Khanna Slams Valley "Bro Culture"
SENATE VOTE ON NET NEUTRALITY? — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) says he’s one co-sponsor away from the 30 required to discharge his Congressional Review Act resolution to undo the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, forcing a floor vote. “We’re up to 29! @SenKamalaHarris just signed on to my effort to reverse the repeal of #NetNeutrality rules!” Markey tweeted Tuesday night. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had pledged such a vote last month.
— But don’t get too excited. Lawmakers can’t act until 20 calendar days after the Dec. 14 net neutrality repeal is sent to Congress and published in the Federal Register. Republicans broadly back the FCC repeal and President Donald Trump holds veto power over the resolution, creating awfully tough odds for success. Some Democrats suggest net neutrality will play in the 2018 midterms, however, and think forcing a high-profile vote would be to their benefit.
WITH HATCH DEPARTURE, TECH LOSES KEY ADVOCATE — The retirement announcement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sets up a flurry of speculation about former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s potential Senate run, but it also means tech is losing one of its key allies on issues including encryption and privacy. Here’s a look at some of the policy areas where Hatch has staked positions during his 41-year Senate tenure:
— ICPA: Hatch has long championed legislation that would establish a new way for law enforcement to access data stored overseas, an effort that’s been backed by tech giants including Microsoft, Facebook and Google. The International Communications Privacy Act (S. 1671 (115)) seeks to clarify how law enforcement should handle such data requests. It stalled in the last Congress but has been reintroduced this term.
— Encryption: While activists have said he has a mixed track record on surveillance, Hatch has supported companies including Apple when it comes to promoting strong encryption on their devices. Hatch took Apple’s side in favor of encryption after the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre in December 2015 that killed 14 people, leading the FBI to demand access to the shooter's iPhone to look for evidence.
— Intellectual property: Hatch has also been a critic of patent trolls, which have been known to target tech companies. As the former head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s called out the abuse of patent venues and played a pivotal role in helping develop legislation like the America Invents Act.
— Immigration: He's consistently pushed for increasing the cap on the number of visas for high-skilled workers, employees for which tech has historically had high demand. As part of this effort, Hatch has previously introduced the I-Squared Act, which strives to raise the annual cap on H1-B guest worker visas to between 115,000 and 195,000 from 65,000.
— And who could forget: In one of his latest positions backing the current consumer welfare standard in antitrust, Hatch referred to newer perspectives on antitrust, some of which have been increasingly critical of tech giants, as “hipster antitrust.” “Nobody would mistake me for a hipster,” he added.
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KHANNA SLAMS VALLEY “BRO CULTURE” — Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) slammed the “bro culture” of tech that’s described in a recent book excerpt from Bloomberg reporter Emily Chang. The piece details industry “sex parties” that are dominated by male leaders in tech and venture capital and exploitative of women. “The bro culture has to be exposed and changed,” Khanna wrote in a tweet. “We need to stop objectifying women in the Valley and start treating them with respect and dignity for their contributions to tech & to our nation.”
A NEW RURAL BROADBAND COALITION — Microsoft, ACT | The App Association and the National Rural Education Association are among those that have come together to establish a new coalition dedicated to increasing access to rural broadband using TV White Spaces technology. The group, Connect Americans Now, intends to work with the FCC regarding use of low-band spectrum that would help bolster broadband availability.
FTC SQUARES AWAY LENOVO SETTLEMENT — The agency on Tuesday gave its final approval for a settlement from Lenovo in the wake of charges the company faced about preloading advertising software on its laptops that compromised computer users' security. The FTC’s vote on the matter was 2-0.
— Speaking of the FTC: The White House last year announced its intention to nominate Joe Simons for FTC chairman and Rohit Chopra for a Democratic commissioner slot but never officially sent the nominations to the Senate. As such, the White House still has to complete nominations and paperwork for both for them to move forward this year. “We still intend to fill enough positions to get a fully functioning FTC,” a White House official told MT.
MORE TIME, PLEASE – Small wireless carriers will not be able to gin up geo-targeting capabilities in their wireless emergency alerts as fast as the FCC might like, the Competitive Carriers Association told the FCC in a filing posted Tuesday. CTIA, representing the bigger wireless companies, told the FCC late last month that it could help add the location feature to its emergency alerts in 36 months, calling that timeline “aggressive but achievable.” But smaller companies should get an additional one to two years to roll out the technology “at the earliest,” CCA said. The trade group also urged the commission to get a better handle on what’s possible and suggested “it would defy logic for the Commission to adopt rules that are technically infeasible.”
— But imprecise geo-targeting is keeping large metropolitan areas from making effective use of emergency alerts and puts lives “unnecessarily at risk,” warned Dianne Jacob, chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. She urges an FCC mandate to carriers no later than May 2019.
SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS —
— Thiel’s fund goes in on bitcoin: “Founders Fund, the venture-capital firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of the volatile cryptocurrency, people familiar with the matter said,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “The bet has been spread across several of the firm’s most recent funds, the people said, including one that began investing in mid-2017 and made bitcoin one of its first investments.”
— Spotify faces copyright suit: “Wixen, an exclusive licensee of songs such as ‘Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty, ‘Light My Fire’ by the Doors, ‘(Girl We Got a) Good Thing’ by Weezer and works of singers such as Stevie Nicks, is seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion along with injunctive relief,” Reuters reports.
— Twitter and Sheriff David Clarke: “Twitter temporarily locked the account of prominent Trump supporter and former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke after Clarke encouraged violence on the platform, breaking Twitter's rules,” BuzzFeed reports.
MEANWHILE, IN EUROPE — There’s even more pressure building on “big tech” in Europe, where antitrust regulators continue to have concerns about the amount of data that industry giants have access to, The Wall Street Journal reports. “Under [Margrethe] Vestager, who took office three years ago, the [EU competition] commission has been scrutinizing potential antitrust issues with big data more closely than under her predecessor, lawyers say. Regulators in Italy, France and Germany are also digging into the issue.”
TRANSITIONS — Lauren Bouton, formerly a public policy associate at Facebook, heads to R Street's federal affairs team as outreach manager and coalition coordinator. … Michael Daniels, previously with the Rural Health Care Program at the Universal Service Administrative Company, and Adam Jorde, previously with the office of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), are now directors of government affairs at NTCA. … Vanessa Green Sinders, previously the senior vice president and department head for government affairs at the American Hotel and Lodging Association, joins Charter’s government affairs team as a senior vice president. … Chris Soghoian, previously a TechCongress fellow, is now a senior technologist for Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore.) office.
State Dept. calls on Iran to unblock social media: Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein on Tuesday pressed the Iranian government to open access to Facebook, Instagram and Telegram, ABC News reports.
Airbnb nets legal win: “Airbnb said a U.S district court dismissed a lawsuit by Apartment Investment & Management Co that claimed the short-term rental website allowed tenants to break their lease agreements through unauthorized sublets,” Reuters reports.