Analysis: Trump’s First 100 Days Through the Tech Industry Lens
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member nations from requiring that their citizens’ data be stored only in their own countries, for example. This is an obstacle to international data-sharing across borders that can be a headache for Web-based software and business operations. The TPP was supported by the Consumer Technology Association and big companies including Google, Apple, and Facebook, though it was criticized by digital right groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation over concerns about copyright protections.
Companies in all fields are living with uncertainty over the fate of an existing major trade deal. As a campaigner, Trump declared he would rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), an accord that governs trade among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Trump has recently softened that stance, signaling that he would be willing to renegotiate the agreement instead. But in an interview Saturday, he also said he would terminate the agreement if he couldn’t get a good deal.
Internet Rules: Net neutrality and privacy
Trump’s appointee as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has proposed broad regulatory changes that would overturn a key operating principle governing the Internet: net neutrality.
Under net neutrality rules, providers of high-speed Internet such as Comcast and AT&T must give equal service to all online content, rather than putting some websites, messages, or videos at an advantage in reaching audiences. That means they can’t offer faster video streaming to movie channels for a fee, for example. Facebook, Google, and Netflix support the rule, but technology companies are not unanimous on the issue.
Trump, his FCC chairman, and Congress also took steps to free Internet service providers, including cable and telecommunications companies, to collect browsing histories and other personal information about their customers and sell it to advertisers or other buyers, without asking for the customers’ permission.
Some observers say that if consumers become more wary about privacy intrusions stemming from their use of the Internet, they might form a larger market for companies that provide services such as encryption and virtual private networks (VPNs), which can disguise the identity of a user browsing the Internet. On the other hand, there’s speculation that a greater consciousness of privacy concerns arising from digital life could shrink markets for new tech products such as the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated home assistant, or Web-connected cars, toys, refrigerators, and light bulbs.
Federal funding for scientific research
President Trump’s budget proposals for the 2018 fiscal year called for deep cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies that conduct research in biomedical fields as well as the physical sciences. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington, DC-based non-profit research group, warned in March that the proposals would deprive industry of the basic research it builds on to develop new products and grow the economy.
On Monday, Congress rejected most of the administration’s fiscal priorities in this area, in a budget agreement that will govern federal spending until September if it is approved by the full House and Senate and signed by President Trump. Instead of cutting the NIH budget by $1.2 billion for the remainder of 2017, as President Trump had proposed, lawmakers increased the agency’s budget by $2 billion.
The budget agreement preserves or increases funding for other agencies that the Trump administration had marked for cuts: the Department of Energy, DOE’s Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and NASA. The agreement cut $81 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, but avoided the much steeper cuts favored by the administration for projects including climate change research.