With help from Leah Nylen and Benjamin Din
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— Chambers in conflict: Tension is rising among House members over the the centerpiece of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to out-compete China.
— Miami radio drama: GOP lawmakers are again alleging left-wing “censorship,” this time by the FCC.
— Do it yourself: The tech industry’s next big lobbying battle could be fighting rules enshrining consumers’ right to fix their own broken iPhones.
IT’S FRIDAY; MORNING TECH IS HAPPY YOU MADE IT. I’m your host, Emily Birnbaum. Here’s a bit of trivia: Do you know what the name of the “Endless Frontier Act” is a reference to? Hint: It’s old. Winner gets nothing but pride. Got a news tip? Got more R&D-related trivia? Email [email protected] and [email protected]. Got an event for our calendar? Send details to [email protected]. Anything else? Team info below. And don’t forget: Add @MorningTech and @PoliticoPro on Twitter.
NSF SHOWDOWN: Schumer has been championing his Endless Frontier Act, S. 1260 (117), the hotly watched piece of legislation he reintroduced with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) last month. It has big spending and big hype, but also a major problem: The House is not on board yet.
The House has its own alternative in H.R. 2225 (117), the National Science Foundation for the Future Act, sponsored by House Science Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas). Both bills focus on expanding the NSF’s budget to energize American innovation, including money for a new NSF directorate.
— So what’s the holdup? Schumer’s bill lays out ambitious focus areas for the new directorate, including artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum computing, and would authorize $100 billion for it over five years. In 2026, the directorate’s budget would be $35 billion.
The House, meanwhile, wants to make sure a new directorate wouldn’t overshadow the rest of the agency’s work, reflecting some lawmakers’ view that Schumer’s bill is too narrowly focused on beating China. Instead, the House bill would expand funding to the NSF as a whole and authorize about $13 billion to the new directorate over five years, with its 2026 budget set at $5 billion.
The two bills will both land in committee next week. Schumer’s bill is scheduled for markup Wednesday in the Senate Commerce Committee, after being delayed by an overwhelming number of proposed amendments. And Johnson told MT the House bill will go to subcommittee markup next week.
— Not so subtle: During a Thursday hearing, Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the House Science Committee, emphasized the need for legislation that “recognizes the strength of the U.S. innovation ecosystem and doesn’t break it apart by creating something shiny and new, like other proposals being considered in the Senate.”
Both bills have bipartisan support in their respective chambers, and IBM CEO Arvind Krishna backed the Senate version on Thursday. But the big question that remains is how the two sides of the Hill will reconcile. Young said he was encouraged to see bipartisan interest in both chambers but reiterated the threat China poses to the United States.
CRIES OF CENSORSHIP AT THE FCC: The GOP’s latest culture war battle is over the airwaves. A trio of Republicans lawmakers on Thursday alleged that Democrats are engaging in “censorship” by encouraging the agency to reject a radio license application from a right-leaning network in Florida.
Florida Democrats have been pushing the FCC to scrutinize and potentially block the sale of a popular Miami radio station, contending that the new owner, which has been called the “Spanish-language One America News Network,” could contribute to the well-documented problem of misinformation flooding into Florida’s Latino communities. They have also warned about the “silencing of progressive voices,” citing the station’s recent canceling of a talk show hosted by the Democratic former mayor of the nearby city of Hialeah.
But Republicans say it would be unconstitutional for the FCC — which has a duty to ensure that the airwaves are used in the “public interest” — to intervene in the private deal. “Preventing the assignment of the radio station licenses based on its anticipated programming … likely would violate the First Amendment’s protections of free expression and a free, independent media,” wrote Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and a flurry of right-leaning news outlets have been pushing the issue, as well.
— Interesting timing: This fight is heating up just as GOP lawmakers are urging Congress to intervene to correct the alleged ideological biases of a different set of private companies — the big tech platforms that have booted Republicans like former President Donald Trump. Scott this week touted his own legislation in response to the Facebook oversight board decision that upheld Trump’s suspension, denouncing “companies that censor Americans.” And last Congress, Rubio and frequent tech critic Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) co-sponsored legislation that would remove Section 230’s legal immunity from tech companies unless they promise not to censor political speech.
— Free speech vs. free enterprise? Republicans have traditionally argued that the government shouldn’t intervene in the goings-on of private businesses, but the tech fight has thrown those dynamics into disarray.
— Eyes on Rosenworcel: Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has yet to weigh in on the partisan back-and-forth over the Florida station, and her office declined to comment on Thursday. But once this becomes a prominent GOP talking point, she’ll probably have to pick a side.
FTC BOOSTS ‘RIGHT TO REPAIR’: In a report to Congress on Thursday, the FTC offered a major endorsement for the “right to repair” movement, which has been pushing for legislation requiring companies like Apple and Microsoft to create products that people can fix on their own without extra costs or special tools.
The bipartisan report, which the commissioners adopted 4-0, concludes that “scant evidence” supports manufacturers’ justifications for repair restrictions (for instance, Apple’s argument that opening its iPhone products to independent repair work could create security vulnerabilities).The FTC is offering to work closely with Congress to find a legislative fix that could boost consumers’ rights.
In its report, the commission rebuked the tech industry directly: “The auto industry has shown that in certain contexts, self-regulation can significantly increase consumers’ repair options,” the FTC wrote. “But other industries have not adopted similar self-regulation.”
— Tech pushback begins: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google have been the major bulwarks against the right-to-repair legislation now on the move in more than a dozen U.S. states. While the movement for easier repairs hasn’t gone national quite yet, the FTC’s report will likely kick off serious conversations about a solution with Congress, upping the ante for the companies and trade associations.
“Allowing unvetted third parties with access to sensitive diagnostic information, software, tools, and parts would jeopardize the safety and security of consumers’ devices and put consumers at risk for fraud,” Carl Holshouser, senior vice president of industry association TechNet, told MT.
Nathan Proctor, a leader of the “right to repair” movement with the consumer group U.S. PIRG, called the report “a step forward,” but pointed out that it took the FTC two years to publish it. “I’m hoping [the FTC’s] next action won’t be another two years from now,” he said, “but this report is strong for people who want to fix stuff.”
MORE PRIVACY LAWS ON THE WAY? More than half the country may follow California by adopting sweeping legislation to give internet users more control over their personal data. Liz Crampton looks at the issue in the latest edition of Pro Statehouse Trends, a weekly analysis of legislative activity in America’s statehouses for Premium subscribers.
— APPLE’S MAN TAKES THE STAND: A top Apple executive divulged new details on how it manages the App Store during its antitrust trial with Epic Games on Thursday, POLITICO antitrust guru Leah Nylen reports. Trystan Kosmynka, Apple’s senior director of app review, testified that the company rejects more than one-third of the roughly 5 million apps submitted to its store each year, and the number of rejections has increased.
Apple’s guidelines: Kosmynka also acknowledged that the company removed more than 1,000 outside developers for trying to get around its requirement that they use Apple’s in-app payment system, which charges a 30 percent commission on purchases of digital goods or services. That rule is what Apple used to justify kicking Epic’s popular game Fortnite off the App Store in August.
Kosmynka at first rejected the idea that Apple “aggressively” polices developers — but he later accepted it after Epic lawyer Lauren Moskowitz showed him an email in which he had pledged to his bosses that he would, yes, “aggressively” reject apps that sought to bypass the requirement.
— Epic revelation: An Epic executive also revealed that the FTC is investigating his company for potentially violating children’s privacy laws.
Thomas Ko, Epic’s head of online business strategy and operations, testified that he was part of a team “handling requests from the FTC” about whether Fortnite collects or uses information about children under 13. Ko didn’t indicate whether the probe remains ongoing.
Amy-Gabrielle Bartolac is joining Look Left Marketing as a media relations strategist after 2 1/2 years as the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s public affairs manager.
Hit the brakes: Drivers for delivery companies that partner with Amazon say their bosses — anxious to meet the retailer’s targets — are telling them to shut off a safety app the company uses to track their speeds, Vice reports.
Finding its groove: The story of how TikTok rose to cultural dominance — and defeated Trump along the way. Forbes has more.
Biden watch: Leah breaks down antitrust and competition policy in the Biden administration in a podcast with the Technology Policy Institute.
Bad data: The Competitive Carriers Association told the FCC in a new study that the agency is poised to send funds meant for rural communities to wealthy and densely populated areas due to faulty data.
Lander revelations: “Biden Cabinet nominee Eric Lander’s past meetings with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein spanned approximately 90 minutes over two events in the spring of 2012,” Cristiano reports for Pros.
Need we say more? “Dogecoin Is Up Because It’s Funny,” via Bloomberg.
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HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND!
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