Good morning and welcome to August, tech friends and followers. Though their chief financial officers might disagree, July was a tough month for social media companies — it’s not every day that the commander in chief says your business is “killing people.” Though President Joe Biden later softened his stance on the role platforms play in the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, it’s safe to say that the heat will remain focused on Facebook Inc. and its counterparts. What percentage of U.S. adults do you think say that social media platforms are doing a “poor” job of preventing the spread of anti-vaccine content?
You can find the answer at the bottom of the newsletter.
The Senate Commerce Committee is convening an executive session on Wednesday at 10 a.m. The committee will mark up two tech-related bills that bear watching: the Composite Standards Act of 2021 (S.451), which tasks the National Institute of Standards and Technology with enacting recommendations to jumpstart the use of composite technology in infrastructure and pursue a pilot program that assesses the feasibility of that tech in sustainable infrastructure, and the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 (S.1790), which calls on the Federal Communications Commission to formalize rules that it will deny reviews or applications of communications equipment deemed a national security risk.
Intel Corp. Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger will join Washington Post Live on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. for a conversation with technology policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski about the global chip shortage, the future of the semiconductor industry and how the United States can preserve its tech dominance. Gelsinger’s appearance comes a week after Intel said its factories will begin building chips for Qualcomm Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. in an effort to overtake rivals Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. by 2025. The semiconductor giant said it is planning to roll out five sets of chipmaking technologies over the next four years.
The FCC is holding an open meeting Thursday at 10:30 a.m. On a packed docket, two items involving robocalls stand out: For the first, the agency will consider how to further alter its policies to curtail access to phone numbers and consider additional certifications intended to bolster compliance on anti-robocalling requirements. The second item will include discussion on reviewing revocation decisions involving voice service providers suspected of illegal “spoofing” of their caller ID information.
The major tech earnings week is in the rear view, but this week has some notable companies reporting as well: Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Lyft Inc. on Tuesday; Uber Technologies Inc. on Wednesday; and Cloudflare Inc. and Dropbox Inc. on Thursday.
After weeks of negotiation, the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, advancing in the Senate by a 67-32 vote. The measure included $65 billion for broadband and would create a “permanent program to help more low-income households access the internet,” according to a statement from the White House.
But on Friday, as lawmakers worked to finalize legislative text on the bill, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said “some issues have come up” on the broadband piece of the agreement.
According to a draft copy of the broadband section of the bill obtained by NBC News, the package would standardize a minimum speed of 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, prod internet service providers to aim for higher speeds and require the federal government to create a website that enables consumers to determine their eligibility for low-cost broadband service.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, said he’s considering an amendment to the bill over concerns that its mandate that ISPs that receive funding through the broadband expansion offer a low-cost plan could result in rate regulation.
In other top tech news of the week:
As part of an effort to “clean up” results of last year’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, the FCC sent letters to 197 winning bidders offering them a chance to retract their funding requests from areas where broadband services had already been rendered or questions of waste have arisen. The FCC, which said it would sign off on over $311 million in broadband funding in 36 states as part of the fund, specifically challenged SpaceX over its application for $886 million in subsidies, questioning whether some of the rural broadband subsidies had been ticketed for parking lots and airports that are connected via satellite.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in an interview that Biden will make the determination on whether overseas chipmakers will receive any of the $52 billion set aside by the administration for semiconductor research and manufacturing, even though Congress has yet to approve those funds. Raimondo said internal policy discussions on the matter are pending and that officials will “go through a big process” before delivering a recommendation to Biden.
Biden said during a visit with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that a cyberattack of “great consequence” perpetrated against the United States could result in a “real shooting war with a major power.” Biden’s comments followed weeks of high-profile ransomware attacks on U.S. companies and what officials see as escalating threats from China and Russia.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google said in a court filing that Microsoft Corp. has not complied with a subpoena to release documents related to its Bing search engine and Internet Explorer and Edge browsers as part of the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit against the search giant. Google said in the filing that those documents could determine whether Microsoft was truly at a disadvantage regarding competition or if it simply failed to successfully compete.
The share of U.S. adults that would oppose federal legislation holding internet platforms responsible if content generated by their users and other third parties spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and public health emergencies. Nearly two-thirds of the public said they would support such a bill.