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Tech’s Legislative Outlook for 2019: Building on 2018’s Momentum for Innovation and Growth

The 116th Congress marks another moment of profound political change and an important opportunity to advance policies that meet the needs of Americans and American-based businesses in the 21st century. As we continue into 2019, ITI’s mission is to empower policymakers with the information necessary to pursue policies that enable economic growth and job creation, keep the American workforce competitive, protect consumers and foster trusted networks, and incentivize innovation.

The tech industry has always worked to be part of the solution to the complex issues facing our customers, employees, and communities. Our industry is committed to doing everything we can to deepen our consumers’ trust and meet their expectations when it comes to protecting their privacy and personal data. We strongly support efforts by lawmakers to advance meaningful national privacy legislation that protects personal data by enhancing transparency, increasing consumer control, establishing company accountability, and promoting security. Passing such legislation is a top priority for our industry. It’s important we work together – with lawmakers, consumers, and industry partners – to get it right.

It’s also past time to modernize our broken immigration system to meet the economic realities of today’s economy. We’re encouraged that Congress hit the ground running and has introduced measures to help the United States attract and retain top talent to increase competition and support job creation, including a permanent solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Startup Act, and Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act.

Promoting trade agreements that harness the full potential of the digital age while expanding opportunities for Americans across the country is critical for our companies, and should be for Congress, too. As Congress prepares to consider the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), we continue to inform lawmakers on this agreement’s benefits. Specifically, its landmark digital trade provisions will foster technological advancement for American companies of all sizes and industries and solidify North America as the destination of choice for cutting-edge technology development, manufacturing, and delivery. The United States is poised to lead on this issue, and we urge Congress to follow through with the USMCA’s ratification.

Further, ensuring our federal government’s IT systems are up-to-date and reflect today’s digital reality is imperative. Congress passed the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act as part of last year’s NDAA, and our attention now turns to its implementation. Congress must fully fund the law and its options for IT investment for federal agencies for it to be effective. Sustained and robust investment the U.S. government’s own technology will accelerate the modernization of legacy IT systems and networks, bolster the cybersecurity stance for government, and help deploy innovative technologies. This is an important step in helping federal agencies protect people’s sensitive information and keep pace with innovation.

At ITI, we continue to work toward a better future, advocating policies that drive economic growth across the country, promote consumer rights, and improve the lives of all Americans. We urge Congress to focus on these initiatives and more to accelerate innovation and create opportunity in the United States in 2019:

Fostering Economic Growth and Job Creation

  • Ensuring Market Access for Technology Products and Services: In today’s interconnected global economy, innovative companies rely on access to competitive, fast-growing markets abroad in order to succeed. ITI supports trade agreements that advance a forward-thinking digital trade agenda, protect a free and open internet, and enable market opportunities for the tech industry, including USMCA. To promote the interests of American businesses, workers, consumers, and the overall economy, such trade agreements should promote the free flow of information across borders, prohibit the forced localization of data and production, eliminate tariffs, and create greater certainty and predictability within the global marketplace.
  • Promoting an Efficient International Tax System: ITI supports a competitive corporate rate and an efficient international tax system that promotes investment and innovation, and provides certainty and predictability to the business community. At the global level, lawmakers should oppose taxation efforts that single out digital commerce, especially unilateral policies by individual economies. Instead, Congress should express support for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) multilateral process to evaluate the taxation of the digital economy.
  • Modernizing U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure: In an age where everything from cars and public transportation to public services and utilities is connected to the internet, our ability to integrate smart technologies and other cyber-physical innovations with traditional infrastructure systems is essential for improving safety, maximizing economic productivity and energy efficiency, and enhancing quality of life. ITI supports legislative efforts to enable cities and communities to leverage smart technologies and deploy effective, sustainable infrastructure solutions to the benefit of their citizens.

Strengthening the Skills of America’s Workforce

  • Investing in the STEM Workforce: With 80 percent of the fastest growing jobs reliant on science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and computer science knowledge and skills, ITI supports legislative efforts to advance apprenticeships, education, and training programs in these fields. ITI is committed to partnering with policymakers to ensure that the STEM pipeline is both accessible and inclusive to underrepresented minorities and communities.
  • Reforming High-Skilled Immigration: Employers rely on the ability to recruit and retain the most qualified professionals to stay competitive globally. Recognizing that highly-skilled employees contribute enormous value not only to companies, but to the entire innovation economy, ITI supports the enactment of meaningful reforms that make H-1B visas and employment-based green cards more readily available to high-skilled immigrants. ITI also supports the elimination of arbitrary per-country caps on employment-based green cards and finding a permanent legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to ensure these individuals can continue to contribute to the U.S. economy.

Protecting Consumers and Fostering Trusted Networks

  • Safeguarding Data and Restoring User Trust: To provide meaningful privacy protections for consumers, ITI supports federal privacy legislation that enhances transparency, increases consumer control, promotes security, and manages privacy risk. ITI also supports replacing the patchwork of competing state and territory data breach regimes with a single federal standard to provide end users with a more meaningful and consistent notice regime.
  • Ensuring Robust Oversight of Government Access to Data: To bring U.S. data access laws into the 21st century, ITI supports efforts to modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to protect the privacy of users’ electronic communications through appropriate legal process, regardless of the age of that content.
  • Increasing Cyber Defenses: Cybersecurity efforts should be dynamic and flexible in order to leverage new technologies and business models and respond to ever-changing threats. Congress should promote and leverage existing public-private partnerships and voluntary industry initiatives that are technology neutral, grounded in consensus-based global standards, and reflect the global nature of cyberspace to advance security and protect privacy. ITI also urges Congress to prioritize investment in cybersecurity workforce development and training, and to support cybersecurity education and awareness in the private sector and government.
  • Promoting Balanced Approaches to Supply Chain Risk Management: The tech sector shares U.S. policymakers’ concerns regarding the importance of the security of global ICT supply chains. ITI urges Congress to work with the administration and the private sector to advance holistic policy solutions to address supply chain security threats rather than pursuing piecemeal solutions. We recommend Congress leverage risk management-based, public-private partnership-driven efforts to mitigate this complex set of risks, such as the DHS-led Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force.

Incentivizing Innovation

  • Advancing the Deployment of AI and Related Technologies: Few advancements show as much potential and opportunity to transform the U.S. economy and society as artificial intelligence (AI). To fully reap the benefits of AI and other innovative technologies, Congress should embrace policies that drive foundational research and investment in AI, encourage the development of global, voluntary, and consensus-based standards and best practices in developing and deploying these technologies, prepare the U.S. workforce for the jobs of the future, and ensure robust and international multi-stakeholder partnerships. ITI also encourages Congress to broadly support policies that direct more federal dollars into early stage research in science and technology fields, like AI.
  • Modernizing Public Sector Information Technology: Modernization of outdated government IT networks and systems would allow federal agencies to more effectively achieve their mission while improving the digital experience of their constituencies. Congress can encourage the faster adoption of new technologies throughout the federal government by reforming outdated acquisition processes and fully funding the Technology Modernization Fund and other working capital funds to help agencies replace out-of-date legacy systems. Furthermore, Congress and the administration can provide fiscal certainty through the regular passage of appropriations bills to prevent funding gaps that result in unanticipated costs for contractors that are paid for by internal cuts, hiring freezes, and layoffs or furloughs of their employees.
  • Deploying Spectrum and 5G Networks: ITI supports efforts to make new spectrum available for mobile use and incentivize investment in wireless broadband networks. The rapid deployment of cutting-edge technologies such as fifth generation (5G) wireless networks is essential to advancing innovations like autonomous vehicles and smart cities. Congress should move to make spectrum across low, mid, and high-bands more readily available for both licensed and unlicensed 5G use. Congress should also pass legislation that would modernize wireless infrastructure rules to expedite the deployment of small cells, which are critical to 5G deployment.
  • Expanding Broadband Access Nationwide: With roughly one in four Americans citing access to high-speed internet as a major problem in their local community, Congress could help close the digital divide by embracing legislation to expand broadband access. This includes mapping national broadband availability, imposing “shot clocks” on state and local zoning and permitting decisions, and lessening the costs for communities to deploy broadband through “dig once” and “climb once” policies.

This may sound like a lot to take on, but now is the time to act. There's no time to waste, and there are far too many opportunities to let pass by. We should capitalize on the opportunities in front of us to improve American leadership on innovation, and the tech sector remains committed to working with Congress to advance these policy priorities for continued economic success and growth in 2019.

Public Policy Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Trade & Investment, Cybersecurity, Tax Policy, Workforce, Immigration, Data & Privacy