Startup News Digest: 7/21/2017

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

The First Comment Period for the FCC NPRM on Net Neutrality Closes. Monday was the deadline for the first round of comments to be filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that addresses the 2015 Open Internet Order. Engine was one of over 10 million groups and individuals to file comments with the Commission. The deadline for reply comments extends to August 16. In its submission, Engine explained the need for clear regulations to protect startups from threatening behavior by ISPs and incumbents. “The NPRM’s indifference to the ISP abuse of their terminating access monopoly power is incredibly dangerous to entrepreneurship. Without bright line rules banning anti-competitive ISP practices, startups will be put at a structural disadvantage in competing with well-heeled incumbents, causing venture investment to dry up and innovation to suffer,” Executive Director, Evan Engstrom, wrote. The White House, which has been mostly mum on the topic, also weighed in on the debate this week. “The best way to get fair rules for everyone is for Congress to take action and create regulatory and economic certainty,” deputy White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.

Tech Groups Side with Apple on Qualcomm’s Patent Suit at ITC. The long running feud between Apple and Qualcomm on patent licensing fees continued to make news this week when several tech companies filed comments in the Qualcomm v. Apple case pending at the International Trade Commission (ITC).  Qualcomm sued Apple at the ITC, alleging infringement on several patents and seeking to exclude Apple from selling any iPhones that do not include their chips. If the ITC were to grant this exclusion order it would help Qulacomm use their monopoly power to drive up prices on consumer devices across the tech industry, harming innovation and consumers.

Elon Musk Tells Governors to Proactively Regulate AI. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, spoke to the National Governor’s Association meeting this past weekend, and warned about the need to stringently regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI). Specifically, he expressed concern about AI becoming so intelligent that it would pose an existential threat to human civilization, noting that, “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.” Later in the week, he clarified his comments, and expressed that while government should proactively regulate AI, it should do so in an informed manner without constraining innovation.

H1-B Visa Applications Drop as Tech Moves to AI and Cloud Computing. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released a report detailing last year’s trends in the H1-B visa program. Generally, H1-B visas are granted to high-skilled immigrants who fill jobs that require specialized knowledge. This program is especially relevant in the American technology sector as there are many more software engineering, data analysis, and scientific research positions open than there are Americans who are qualified to fill them. NFAP’s report details trends for Fiscal Year 2016 (which ran from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016). The most striking finding in the report was that the top 7 Indian-based firms received 37% fewer H1-B applications than FY 2015. NFAP attributes this drop to the fact that U.S. based technology companies are moving toward artificial intelligence and cloud computing, which require fewer workers than other engineering and scientific jobs. The report warned that the Trump Administration is likely to further restrict the issuance of H1-B visas, and consequently increase the likelihood that large firms will move some operations overseas to take advantage of skilled labor elsewhere.

The Nuts and Bolts of Encryption Finale is Wednesday. We are wrapping up our Nuts and Bolts of Encryption series on Capitol Hill next week. Engine, TechFreedom, and The Charles Koch Institute, in conjunction with the Congressional Tech Staff Association, have hosted two events to date on how encryption works, giving policymakers a primer on the past, present and future of encryption technologies. If you are in Washington next Wednesday, July 26, please join us at noon for a lunch panel on Capitol Hill featuring startups discussing how their companies are innovating with encryption to secure communications. Additionally, that  evening, please come by Stanton & Greene  on Capitol Hill for a networking reception. Mingle with congressional staff, policy experts, and startup leaders over drinks to discuss the importance of encryption to your community. To attend, you can rsvp here.

This Week’s #StartupsEverywhere Profile: Aaron Slodov, Jennifer Stapleton, and Steve McHale (Cleveland, OH). Cleveland has been making headlines in recent years for its stellar sports teams, but now it can also add “growing startup scene” to its resume. This week, we spoke to three entrepreneurial ecosystem builders in the midwest city who offered a lot of optimism for the growth of local businesses. “We have seen a few highly dedicated individuals continue to push for change and progress, resulting in a great increase in the number and success of new events and organizations supporting our local entrepreneurs,” Stapleton said. Additionally, all three experts emphasized the impact that the Cleveland Clinic has had on innovation in the city and the founding of large number of health care focused startups. Read the full profile here.