"Engine joins Chairman Greg Walden, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and the other members of the FCC in warning against the Trump administration’s reported discussions of nationalizing the developing 5G wireless networks.
President Trump hosted “Tech Week” this week at the White House. Events held earlier in the week included a meeting with tech company CEOs to discuss a number of policy issues including cybersecurity, tax reform, and updating the government’s technology. CEOs from 18 leading tech companies attended including Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Intel. Later in the week, the White House held meetings with investors and executives to discuss emerging technologies like drones, 5G wireless expansion, and artificial intelligence.
A federal judge in Hawaii issued a freeze on President Trump’s new immigration ban on Wednesday, just hours before it was scheduled to take effect. Two weeks ago, President Trump signed the revised immigration ban, which narrowed the scope of the original ban to six countries and removed some of the most contentious aspects in an attempt to satisfy the courts. However, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson was not convinced, arguing that “a reasonable, objective observer...would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” Almost 60 technology companies signed an amicus brief supporting the state of Hawaii in its suit against the federal government. The decision by Watson is probably not the final word, as the Justice Department will likely appeal the ruling and continue to fight for the ban over the coming months.
Prioritizing Broadband in Infrastructure Package. During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure. While the speech did not include specifics about what would be included in the initiative or how it would be funded, many are hopeful that broadband investments will be prioritized (including more than 60 mayors and local leaders who signed onto a Next Century Cities letter urging the President and Congressional leadership to include broadband in any infrastructure effort). As we have argued before, the millions of Americans who still lack access to quality broadband represent potential users and entrepreneurs who are cut off from the opportunities that connectivity provides. We’re tracking.
Congress Talks Self-Driving Cars. As autonomous vehicles increasingly move from the realm of science fiction to literally hitting the pavement, policymakers are grappling with a broad range of issues presented by these new technologies, including safety, security, liability, and ethics. On Tuesday, Congress had the opportunity to dive deeper on some of these topics, as the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee convened a hearing on self-driving vehicles that included panelists from GM, Toyota, Volvo, Lyft, and the RAND Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty. The participating industry giants called on Congress to relax existing safety regulations, such as the requirement that any vehicle have both a steering wheel and floor pedals, which they argued currently limit innovation. They also noted that the existing patchwork of state laws was stifling growth (Lyft called out California’s proposed laws in particular) and urged policymakers to do more to explicitly limit the ability of states to legislate on this emerging technology. To coincide with the hearing, several members highlighted efforts to improve regulatory flexibility for the industry (including potential legislation from Sens. John Thune and Gary Peters), and there will most certainly be more to come.
In a startling move after only one week in office, President Trump signed an Executive Order last Friday limiting the movement of immigrants—including lawful visa holders—and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries into the U.S. In a statement, Evan Engstrom, Engine’s executive director, said “The executive order is both morally and economically misguided, and sets a dangerous precedent that signals to the rest of the world that America is no longer open for innovation.” Hundreds of companies and organizations released statements of their objection, including Google, Apple, AirBnB, Microsoft, the Internet Association, CCIA, CTA, and TechNet. As immigrants play an essential role in building and contributing to the success of American startups, we urge our fellow members of the startup ecosystem to sign our letter to President Trump to express their opposition.
Earlier this week, it was announced that President Trump had tapped Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Pai is currently the senior Republican commissioner at the agency and as such, his nomination will not require Senate approval. Engine is hopeful that as chairman, Pai will preserve Chairman Wheeler’s tradition of championing America’s innovators and ensuring that startups and entrepreneurs have a voice in the critical debates impacting our 21st century innovation economy. While we have disagreed with Commissioner Pai on a number of issues during his tenure (most notably on net neutrality), we see promise in areas such as his proposal for the creation of Gigabit Opportunity Zones and his efforts around promoting the growth of internet-based services. Expanding access to broadband and preventing incumbent gatekeepers from undermining competition are critical to fostering a thriving startup ecosystem, and we look forward to continuing the important work of ensuring that our communications infrastructure supports innovation in all corners of the U.S.
This week marked the five year anniversary of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) protest—a coordinated blackout of more than 50,000 websites meant to push back against the online censorship that the bills threatened. As Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom explains in a new blog post, “the bills themselves would have allowed the government, at the behest of copyright owners, to blacklist and functionally deny access to websites accused of hosting infringing content, undermining the fundamental architecture of a free and open internet.”
The net neutrality debate that dominated tech headlines in 2014 and 2015 was once again the top telecom issue in 2016, peaking in June with the U.S. Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) 2015 Open Internet Order. The telecom excitement didn’t end there, as policymakers dealt with a huge number of issues related to promoting telecom competition; preparing for a wireless, connected future; and building out broadband access in underserved parts of the country. In short, the momentum in 2015 carried over into 2016 in a big way. Looking ahead, 2017 is poised to be yet another busy year in telecom policy, though the impact of an incoming Trump Administration still remains uncertain.
Tech Meets with Trump. Following on the heels of weeks of meetings for the President-elect, Donald Trump met with 14 executives from the tech community at Trump Tower on Wednesday. Prior to this meeting, relations between the Trump team and Silicon Valley had been frosty, at best. During the course of his campaign, Trump called for many policies that the technology community found threatening, including trade restrictions, stricter immigration policy, and “closing that internet up.” Despite this, many attendees from both camps left the meeting optimistic. Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, a favorite target of Trump during the election said, “I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech—agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing—everywhere.” Among the items discussed at the meeting was the aforementioned job creation, China, tax reform, education, and infrastructure. Mr. Trump summed up his feelings towards the group saying, “We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world.”
Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his plans to step down from the agency on January 20, 2017. The following statement can be attributed to Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom: “In his time at the helm of the FCC, Chairman Tom Wheeler has been a tireless champion for startups and innovators everywhere, and Engine is grateful for his service.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed unanimously an ordinance sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell that will give San Francisco residents more freedom to choose their broadband provider. Engine helped galvanize support around the issue by circulating a petition signed by more than 200 San Franciscans. The following statement can be attributed to Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom:
Engine made its home in the Bay Area for a number of reasons, the top being its proximity to some of the most creative and innovative companies in the United States. Home to tens of thousands of startups, it’s a tech haven with a rich talent pool, access to capital and seemingly endless disruptive ideas.
On Wednesday, Engine’s Executive Director Evan Engstrom and sixteen other technology industry leaders sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump outlining a number of growth and innovation-driving principles that he should consider as he sets his policy agenda.
DC Grapples with IoT Cybersecurity. The Internet of Things (IoT) has grown exponentially in recent years: there are now approximately 6.4 billion internet connected devices worldwide, a number that is increasing by 5.5 million every single day. While the growing IoT holds tremendous potential, recent cyberattacks have left policymakers increasingly concerned over vulnerabilities in connected devices. On Tuesday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a set of guidelines on IoT cybersecurity, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its own policy principles for securing connected devices. The following day, policymakers on the Hill held a joint hearing to discuss security and cyberattacks on the IoT. There was consensus among panelists around the importance of standards and guidelines like those released by the Administration earlier in the week. However, there was disagreement over whether formal regulations are necessary. While one participant called for government intervention, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who chaired the hearing, noted that regulations would be a "knee-jerk reaction" to recent attacks. We’re tracking.
This week, 84 business executives, both male and female, penned an open letter to our next president detailing the steps that he or she should take to bolster the participation of women in entrepreneurship. They grouped their suggestions into three broad categories: access to financial and human capital, access to local and global markets and networks, and help with the changing-face of technology. The lack of diversity in startups and investments is well documented. But it’s also indisputable that improving the landscape for female entrepreneurs will create positive economic and social impacts. As the group pointed out in their letter, if women and men participated equally in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the United States’ GDP could rise by $30 billion. The business leaders also noted that women invest 90 percent of their income into their communities, meaning that an investment in their careers could easily benefit society as a whole.
Engine chose to make its home in the Bay Area to be close to some of the most creative and disruptive companies in the country. A place where an innovative internet service provider like Monkeybrains could crowdfund the deployment of gigabit wireless service. Or where a provider like Webpass could build an entirely wireless infrastructure, using super high spectrum frequencies to deliver the fastest internet in the city.
Change in Leadership at the Copyright Office. Last Friday, Maria Pallante was removed from her post as Register of the Copyright Office by the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. While Pallante was reassigned as a senior advisor on digital strategy, she formally declined the new position, resigning from the Office on Monday. As the 12th Register, Pallante was both a vocal advocate of separating the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress and an early supporter of SOPA—two policies strongly opposed by the startup and tech communities, as well as public interest groups. The abrupt change-up has sent shockwaves through both the tech and entertainment industries, and many believe it is a foreshadowing of the larger copyright reform debate that is expected to occur early in the next Congress. We’re tracking.
For years, the startup and tech communities have been advocating for a pathway that would encourage the most promising immigrant entrepreneurs to start and scale their companies in the U.S. While no program currently allows for this, a recent proposal from the White House could change that. The International Entrepreneur Rule, proposed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August, will allow qualifying foreign entrepreneurs to live in the U.S. to build their startup for up to five years. On Monday, Engine and New York-based technology trade group Tech:NYC submitted comments supporting the rule and recommending a number of targeted modifications, which we believe will allow the Rule to have an even greater positive impact. You can learn more and read the full comments here.