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
The Big Story: Mapping out net neutrality support. The startup voice calling for strong net neutrality protections is louder than ever, as our new startup map—featuring stories from startups who depend on net neutrality protections—shows. The FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules, which were repealed in December, kept ISPs from blocking or slowing access to certain websites and services, and the protections were critical for new and small startups that are often unable to pay ISPs for better access to users. More than 1400 startups spanning every state have signed our letter supporting the 2015 rules.
It’s undeniable that state-by-state support for strong net neutrality protections is growing, and we’re starting to see some state take actions to protect websites and users from ISP behavior. The governors of New York and Montana this week signed executive orders requiring any ISPs with state government contracts to abide by net neutrality principles.
This week was also a big week in the world of advertising around net neutrality. Burger King released an ad breaking down the net neutrality debate in burger terms, showing just how mainstream the debate over keeping the Internet open has become. On the other side of the fight, AT&T made a big advertising push around net neutrality as well, taking out ads in major newspapers calling on Congress to act. But the company’s pledge to follow net neutrality principles left plenty of wiggle room to speculate on how exactly AT&T’s version of net neutrality would impact startups and other companies who could have to pay for better access to users.
What’s Happening in Policy
Lawmakers reintroduce high-skilled immigration bill. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have reintroduced their bill to make available more visas for high-skilled immigrants through a visa program that is critical to tech companies.
Commissions on cryptocurrency. In an op-ed this week, the leaders of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission called on Congress to bolster the commissions’ regulatory authority over cryptocurrency markets.
Resigning in protest. Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose, California, quit an FCC panel working on broadband expansion issues, citing the “industry-heavy makeup” of the panel.
Platform protections in NAFTA. A group of scholars, advocates, and organizations wrote to trade negotiators this week urging them to advance intermediary liability protections, including the protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, in an updated North American Free Trade Agreement.
Lawmakers unveil agtech broadband bill. Bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced a bill this week aimed at boosting broadband deployment in rural areas, citing the rapid evolution of agriculture technology, including connected devices and self-driving equipment.
Wyden hits Wray on encryption. Sen Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray this week, criticizing him for his recent push to have companies build government access mechanisms into their encrypted products and services.
#StartupsEverywhere: Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids may be in Michigan, but that doesn’t mean its economy or startup ecosystem is auto-centric, like nearby Detroit. We chatted with two Grand Rapids insiders about how the Midwest work ethic, a sense of community success, and the necessary tools to attract and retain talent and investment make this Michigan metro area a startup hub.
Calling Big Data and AI companies. Government-focused incubator Dcode is accepting applications for artificial intelligence and big data companies.