With help from John Hendel, Steven Overly and Mary Lee
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— Tech meets Trump in Davos: President Donald Trump hosts a breakfast today with Apple CEO Tim Cook and other business leaders on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
— Next-gen multitasking: Senators hold a hearing today on shortfalls in 5G workforce readiness, even as the impeachment trial gears up.
— Trending: Google’s annual spending on lobbyists in Washington has dipped to its lowest since 2011, despite all the headwinds it’s facing.
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TRUMP HUDDLES WITH TECH EXECS IN DAVOS — Trump’s breakfast today with business leaders and tech executives was scheduled to include Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Ivanka Trump, White House adviser and first daughter; Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council; and the secretaries of Labor, Transportation, Commerce and Treasury were also set to attend.
— On the menu: The breakfast will provide “an opportunity to discuss successful economic policies,” the White House said beforehand. Ivanka Trump was slated to lead a discussion with the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board — which includes Cook and other private sector leaders — about “a domestic advertising campaign focused on various education and career pathways that will be launching in the coming weeks.”
— The backdrop: The tech industry has a lot to celebrate after the Trump administration reached an agreement with France to halt plans for a digital services tax on U.S. giants including Facebook and Google. The deal underscores how the industry continues to rack up major policy victories in Washington on trade, taxes and more, despite the attacks the top tech companies are facing on everything from privacy to antitrust to alleged bias, including from the president.
TECH QUOTE DU JOUR — “We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it,” Trump said during a Tuesday address in Davos. “When people are free to innovate, millions will live longer, happier, healthier lives.”
— Looking ahead: Trump also touched on workforce development, stressing the need to train workers on skills needed in “critical industries like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and 5G.” Later at a dinner with business leaders — including from SoftBank, Sony and Nokia — he talked up the administration’s work to roll out 5G. “We’re bringing down the time periods and spectrums, we’re opening it up,” he said. “I think we’re far advanced, much further than people understand.”
RECS ON FACIAL REC REGS — IBM on Tuesday became the latest tech giant to offer policy principles for artificial intelligence regulation in Davos. The principles say governments should designate “co-regulatory mechanisms … to convene stakeholders and identify, accelerate, and promote efforts to create definitions, benchmarks, frameworks and standards for AI systems,” to offer incentives for the adoption of any such standards and to extend protections afforded under anti-discrimination laws to automated systems.
— For more on Davos 2020: Don’t forget to subscribe to our Davos Playbook newsletter here.
TODAY: SENATE COMMERCE SQUEEZES IN 5G WORKFORCE HEARING — The impeachment trial isn’t stopping Senate Commerce from conducting some of its regular business, which today means a full committee session on worries that the U.S. lacks the skilled workforce to meet the demand for building out 5G infrastructure (an issue John covered during the holidays). The panel on Tuesday announced two new witnesses, Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld and NTCA chief Shirley Bloomfield, adding to a lineup that includes FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
— Carr takes an optimistic view on the workforce crunch: “I would frame it more as good news and opportunity,” the FCC Republican, who has sought to help create training programs in community colleges and technical schools, told John late last year. He said 5G is creating “good-paying solid middle class jobs” and cited improvements in setting up training opportunities. “The (5G buildout) numbers have been expanding drastically even as we’ve been bumping up against workforce shortages.”
— Mysteriously, the Senate Commerce Committee dropped plans last month to mark up the TOWER Act from Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). That bill, S. 2363, would create an FCC advisory committee devoted to studying the issue.
SPEAKING OF IMPEACHMENT — At least eight senators were spotted sporting Apple Watches during Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday, according to Roll Call, despite new rules requiring them to leave electronic devices outside the chamber during the proceedings. Another, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), tweeted out an image of a smartphone with the caption, “Come and take it.”
GOOGLE TIGHTENS THE PURSE STRINGS — Other major internet companies are on a lobbying spending spree — but not Google, which last year shelled out less money to lobby the federal government than in any year since 2011. In fact, its $11.81 million lobbying bill for the year was 44 percent below 2018, according to disclosures made public Tuesday.
— Google hasn’t lacked for trouble in Washington, as its sprawling operations face a series of antitrust inquiries, blowback on privacy and online speech, and regulatory battles on issues like self-driving cars. But 2019 marks the first full year with Karan Bhatia at the helm of Google’s public policy shop, and the former George W. Bush administration official has reorganized its Washington office and reduced its stable of outside lobbyists. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.
— Amazon, meanwhile, continued its years-long trend of spending record amounts on lobbying the federal government on a similar set of issues. The e-commerce company ponied up $16.14 million on lobbying last year. “Our Washington, D.C., team is focused on ensuring we are advocating on issues that are important to our customers, our employees and policymakers,” the company said.
— Other large tech and telecom companies that spent big on lobbying for the year include Apple ($7.35 million), AT&T ($11.59 million), Microsoft ($10.17 million), Oracle ($6.66 million), Qualcomm ($7.88 million) and Verizon ($10.04 million). (Facebook’s figures were not yet public as of late Tuesday night.)
INBOUND: GABBARD BILL ON SECTION 230 — Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii told your host she will introduce legislation “in the coming days” that “amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by eliminating big tech’s immunity and ensuring accountability.” The 2020 presidential candidate has teased plans for a bill to remove Section 230 protections from some tech platforms and another measure “similar” to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposal for breaking up the tech giants — but has introduced neither yet.
NO INTEL FOR YOU — Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would block the U.S. from sharing intelligence with countries that permit the Chinese telecom giant Huawei to operate their 5G networks. The U.S. has pressed its allies during the past year to remove Huawei’s technology from their infrastructure, contending it could enable spying by Beijing. “Our allied countries shouldn’t fall for the bait,” Banks told our colleagues at Morning Cyber. “Huawei is dangerous, and there’s a clear history of Huawei equipment being used for spying against political opponents.” The measure is a companion to a Senate bill (S. 3153) introduced by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
— BSA | The Software Alliance today is launching the Global Data Alliance, a cross-industry coalition that counts AT&T and Verizon, among others, as members … Mary K. Engle, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, will retire at the end of this month.
— Walking the talk on tech? “Practically everybody in Washington is mad at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. David Cicilline might actually do something about it.” Nancy and your host profile the House antitrust chairman in a story out this week for POLITICO Magazine.
— “Meet the 26-year-old socialist trucker running for Congress on TikTok,” via The Verge.
— TMI: “So far, under California’s new privacy law, firms are disclosing too little data — or far too much,” The Washington Post reports.
— Medium, get ready: “Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone ‘hacked by Saudi crown prince,’” The Guardian reports.
— Facing facts: “Facebook Loses Supreme Court Bid to Review Biometric Appeal,” Bloomberg Law reports.
— Going viral: “TikTok brings lobbying fight to Europe,” POLITICO Europe’s Laura Kayali and Cristina Gonzalez report.
— Fake news frontier: “Critics fear Facebook fact-checkers losing misinformation fight,” via The Hill.
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