Header Ads

Breaking News

Growing calls for tech help in next stimulus bill

With help from Cristiano Lima, Leah Nylen, Steven Overly and John Hendel

Editor’s Note: Morning Tech is a free version of POLITICO Pro Technology’s morning newsletter, which is delivered to our subscribers each morning at 6 a.m. The POLITICO Pro platform combines the news you need with tools you can use to take action on the day’s biggest stories. Act on the news with POLITICO Pro.


— Internet, please: Digital rights advocates and some Democrats are demanding the next Covid-19 stimulus bill do more to address communities’ internet and phone services, while 200 other groups are clamoring for more broadband availability.

— And some asks from Congress: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna are winning bicameral support in their push to include better protections for frontline gig economy and warehouse workers in a future relief package.

— Google on Zoom: The search giant’s top lawyer, Kent Walker, pointed to videoconferencing platform Zoom (and its rapid rise to quarantine-era fame) to show that smaller players can, in fact, compete with the likes of Google.

IT’S WEDNESDAY; WELCOME TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. For those in search of a lunch break: You can join POLITICO’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Matt Wuerker, for an online lesson in the basics of cartooning, followed by a Q&A. Tune in here at noon to watch live.

What’s happening in Washington’s tech circles? Drop me a line at [email protected] or @Ali_Lev. An event for our calendar? An event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Full team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

Sign up for POLITICO Nightly: Coronavirus Special Edition, your daily update on how the illness is affecting politics, markets, public health and more.

DEMANDS GROWING FOR TECH AID IN NEXT ROUND OF COVID RELIEF — Democratic Sens. Ed Markey (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) are coming to a computer screen near you this morning to talk tech access. They and a dozen digital rights groups are pressing for additional funding in the next Covid-19 relief bill to make internet and phone services more affordable and widely available during the crisis.

— The groups — which include Fight for the Future, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute and Public Knowledge — will deliver their asks to Congress virtually through petitions with north of 100,000 signatures.

— Their asks: “Internet and phone access should be affordable public services — like water and electricity,” says one petition that took issue with broadband costs. You can tune in here at 11 a.m.

— Meanwhile, in a separate but related effort: More than 200 public interest, civil rights, rural advocacy, academic and industry groups wrote to congressional leadership today pressing for better policies on affordable broadband in any forthcoming relief bill.

PLUS: A PUSH TO EXPAND GIG WORKER PROTECTIONS GAINS STEAM — A movement to beef up protections for workers on the front lines of coronavirus relief efforts — including gig economy and warehouse workers — is gaining momentum among congressional Democrats. The push to include a so-called essential workers bill of rights in any future stimulus package gained fresh support from more than 40 House members and seven senators on Tuesday. They joined Warren (D-Mass.) and Khanna (D-Calif.) in urging congressional leaders to take up the proposal in a letter.

— The details: The plan — unveiled by Warren and Khanna earlier this month — targets critical workers across industries. It would expand paid sick, family and medical leave; boost health, safety and whistleblower protections; and raise worker compensation during the pandemic.

Co-signers on the letter included Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), as well as House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). No Republicans signed onto the missive.

GOOGLE’S TOP LAWYER ON PRIVACY VS. ANTITRUST Companies that take steps to protect consumer privacy in response to efforts like Europe’s GDPR also run into more allegations of squashing competition, Google’s top lawyer said Tuesday. “We might try to improve privacy by limiting third-party access to data,” Kent Walker said at an American Bar Association event. “At the same time, there can be a risk that limiting third-party access makes it harder for other companies to compete.” He urged antitrust and privacy regulators to work together to provide “a clear roadmap as to what we should be designing.”

— Cookies: Google has faced criticism over a number of proposed changes that it says will enhance consumer privacy but rivals say cut into their business. The search giant said in January that it would phase out the use of third-party cookies on its Chrome browser. That move is expected to reduce publisher revenue by as much as 52 percent and has upset marketers and advertisers that use cookies to track website visits.

MERGER BAN, REDUX First, it was House Judiciary antitrust Chairman David Cicilline. Now, progressives Warren and Ocasio-Cortez are pushing for a merger moratorium, Leah reports for Pros. But not everyone is as enamored with a deal pause; Republican FTC Commissioner Noah Phillips took to CNBC’s Squawk Box to pan the proposal, saying M&A activity is already down during the pandemic as large companies hold onto cash.

Helping startups: Google’s Walker, while not addressing a merger ban directly, said the search giant’s startup acquisitions have helped, not hindered, innovation. “Those kinds of acquisitions … encourage venture capital to invest in startups because they provide a ready exit strategy in times when the markets might be in turmoil,” he said.

Zoom versus the big guys: In an effort to emphasize how smaller players can still compete, Walker highlighted the rapid adoption of Zoom. “The fact that we are having this discussion on Zoom rather than Google Meets or Microsoft Teams shows how a small company can enter and succeed and make others scramble to compete with them,” he said. But the Zoom example also works for the anti-merger case. Microsoft repeatedly tried to buy Zoom before the company went public last year. Only Zoom CEO Eric Yuan’s desire to remain independent kept the company from going the way of Skype, the once-preferred video chat app that lost its luster after Microsoft bought it in 2011. Without independents making the big guys improve their services, we might be stuck with…well, Google Meets.

ALPHABET’S GOOD-BAD QUARTER — For Google’s parent company, the first three months of the year were “a tale of two quarters,” CEO Sundar Pichai said Tuesday. Overall, the company continued its growth streak with revenue rising 13 percent compared with the first quarter of 2019. But he said the company saw “a significant and sudden slowdown in ad revenue” in March as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close and marketers to tighten the pursestrings.

— “We are taking a long view,” Pichai told Wall Street analysts. The company is continuing to invest in growing lines of business, even as it plans to hire fewer people for the rest of the year. Indeed, Pichai sees an opportunity for Alphabet to emerge stronger, especially as companies shift more of their marketing and operations online and Google is there to help them. Google’s Cloud, G Suite and Classroom offerings have all seen an influx of users, as has its larger search and YouTube businesses.

— Up next: Facebook and Microsoft report earnings today.

NEXT WEEK: STARKS TO TALK INTERNET WITH HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES — FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks is planning a virtual conversation Monday with several presidents of historically black colleges and universities to consider the logistical challenges of pushing education online during the coronavirus pandemic. Expect discussion of “how the transition to online learning has impacted their students and their ability to continue learning, innovating,” Starks promised during an FCC advisory group teleconference on Tuesday.

— Digital connectivity has been at the forefront of challenges facing all schools during the ongoing crisis. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are highlighting how the billions of Covid-19 stimulus dollars that Congress gave the Education Department in March could help bolster remote learning. And FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has said more action is needed to confront the so-called digital homework gap, pushing to expand the FCC’s subsidy efforts as Capitol Hill mulls a potential future boost to the agency’s subsidy dollars.

Tech patent litigator Jose Villarreal was appointed managing partner of Perkins Coie’s Austin office. … Ry Marcattilio-McCracken is joining the Institute for Local Self-Reliance as a senior researcher with the group’s Community Broadband Network Initiative, where he’ll be working on municipal broadband policy. … “Facebook has restructured some of its security teams in a move that displaces more than two dozen employees,” per NYT.

Other movement in the Facebook ranks: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “has recast the company’s board of directors and sought a high-profile role for the social-media giant in the Covid-19 pandemic,” WSJ reports.

The Airbnb disaster: “Entrepreneurs built mini-empires of short-term rental properties, borrowing against revenue that’s now vanishing under coronavirus lockdowns,” WSJ reports.

Meanwhile, over at Uber: The ride-hailing company may lay off roughly 20 percent of its workforce as use of the app remains low during the pandemic, The Information reports.

Behind Banjo: A new report by Medium’s tech and science publication, OneZero, found that Damien Patton, co-founder and CEO of the surveillance startup Banjo, participated in white supremacist groups during his youth and was involved in a synagogue shooting.

Wingardium Leviosa: How Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff swiftly procured more than 50 million pieces of protective equipment: “The relative ease with which Salesforce acquired so much protective gear stands in sharp contrast to the often chaotic government efforts,” NYT reports. “Mr. Benioff and his team simply called up their business partners in China and started writing checks.”

The dirt on dynamic pricing: The Markup explains why the same bag of rice that cost about $10 on Amazon shot up to $30, then $60, then down to $20 — all on the same platform.

‘A’ for effort: Microsoft can’t get a privacy bill passed on its home turf in Washington state, so the software giant is now pushing iterations of the failed legislation in Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois and Minnesota, Protocol reports.

Market watch: Investors say the leading tech giants will come out on top post-pandemic, NYT reports.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Heidi Vogt ([email protected], @HeidiVogt), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev), and Leah Nylen ([email protected], @leah_nylen).

TTYL and go wash your hands.

Source link

No comments