The start of the 115th Congress and new administration not only marked an era of profound political change, but it also presented a unique and timely opportunity to modernize outdated policies. Lawmakers acted on many issues critical to the tech industry by enacting substantial reforms to bring both the U.S. federal tax code and the U.S. government procurement process into the 21st century.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the first major overhaul of the U.S. tax code in over 30 years, was not only a major legislative victory for the technology sector, but for the entire business community. The final bill established a permanent, competitive corporate rate, updated international tax rules, and provided incentives for research and development. Successful implementation of the new law will allow for tech companies to further drive innovation and encourage economic investment and growth here in the U.S.
At the end of last year, we also saw the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which incorporated the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, a law that includes key provisions to create new funding options for IT investment for agencies. Through these new funding mechanisms, the U.S. government will be better able to rapidly fund the modernization of legacy IT systems and networks, bolster the cybersecurity stance for government and deploy innovative technologies. This is a critical first step in helping federal agencies invest in new technologies to protect people’s sensitive information and keep pace with innovation.
Although last year we found success, it is not in our DNA to rest on our laurels. In the new year, we will continue to advocate for policies that drive economic growth across the country and create jobs from Silicon Valley to Silicon Prairie and work to improve the lives of Americans. Building on ITI’s legislative priorities for the 115th Congress, we’ve outlined the following roadmap for accelerating economic growth and innovation in 2018:
- Modernizing U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure: Congress and the administration alike have made it clear that rebuilding and modernizing U.S. infrastructure is paramount. In an age where increasingly everything – from cars and public transportation to public service and utilities – is connected to the internet, our ability to integrate smart technologies with traditional transportation and infrastructure systems is essential for improving safety, maximizing economic productivity, and enhancing quality of life. To help realize the advantages of connected infrastructure, Congress should move to adopt the STREET Act, which would enable cities and communities to leverage smart technologies to address transportation-related challenges and deploy effective, sustainable transportation strategies to the benefit of their citizens.
- Reforming High-Skilled Immigration: With nearly 3.3 million science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs open in 2016 alone, businesses rely on their ability to recruit and retain the most qualified foreign graduates and professionals to stay globally competitive. Recognizing that highly-skilled employees contribute enormous value not only to companies, but to the entire innovation economy, Congress should pass meaningful high-skilled immigration reforms and make green cards more readily available to STEM degree holders. Furthermore, both chambers should pass the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, which eliminates arbitrary per-country caps on employment-based green cards, as well as find a permanent legislative solution for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to ensure these young people can continue to contribute to the United States and the U.S. economy.
- Investing in a Science and Technology Workforce: With 80 percent of the fastest growing jobs dependent on the mastery of STEM and computer science knowledge and skills, Congress should continue to advance education and training programs in these fields to ensure the United States has an inclusive domestic workforce that meets the demand of the jobs of tomorrow. Legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Act, which was passed by the House last June, would help students achieve the education and skills necessary to pursue, and succeed in, good-paying jobs in technology and advanced manufacturing.
- Advancing the Deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT): By 2030, IoT technology is expected to add $10 to $15 trillion to worldwide GDP growth. To fully reap the economic and societal benefits of IoT, Congress should embrace policies like the Senate-passed DIGIT Act to advance the deployment of, and adopt a national strategy for, internet-enabled technologies.
- Cementing Net Neutrality Legislation: The recent FCC vote to repeal existing net neutrality rules only creates greater uncertainty that will hinder the ability of businesses to invest in and advance the internet. Congress should work to find a permanent, balanced solution that cements the principles of a free and open internet by restraining blocking and throttling activities, creating an innovation-friendly environment for entrepreneurs, and ensuring access for nearly 3.2 billion daily internet users worldwide.
- Promoting Broadband Investment and Spectrum Availability: To meet the needs of emerging technologies, Congress should move to pass the bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act to make new spectrum available for mobile use and incentivize investment in wireless broadband. In addition to catalyzing the deployment of fifth generation – or 5G – wireless networks, the passage of the AIRWAVES Act would make spectrum across a number of frequency bands more readily available for both licensed and unlicensed use.
- Ensuring Market Access for Technology Products and Services: In today’s interconnected global economy, innovative U.S. companies rely on access to competitive, fast-growing markets abroad in order to succeed. As NAFTA modernization proceeds and the administration identifies new trade priorities – such as a KORUS modernization or a new negotiation – Congress should actively support a forward-thinking digital trade agenda that protects a free and open internet and opens market opportunities for the U.S. tech industry. To protect the interests of U.S. industry, workers, consumers, and the overall economy, trade negotiations should focus on promoting the free flow of information across borders, prohibiting the forced localization of data and production, and creating greater certainty and predictability within the global marketplace.
- Protecting Data and Restoring User Trust: The current law surrounding law enforcement access to email was written over 30 years ago when email was in its infancy and not largely cloud-based like it is today. Remote data storage even across boarders in another country had not been contemplated. To bring U.S. data access laws into the 21st century, Congress should move to adopt the House-passed Email Privacy Act and the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA). If enacted, these legislative proposals would codify critical safeguards for electronic content by ensuring that user data stored electronically and in the cloud is treated the same as data stored in the physical world, and create a framework for access to data stored across international borders. This year, Congress should also act to replace the patchwork of competing state and territory data breach regimes with a single federal standard to provide end users with more meaningful and consistent notice regime.
We are realists and understand that the year ahead will also have its share of gridlock and partisan politics. With that said, there’s still much to do to improve the U.S. economy and too many opportunities to ignore. The moment is there for the taking and the tech sector remains ready to work with lawmakers to advance these important policy objectives for innovation and economic growth in 2018.