Canada joins Five Eyes allies in banning Huawei and ZTE 5G telecom gear

Canada is banning 4G and 5G telecom equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, joining its "Five Eyes" allies in doing so. The decision follows a three-year review that was delayed by political tensions with China after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US warrant. 

"Our government will always protect the safety and security of Canadians and will take any actions necessary to safeguard our critical telecommunications infrastructure," said Canada's innovation minister, François-Philippe Champagne, in a press release.

"We’re disappointed but not surprised. We’re surprised it took the government so long to make a decision," Huawei spokesperson Alykhan Velshi told The Guardian. "We see this as a political decision, one born of political pressure primarily from the United States."

Two of Canada's largest wireless providers, Bell and Telus, switched to Ericsson and Nokia equipment in 2020 to build their next-generation 5G networks. However, both operators have some Huawei 5G equipment in place as part of so-called non-standalone 5G networks integrated with previous 4G networks. Those 4G networks were also built using Huawei equipment. Huawei has sold over $700 million in equipment to Canadian operators since 2018, mostly to Bell and Telus. 

Both operators reportedly approached the federal government in the past to ask about compensation from taxpayers for potential removal Huawei or ZTE gear. The CEO of a smaller Northern operator, Iristel, previously said that a requirement to remove existing equipment would be "catastrophic." 

However, Champagne said that operators will be required to remove any Huawei or ZTE gear at their own expense. Existing 5G equipment must be removed or terminated by June 28, 2024 and any 4G equipment by December 31, 2027, according to the policy statement.

Canada's Five Eyes intelligence allies, the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have already banned Huawei and ZTE wireless equipment. Canada has faced growing pressure to do the same, over fears it could compromise the security of all five nations, given that China's laws require state companies to cooperate with intelligence services. 

Senate bill would break up Google’s ad business

A bill that would break up Google's advertising business if it becomes law has been introduced in the Senate. The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act, which has support on both sides of the aisle, would prevent companies that process more than $20 billion in annual digital ad transactions "from participating in more than one part of the digital advertising ecosystem," as The Wall Street Journal reports.

Google easily falls under that distinction. It generated $54.7 billion in ad revenue last quarter alone. While other companies meet the dollar-figure threshold of the proposed rules, Google has a hand in many aspects of the advertising process. It runs an exchange where ad networks bid on inventory. It also offers tools to help companies buy and sell ads.

A House of Representatives version of the legislation is also expected to be introduced imminently. If the bill becomes law, Google would have to exit some of those businesses. It would have a year to comply with the rules after the law is enacted. Meta may also be impacted by the legislation.

“When you have Google simultaneously serving as a seller and a buyer and running an exchange, that gives them an unfair, undue advantage in the marketplace, one that doesn’t necessarily reflect the value they are providing,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told the Journal. “When a company can wear all these hats simultaneously, it can engage in conduct that harms everyone.”

Lee is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. Committee chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) is a cosponsor of the bill, as are Sens.Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D- Connecticut).

“Advertising tools from Google and many competitors help American websites and apps fund their content, help businesses grow and help protect users from privacy risks and misleading ads," a Google spokesperson told Engadget. "Breaking those tools would hurt publishers and advertisers, lower ad quality and create new privacy risks. And, at a time of heightened inflation, it would handicap small businesses looking for easy and effective ways to grow online. The real issue is low-quality data brokers who threaten Americans’ privacy and flood them with spammy ads. In short, this is the wrong bill, at the wrong time, aimed at the wrong target.”

Other provisions of the bill include rules for companies that process at least $5 billion of ad transactions per year. They'd be required to provide transparent pricing and act in their customers' best interest. Customers would have the option to sue over breaches of those.

There are other pieces of antitrust legislation in the works that target tech giants. Klobuchar's American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which advanced out of committee in January, would ban companies from giving preference to their own products over those from rivals on their own platforms. For instance, Apple wouldn't be able to position its own apps above competing ones in App Store search results.

Gatik is bringing its self-driving box trucks to Kansas

Autonomous vehicle startup Gatik says it will start using its self-driving box trucks in Kansas as it expands to more territories. Governor Laura Kelly last week signed a bill that makes it legal for self-driving vehicles to run on public roads under certain circumstances.

Following a similar effort in Arkansas, Gatik says it and its partner Walmart worked with legislators and stakeholders to "develop and propose legislation that prioritizes the safe and structured introduction of autonomous vehicles in the state." Before Gatik's trucks hit Kansas roads, the company says it will provide training to first responders and law enforcement.

Gatik claims that, since it started commercial operations three years ago, it has maintained a clean safety record in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Ontario, Canada. It still has a safety driver at the wheel in some jurisdictions. Last August, Walmart started making fully driverless deliveries with Gatik trucks in Arkansas, albeit on a fixed loop.

Homeland Security ‘pauses’ disinformation board three weeks after creating it

The Biden administration may be struggling in its efforts to fight security-related misinformation. The Washington Postsources claim the Department of Homeland Security has "paused" a Disinformation Governance Board just three weeks after its April 27th announcement. Officials reportedly decided to shut down the board May 16th, but that decision appears to be on hold after a last-minute effort to retain board leader Nina Jankowicz. She resigned from the board and the DHS today (May 18th).

While the leakers didn't directly explain why the Disinformation Governance Board was frozen, they claim the White House neither had clear messaging nor a defense against misinformation and threats levelled against Jankowicz. The board was meant to examine approaches for fighting viral lies and had no power over content, but far-right influencers and outlets misrepresented it as a censorship tool and villainized Jankowicz. The campaigns led to harassment and threats against the board leader — in other words, the board was the victim of the very sort of attack it was supposed to prevent.

We've asked the DHS for comment. In a statement to the Post, the department said the board's role had been "grossly mischaracterized" and that Jankowicz had been targeted by "unjustified and vile personal attacks and threats." Previously, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House press secretary Jen Psaki have respectively tried to clarify the board's objectives and debunk falsehoods with little effect.

There is a chance the board could survive depending on a Homeland Security Advisory Council review. If the reports are true, though, the US government may have to rethink its anti-disinformation efforts if they're going to survive both criticism and internal scrutiny.

Update 5/18 2:20PM ET: Homeland Security provided its full statement to Engadget. The department defended both the board and Jankowicz, and noted that its Advisory Council will conduct a "thorough" review to improve its anti-disinformation efforts as well as increase transparency. Final recommendations are due within 75 days. You can read the full statement below.

"DHS created an internal working group called the Disinformation Governance Board to ensure the Department’s disinformation-related work protects free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. It was intended to ensure coordination across the Department’s component agencies as they protect Americans from disinformation that threatens the homeland – including malicious efforts spread by foreign adversaries, human traffickers, and transnational criminal organizations. The Board has been grossly and intentionally mischaracterized: it was never about censorship or policing speech in any manner. It was designed to ensure we fulfill our mission to protect the homeland, while protecting core Constitutional rights. However, false attacks have become a significant distraction from the Department’s vitally important work to combat disinformation that threatens the safety and security of the American people.

"To help instill trust in our work, Secretary Mayorkas has asked former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to lead a thorough review and assessment, conducted through the bipartisan Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC). This assessment will focus on answering two pivotal questions. First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency across our disinformation-related work and increase trust with the public and other key stakeholders. The Secretary has requested the HSAC’s final recommendations within 75 days. During the HSAC’s review, the Board will not convene and its work will be paused, but the Department’s critical work across several administrations to address disinformation that threatens the security of our country will continue."

Tech industry files emergency application to block controversial Texas social media law

Trade industry groups representing tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, have filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to block HB 20. That's the controversial law Texan law that bars social media websites from removing or restricting content based on "the viewpoint of the user or another person." It also allows users to sue large platforms with more than than 50 million active monthly users if they believe they were banned for their political views. As The Washington Post reports, it reflects Republicans' claims that they're being being censored by "Big Tech."

A federal judge blocked HB 20 from being implemented last year, but the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision recently. The panel of judges agreed with the state of Texas that social networks are "modern-day public squares," which means they're banned from censoring certain viewpoints. One of the judges also said that social networks aren't websites but "internet providers" instead. The panel allowed the law to take effect while its merits are still being litigated in lower court. 

NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the groups representing the tech industry, have maintained that the law is an attack on the First Amendment and have previously questioned its constitutionality. In their emergency application, they said HB 20 is an "unprecedented assault on the editorial discretion of private websites... that would fundamentally transform their business models and services." 

They explained that under the law, platforms would have no choice but to allow the dissemination of "all sorts of objectionable viewpoints," such as Russian propaganda justifying the invasion of Ukraine, posts supporting neo-Nazis, KKKs and Holocaust deniers, as well as posts encouraging dangerous behavior, such as disordered eating. "The Fifth Circuit has yet to offer any explanation why the District Court’s thorough opinion was wrong," they wrote in their application (PDF).

NetChoice and CCIA also argue that by allowing the law to be enforced, it could influence and interfere with the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Atlanta-based appeals court will decide the fate of a similar law in Florida that was initially blocked by a federal judge for violating Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Biden administration launches $45 billion plan to get the entire US online by 2030

The Biden administration has formally started its $45 billion effort to bring affordable and reliable high-speed broadband internet access to everyone in the US by 2030. The Internet for All funding is part of the $65 billion earmarked for broadband in the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Starting today, states and other entities can apply for funding from three Internet for All programs.

“In the 21st century, you simply cannot participate in the economy if you don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is overseeing the distribution of the funds, said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Americans across the country will no longer be held back by a lack of high-speed internet access. We are going to ensure every American will have access to technologies that allow them to attend class, start a small business, visit with their doctor and participate in the modern economy.”

States could use the funding to install fiber-optic cables, put more Wi-Fi networks in place or even offer some people free broadband internet access. The launch of the program follows news earlier this week that the Biden administration has teamed up with 20 providers to offer subsidized internet service to low-income households.

Most of the Internet for All funding will be available from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. States and other territories will need to file a letter of intent and a budget for planning funds. They'll then receive $5 million in planning funds to help them put together a five-year plan detailing how they'll provide comprehensive internet access to all residents.

Each state that takes part in the program will receive at least $100 million from the BEAD pot of $42.5 billion. After that, funding allocations will be decided in part based on updated broadband coverage maps that the Federal Communications Commission is expected to release this fall.

Under the $1 billion Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, funding will be allocated based on a "technology-neutral, competitive basis" to build, buy or improve infrastructure elements that carry "large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances." As for the $1.5 billion State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, that's designed to bolster adoption and use of the internet with the help of digital literacy training.

Biden administration launches $45 billion plan to get the entire US online by 2030

The Biden administration has formally started its $45 billion effort to bring affordable and reliable high-speed broadband internet access to everyone in the US by 2030. The Internet for All funding is part of the $65 billion earmarked for broadband in the $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Starting today, states and other entities can apply for funding from three Internet for All programs.

“In the 21st century, you simply cannot participate in the economy if you don’t have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is overseeing the distribution of the funds, said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Americans across the country will no longer be held back by a lack of high-speed internet access. We are going to ensure every American will have access to technologies that allow them to attend class, start a small business, visit with their doctor and participate in the modern economy.”

States could use the funding to install fiber-optic cables, put more Wi-Fi networks in place or even offer some people free broadband internet access. The launch of the program follows news earlier this week that the Biden administration has teamed up with 20 providers to offer subsidized internet service to low-income households.

Most of the Internet for All funding will be available from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. States and other territories will need to file a letter of intent and a budget for planning funds. They'll then receive $5 million in planning funds to help them put together a five-year plan detailing how they'll provide comprehensive internet access to all residents.

Each state that takes part in the program will receive at least $100 million from the BEAD pot of $42.5 billion. After that, funding allocations will be decided in part based on updated broadband coverage maps that the Federal Communications Commission is expected to release this fall.

Under the $1 billion Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, funding will be allocated based on a "technology-neutral, competitive basis" to build, buy or improve infrastructure elements that carry "large amounts of data at high speeds over long distances." As for the $1.5 billion State Digital Equity Planning Grant Program, that's designed to bolster adoption and use of the internet with the help of digital literacy training.

US lawmaker seeks to create a commission to oversee tech companies

US Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) wants to establish a federal watchdog that would focus on overseeing digital platforms and tech giants. The lawmaker has introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act (PDF) in Congress in hopes of establishing a five-person federal body appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. They would be experts in relevant fields, including computer science, software development and technology policy.

The commission would be in charge of assuring "the fairness and safety of algorithms on digital platforms" as well as promoting competition. It would also have the authority to conduct investigations, impose penalties and to set new rules, such as those that ensure moderation transparency and the protection of consumers. The commission would create requirements for regular public risk assessments on the distribution of harmful content on digital platforms, as well.

Under the commission, a "Code Council" comprised of technologists and public interest experts will conjure up standards and policies that could be implemented. In addition, the commission will establish a research office with 20 dedicated employees to conduct internal research and coordinate with outside academics and experts. 

As mentioned in the legislation's announcement, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are in charge of overseeing digital platforms today. Bennett argues, however, that they lack the expert staff and tech-oriented culture necessary for robust oversight. 

The Washington Post reports that Bennett's motivation was his personal experience viewing disinformation as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as seeing how social media has affected his children. As the publication notes, though, it remains to be seen whether the legislation would be approved by the Senate, where Democrats have a 50-50 majority.

US lawmaker seeks to create a commission to oversee tech companies

US Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) wants to establish a federal watchdog that would focus on overseeing digital platforms and tech giants. The lawmaker has introduced the Digital Platform Commission Act (PDF) in Congress in hopes of establishing a five-person federal body appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. They would be experts in relevant fields, including computer science, software development and technology policy.

The commission would be in charge of assuring "the fairness and safety of algorithms on digital platforms" as well as promoting competition. It would also have the authority to conduct investigations, impose penalties and to set new rules, such as those that ensure moderation transparency and the protection of consumers. The commission would create requirements for regular public risk assessments on the distribution of harmful content on digital platforms, as well.

Under the commission, a "Code Council" comprised of technologists and public interest experts will conjure up standards and policies that could be implemented. In addition, the commission will establish a research office with 20 dedicated employees to conduct internal research and coordinate with outside academics and experts. 

As mentioned in the legislation's announcement, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are in charge of overseeing digital platforms today. Bennett argues, however, that they lack the expert staff and tech-oriented culture necessary for robust oversight. 

The Washington Post reports that Bennett's motivation was his personal experience viewing disinformation as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as seeing how social media has affected his children. As the publication notes, though, it remains to be seen whether the legislation would be approved by the Senate, where Democrats have a 50-50 majority.

Rivian recalls 502 R1T trucks due to an airbag sensor issue

Rivian is recalling some of its R1T electric trucks because of an issue with airbag sensors. The vehicle may not disable an airbag when a child is sitting up front, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration filing spotted by The Verge. This is Rivian's first recall and it covers 502 R1T vehicles that were built between September 2021 and April 2022.

Although the NHTSA recommends that children aged under 13 should be in the back seat, that's not always possible for various reasons. Airbags, which can deploy even in a minor accident, can injure or kill children who are sitting in the front seat. 

Rivian said the recalled vehicles "fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 208, 'Occupant Crash Protection.'" The company said no injuries have been associated with the issue. 

The front passenger seats in the recalled EVs will be replaced for free at Rivian service centers — it currently has 20 of those in the US. The company said it will inform affected customers by phone, email, text and in-vehicle messaging as soon as possible. It will also mail notices to them by July 1st.

A Rivian spokesperson sent Engadget the following statement:

Rivian has determined that on certain R1T vehicles, the front passenger seat may not deactivate the front passenger airbag as required if a child seat or child is in that seat. In the event of a crash which deploys the front passenger airbag, a seat with this improper calibration may increase the risk of injury for any child or child seat occupant sitting in the seat. We are contacting those with affected Rivian vehicles, and they will receive a passenger seat replacement free of charge at a Rivian service center. In the meantime, infants and children should not be placed in the front passenger seat of affected Rivian vehicles until a front passenger seat replacement is complete.

Update 5/12 2:29PM ET: Added Rivian's statement.