February 19 2021

COVID-19: Industry News & Response

Politico Biden looks past anger at Silicon Valley to get help on vaccines
White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz said the administration is in talks with Amazon.com Inc. and other tech companies with “logistics and technical expertise” to get their help with distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Amazon has previously offered its IT and operations know-how to the administration, while Google has offered free ads to public health authorities and Airbnb Inc. has suggested it could help find locations for “vaccine depots” due to its network of real estate.

CNET Facebook removed more than 1 million posts for COVID-19 misinformation
Facebook and its photo-service Instagram pulled down more than 1 million pieces of content during the last three months of 2020 for containing misinformation about COVID-19 that could lead to “imminent harm.” This content included fake preventative measures for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and exaggerated cures, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said Thursday in a press call.


Statescoop FCC announces Broadband Data Task Force
In one of her first acts as acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel on Wednesday announced the formation of a new task force dedicated to implementing “long-overdue” upgrades to the agency’s broadband data collection process. The new “Broadband Data Task Force” will work alongside the FCC’s current offices to ensure that future broadband mapping efforts are more accurate than the current process.

The Hill Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to allow for increased use of internet-connected devices
Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) on Thursday introduced legislation intended to allow for growth of the number of internet-connected devices and the expansion of spectrum to meet the expected increased demand. The Internet of Things (IoT) Readiness Act would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect data on the growth of internet-connected devices that depend on 5G networks in order to quantify the amount of spectrum needed to support the devices.

The Washington Post The Cybersecurity 202: Industry groups urge Congress to include cybersecurity funding in coronavirus relief package
Cybersecurity groups are urging Congress to make federal and state cybersecurity funding a priority as lawmakers iron out a $1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief package. They want to see the more than $10 billion in cybersecurity funding proposed in the White House’s coronavirus rescue plan included in the final package. It’s unclear what the final package will contain as Democratic lawmakers pursue a partisan approach known as budget reconciliation to get the legislation approved.

Multichannel News House GOP Unveils Deregulatory Broadband Agenda
House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans have unveiled a package of 28 broadband-related, primarily deregulatory, bills they said will “turbocharge” investment and promote deployment, competition, and consumer choice while removing “unnecessary or duplicative” environmental and historical preservation “barriers” to that deployment.

The Hill Langevin hopeful new Armed Services panel will shine new spotlight on cybersecurity
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), the newly minted chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s new cybersecurity subcommittee, is looking to bring a new spotlight to the nation’s defensive cyber capabilities and international cyber diplomacy. Langevin, a long-time House leader on cybersecurity issues, told The Hill during a phone interview that his aim is to support a 21st century defense posture, and expressed confidence that after the biggest cyber espionage event in U.S. history, the level of focus on cybersecurity from both sides of the aisle would remain high.

Politico Facebook, Twitter CEOs in talks to testify at House hearing as soon as March
The CEOs of Facebook and Twitter are in talks with House lawmakers to testify at a hearing as early as next month, according to people familiar with the plans. Facebook has discussed making chief Mark Zuckerberg available to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to two people, as has Twitter and its chief Jack Dorsey, one of the people said. Committee leaders are scrutinizing the platforms’ handling of coronavirus misinformation and violent content in the wake of the Capitol riot.

The Hill Federal cyber agency gets deputy director after months-long vacancy
Nitin Natarajan on Tuesday was appointed the deputy director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), building back the agency’s leadership months after its top leaders were forced to step down.


Roll Call Virginia set to become second state to pass data privacy law
Virginia is set to become the second state, after California, to pass data privacy legislation. The bill could become law as soon April when Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign a measure that has passed both chambers of the state legislature but is awaiting a few last-minute tweaks. Known as the Consumer Data Protection Act, the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023 and would apply to all business that control or process data for at least 100,000 Virginians, or those commercial entities that derive at least 50 percent of their revenues from the sale and processing of consumer data of at least 25,000 customers.

Morning Consult Tech Policy Has a Diversity Problem. A New Report Indicates Few Know the Actual Extent of It
In a new report from Public Knowledge released Monday, the tech policy nonprofit is making an ambitious attempt at addressing diversity problems plaguing the industry by asking questions few have raised before: What does the early-career tech policy workforce look like? And how could those organizations diversify their talent pipeline? But when the group reached out to 31 organizations they’ve worked with or that are prominent in the tech policy community and asked for the diversity breakdowns of their early-career roles, only eight responded.

The New York Times Maryland Approves Country’s First Tax on Big Tech’s Ad Revenue
The State Senate voted on Friday to override the governor’s veto of the measure, following in the footsteps of the state’s House of Delegates, which gave its approval on Thursday. The tax will generate as much as an estimated $250 million in the first year after enactment, with the money going to schools. The approval signals the arrival in the United States of a policy pioneered by European countries, and it is likely to set off a fierce legal fight over how far communities can go to tax the tech companies.

The New York Times Big Tech’s Unlikely Next Battleground: North Dakota
Last month, a lobbyist approached Kyle Davison, a North Dakota state senator, with an unusual proposal: a law to stop Apple and Google from forcing companies in the state to hand over a share of their app sales. Mr. Davison, a Republican, was focused on bills related to a $200,000 literacy program and birth records for the homeless.


The Brookings Institute

  • Blog on Broadband Deployment in Rural America
    A majority of Americans believe the COVID-19 pandemic has made the internet “essential.” Once a “nice to have” service to enjoy streaming videos or play games, broadband connections are now “must have.” Reaching online services to work and learn from home, visit the doctor, and even order toilet paper has never been more important. But there are up to 42 million Americans for whom this essential network is not available, and millions more for whom it is available but unaffordable. (TechTank – Connecting the unconnected in rural AmericaFebruary 11, 2021)
  • Blog on Boosting Broadband Adoption
    Fewer Americans have the internet in their homes than have indoor plumbing. What to do about this shocking statistic begins with understanding that only 20 percent of Americans are without broadband in their homes because it is unavailable. (TechTank – Boosting broadband adoption, February 11, 2021)

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

  • Blog on Taxing Internet Companies
    Being an elected official is no easy feat. On the one hand, you get to pass legislation to spend money, but unfortunately you need to pass laws to raise taxes, too. That is something no legislator who is running in the next election relishes. So, an ideal answer is to tax entities in some other jurisdiction. They may complain, but they can’t vote. Plus, if you tell your voters that this free windfall will be spent on apple-pie-like priorities such as K-12 education (and not on public sector retirement funds) you can cruise to reelection. Win-win. Therefore, it should be no surprise that not only are European countries taking this easy path, but so too are U.S. states—in this case taxing large, out-of-jurisdiction Internet companies. (ITIF Blog – Tax Thee, Not Me: Why Taxing Digital Giants Is a Lawmaker’s DreamFebruary 16, 2021)

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.