Policy Takeaways: More Innovation, Smarter Regulation

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Summing up the outburst of innovation seen every January in Las Vegas, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai aptly described CES as “Burning Man for nerds.”

More than 160 U.S. and international policymakers gathered in Las Vegas and heard a central theme from entrepreneurs: ground-breaking innovation needs regulatory restraint and flexibility to succeed.

Here are the main policy takeaways from CES 2017:

1.We all need more spectrum (especially for new 5G technologies)
The three Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners who will work at the agency under President Trump — Mignon Clyburn, Mike O’Rielly and Ajit Pai – agreed the FCC must improve the broadcast incentive auction transition, when broadcasters move and wireless companies roll out service. “The most important thing is getting more spectrum for the kinds of devices filling the more than two million square feet of displays at CES,” Commissioner Clyburn said. Connectivity is now critical to virtually every consumer tech product at CES. As demand for artificial intelligence and high-quality streaming rises, 5G wireless will take center stage.

2.Internet of Things (IoT) regulatory framework is still evolving
Many connected products unveiled at CES can help make our lives healthier, easier and more efficient, but we must be mindful about the implications of the collection of consumer data. At CES, FTC Commissioners Maureen Ohlhausen and Terrell McSweeny stressed that regulating the IoT should be flexible enough to promote innovation, but they had different views on how to safeguard product security and consumer privacy. The commissioners suggested industry cooperation and self-regulation with a potential Congressional role to improve trust in the market and adoption of IoT products.

3.Congress is rightfully wary of mandating encryption backdoors
Two leading members of Congress on cybersecurity issues, Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Eric Swalwell (DCA) both believe the way to fight terrorism and maintain consumer privacy is not by weakening encryption, but rather finding the right balance between law enforcement and the tech industry – finding ways to help law enforcement be nimble, not mandate backdoors that make consumer data less safe. “We must make sure regulators don’t overreact because of fear of the future,” said Hurd. Swalwell added, “It seems that there is bipartisan consensus on this. It is not to make all of us less safe by requiring a backdoor, but to make sure that the FBI, CIA or NSA have the best tools.”

4.It’s time to address America’s talent pipeline and the future of work
Some projections say the U.S. will face a shortfall of more than 223,000 workers in STEM fields – that means 30 percent of these jobs will go unfilled. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who targets improved immigration policy, said, “We don’t get enough H-1Bs when we need them for high-tech jobs. There’s a problem. Only the government can fix it.”

Michael Petricone, is the senior VP of government and legal affairs, Consumer Technology Association.

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