Startup News Digest: 4/14/17

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

Engine Circulates Letter on Net Neutrality. Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai floated a proposal during a meeting with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that would roll back the net neutrality rules put in place by the previous Administration and replace them with “voluntary” commitments from ISPs. The proposal would completely undermine the Open Internet Order that the startup community backed in 2015, and Engine has put together a startup letter in conjunction with Y Combinator to push back, telling FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that any efforts to undo net neutrality will threaten startups’ ability to innovate and thrive. Learn more and sign the letter here.

Internet Giants Push Back on Pai’s Proposal, Too. The startup community isn’t the only group opposed to Chairman Pai’s “unenforceable” plan. On Tuesday, the Internet Association (which represents Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other large tech companies) sat down with Pai to discuss his proposal. According to a filing made by the organization, IA maintained its strong support for the 2015 Open Internet Order, which the group argued “is working well,” “did not have a negative impact on broadband internet access service (BIAS) investment,” and “is a vital component of the free and open internet.” In addition to IA, a number of consumer groups have also spoken out in opposition to Pai’s expected proposal this week, including Fight for the Future, Free Press, and Public Knowledge.

The Twitter v. Trump Clash Comes to an End…For Now. Last month, the federal government issued an order requiring Twitter to turn over information about an alias account that has been critical of the Trump Administration, and apparently managed by a Department of Homeland Security employee. In response, Twitter moved to sue the government to block the summons on the grounds that it violated users’ right to free speech. On Friday, the government withdrew its demand. This move by the government postpones a standoff between the tech sector and the Administration, which has struggled with numerous leaks during its short time in power. As Twitter explained in its filing, the lawsuit could have set a “precedent that could have a grave chilling effect on others voicing resistance to White House policies.” Following the withdrawal of the summons, the ACLU and others who had backed the anonymous account claimed a victory for the First Amendment. “The speed with which the government buckled shows just how blatantly unconstitutional its demand was in the first place,” they said.

Economists Urge Trump to Modernize Immigration System. A group of 1,470 economists penned a letter to President Trump and Congressional leadership this week acclaiming the broad economic benefit that immigrants bring the to the U.S. While the signatories came from a variety of backgrounds and held a range of political views, the letter noted that there was broad consensus around one thing: that “the benefits that immigration brings to society far outweigh their costs, and smart immigration policy could better maximize the benefits of immigration while reducing the costs.” The letter specifically called attention to immigrants’ propensity towards starting new businesses and their ability to augment the U.S. workforce, especially “in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math” that help to improve American competitiveness, increase productivity, and drive economic growth.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Eric Mathews in Memphis, TN. We’re on a mission to share Tennessee’s innovative spirit. Three weeks ago we profiled Lisa Garner’s work in Jackson, and this week we traveled 100 miles Southwest to Memphis, where we talked with Start Co. CEO, Eric Mathews. Eric has been building the startup ecosystem in Memphis for over a decade, and emphasized the importance of the culture they have created in the city: “We have been very intentional about building a community in Memphis that embraces core values like paying it forward, focusing on the founder first, and championing inclusion, empowerment, and mutual trust.” Read more about Eric and his work in Memphis here.