed concern that inequalities in access to technical education and other barriers are preventing communities from reaping the full benefits of using the Internet, and have pushed for funding to address this.
Under a new Democratic proposal due to be unveiled on Thursday, the government would have a new ally in the struggle: a charitable foundation tasked with supporting efforts to close disparities in internet access, digital literacy and online participation .
Suggestion from Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (DN.M.) and Rep. Doris Matsu (D-Calif.), the legislation would provide a basis for ensuring that private and public Internet initiatives prioritize equal access through grants, training and research.
While supporters of the legislation hailed the $65 billion approved by Congress for expanding internet access as a turning point in the quest to close the digital divide, they are calling for a new foundation to ensure other digital gaps are bridged as well.
“As our world rapidly shifts online, Americans need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to use technology properly and successfully,” Luján, chair of the Senate subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, told The Technology 202.
Under the Digital Equity Foundation Act, the Department of Commerce would establish a foundation that mirrors the foundation established by other federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
The foundation would be led by a board composed of individuals with “broad and general experience in issues related to digital justice, digital inclusion or digital literacy” who would be tasked with enhancing the parallel efforts of the Department of Commerce and Federal Communications Commission that collectively oversee Internet access issues.
Luján said the legislation “ensures that decision-makers are comprised of technology professionals who reflect the diverse communities that need these investments, who will work closely with federal agencies to support and encourage programs focused on digital justice.”
The bill, shared exclusively with The Technology 202, would build on the $65 billion funding push for expanding access included in Congress’ key infrastructure bill, which also includes key digital justice initiatives.
While this law was a historic investment, supporters of Luján’s law say a permanent charitable endowment would help the funds reach their goal: ensuring that all Americans can get online and make the most of that Internet access.
The push has prominent backers in Luján, who has played a key role in negotiations on federal broadband investments and chairs the relevant congressional subcommittee, and Matsui, the vice chair of the relevant House communications and technology subcommittee.
And it could get support from the White House. During the 2020 election, Biden’s campaign advocated for digital justice initiatives and gave the push a significant boost.
The proposal also has support from a number of consumer advocacy groups, including Public Knowledge, Common Sense and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
Correction: A previous version of this article gave the wrong name of the new legislation. It’s the Digital Equity Foundation Act.
Biden signs executive order to consider access to sensitive data in foreign transaction freeze
President Biden is signing an executive order today that will direct the United States Committee on Foreign Investments (CFIUS) to consider new factors, including potential access to sensitive data about Americans, when deciding whether to block a transaction from another country . Joseph Menn Reports for The Technology 202.
Senior administration officials said in a briefing that the factors would complement other criteria previously established by Congress in establishing the Treasury Department-led CFIUS and that the changes keep pace with the changing nature of national security, the intelligence agency’s core mission should program. The order also names areas where the White House wants the country to retain technological leadership, including microelectronics, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum computing, advanced clean energy and climate change adaptation technologies.
The privacy concerns follow recent warnings about TikTok and other Chinese-owned companies collecting information about users as part of their regular business operations, in the same way as US-based Twitter, Meta’s Facebook and other companies. The order also directs the committee to consider cybersecurity, the national supply chain and investment patterns to determine whether a transaction would harm American interests. Officials said they hoped the details would lead to more voluntary filings by US targets, inviting CFIUS to interfere before transactions are finalized and becoming more expensive to process.
California’s social media transparency enforcement law could face industry opposition
The signing of the bill by the California governor Gavin Newsom (D) This week could spark a fight over whether such a law violates freedom of expression, Cat Zakrzewski reports.
“The law, known as AB 587, requires tech companies to file semi-annual reports with the Attorney General publicly disclosing their content moderation policies related to hate speech, disinformation and extremism,” writes Cat. “The law, which Newsom signed into law on Tuesday, was introduced in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, as the role of tech giants in fueling extremism and violence came under increasing scrutiny.”
The industry coalition Chamber of Progress, whose members include Facebook parent company Meta and Google, said it was “absolutely” looking into potential court challenges, arguing such legislation raises First Amendment problems.
“It’s like asking a bookstore to tell the government what books they carry, or asking the New York Times to explain what stories they publish,” said Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said.
Member of the California Convention jess gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), who authored the bill, said it’s “on much stronger ground than Texas and Florida,” where tech companies have tried to block social media laws that govern how platforms monitor content. “Our legislation is very different in intent and approach from the laws that have been passed in conservative states,” he told the Post. “We’re just asking for more transparency,” he said, asking why tech companies would be afraid to share such information.
European court confirms fine against Google for antitrust violations, but reduces it slightly
The European court largely upheld a European Commission decision against Google, saying the company had “imposed unlawful restrictions on Android handset makers and mobile network operators to consolidate the dominant position of its search engine,” according to Reuters Foo Yun Chee reports. The court reduced the fine against the company from 4.34 billion euros ($4.33 billion) to 4.125 billion euros ($4.115 billion).
Europe’s cartel boss Margaret Vestager celebrated the ruling, calling it “really good” and “really important as it supports our enforcement efforts”.
A Google spokesman told Reuters the company was disappointed that the court did not overturn the commission’s decision. “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less, and powers thousands of successful businesses in Europe and around the world,” they said.
California Sues Amazon for Anticompetitive Conduct (Rachel Lerman and Cat Zakrzewski)
- Nvidia, DuPont and GlobalFoundries have joined the American Semiconductor Innovation Coalition as members.
- A panel of the House Oversight and Reform Committee holds a hearing on federal IT on Friday at 9 a.m
- representative Michael R Turner (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, speaks at a Heritage Foundation event to combat foreign misinformation and disinformation while protecting civil liberties Monday at 1 p.m
- A panel of the Senate Judiciary Committee holds an antitrust enforcement hearing Tuesday at 3 p.m