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Looking at 2018

We entered 2017 with a new White House, a new Congress, and many questions. President Trump had few pre-existing relationships with tech companies, and had run on a populist, America-first platform. From a policy perspective, we anxiously wondered what the implications would be for our industry, and how we could work productively with the administration to advance the tech economy.

Artificial intelligence and 3D printing are revolutionizing medical care.

Our strategy was to engage aggressively with the White House and offer CTA as a substantive policy resource on our issues. Beginning with our co-hosting the Tech Inaugural Ball in January, we met with numerous White House and senior agency officials to share our policy priorities and recommendations. During the White House’s “Tech Week,” CTA participated in a small roundtable with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. A number of our small business members attended an event with SBA Administrator Linda McMahon. And we have hosted White House officials and staffers from the Federal Communications Commission, Food and Drug Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the CTA Innovation House.

In our discussions we discovered a strong overlap between the White House and tech industry agendas. We agreed on a broad set of priorities such as rural broadband, drones and the importance of apprenticeships and workplace training. The administration’s top priority is to create new American jobs, and they know that the U.S. tech industry is a critical part of the effort.

On some issues, such as trade and immigration, we did not always see eye to eye. Our response has been to speak out, continue to engage with policymakers, and make a substantive case that our economic leadership requires bringing the world’s best to America and aggressively exporting our innovations abroad.

Further down Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress struggled through a year of division and partisanship. Thankfully, tech industry priorities managed to evade gridlock. CTA helped pass a law allowing government employees to use ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. More, we led the successful fight to enable hearing aids to be sold over the counter, dramatically lowering prices and enabling millions of Americans to finally get the assistance they need.

We have a long Congressional to-do list for 2018. We will be pushing for House passage of the Mobile Now Act, a Senate bill that will provide incentives for 5G deployment and increased rural broadband. The Senate must complete action on self-driving car legislation. And we are pleased that we are moving forward on tax reform, which has the potential to revitalize American competitiveness by bringing U.S. tax rates in line with those of other industrialized economies.

Our greatest challenge this year came not from the White House or Congress, but from a generalized perception that somehow our industry has become “too big” or socially harmful. This sort of backlash should not be surprising: our society and workplace are changing at a rapid pace. This change creates uneasiness, and tech is a convenient scapegoat. This meme is also being opportunistically pushed by industries being disrupted by tech, ranging from hotels to labor unions to legacy content providers.

After consulting with our members, we have responded in a number of ways. First, we have emphasized the immense benefits that technology is bringing to our society. Artificial intelligence and 3D printing are revolutionizing medical care. Self-driving cars are poised to save tens of thousands of lives every year. New internet platforms have caused an explosion in creativity, and given independent artists access to a global audience. Uber and Lyft have made sure that we can always get a car, even at rush hour in the rain. We are highlighting many of these innovations in our Lets Go Humans campaign, which you can see online. But it is not enough to tout our industry’s accomplishments. We must also move to address the consequences of tech-driven disruption. Just as our industry creates challenges, it also provides answers.

That is why CTA hired its first ever vice president of U.S. jobs to work with our members and ensure that American workers are prepared for a high-skilled, tech driven economy. Our members continue to innovate and ensure that, every year, our products use dramatically less energy. And in the wake of the last election, we are proud of our social media members who have adopted rigorous transparency rules that will allow anyone to see the origin and financial sponsor of political ads.

This month, we will converge at CES to look into the future and see what our industry will do next. From self-driving cars to artificial intelligence, from smart cities to the extraordinary entrepreneurs at Eureka Park, tech is poised to create opportunity, enhance communication and create a better world. I look forward to taking that journey together.

Michael Petricone, SVP, Government and Regulator Affairs, CTA