February 8, 2023 – President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday elicited mixed reactions from industry, with some applauding the address toward American economic progress while others viewing his hardline against homegrown technology companies as a step too far.
The speech touched on a range of issues Broadband Breakfast covers, including the need to further regulate Big Tech and the need to make the country more reliant on itself to build critical infrastructure components, including fiber cables.
The Fiber Broadband Association said Wednesday that the president’s specific mention of jobs created by broadband projects using funds from the landmark infrastructure law “is an incredible moment for our industry; we should be proud that we are creating these jobs.
“The President underscored the importance of the Build America, Buy America (BABA) requirements associated with federal funding, including mentioning that fiber optic cables should be made in the USA,” the FBA statement said. “FBA will be closely engaged with the Administration on this issue to advocate for the diverse interests of our members. We will provide all members with an opportunity to respond and engage on this issue.”
The association has outlined the need for BABA waivers previously, including for components like fiber optic adapters and fiber optic connectors, which it said would cost up to four times more if they were made in America.
The president also encouraged legislation that would stop Big Tech from collecting the personal data on kids and teenagers online, ban targeted advertising to those children, and have stricter limits on data collection on all users.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association said it takes issue with Biden touting the country’s economic success but criticizing the companies that contribute to that success.
“Digital services in the connected economy help combat inflation with lower prices, and U.S. tech leadership produced $684 billion in digitally-enabled exports in 2021 alone,” said the association, which counts Big Tech companies as members. It added that it has been advocating for “baseline federal privacy rules online for two decades.”
The president and CEO of the association, Matt Schruers, said American companies compete on a global scale, and previously failed legislation would have made it harder for them to do so, while also weakening national security.
“CCIA agrees with President Biden that children deserve an enhanced level of security and privacy online,” Schruers said. “The digital sector is incorporating protective design features into websites and apps, leading the way in raising the standard for teen safety and privacy with new features, settings, parental tools, and protections that are age-appropriate and tailored to the differing developmental needs of young people.
“CCIA also reiterates its call for baseline federal privacy legislation that would make the internet safer for all users, particularly children,” he added. “We urge Congress to act to give consumers greater protection and businesses greater certainty for how data is to be used and collected, enabling regulators to focus on those particular bad actors, both at home and abroad.”
Hours before his speech, advocacy group Public Knowledge urged the Biden administration to send the message to Congress that federal privacy legislation must move forward, that the Federal Communications Commission needs its fifth member – the Senate has yet to vote on nominee Gigi Sohn – and for Congress to implement anti-preference laws, including those that “prevent dominant platforms from discriminating against smaller competitors on their own platforms.”
Apple urges FCC to open 6 GHz band for mobile devices
Apple has urged the Federal Communications Commission to open up the 6 GHz band to “very low power” mobile applications, according to a letter to the commission Monday.
The FCC is already in the midst of conducting interference testing of fixed devices, such as next generation Wi-Fi technologies, in the band, after it authorized in 2020 that the radiofrequencies be opened up to those applications.
But Apple is pressing for more applications in the band, including for smartphones, watches and headphones. At 16 times lower power than the standard Wi-Fi, VLP “greatly reduces the risk of harmful interference,” the company said in a presentation to the commission.
The company, which conducted testing of those devices in Houston, added that this means these low power devices will not inference with incumbent microwave links.
Some, including the National Spectrum Management Association, are concerned about the flood of unlicensed devices coming into the band and causing interference.
Report finds “overwhelming” demand for digital skills in labor market
A report Monday from the National Skills Coalition has found that 92 percent of all job ads require some digital skills.
“This demand is robust across all industries, and small businesses are just as likely as their larger peers to seek workers with technology skills,” said the report, which received data assistance from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Despite this, many workers in the country do not have the digital skills necessary, the report added.
It recommends that policymakers support the universal goal of digital skills for all, implementing policies and practices supporting digital skills and partnering with industry to collaborate with community colleges and other training providers.
The report notes that public investments in closing the digital divide can help close this gap and help “generate economic benefits for individual workers and the broader economy.”
“Equipping workers with necessary skills requires action by both private employers and public policymakers,” the report said. “Notably, public investments in workforce development and education are especially vital given the unevenness of private investments and the prevalence of digital skill demands among smaller businesses, which depend on publicly funded workforce and education partners to upskill employees.”
The labor issue in broadband has been a focus as billions in federal dollars are expected to be allocated to states by this summer.