Picking Up Where We Left Off: A 2018 Policy To-Do List For Washington

from the innovation-and-policy dept

From January 9-12, thousands of tech experts, innovators, media professionals, politicians and business leaders from around the world pour into Las Vegas for CES 2018. It’s an incredibly exciting time: Attendees get to see the most innovative technologies and trends that will change the face of industries across the globe, from health care and entertainment to automobiles and home appliances.

I’m always proud of CES – proud of the innovators who have traveled a long road to get to the floor; proud of all my behind-the-scenes colleagues who dedicate months to putting the show together; and proud the show inspires thoughtful conversations and partnerships that lead to life changing products, new businesses and jobs.

But CES also makes me proud to be an American. Our nation’s tech industry is the envy of the world. When you combine induced, indirect and direct impact, the U.S. tech sector accounts for over ten percent of our GDP and 15.3 million jobs. It has produced brands and companies that are known and needed all over the world. And nowhere is that more obvious than at CES.

The reason our country can host a show like CES is because we have a legal and policy framework designed to allow our tech industry to flourish. From our education system that encourages originality and ingenuity, to our openness to immigrants and their innovative ideas, to a pro-business regulatory framework that lowers barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, to the First Amendment and its protection of ideas, no matter how controversial, our system rewards those who have the creativity to solve a problem and the courage to make their idea a reality.

If policymakers want to preserve our global leadership and support this vital industry, they must act at this crucial moment. With the start of the new year comes the start of a new legislative session, and the opportunity to prioritize policies that can strengthen the framework that has allowed the tech industry to flourish. As Washington gets down to business in 2018, here are some ways they can do this:

  • Promote fair and free trade. We can’t mistake American ingenuity for isolationism. For instance, threats to impose tariffs on Chinese goods or hinder trade with China – a crucial trade partner of the U.S. tech industry – would harm, not help, tech innovation. Our supply chain is global and must be kept open.
  • Protect innovative tech companies from crushing liability costs. One of the cornerstones of internet freedom are the “safe harbor” and “fair use” principles in domestic law. These laws allow users and entrepreneurs to innovate, free from ruinous nuisance lawsuits and should be added to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But Congress is questioning these principles and considering changes that would seriously compromise the free, open flow of information these companies now help to sustain. This in turn would hurt small businesses across the country, many of whom rely on the internet to market their products internationally. By upholding these safe harbor laws and other copyright protections, federal leaders can maintain a strong economy and secure a stable internet for future innovators. Not only should these principles be enshrined and protected in domestic law, they should become a template for our trade agreements. We have a chance to do so now with a digital chapter in NAFTA that embodies these principles.
  • Pursue immigration reform that opens our borders to the world’s best and brightest. Right now the future of immigration policy is unclear, but it is obvious that we need to attract the best and brightest if we want to maintain our global lead in innovation. More than 50 percent of our country’s billion-dollar startups were created by immigrants according to the National Foundation for American Policy. While we are closing our borders, other countries are copying our strategy of attracting the best and brightest.
  • Invest in infrastructure. The rise of the Internet of Things, smart cities and self-driving vehicles means that the world as we know it will change significantly over the course of the next several decades. By getting a head start on infrastructure investments, including 5G broadband and highway construction, federal leaders can help smooth this transition and pave the way for new levels of connectivity. Simply allowing utility companies to lay broadband in every federally funded roads project is an easy bipartisan start.
  • Focus in on patent reform. Many of the startups at CES have horror stories about patent trolls – companies that threaten patent lawsuits in hopes of collecting money out of court. Patent trolls are undermining the strength of our patent system and bleeding $80 billion annually from our economy. Too many businesses are dragged down by their lawsuits and threats. Congress must act to protect innovators and ensure we maintain the best intellectual property protection system in the world.
  • Pursue a business-friendly regulatory framework. President Trump has taken the lead on this, spearheading major reform soon after his inauguration. Congress must continue his efforts, creating policies that encourage innovation and lower barriers to entrepreneurship.
  • Protecting freedom of speech across the board. We’ve seen many attacks on freedom of speech this year from all across the political spectrum. Financial freedom is important for innovators, but low taxes and limited regulatory interference mean nothing if innovators don’t have the intellectual freedom to try out new ideas without fear of legal repercussions. It’s high time we act to protect this first and most vital of our freedoms.

There’s no denying it’s been a challenging year politically, no matter your perspective. But with the new year comes a renewal of opportunity. Washington must put aside petty partisan arguments and work together to protect the framework that has led to our flourishing. And by doing this, we can protect the creativity and ingenuity of American innovation for generations to come.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro

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Comments on “Picking Up Where We Left Off: A 2018 Policy To-Do List For Washington”

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Anonymous Coward says:

"I'm always proud of CES - proud of the innovators who have traveled a long road..."

"… to get to the floor; proud of all my behind-the-scenes colleagues who dedicate months to putting the show together; and proud the show inspires thoughtful conversations and partnerships that lead to life changing products, new businesses and jobs."

"Pole-dancing robot strippers aim to spice up CES…"


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "I'm always proud of CES - proud of the innovators who have traveled a long road..."

“The pair are actually the creation of British artist Giles Walker, who says they’ve been designed as an expression about surveillance, power and voyerism.

They will be on display at the Sapphire Gentleman’s Club, located a few blocks away from the Las Vegas Strip. The club isn’t part of the official CES program but it has often found itself attracting inquisitive nerds in town for the show.”

I know reading is hard, but try it.


Re: Not a good list

Are you kidding? The whole list are handouts to large corporations. That even included the stuff that is “spun” to appear as if it applies to broader “principles” like immigration.

“immigration” is pretty much corporate code for H1B and J2 scabs.

The same goes for “free trade” where the “trade” in question is primarily the offshoring of manufacturing to cheaper 3rd world locations. The big winner there is Walmart.

Even “free speech” is framed in terms of what primarily helps big business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Excellent list. There’s no way the US tech industry can compete if we can’t flood the labor market with indentured servants from India, or heavily encourage outsourcing.

Frankly, if you’re able to support yourself on a programming or IT job, you’re earning too much and costing shareholders too much money. Unlike productive professionals like lawyers, bankers and middle managers, code monkeys need to be forced to compete with the entire world and people who can live on wages that are well below the US minimum wage.

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