With help from Margaret Harding McGill, Steven Overly, Ashley Gold and Nancy Scola
UBER WINS IN WASHINGTON — Uber may be besieged by reports of a toxic work culture, a trade secrets lawsuit and a Justice Department inquiry, but the company still has allies in Washington to help advance its agenda. President Donald Trump on Tuesday night signed the Modernizing Government Travel Act after a relatively speedy passage by both houses of Congress. The measure puts into law the ability of federal workers to expense ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft — allowing the companies to reap a potentially lucrative market given the massive size of the government workforce.
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— The companies mounted a lobbying push for the bill, and met with a bipartisan collection of tech-friendly lawmakers including Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), all of whom were sponsors. “[T]his is an opportunity to bring the federal government code into modern times,” said Niki Christoff, Uber’s head of federal affairs. Joseph Okpaku, Lyft’s head of government relations, called it an “historic” milestone. “Any time a new industry has be officially recognized and defined in federal law is a fairly momentous occasion,” he told MT.
— By the numbers: Uber, which spent $370,000 in Washington on lobbying during the first quarter of 2017, worked with shops including Franklin Square Group, The Doerrer Group and Federal Hill Group to advance the bill. Lyft, which spent $110,000 on lobbying in Q1, deployed firms like Podesta Group on the issue. Both firms’ lobbying spends were up from Q1 of last year.
BATTLE OF THE NET NEUTRALITY REPORTS — The Internet Association, which supports the FCC’s net neutrality rules, will hold a press briefing this morning to talk about its report on the rules’ impact on ISP investment. As readers of MT know, most major groups in the debate have come out with their own studies on the issue as they press their arguments. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who says the rules have hurt broadband investment, has teed up his proposal to begin the process of rolling back the Open Internet order for a vote this Thursday.
— And that’s not all: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is expected to lead a group of lawmakers in speaking out against Pai’s proposal on the Senate floor today. … NCTA is placing a full-page ad in The Washington Post, undersigned by 21 large and small cable ISPs, affirming cable’s commitment to an open internet.
GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we’re excited to welcome Steven Overly as the newest member of the POLITICO Tech team. He’ll be covering tech lobbying and influence for us. Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org or @stevenoverly, and as always send your tech and telecom tips to email@example.com and @liszhou. Catch the rest of the team’s contact info after Quick Downloads.
IN OTHER BROADBAND NEWS — The FCC filled out two more working groups tasked with advising the agency on broadband deployment, appointing members to the Competitive Access to Broadband Infrastructure and Removing State and Local Regulatory Barriers groups. Appointees range from a Microsoft tech policy director to the city attorney for McAllen, Texas. A full list of members is available here.
REDL NOMINATED FOR NTIA — “President Donald Trump [on Tuesday] nominated David Redl as the next administrator of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, according to a White House announcement,” Nancy reports. “Redl is currently the chief counsel on the Republican side of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He has been with the committee since 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile, and previously served in several capacities at the wireless industry trade association CTIA.”
SPOTLIGHT ON EMERGENCY ALERTS — House telecom panel Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will emphasize the importance of updating technology for emergency alerts at a hearing this morning. “Outfitting first responders with the robust capabilities of broadband communications is essential,” she’ll say, according to prepared remarks. “In those times when catastrophe looms and the lives of hundreds, thousands, even millions are at risk or a child is missing, the necessity of ensuring the best available tools are available to local, state and federal authorities to alert the public cannot be understated.” Representatives of the National Association of Broadcasters and Qualcomm are among the witnesses.
SENATE GETS POSITIVE SIGNAL FOR ‘SIGNAL’ — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in a letter to the Senate’s sergeant at arms, Frank Larkin, revealed that Larkin has OK’d staffers’ use of the encrypted app Signal. “With the transition to default HTTPS for all of the other Senate websites and the recent announcement by your office that the end-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal is approved for Senate staff use, I am happy to see that you too recognize the important defensive cybersecurity role that that encryption can play,” Wyden writes.
** A message from Qualcomm: The smartphone revolution didn’t happen by accident. Qualcomm invented the technology and business model to scale cutting edge performance throughout the industry for everyone, everywhere. Learn more. **
SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS —
— Partnership on AI expands membership: Salesforce, Intel and eBay are the newest members of the group, which is committed to “sharing best practices and communicating openly about the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence research,” TechCrunch reports. The collective was started by Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Apple, and has plans to coordinate a series of AI Grand Challenges to spur research on some of the field’s thorniest problems.
— Tech files amicus brief in transgender rights case: More than 50 companies including tech giants Apple, Twitter and Slack backed transgender high school student Gavin Grimm in a court case that centers on whether he can use the bathroom of his choice, Recode reports. “Gender identity discrimination is a form of sex discrimination. Amici respectfully request that the Court consider the business consequences of such discrimination when rendering a decision in this case,” the companies write.
— Microsoft teams up with UN: They’ve established a five-year collaboration to work on developing tech that can help “better predict, analyze and respond to critical human rights situations,” VentureBeat reports. Microsoft is set to contribute $5 million to a grant that will back the work of the UN human rights office.
MEANWHILE IN EUROPE —
— Facebook’s troubles in France: “France’s independent privacy watchdog fined Facebook on Tuesday for breaching French privacy laws by tracking and using the personal data of 33 million users, as well as non-users who browse the internet,” The AP reports. The country’s regulators determined that Facebook leveraged user data for targeted advertising without providing sufficiently clear disclosures about the process.
MASSIVE RECORDS RELEASE — The Library of Congress made 25 million records from its online catalog available for free download on Tuesday, its largest release of digital files ever. The new trove of records includes everything from books and music to manuscripts and maps, dating from 1968 to 2014. “The Library of Congress is our nation’s monument to knowledge and we need to make sure the doors are open wide for everyone, not just physically but digitally too,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Check them out here.
TRANSITIONS — Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s co-founders, is headed back to the social network, where his top focus is guiding the “company culture,” per Reuters. The Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown University Law Center has tapped Gigi Sohn as a distinguished fellow. Sohn spent three years advising Tom Wheeler when he was chair of the FCC. … Joshua Landau, previously at WilmerHale, joins the Computer & Communications Industry Association as patent counsel.
OUT AND ABOUT — ITI holds its annual Tech Show this evening, which is expected to include members of Congress and administration officials among its attendees. The event is set to feature exhibitions and demonstrations of new tech offerings.
Google’s court win: A federal appeals court has preserved the company’s trademark, The AP reports.
Independent Driver Guild files FTC complaint about Juno: “The Independent Driver Guild (IDG) — the industry’s first labor group to receive employer recognition — filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday calling for an investigation into Juno’s alleged deception over the program,” Mashable reports.
Tesla shut down Uber partnership: In 2016, Elon Musk reportedly turned down a potential opportunity to work with Uber on self-driving cars, according to a new book, Bloomberg reports.
Facebook’s faulty ad measurements: It’s reimbursing certain companies after it discovered the metrics about their reach were inaccurate, Reuters reports.
The tech industry version of Kremlinology: Recode breaks down the 20 Facebookers in Mark Zuckerberg’s birthday photo.
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Eric Engleman (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ericengleman), Angela Greiling Keane (email@example.com, @agreilingkeane), Nancy Scola (firstname.lastname@example.org, @nancyscola), Margaret Harding McGill (email@example.com, @margarethmcgill), Ashley Gold (firstname.lastname@example.org, @ashleyrgold) and Li Zhou (email@example.com, @liszhou)
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