House lawmakers last week took a small step toward building an AI regulatory framework by unanimously advancing a bill out of committee that asks the government to study AI accountability and report back in 2025.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the AI Accountability Act on July 27, setting up the bill for further consideration by the full House after members return from their August break.

The bill – introduced in May by Reps. Josh Harder, D-Calif., and Robin Kelly, D-Ill. – would direct the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to conduct a study on accountability measures for AI systems used by communications networks.

The legislation also would task NTIA to assess how these accountability measures might help “prove that artificial intelligence systems are trustworthy.” In 18 months after it passes, the agency would have to make recommendations on these accountability assessment systems.

It would also direct NTIA to hold public meetings with relevant stakeholders to solicit feedback on the information that should be available to consumers who interact with AI systems, and the most effective way to make that information available to consumers.

Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Calif., offered an amendment during debate of the AI Accountability Act, directing NTIA to analyze “how the term trustworthy is used and defined in the context of artificial intelligence, including how the term may be applied in various contexts related to artificial intelligence.”

NTIA, per the amendment, would also have to analyze “the relationship, with respect to artificial intelligence, between the term trustworthy and other terms such as responsible and human-centric.”

Rep. Obernolte’s amendment was approved by voice vote and the underlying bill was approved through the committee by a 50-0 vote.

The bill comes as lawmakers are pushing to reauthorize the NTIA – a Commerce Department component – for the first time since 1992.

At the same time it passed the AI Accountability Act, the House Energy and Commerce Committee also advanced the NTIA Reauthorization Act of 2023 to the full House.

“One of my top priorities as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee is reauthorizing agencies within our jurisdiction,” said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. “In NTIA’s case, Congress has not reauthorized the Administration since 1992. A lot has changed in the last 31 years, both in the technology sector and at NTIA. Today’s NTIA plays a critical role in everything from broadband deployment and federal spectrum management to Internet governance and cybersecurity, issues not prevalent or even in existence when the agency was last reauthorized.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.