With help from Jacqueline Feldscher, John Hendel and Bob King
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— How’s that tech backlash treating you? The inclusion of online liability protections in the USMCA trade deal handed the tech industry yet another big policy victory in Washington despite the immense scrutiny bearing down on Silicon Valley.
— JEDI moves forward: The Pentagon and Microsoft are holding a kick-off event today for their joint cloud computing project, despite two lawsuits (from Amazon and Oracle) angling to hold that work back.
— Telecom watch: The Senate Commerce Committee will vote today on high-priority telecom measures around robocalls, 5G and the FCC’s public auction of the coveted airwaves known as C-band.
HELLO ON THIS CHILLY WEDNESDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING TECH! I’m your host, Alexandra Levine. It was wonderful seeing (and meeting!) so many MT loyalists last night at the annual FCBA Chairman’s Dinner. For those who missed it, highlights included the wonderful group at the National Association of Broadcasters table and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s jokes on everything from Huawei and 5G to Facebook’s political ads policy and Rudy Giuliani.
Got a news tip? Write Alex at [email protected] or @Ali_Lev. 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.
TECH INDUSTRY COMES OUT ON TOP IN USMCA — Democrats’ North American trade deal with the Trump administration will extend the United States’ liability shield for online content to Mexico and Canada — and shows that the tech sector is mostly doing fine in Washington, despite the pressure it’s facing on antitrust, privacy and election issues. (The markets wholeheartedly agree.)
— Silicon Valley wins keep coming: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz had both called for removing the deal’s liability language, which protects companies from lawsuits over content their users post — but as Steven and Cristiano reported for Pros, Pelosi conceded Tuesday that the demands came too late to sway the USMCA negotiations. The U.S.-Japan trade deal that lawmakers in Tokyo approved last week also included such language (in a first for the industry). Also last week, the administration threatened a multibillion-dollar trade war against France over that country’s new digital services tax.
— Industry round of applause: The Internet Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Semiconductor Industry Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, BSA | The Software Alliance, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, NetChoice and TechNet were among the many (many!) industry groups to praise the agreement Tuesday. Amazon also applauded the deal, tweeting that it “breaks new ground on digital trade and cuts red tape for Amazon customers and sellers.”
— But is the liability fight over? Not according to Attorney General William Barr, who told a meeting of state AGs on Tuesday that the Justice Department plans a broad review of the U.S. law providing the liability safeguards, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. “Many are concerned that Section 230 immunity has been extended far beyond what Congress originally intended,” he said. (His boss still plans to sign the USMCA, however.)
JEDI BEGINS WITH FANFARE (AND LAWSUITS) — The Pentagon is hosting a “kick-off event” with Microsoft this morning to formally recognize the start of their work together on the major cloud computing contract known as JEDI, POLITICO’s Jacqueline Feldscher reports. The pomp and circumstance is happening “despite two lawsuits threatening to derail the up-to-$10 billion program,” she writes.
— Those suits include the complaint by Amazon contending that the Pentagon had buckled to President Donald Trump’s repeated criticisms of the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos. Oracle, which lost in an earlier stage of the competition, argues in a separate lawsuit that the Pentagon unfairly favored Amazon while considering the contract.
TODAY: SENATE COMMERCE PLAYS THE C-BAND — The panel is voting today on several telecom measures, notably including the 5G Spectrum Act from Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). This bill, S. 2881 (116), would compel the FCC to kick off a public auction of the 5G-friendly C-band airwaves next year (as FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says he intends to do) and reserve a minimum of 50 percent of auction revenue for the U.S. Treasury.
— But other lawmakers are pushing other approaches, including panel Democrats like Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and ranking member Maria Cantwell of Washington state. Their bill, S. 2956, would funnel the lion’s share of C-band auction revenue to building out broadband and upgrading 911 networks. (However, the bill also says the FCC can’t begin a C-band sale until June 2021, which is unlikely to thrill wireless carriers clamoring for these airwaves ASAP). Other measures up for a committee vote today include measures on robocall technology, a shortage of telecom tower climbers and the 988 national suicide hotline effort. The session kicks off at 10 a.m.
ALSO TODAY: EU JUSTICE COMMISSIONER IN D.C. — The European Union’s new justice commissioner, Didier Reynders, is in Washington today for the EU-U.S. Justice and Home Ministerial, a twice-a-year meeting where officials from both sides of the Atlantic will discuss international agreements on data protection and other tech-adjacent issues. Reynders will also meet with Barr.
NET NEUTRALI-NAH — Senate Republicans on Tuesday dismissed an attempt by Democrats to bring their Save the Internet Act to a Senate floor vote. That bill, which would bring back Obama-era net neutrality rules, cleared the House along largely partisan lines earlier this year.
— “Basically, what it amounted to was a big government, Depression-era set of regulations that gave bureaucrats control,” Wicker said on the floor, objecting to the push. He said he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are still interested in codifying some open internet protections into statute and invited other Democrats to join. “We can make the statute better,” Wicker said.
— Markey dismissed Wicker’s argument as “a false narrative” aiming to connect broadband investment and net neutrality regulation and said internet fast lanes will be coming without protections in place. “We are on the right side of history in propounding this legislation,” Markey said. The vote push by Markey, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cantwell came two years after the FCC’s Republican majority repealed the regulations. “We don’t want an internet where it’s based on how much you will pay,” Cantwell said.
Jennifer Kurrie, former director for government relations for Walgreens, is joining SoftBank as a director for state and local government affairs. … Jeff Rittener, Intel’s former director of global export compliance, has been appointed the company’s chief government affairs officer and general manager of its governments, markets and trade group. … Norma Krayem, a cybersecurity and data privacy expert who has held posts at the departments of State, Commerce and Transportation, has joined the firm Van Scoyoc Associates as vice president, serving as chair of its cybersecurity and data privacy practice; Albert Kammler, a former staffer for House Homeland Security’s cybersecurity and infrastructure protection subcommittee, has also joined as government relations manager for that practice.
Headline OTD: “Facebook Fired An Employee Who Was Paid Thousands In Bribes To Reactivate Banned Ad Accounts,” via BuzzFeed News.
Say it ain’t so: New research shows that “the technologies Facebook uses to put advertising it deems relevant in front of people may be more responsible for the polarization of American politics than previously understood,” WaPo reports.
U.K. election watch: “Political ads on Facebook disappear ahead of U.K. election,” POLITICO writes. The lead-up to Thursday’s election also shows how foreign meddling, disinformation and other forms of online manipulation have become the “new normal” for political campaigns, NYT reports.
ICYMI: “Republican and Democratic senators found themselves in rare agreement Tuesday as they warned that technology companies must design their products’ encryption to comply with court orders, regardless of any cybersecurity risks,” POLITICO reports.
In profile: Kelvin Droegemeier, “President Trump’s top science adviser [who] loves storms but has little appetite for the partisan tempest engulfing Washington,” via The Hill.
Also in profile: Dina Srinivasan, an expert (and relatively new face) in the online antitrust arena, via WSJ.
Third profile’s a charm: Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper who represents “a timely test of how much leverage blue-collar on-demand workers can amass to win better treatment from growth-obsessed technology companies that keep them at a distance,” via WaPo.
Going once, going twice: The FCC’s next 5G spectrum auction kicked off Tuesday.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected], @bkingdc), Mike Farrell ([email protected], @mikebfarrell), Nancy Scola ([email protected], @nancyscola), Steven Overly ([email protected], @stevenoverly), John Hendel ([email protected], @JohnHendel), Cristiano Lima ([email protected], @viaCristiano) and Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected], @Ali_Lev).
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