Biden Plan Aims to Build U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing

President Joe Biden stated that investing in the manufacturing of semiconductors is part of his administration’s effort to improve the nation’s infrastructure, in order to “build the infrastructure of today and not repair the one of yesterday … [as well as] protect our supply chain and revitalize American manufacturing.” A shortage of semiconductors has impacted industries worldwide and hit the automotive industry particularly hard, forcing a slowdown or cessation of production across the U.S. To assess the problem, White House officials met with 20 chief executives from tech and automotive companies this week. Continue reading Biden Plan Aims to Build U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing

Defeated Union Calls Foul on Amazon Win, Continues Efforts

Although workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama voted against unionizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), that union’s president Stuart Appelbaum said it planned to challenge the results, accusing Amazon of “illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.” RWDSU director of communications Chelsea Connor specified that “alleged behavior” included placement of a USPS mailbox on the grounds of the warehouse, which some workers described as intimidating because they believed Amazon was monitoring voters. Continue reading Defeated Union Calls Foul on Amazon Win, Continues Efforts

Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Trade groups representing small merchants in hardware, office supplies, books and groceries are organizing in 12 cities to form Small Business Rising, a coalition for stronger antitrust laws and enforcement of existing ones. They hope new measures will force Amazon to spin off its own business lines that compete with them. The House Antitrust Subcommittee is already considering such legislation but hasn’t yet introduced a bill. Amazon called the efforts “misguided interventions in the free market.” Continue reading Coalition of Small Businesses Aims to Weaken Amazon’s Grip

Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court loosened local media ownership restrictions, which could enable more industry consolidation. It’s viewed as a victory for broadcasters that wanted to overturn the 2017 decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that found the FCC did not sufficiently consider the effect of changes on minority and female owners. The FCC appeal was supported by News Corp, Fox Corporation, Sinclair Broadcast Group and the National Association of Broadcasters. Continue reading Supreme Court Allows FCC to Relax Media Ownership Rules

The Biden Plan to Deliver Broadband Internet to U.S. Homes

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes $100 billion to bring high-speed broadcast Internet to every home in the United States. The need for broadband became especially acute during the COVID-19 pandemic in which working, learning and shopping became largely remote. Although the digital divide was first identified during the Clinton administration, multiple government efforts to bridge it thus far have been unsuccessful. Biden also vowed to drive down prices for Internet to make it affordable for everyone. Continue reading The Biden Plan to Deliver Broadband Internet to U.S. Homes

Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

President Joe Biden is working on a draft executive order to require companies doing business with the federal government to report hacks within a few days. Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stated the order would also require the companies to use data encryption and two-factor authentication and would combat ransomware and improve protection for industrial control systems, transportation and election security. The SolarWinds hack has prompted the government to pay closer attention to cybersecurity. Continue reading Biden to Issue Executive Order Upgrading U.S. Cybersecurity

AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

AT&T expressed opposition to the proposal of subsidized fiber-to-the-home for everyone in the U.S., with the argument that rural communities don’t need anything faster than the existing service’s 10Mbps upload speeds. AT&T executive vice president of federal regulatory relations Joan Marsh defined “broadband for the 21st Century” as its VDSL (very high-speed digital subscriber line), a 14-year-old system that uses copper telephone wires for the last mile to the home. She noted the “significant additional cost” to deploy fiber to every home, saying there is “no compelling reason” to justify the expense. Continue reading AT&T Resists Plan to Bring High-Speed Fiber to Rural Homes

Amazon Faces Pressure from Workers to Improve Conditions

As Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama prepare to vote this month on whether to unionize, the Big Tech company is getting pressure from its staff worldwide to improve working conditions. President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders have expressed support for unionizing the Alabama warehouse and workers have already cast “thousands of votes.” Meanwhile, Amazon deleted hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers’ profiles from the internal online staff directory, which has some charging the company with union busting. Continue reading Amazon Faces Pressure from Workers to Improve Conditions

Intel to Spend $20B on New Chipmaking Factories in Arizona

Intel’s new chief executive Patrick Gelsinger committed $20 billion to build two new semiconductor manufacturing plants in Arizona. Over the years, Intel has failed to keep up with the miniaturization of transistors, giving Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung Electronics the lead. These two companies now make chips for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Amazon, Apple, and Nvidia but Gelsinger — who hopes for federal incentives — vowed to regain enough ground with the new factories to rival them. Continue reading Intel to Spend $20B on New Chipmaking Factories in Arizona

New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

University of Toronto’s cybersecurity group The Citizen Lab just released a report with the finding that TikTok’s underlying code does not pose a threat to U.S. national security. Former president Donald Trump and leaders in other countries accused ByteDance’s TikTok of spying for China but The Citizen Lab, which reports on censorship and surveillance by Chinese social media apps, found no evidence of “overtly malicious behavior.” However, they added that there could be undiscovered security issues. Continue reading New Report Finds TikTok Does Not Pose a U.S. Security Risk

Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances

Russia and China recently ran sophisticated hacks from servers inside the United States, going undetected by the National Security Agency, which is prohibited from conducting surveillance in the U.S., as well as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Private computer security firms were the first to raise the alarm on these foreign attacks, and Microsoft reported that its patches are being reverse-engineered by criminal groups to launch ransomware attacks on corporations. The White House is paying attention. Continue reading Cybersecurity: White House Pursues Public-Private Alliances

Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) plans to introduce a bill in the next few weeks that would make new neutrality a law. “The coronavirus pandemic has proven that broadband is as essential as electricity and other utilities,” he said. “We need to restore net neutrality protections to ensure that our Internet remains open and free and that consumers can continue to benefit from this critical infrastructure.” Many Republicans still oppose net neutrality, and its existence has largely been subject to who chairs the FCC. Continue reading Bill Could Make Net Neutrality Law Under New Administration

Biden Appointing Antitrust Experts to Key Administrative Posts

President Joe Biden is expected to nominate Columbia University law professor Lina Khan, a leader of the Big Tech antitrust movement, for an open seat on the Federal Trade Commission, where she would have power to enforce existing regulations. Biden appointed another Columbia law professor, Tim Wu to the National Economic Council (NEC) as a special assistant for technology and competition policy. Big Tech antitrust wasn’t a signature focus of Biden’s presidential campaign, but the appointments seem to signal his intentions. Continue reading Biden Appointing Antitrust Experts to Key Administrative Posts

European Union Earmarks $150 Billion for New Tech Initiatives

As part of a $2 trillion recovery package, the European Union is investing $150+ billion in “Digital Compass” to boost advanced technologies and narrow the gap with the U.S. and Asia. One goal is to produce at least 20 percent of the world’s semiconductors by 2030. In 2020, said the European Commission, the EU produced 10 percent. In 2019, the EU debuted a public-private cloud-computing project, Gaia-X to increase self-reliance and, in 2017, the European Battery Alliance to develop electricity-storage technologies. Continue reading European Union Earmarks $150 Billion for New Tech Initiatives

China’s Five-Year Plan to Build Domestic Chip Manufacturing

China has a five-year plan to dominate the semiconductor industry by building up the domestic industry while fending off U.S. blacklists. The details of the plan won’t be released for a long time, but clues have been dropped by government officials, think tanks and official publications. Over the next five years, China plans to make do with existing semiconductors while it focuses on third generation chipmaking, a nascent field that no one yet dominates, by creating local companies for relevant software and hardware. Continue reading China’s Five-Year Plan to Build Domestic Chip Manufacturing

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