Startup Policy Digest: 1/29/2016

Our weekly take on some of the biggest stories in startup and tech policy. 

Safe Harbor Negotiations Continue, Judicial Redress Clears Hurdle. It has been more than three months since the U.S.-EU safe harbor agreement was invalidated. But time is running out for negotiators to reach an agreement by the January 31st deadline, and top negotiators are still clashing over both substance and turf. Some good news came on Thursday when the Judicial Redress Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. While not essential to advancing an updated safe harbor agreement, many EU negotiators see passage of the bill as a show of good faith by U.S. lawmakers. Still, it does not guarantee an agreement, and until a compromise is reached, startups with operations in the EU will be scrambling to prepare for a world without safe harbor.

Stanford Report: Binge On Violates Net Neutrality. A report from Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society contends T-Mobile’s Binge On data program is in violation of the FCC’s Open Internet Order. “Binge On is harming competition, innovation, user choice, and free speech on the Internet. As such, the program is likely to violate the FCC's general conduct rule and transparency rule,” writes the study’s author in a blog post. The report has been filed with the FCC, offering the agency an opportunity to more closely evaluate the program and decide whether to take action. The FCC’s Open Internet rules don’t explicitly outlaw “zero rating” programs, but the agency reviews them on a case-by-case basis whether the service harms consumers or businesses.

Student Debt a Major Barrier to Entrepreneurship. For young, aspiring entrepreneurs, paying off student loans is one of the greatest barriers to entrepreneurship, explains a new report detailing findings from a national poll of millennials—that's 18 to 34-year-olds. Nearly half those surveyed said student loans impeded their ability to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions, perhaps one reason why rates of business ownership among this age group have declined in the last couple of decades. The report is timely, as presidential hopefuls have begun to go on record with plans to tackle student debt crisis. This report further clarifies that reducing the now $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans should be a priority for all policymakers. The future of American entrepreneurship depends on it.

Measuring the Gig Economy. Just how big is the gig economy? A survey last month revealed an estimated 45 million adults have offered services through an on-demand platform and now the government hopes to get a better handle on those figures. In a blog post this week, Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau will be surveying "contingent worker" arrangements as part of May 2017's current population survey. Perez writes it'll offer the government "reliable, credible insight into what’s going on" in this new economy, ultimately helping policymakers better prepare for regulating labor agreements in a changing workforce.

FAA Registers 300K Drone Users. Last week, the the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that in just 30 days, more than 300,000 people have used the agency’s online drone registration system. It is important to note that this does not mean 300,000 drones have been registered. As TechCrunch reports, “Because you essentially register yourself as a drone pilot, which allows you to affix your registration number to as many drones as you want to, the actual number of drones/quadcopters (and model aircraft and helicopters), is likely a bit higher.” Plus, there are still probably quite a few unregistered drones flying around. These numbers are seen as encouraging by the FAA, which was hit with a lawsuit challenging the registration requirement earlier this month.

Regulatory Troubles at Theranos. The Silicon Valley blood-testing startup, Theranos, valued at over $9 billion in 2014, is facing new scrutiny, this time from federal regulators. A recent inspection of a Theranos facility by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uncovered several major violations of federal law governing clinical labs. If the issues aren’t corrected within ten days, the lab could lose its certification. A series of recent journalistic investigations have revealed the company may not be as close to revolutionizing the blood-testing industry as its initial investors and supporters once thought.