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From BEAD to AI: NTIA chief unpacks top of mind issues

We’ve heard the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) say 2024 is “the year of execution” for the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson revealed how the agency is juggling BEAD along with its initiatives focused on digital equity and artificial intelligence (AI) risks.

When Davidson first took the helm at NTIA, plenty of states didn’t even have broadband offices. Fast-forward two years, states have “built out much more robust capacities…they’ve all gotten their initial plans in the door.” Expanding general connectivity is only one piece of the puzzle for NTIA.

The agency is also focused on the role that digital equity plays in BEAD. As of March, every state and territory “will have submitted” a digital equity plan, which outlines how they aim to address gaps in digital access, skills and affordability, according to Davidson. Maine was the first state to get its digital equity plan greenlit by NTIA. AI is another important topic for NTIA — and not just because you can’t go far in the telecom space without hearing about AI these days.

The White House tasked NTIA along with several other agencies in October 2023 to “evaluate and mitigate the risks of AI ensure safety, security and trust.” The NTIA plans to publish a report on AI accountability sometime this spring, tackling the question of, “how do you tell if an AI system is doing what it says it’s going to do?” Benton Institute for Broadband

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