Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. To receive this weekly digest in your inbox, sign up at http://engine.is/digest.
DC Grapples with IoT Cybersecurity. The Internet of Things (IoT) has grown exponentially in recent years: there are now approximately 6.4 billion internet connected devices worldwide, a number that is increasing by 5.5 million every single day. While the growing IoT holds tremendous potential, recent cyberattacks have left policymakers increasingly concerned over vulnerabilities in connected devices. On Tuesday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a set of guidelines on IoT cybersecurity, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its own policy principles for securing connected devices. The following day, policymakers on the Hill held a joint hearing to discuss security and cyberattacks on the IoT. There was consensus among panelists around the importance of standards and guidelines like those released by the Administration earlier in the week. However, there was disagreement over whether formal regulations are necessary. While one participant called for government intervention, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), who chaired the hearing, noted that regulations would be a "knee-jerk reaction" to recent attacks. We’re tracking.
Engine Urges Congress to Pass Stock Options Legislation. On Tuesday, Engine joined over 80 startups and entrepreneurial ecosystem leaders in urging Congressional leadership to include the Empowering Employees through Stock Ownership (EESO) Act in any legislative vehicle Congress plans to pass before the end of 2016. The EESO Act, which would make it easier for startup employees to exercise their options, passed the House with broad, bipartisan support and was approved unanimously by the Senate Finance Committee in September. This was due, in a large part, to efforts by the startup community in support of the bill. However, the bill still needs to pass the full Senate. With opportunities for legislative action during the 114th Congress dwindling, Tuesday’s coalition letter urges Congressional leadership to roll the EESO Act into any legislative package that will be considered before the end of the year. Learn more here.
Female Programmers Earn Almost 30% Less that Male Counterparts. As many Silicon Valley companies and investors are making headlines for failing to prioritize diversity in hiring, a recent analysis by the job review site, Glassdoor, shows that women in technology make substantially lower salaries than the men who hold their same positions. The report found that the pay gap for women programmers can be as high as 28.3%, or about 22% higher than the pay gap for all workers. The Glassdoor research also showed that in newer fields where employees are younger, such as virtual reality, these gaps tend to be much smaller, but still persistent. Last September, Engine, along with many other members of the startup community, came together at the Tech Inclusion Conference to discuss possible solutions to this ongoing challenge. A synopsis of the event, as well as potential action items, can be found here.
Federal Officials Push Back Against CA’s Self-Driving Car Proposal. Back in September, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released guidelines that established a voluntary 15-point safety checklist for autonomous vehicle manufacturers to follow as they design and deploy self-driving cars. Pulling largely from NHTSA’s guidelines, the California Department of Motor Vehicles proposed 15 similar safety requirements last month. But with one key difference: the DMV’s proposal would make compliance with the rules mandatory, whereas NHTSA’s guidelines are currently voluntary. At a Congressional hearing this week, NHTSA pushed back on California’s proposal, arguing that the guidelines were never meant to be compulsory and that states should avoid a patchwork of rules and regulations. Automakers have been wary of over-regulation of the emerging autonomous vehicle industry and have raised a number of concerns with California’s proposal.
Trouble for Uber and Lyft in Maryland. Following in the footsteps of Austin, TX, Maryland is considering new regulations that could impact the future of ride-sharing giants Uber and Lyft in the state. On Thursday, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) began a series of hearings examining the impact of a law that would require fingerprint background check for drivers on the popular platforms. Proponents of the law have said that increased checks, which would be handled by Maryland police agencies and the FBI, would better ensure that platforms do not inadvertently hire drivers with criminal records. Uber, which has provided over 10 million rides in the state, opposes the law, arguing that it would create an expensive and inefficient burden to signing up drivers. The company has continued to express confidence in its background check mechanisms and pointed out that fingerprint records disproportionately impact African Americans and Latinos. The PSC is expected to make a final decision on the issue by December 15.
FCC Cancels Votes After Pressure from GOP. On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cancelled several votes scheduled for Thursday’s open meeting, signaling the likely end of any controversial rulemaking this year. In a statement, the agency attributed the change to the letters it received from chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator John Thune (R-SD), and prominent members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), urging the agency to only take action on issues that necessitated immediate attention. Among the items removed from the agenda was a vote to overhaul the business data services market, a priority of Chairman Wheeler’s that Engine has also supported. Wheeler, who has ushered through a number of politically charged policies during his time as Chairman, may see much of his legacy go out the window in coming months. While the Trump Administration’s stance on many issues remains unclear, it is expected that it, along with a Republican Congress, will attempt to reverse the strides Wheeler took on net neutrality.