Government Relations Update May-June 2024

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By Samuel Burns - Internet2 Policy Advisor

Senate AI Working Group Releases Report

On May 15, Senator Chuck Schumer and a bipartisan working group released a report recommending that Congress spend at least $32 billion per year to develop artificial intelligence and place safeguards around AI. This report stems from a series of nine AI Insight Forums throughout late 2023 hosted by the Bipartisan Senate AI Working Group; these meetings served as an opportunity for Senators to hear expert testimony from industry, academia, and civil society groups on focused topics relevant to the development, use, and regulation of AI tools. The report found that the U.S. needs to “harness the opportunities and address the risks” of these quickly developing technologies.

The report includes recommendations for both Senate committees and federal agencies. There are many noteworthy proposals throughout the report, but the most relevant items for the R&E community are largely within the section “Supporting U.S. Innovation in AI.” Some of these include:

  • The Working Group recommends that the Senate Appropriations Committee create an emergency appropriations bill to fill the gap between current spending levels on AI innovation and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI)-recommendation of at least $32 billion per year including funding for a cross-government AI research and development effort, elements of the CHIPS and Science Act which have yet to be fully funded, and a robust NAIRR program that moves the effort beyond its current pilot status.
  • The Working Group encourages relevant committees to develop legislation to leverage public-private partnerships across the federal government that can support AI advancements and minimize its potential risks.
  • The Working Group supports further federal study of AI, particularly through work with Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs).
  • The Working Group supports the development of a comprehensive federal data privacy law. (See the Privacy and Liability section.)

While these recommendations are non-binding, they do provide a roadmap for future action on AI across the federal government. Given the passion and urgency felt by Majority Leader Schumer and many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle we should expect to see more activity and legislation on AI-related topics in the months ahead.

FCC Adopts BGP Reporting Proposal

On June 6, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously approved a proposal to require the nine major broadband providers to create Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) security plans that would be filed confidentially with the FCC. These providers would also be required to file quarterly reports with the FCC to help outline their progress towards meeting the goals laid out in the plans. Smaller providers would be required to develop their own BGP security plans as well; while they will not need to be filed with the FCC, these providers would need to make their plans available to the FCC upon request.

The FCC’s official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) lays out the details of the FCC’s plans, which the FCC is currently seeking input on through a 30-day public comment period and further 30-day reply comment period. Once the NPRM was posted in the Federal Register on June 17 the 30-day window opened, with initial comments due by July 17.

While the R&E community is not the intended focus for this proceeding, there may be relevant implications for the community down the road as improvements in BGP security continue to play a key role in strengthening the security and reliability of the global internet and become a greater area of interest for federal agencies.

House Unveils Science and Telecommunications Funding Bill

The House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill for FY 2025 on June 25. This legislation includes funding for agencies at the Department of Commerce including the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It also includes funding for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Overall, the legislation seeks a two percent cut to funding for covered agencies compared to the current funding levels for FY 2024. NTIA would be funded at $56.5 million, $2.5 million below FY 2024 levels and $10.5 million below the level in President Biden’s budget request to Congress earlier this year resulting in a four percent cut year over year. NIST would be funded at $1.4 billion, $45 million below FY 2024 and $83.5 million below the president’s budget, a three percent cut year over year. NOAA would be hit particularly hard with a nearly 11 percent cut with $5.6 billion in funding, $676 million below FY 2024 and $904 million below the president’s budget. OSTP would see a 30 percent cut down to $5.5 million in funding, $2.4 million below FY 2024 and the same amount below the president’s budget request. Finally, NSF would actually see a two percent increase to $9.25 billion, $198 million above FY 2024 though still $924 million below the level requested by President Biden.

Based on these proposed cuts, federal agencies and offices overseeing scientific and telecommunications activities would be significantly impacted. Such cuts might lead to reductions in staff and interruptions or changes to programs operated by these parts of the federal government. However, this legislation still requires several more layers of approval and negotiation before it has a chance of becoming law and these numbers are likely to change. While the White House and the Senate may ultimately agree to making some cuts to these agencies and offices, they are unlikely to be this severe. The House, Senate, and the Biden Administration have until the beginning of FY 2025 on October 1, 2024 to find a path forward or reach an agreement on an extension of funding to keep government operations running smoothly.