Startup News Digest: 3/3/17

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

Prioritizing Broadband in Infrastructure Package. During his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, President Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure. While the speech did not include specifics about what would be included in the initiative or how it would be funded, many are hopeful that broadband investments will be prioritized (including more than 60 mayors and local leaders who signed onto a Next Century Cities letter urging the President and Congressional leadership to include broadband in any infrastructure effort). As we have argued before, the millions of Americans who still lack access to quality broadband represent potential users and entrepreneurs who are cut off from the opportunities that connectivity provides. We’re tracking.

Tech Responds to the Administration’s Rollback of Protections for Trans Youth. It’s Silicon Valley vs. Trump again, but this time in response to a directive issued last week to undo protections established by the Obama Administration for transgender students in public schools. The new policy, jointly filed by the Justice and Education departments, put an end to previous safeguards for students seeking to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity. President Trump’s administration said in a statement that they need to "further and more completely consider the legal issues involved." Apple and Uber were among the the first from the tech community to speak out, calling the move “discriminatory,” while Google and Lyft responded the following day pledging their support for the LGBTQ community. This week, a number of other tech firms including Microsoft, PayPal, Ebay, Slack, and Salesforce, joined an Apple and Human Rights Campaign-led brief in favor of transgender rights in a case due to be heard next month in the Supreme Court. This will be the first time the Supreme Court has weighed in on transgender rights, an issue for which the Valley has been relatively united in its support.

FCC Expands Upon its New Transparency Program. While federal agencies are traditionally known for secrecy and red tape, current FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, announced last month that his commission would attempt to make the agency less opaque by the releasing all draft items on the monthly meeting agenda several weeks before the commission votes. On Thursday, Chairman Pai delivered on this promise, announcing further expansion of the program by releasing the full text of all six agenda items to be discussed and voted on at the FCC’s March 23 meeting. In a blog post, Pai expressed that after the March meeting, the commission would be in a position “to fully evaluate this pilot project and establish permanent procedures for the release of meeting items.” While the new Republican regime has certainly brought a lot of changes to the agency, industry has stayed relatively quiet on whether it approves of this new direction.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Darius Graham in Baltimore, MD. This week, we explored Baltimore’s burgeoning startup ecosystem with Darius Graham, Director of the Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University. Learn more about how Baltimore’s generous spirit, mission-driven orientation, and diverse talent have come together to drive innovation in the city: read the full profile here.

Join us in DC on WEDNESDAY (3/8) for a luncheon discussion on Big Data. The event will convene policy analysts and startup leaders to discuss how Big Data is being used to have a positive, public impact. The conversation will also focus on open data, privacy, and how to best ensure data security so innovation can thrive. Lunch from Taylor Gourmet will be provided. Space is limited. RSVP here.

Engine is Hiring! Know any tech policy wonks who might be interested in working with our growing team? We're hiring a Policy Counsel in SF or DC. Learn more here.