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.
Tech Meets with Trump. Following on the heels of weeks of meetings for the President-elect, Donald Trump met with 14 executives from the tech community at Trump Tower on Wednesday. Prior to this meeting, relations between the Trump team and Silicon Valley had been frosty, at best. During the course of his campaign, Trump called for many policies that the technology community found threatening, including trade restrictions, stricter immigration policy, and “closing that internet up.” Despite this, many attendees from both camps left the meeting optimistic. Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, a favorite target of Trump during the election said, “I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech—agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing—everywhere.” Among the items discussed at the meeting was the aforementioned job creation, China, tax reform, education, and infrastructure. Mr. Trump summed up his feelings towards the group saying, “We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation. There’s nobody like you in the world.”
Startups Ask U.S. Leaders to Push Back Against EC Copyright Proposal. Earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) published a dangerous copyright reform proposal that would require online portals to implement filtering technologies to proactively police their users’ conduct. If adopted, this proposal would have a devastating impact: raising the cost of operating an online platform startup to untenable levels, diminishing investment capital for new companies, and threatening to bankrupt existing portals. In an attempt to fight back against the EC’s proposal, Engine, Automattic, Bandcamp, Cloudflare, GitHub, Medium, Patreon, Pinterest, and Vimeo, Inc. sent a letter today to USTR, the Department of Commerce, and the State Department, urging leaders at those agencies to engage with the EU to push back against this new copyright regime on behalf of America’s startups. Read the full letter here.
SF Board of Supervisors Votes for Better Broadband Choice. On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell that will give San Francisco residents more freedom to choose their broadband provider. Engine helped galvanize support around the issue by circulating a petition signed by more than 200 San Franciscans and publishing a number of pieces on the issue. In response to the vote, Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom issued a statement welcoming the ordinance’s passage “and the increased competition, lower prices, and faster speeds that it will bring to those living in San Francisco.”
Self-Driving Cars Make Headlines. It has been a busy couple of weeks in autonomous vehicle news. Last Friday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a package of bills that will allow for the testing, operation, and eventual sale of self-driving cars, making Michigan the most permissive state in the country and re-establishing its leadership in automotive innovation. On the West Coast, Uber and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) clashed over the company’s launch of a fleet of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. The DMV asserts that Uber has not yet obtained the necessary permit to test the self-driving cars, while Uber argues that that the permit is not required since the vehicles are manned by a human operator at all times and therefore aren’t fully autonomous. Finally, Alphabet announced this week that it would be spinning out its self-driving car effort into its own business unit called Waymo, signaling that the technology is getting closer to reaching commercial stage. The company also indicated that it would be launching a ride-sharing service with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles next year.
Wheeler Announces Plans to Leave FCC. Yesterday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he will leave the agency after President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January. While Wheeler’s term technically runs through 2018, it is customary for an FCC Chairman to step down at the beginning of a new Administration. Until today, Wheeler had not committed to leaving, leading to speculation that he might stay on. His departure leaves the agency short two Commissioners and skewed Republican. Wheeler’s departure will be a major loss at the agency, which has championed a number of important pro-startup policies during his tenure, the most significant being the historical Open Internet Order. In a statement following Wheeler’s announcement, Evan noted that “while thousands of startups are better off today because of Chairman Wheeler’s work, it is the next generation of startups that will most benefit from his forward-thinking policies.”
Amazon Completes First Drone Delivery, but Not in U.S. Amazon announced via Twitter on Wednesday that the company had successfully completed its first drone delivery. The event comes almost three years after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos initially articulated ambitions to deliver packages via drone. The trial took place in Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom, where a man had purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick and a bag of popcorn. The private trial, in partnership with the U.K. government, is expected to continue into the foreseeable future. Amazon has pursued similar testing in the U.S., but those efforts have been held up due to regulatory restrictions, including rules that currently prohibit operating drones beyond line of sight or over people. The Federal Aviation Administration does allow such flights on an experimental basis, and has indicated it is working on new rules that will eventually close some of the gaps in the regulatory framework.