Executive Briefing December 21, 2018

Earlier this month, Microsoft President Brad Smith announced that Microsoft’s Airband program would bring broadband connectivity to 3 million Americans living in rural areas by 2022 – upping its previous pledge of 2 million. You can read more about this announcement on the VFI blog.

However, before TV white space technology can be widely deployed, the FCC must take action to update regulations governing TV white spaces. Consider emailing your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative today to urge them to call on the FCC to make unused TV white spaces channels available for high-speed internet this year.


U.S. Department of Agriculture USDA Launches New Program to Create High-Speed Internet e-Connectivity in Rural America

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is offering up to $600 million in loans and grants to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. Telecommunications companies, rural electric cooperatives and utilities, internet service providers and municipalities may apply for funding through USDA’s new ReConnect Program to connect rural areas that currently have insufficient broadband service.

Hood River News Sen. Jeff Merkley announces rural broadband bill

Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has announced that, after securing a $600 million investment in rural broadband in the 2018 spending bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching a pilot program that will provide loans and grants to build broadband infrastructure across America — improving rural communities’ economies, healthcare and quality of life. “In today’s connected world, we need high-speed broadband in every rural community across Oregon and across America,” Merkley said in a press release.

The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Senate Democrats launch new privacy effort to protect consumer data

A bill introduced last week by Senate Democrats would require any company that collects users’ digital data to treat that information with the same care that’s required from doctors, lawyers and bankers. The Data Care Act, which signals Democrats’ thinking as they prepare for the next Congress, would represent a drastic shift from the present state of affairs under which customers’ personal information is often a tech company’s most valuable commodity. But the bill may struggle to win the support of more Democrats, including some prominent backers of stricter privacy regulation who would like to see tech companies face harsher penalties than the vague ones described in the new effort.


Microsoft Blog Six principles to guide Microsoft’s facial recognition work

In his recent speech at the Brookings Institution, Brad Smith talked about the urgent need for governments to adopt laws to regulate facial recognition technology. The recommendations, outlined in an accompanying blog post, frame a broader journey we as a society must take to address important questions about the technology while it is still in its infancy, before it’s too late to put the facial recognition genie back in its bottle. He also introduced the principles that will guide Microsoft in how we develop and deploy facial recognition technology.

The New York Times As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants

For years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews. The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet of the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The New York Times France, Not Waiting for European Union, to Tax U.S. Tech Firms as ’19 Starts

With the so-called Yellow Vest movement forcing concessions that have widened the country’s budget shortfall, the French government is accelerating a plan to place hefty taxes on American technology giants that have long maneuvered to keep their bills low while reaping huge sums of money. France has been working with other countries on a European Union-wide digital tax on companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, but some members of the bloc have balked at the proposal.

Morning Consult Fresh Off GDPR, Companies Puzzle Over Complying With California’s Privacy Law

Marketers and advertisers are scrambling to figure out how to comply with a new privacy law in California that takes a broad view of personal information and carries hefty fines for data breaches. In one week in June, California lawmakers revived and passed a first-of-its-kind U.S. privacy legislation, known as the California Consumer Privacy Act, which will change the way that digital advertisers and tech companies use consumer data. The new law came just after companies had rushed to comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect on May 25. But unlike the GDPR, which came after years of deliberation and gave corporations two years to become compliant, California companies have until Jan. 1, 2020, or 18 months from enactment, to get up to speed.

The Examiner To fix the tech gender gap, fix computer science education

This dearth of women in tech isn’t because women hate computer science or simply due to the widespread harassment that many women experience in the industry. The real reason men dominate the computer science industry is because computer science education is only accessible for a small percentage of students who are disproportionately male.

PR Newswire University of Illinois Ushering in New Frontier of Computer Science Curriculum

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has launched a five-year initiative that will educate and certify high school teachers to teach computer science. The Illinois Secondary Teacher Education and Computer Science (I-STECS) initiative, funded through the campus’ Investment for Growth program, will help address the shortage of high school computer science teachers in Illinois and across the nation.

Education Dive Newark Public Schools, Girls Who Code partner to expand computer science opportunities

Schools leaders and lawmakers are recognizing the need for a greater focus on computer science. Some states, like New Jersey, are taking stronger steps by at least requiring that high schools offer such courses. But school districts alone cannot provide all the learning opportunities and tools students need to compete in a fast-changing, technology-based society. However, partnerships with local community colleges and universities can expand these opportunities.


Information Technology Industry Council

  • News release on France’s new tech tax: France’s unilateral efforts to impose a digital tax are misguided. This ill-conceived proposal, based on a plan offered by the European Commission that failed to achieve sufficient support, is the wrong approach. We urge the French government to allow the multilateral process through the OECD to play out instead of moving forward with a policy that will only create fragmentation and confusion and thereby undermine the global tax system. (ITI News Releases, Tech Industry: France’s Misguided Approach to Taxes Will Harm Businesses, Dec 17, 2018)

The App Association

  • Blog on AI relying on humans: his example of AI gone awry serves as an important reminder that AI, while capable of life-changing behaviors and actions, is still just a machine that learns behaviors from its creators. Therefore, humans will always be a part of defining what AI can do. Recent (successful) developments in AI and machine learning have captured the attention of lawmakers and regulators across DC. Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently convened the “Forum on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning” to better understand the challenges and opportunities surrounding AI. (The App Association blog, Don’t Panic: AI Will Always Need You, Dec 18, 2018)


  • Tech policy “Year in Review” blog: Technology policy continued to make international headlines in 2018. From Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation to congressional testimony from tech CEOs. It was also another busy year for research in the Center for Technology Innovation, where our scholars and staff have published new research on artificial intelligence, the future of work, and R&D investment in treatments for deadly diseases. As the year ends, look back at some of our leading blog posts about 2018 news and research. (TechTank blog, TechTank in 2018: Silicon Valley oversight, GDPR, new research, and more, Dec 20, 2018)

Note: Voices for Innovation regularly shares a range of opinion articles and press releases from organizations in and publications covering tech policy. These pieces are meant to educate our audience, not to endorse specific platforms or bills.