Startup News Digest 9/30/16

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

Startups Need Stock Options Tax Fix. The Empowering Employees through Stock Ownership (EESO) Act, which passed the House and a key hurdle in the Senate last week, would have an outsized impact on the startup economy, argues Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom in The Hill this week. The bill remedies a problem that is incredibly common in the tech sector: because of the way stock options are taxed, many employees at private companies can’t afford to exercise their options, making it difficult for startups to attract talent and for employees to participate in the success of their own companies. EESO would fix this by deferring the tax employees have to pay upon exercise for up to seven years. As Evan writes, this tax deferral “will ultimately be a net plus for the economy...and [is] a win-win for startups, their employees, and the American economy.”

FCC Delays Vote on Set-Top Box Proposal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Thursday delayed a vote to overhaul the set-top box market, representing a setback for one of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s top priorities for the year. In case you’re just catching up, the FCC proposed rules in February that would introduce increased competition and innovation into the set-top box market. However, the proposal was met with intense opposition from the cable industry and a number of members of Congress. In response, the Chairman revised the plan and scheduled a vote on the proposal for Thursday’s monthly Commission meeting. But at the last minute, the vote was delayed, indicating that Wheeler has yet to win the approval of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (whose vote is necessary to secure a majority). The delay calls into question the future of the proposal, which could lose momentum after November’s election. We’re tracking.

20 Percent of U.S. Households Offline. One in five households are not online, according to data published by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration this week. That represents a full 26 million American households that lack a single member who used the internet from any location in 2015. So, what were the top reasons cited for not having internet access at home? 55 percent of participants responded that they did not need it or had no interest in going online, while a quarter of respondents cited the expense as the prohibiting factor, highlighting that “cost is still a barrier for a meaningful percentage of non-adopting households.”

#FreeRideToVote. Unless you’ve been under a rock for all of 2016, you know that there’s a pretty big election coming up on November 8th. And we need to help people get out and vote! Any barriers to voting—like inability to get to the polling station—take away from a functioning, efficient democracy. That’s why Engine is partnering with OpenCollective to help give free rides to people who need them in order to go vote on election day. You can contribute here and help spread the word on Twitter using the hashtag #FreeRideToVote.

The Irony Of Europe’s Proposed Copyright Directive (from our friends at the Re:Create Coalition*). The real victims of the European Commission’s proposed Copyright Directive are European-based startups and businesses. That’s according to Joe McNamee from the European digital rights group EDRi who analyzed the directive, stating: “[T]he big online companies can weather more or less anything: it's the smaller ones -- particularly startups -- that will have difficulties.” A Bloomberg View editorial echoes this thinking, writing that a “right to license fee” for aggregators would benefit readers, aggregators or even publishers: “News aggregators are disrupters of course, but they are also saviors: They can grow (and globalize) a small local audience. Certainly publishers have to find new ways to adapt and make a profit. Seeking protection under the guise of copyright law is not the way to do it.”

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