Senators Eye Higher Purposes for Apps
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Senators Eye Higher Purposes for Apps

During a hearing on the app economy this afternoon, members of the Senate communications, technology, innovation, and the Internet subcommittee urged app innovators to pursue higher purposes than convenience or entertainment, called for improvements in FCC broadband deployment data, and voiced their positions on tomorrow’s expected vote on a Congressional Review Act resolution to roll back the FCC’s December 2017 restoring Internet freedom (RIF) actions.

In his opening statement, subcommittee Chairman Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) noted that the app economy requires broadband, adding, “We need to ensure that reliable broadband networks are available to all Americans whether that is through private networks or targeted government programs like Phase II of the Connect America Fund.”

In his opening statement, subcommittee ranking minority member Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii) spoke in favor of the net neutrality CRA resolution, adding that he hopes his colleagues would join him in voting for it. Chairman Wicker indicated his opposition to the resolution by saying, “Sen. Schatz and I will be canceling each other’s votes out later this week.”

Regarding the app economy, Rep. Schatz called for the sector to focus on important and “impactful” issues. Apps “should have an impact beyond improved efficiency and improved convenience,” he said.

In her testimony, Sarah Oh, a research fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, urged policy-makers to “stay focused on getting everyone connected,” an objective that includes “clearing spectrum for connected devices.”

Also testifying were Morgan Reed, president, ACT, which represents apps developers; Mike Forster, chairman of Innovate Mississippi and founder of the Mississippi Coding Academies; and Roger Koch, chief executive officer of Florida-based Shield Group Technologies.

Sen. Wicker asked Mr. Forster whether Mr. Reed’s citing of the high demand for qualified workers and an annual app-sector salary of $86,000 “seem right.”

Mr. Forster agreed, and he emphasized the importance for institutions that train coders to work with industry to stay abreast of ever-changing technologies.

Mr. Reed said that “100% of my [member] CEOs said they hire people outside their states,” but that if Mr. Forster “trains a great coder, if they go home and don’t have broadband, how are my CEOs going to hire them?”

Chairman Wicker noted that Mr. Reed had also included broadband deployment penetration numbers for Mississippi in his testimony. He said he assumed that he had such figures for every member of the subcommittee, which Mr. Reed said was true. The chairman asked him to submit the information for the record, but then questioned where the information came from. Mr. Reed said it was based on FCC data.

“We find almost everyone’s source of data, if you dig deep enough, it all goes back to the FCC,” Mr. Reed said.

Sen. Wicker asked how to improve on FCC broadband deployment data. Ms. Oh suggested that FCC funding be reallocated to prioritize adding data to the broadband map more quickly, so it wouldn’t be so outdated.

Mr. Reed suggested that information could be pulled “right from cellphones themselves” on what broadband is available to them in whatever location they are, and that information could be used to populate the broadband map. —Lynn Stanton, lynn.stanton@wolterskluwer.com

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