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.
More than 800 Startups Defend Net Neutrality... On Wednesday morning, more than 800 startups, innovators, investors, and entrepreneurial support organizations from all 50 states joined Engine, Y Combinator, and Techstars in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai urging him to protect a free and open internet. As we note in the letter, the success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on strong, enforceable net neutrality rules. Any effort to roll back these rules would allow for discrimination and impede entrepreneurs’ ability to grow their companies, reach customers, and compete with incumbents. Rather than dismantling the existing net neutrality framework, signatories called on Chairman Pai to “focus instead on policies that would promote a stronger Internet for everyone,” such as removing unnecessary barriers to construction of new networks. Read the full letter and add your company’s name here.
...As Chairman Pai Pushes Plan to Undermine It. Just hours after the startup community sent its letter to Chairman Pai, he gave a speech at a private event in D.C. laying out his strategy for gutting the 2015 Open Internet Order. The specifics were unveiled on Thursday in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and the proposal is in many ways worse than expected. The NPRM doubts the central premise of net neutrality altogether, questioning the need for bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization in the first place. It proposes reverting to a Title I framework, which would make it legally impossible to implement bright line net neutrality rules and greatly reduce the agency’s ability to police anti-competitive ISP practices. The proposal was placed on the commission’s May 18th agenda, at which point (if adopted) a comment period will be initiated.
House Passes Bill to Remove Copyright Office from Library of Congress. On Wednesday, the House passed HR 1695, which would make the Register of Copyrights a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed position, thus removing it from the jurisdiction of the Library of Congress. Proponents of the bill, including Judiciary Committee leadership, claim that it would make the U.S. copyright system more democratically accountable since the office’s leader would have to be confirmed by the Senate. Unfortunately though, this change could open the office to further outside influence from lobbyists and groups who stand to gain from a more stringent system. The Re:Create Coalition, of which Engine is a member, released the following statement: “We can’t allow the content industry to disrupt the Register of Copyrights selection process and tilt the balance of the Copyright Office in its favor. The Copyright Office’s mission to serve the public is too important and must be protected.”
Autonomous Vehicle Manufacturers Push for Less Stringent Regs in CA. At a public hearing in the California state capitol on Tuesday, automakers urged legislators to further ease proposed regulations for self-driving vehicles, arguing that earlier revisions did not go far enough. For their part, safety and consumer advocates said that the proposal was too lenient, and an administrator from San Francisco urged policymakers to grant more authority to city governments as well. Of the automakers present, many stated that they expect to deploy autonomous vehicles as soon as 2020. A representative from Waymo, Google’s self-driving car operation, said that progress could be stalled if the government does not provide manufacturers with more certainty. In addition, an official from General Motors called for the state to drop any plans for separate privacy rules for driverless cars and modify liability provisions. Under the current proposal, automakers could be held liable regardless of fault for any crash. This could have a "chilling effect on testing and deployment of self-driving cars," he explained.
This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Linda Olson, (Tampa Bay, FL). This week we took a look at Tampa Bay’s growing startup ecosystem with a profile of Linda Olson, founder and president of Tampa Bay WaVE, an entrepreneurial support organization for the region. One of her main missions? Breaking the local myth that “it can’t be done here.” In fact, Tampa Bay has all the right ingredients for a vibrant ecosystem, and as investment and enthusiasm grows, the region is getting closer to that place. Read the full profile here.
Know Someone Who Has Been a Victim of the Patent System? One of the biggest contributors to our country’s patent problem is the abundance of low quality patents. While stopping the bad actors who take advantage of them may prove challenging, improving the system to limit the tools that these groups have is a common-sense first step. To help with this, Engine is gathering stories of startups and entrepreneurs that have faced problems with the patent system, whether it's being victimized by patent trolls or facing a lawsuit from a legitimate patent holder but for a questionable patent. If you have a story or know someone we should connect with, send an email to Emma Peck at email@example.com.
...Or Want to Learn More About Patent Trolling? On Monday, Engine’s Board President, Julie Samuels, is hosting a brief film screening and policy discussion on the topic of patent trolls in DC. The event will be held in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2226, from 4:30 - 6:30 PM. Join us for wine, beer, appetizers, and a great conversation! More information can be found at https://thepatentscam.splashthat.com.