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Will lawmakers really pass $65B for broadband? – Politico


With help from Doug Palmer and John Hendel

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— High-stakes week: The moderate-progressive power struggle in the Democratic Party will come to a head this week around the infrastructure bill. Billions in broadband funding are on the line.

— Hearings on the Hill: It’s a busy week for tech policy in Congress. MT breaks down four hearings to watch.

— On the agenda: The long-awaited EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council meeting is set for Wednesday. Expect to hear about tech regulation and the semiconductor supply chain.

IT’S MONDAY, SEPT. 27. WELCOME BACK TO MORNING TECH. I’m your host, Benjamin Din. I’m going to follow in acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel’s footsteps, and share something that I still think about from time to time. 🙂

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INTRAPARTY SHOWDOWN COMES TO A HEAD — At stake this week: a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that would devote $65 billion to broadband efforts and a Democrats-only $3.5 trillion social spending package with its own billions for broadband, privacy and other tech and telecom priorities.

— The state of play: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues Sunday night that the House would begin floor debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill today and hold a vote on Thursday, following comments she made earlier in the day about the possibility of delaying the vote past its original deadline today. Progressives have threatened to tank the bipartisan infrastructure bill if the social investment package is not ready first.

“I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.”

— Meanwhile: In a rare Saturday markup, the House Budget Committee met to approve the social spending bill, which retained its various tech and telecom bits, such as language to boost privacy efforts at the FTC and expand broadband initiatives to support distance learning. The approved bill is not the final version, as moderates including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — who both essentially have veto power in an evenly split Senate — have expressed concerns over the high price tag.

It “seems self-evident” that the final topline number will be pared down, Pelosi conceded in the ABC interview. “Obviously, with negotiation, there will have to be some changes in [the $3.5 trillion price tag] — the sooner the better so that we can build our consensus to go forward,” Pelosi said.

But even before that $3.5 trillion number shrinks, some lawmakers are worried there isn’t enough for broadband in the two bills. Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told John late last week that she and some of her Senate colleagues believe proposals on broadband affordability are still “very lacking” and will “need attention.” (One specific pain point: While the bipartisan Senate infrastructure package would make permanent the Emergency Broadband Benefit program to subsidize consumers’ internet bills, it would also slash the monthly benefit for that program from $50 to $30.)

ALSO HAPPENING ON THE HILL — Lawmakers will tackle a wide range of tech policy issues this week, ranging from consumer privacy and digital competition to disinformation researchers’ use of social media data. Here’s a look at the week ahead:

— Social media disinformation: The House Science Committee’s investigations and oversight panel will hold a hearing Tuesday morning to examine researchers’ ability to access and analyze data from social media companies and social media platforms’ own tools to monitor and moderate misinformation and disinformation. Facebook recently revoked access to its platform from researchers at New York University who were collecting political ads data, citing privacy concerns. Laura Edelson, one of the researchers, is scheduled to testify at the hearing.

— Reviving competition: The House Judiciary antitrust panel will also convene a hearing Tuesday morning, the fourth in its series on digital competition. The subcommittee spent 16 months investigating the practices of the tech giants, culminating in a 450-page report and a package of antitrust bills aimed at curbing Silicon Valley’s influence, which the committee approved in June. The hearing will focus on “21st century antitrust reforms and the American worker.”

— Consumer privacy: On Wednesday morning, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold its first sweeping consumer privacy hearing this Congress. Civil society groups have demanded lawmakers move more quickly on a comprehensive federal data privacy law, and that will be a topic of interest at the hearing, along with a proposal to create a new privacy bureau within the FTC. House Democrats have included $1 billion toward such an effort in their social spending package, and three former FTC officials will testify: former acting Chair Maureen Ohlhausen; former CTO Ashkan Soltani; and David Vladeck, who led the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

— Protecting kids online: The Senate Commerce consumer protection panel will hear from Facebook global head of safety Antigone Davis on Thursday morning, following a Wall Street Journal investigation that found Facebook’s own internal research showed that Instagram, owned by Facebook, had a negative impact on the mental health of many teenage girls. The report sparked fierce backlash from members of both parties, and lawmakers took advantage of a hearing last week focused on big data and antitrust to grill a different Facebook executive about the story. (Facebook released a blog post Sunday evening as a rebuttal to the article, saying the Journal story didn’t include key context. “It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls,” the post said.)

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE BIG EU-U.S. MEETING — At the inaugural meeting of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, officials from both sides will tackle how to regulate tech companies, the global shortage of semiconductor chips and other topics, POLITICO trade reporter Doug Palmer reports for Pros in a story out this morning.

— Tech regulations: The working group focused on data governance and technology platforms will discuss the different approaches the EU and U.S. have taken toward tech regulation, “seeking consistency and interoperability where feasible,” according to a draft document obtained by our Brussels colleagues. The EU’s proposed Digital Markets Act would identify tech giants as internet “gatekeepers” and regulate them more heavily — a distinction that doesn’t exist in the U.S. The two sides will also commit to cooperating on platform policies that “focus on hate speech, disinformation, product safety and counterfeit products.”

What’s not on the table: a new agreement for transatlantic data flows. In recent years, European court decisions have struck down two arrangements for EU-U.S. data transfers, citing violations of EU privacy laws. That issue is the subject of separate talks between the two parties.

— Human rights: The two sides will also seek to join forces against governments that misuse technology, such as conducting arbitrary and unlawful surveillance or restricting the use of social media platforms, according to the draft document, which doesn’t mention any countries by name.

— Telecom focus: A working group focused on information communication technology and services security and competitiveness will touch on topics such as 5G, undersea cables, data centers, cloud infrastructure and microelectronic components, the draft paper said. The two governments could also “develop a common vision and roadmap for preparing the next generation of communications technology towards 6G.”

— Technology standards cooperation: U.S. and EU officials will seek to coordinate development of standards for critical and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, the document said. The two sides will issue a joint statement of principles regarding AI technologies to make sure they are used in ways “consistent with our common democratic values and human rights.”

— Semiconductor plans: European and American officials will only discuss “short-term” solutions to the semiconductor shortage on Wednesday, leaving tougher discussions for a second round next year, the latest draft statement showed. However, officials are expected to agree to avoid starting a “subsidy race” aimed at attracting more chip production to their own shores, according to the draft statement.

First in MT: Michael Balmoris, a 17-year veteran of AT&T who serves as assistant vice president-corporate communications for policy, is departing effective Dec. 1, according to an internal memo obtained by MT, citing his intention “to pursue other opportunities.”

Eric Evans has joined Perkins Coie as a partner in the firm’s litigation practice. He was previously at Mayer Brown, where he was a member of the cybersecurity and data privacy practice. … The Glen Echo Group announced a slate of new hires in its D.C. office: Christopher Shannon as creative director, Davey McKissick as senior director, Neville Martin as director of finance, Doris Sump as senior associate and Lama Mohammed as associate. … Shiva Stella, comms director at Public Knowledge, is going on sabbatical through Dec. 20.

Elon Musk and Grimes have “semi-separated,” Page Six reports.

Bad tidings: “Fallout begins for far-right trolls who trusted Epik to keep their identities secret,” WaPo reports.

Seeking a deal: Can’t find that TikTok or Instagram video on search? Google wants to change that. The Information has more.

ICYMI: “Facial recognition firm Clearview AI hits watchdog groups with subpoenas,” Alex reports.

Ring the bells: “Bitcoin miners align with fossil fuel firms, alarming environmentalists,” via NBC News.

Lock him up? Attendees at a rally in support of former President Donald Trump had a new target for “lock him up” chants: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Well, they should be looking at that,” Trump responded. More from HuffPo.

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Bob King ([email protected]), Heidi Vogt ([email protected]), John Hendel ([email protected]), Alexandra S. Levine ([email protected]), Leah Nylen ([email protected]), Emily Birnbaum ([email protected]), and Benjamin Din ([email protected]). Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.

SEE YOU TOMORROW!





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