Nov 15, 2017

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Good morning...let's get straight to the news today.

Broadcasters are having a blockbuster year at the FCC

A big year of wins for the broadcasting industry is about to get even bigger with a pair of votes at the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

The details: The agency's five commissioners will vote on two proposals that are seen as victories for the local TV and radio business. The FCC is expected to approve them in party-line votes, reports Axios' David McCabe.

  • One proposal would lift rules that say one company can't own a television station and a newspaper in the same market and a similar rule for owning both radio and television stations in a market. It would also allow the FCC to waive a prohibition against owning two of the top television stations in a market on a case-by-case basis.
  • A second proposal would approve a new technical standard that allows broadcasters to track their viewers in much the same way web services like Google or Facebook track users, and use that information to target them with ads.

Why it matters: Local television affiliates remain a popular way for many Americans to get their news. Deregulation has ushered in a new era of consolidation for those stations through the controversial Sinclair-Tribune deal and is good news for the broadcasting giants left standing. Broadcasters also want to take advantage of new technology to target viewers with ads to better compete with Facebook and Google.

It'll be an early holiday gift for an industry that's already having a pretty good year in Washington. In April, the FCC voted to reinstate an ownership rule that allowed Sinclair to move ahead with its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune stations. And the commissioners voted in October to axe a rule that requires a station to have a primary studio in the community it covers.

David has more here.

Rep. Issa takes aim at H-1B visas — and Indian firms fight back

Rep. Darell Issa's bill on H-1B visa allocations heads to its first committee vote this morning. The bill would make it more difficult for so-called "H-1B dependent" companies, which have 15% or more employees using the visas and are often India-based IT services firms, to obtain the work permits, Axios' Kim Hart reports.

Fighting back: But those India-based companies are firing back at the efforts to crack down on H-1B visas, saying Indian technology workers are being unfairly singled out by protectionist policies. The head of the group that represents the Indian IT sector visited policymakers this week to warn of the economic domino effects of targeting Indian visa holders.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has also tried to curb the number of foreign workers — particularly those employed by heavy users of the H-1B visa program — coming to the U.S. and possibly displacing American workers. American high-tech firms also rely on H-1B visas — but they're not standing in the way of current political efforts targeting Indian companies. After all, if fewer visas go to IT services and consulting firms, more visas may be available for their own hiring needs.

Decoding: A firm that has 15% or more of its employees on H-1B visas is categorized as "H-1B dependent" by law, and most of those firms are based in India, such as Wipro, Infosys and Cognizant.

  • IT services firms with large U.S. workforces, such as IBM, Accenture and Deloitte, for example, use H-1B workers but aren't subject to H-1B dependent rules because the visa workers make up less than 15% of their workforces.

Shot: "We are happy to have additional workers brought in to fill gaps," Issa said. "What we don't want is where they clearly displace American workers for less money."

Chaser: "We don't have a problem with these provisions applying to all companies," said NASSCOM president R. Chandrashekhar. "But these provisions are applicable only to a subset of companies and applicable in such a way that targets Indian companies"

Go deeper: Kim has more about Issa's bill heading to a markup here, and more about the Indian IT firms' pushback efforts here.

CA hopes to use cash to yield ideas for better government

How badly does Washington need new tech ideas? Pretty badly, says CA chief executive Mike Gregoire, noting that the federal government spends $80 billion on IT and, of that, $65 billion is on systems that are 10 to 15 years old or older.

What's happening: To get more ideas headed the government's way, Gregoire is launching a challenge offering $100,000 in money to startups with ideas on how things could be done better.

  • Five finalists will get $5,000 with the overall winner getting $75,000 plus access to CA's internal accelerator, a program previously only available to startup ideas from within the company. (CA has been using the accelerator to incubate startup-like business ideas within the company.)
  • That said, the winners don't have to sell their idea to CA and are free to go it alone or team up with one of the many systems integrators that specialize in selling technology to the government.
  • Applications are due in December with the finalists to be announced in February.

"Once they have the idea kickstarted, it's a free market," Gregoire tells Axios. "If we think it could be a product for us maybe we take it to the next level."

Instacart CEO considered making a social network for lawyerss

Internet-based grocery delivery wasn't the first idea Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta had when looking to create his startup. It was more like the 20th.

Among the other ideas was a social network for lawyers. That didn't pan out for a bunch of reasons, he said.

  • First off, Mehta isn't a lawyer and wasn't particularly passionate about the law. That's not a particularly good basis for starting a company.
  • But perhaps more importantly, the target audience wasn't interested in the product.

"Lawyers are inherently not social," Mehta said Tuesday, speaking at the Internet Association's conference in San Francisco. "They don't want their own social network. We couldn't come up with something they wanted that they couldn't already do with email."

Take note

On tap: Cisco reports earnings...Also, it's National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.

Trading places: Former U.S. chief data scientist DJ Patil is joining Venrock as an adviser.

ICYMI: Facebook has hired as a lobbyist the former top aide to one of the lawmakers investigating how Russians may have used the social network to subvert the 2016 election...China now dominates the list of the world's top 500 supercomputers, per CNET...The Wall Street Journal has a profile of Michael Kratsios, the U.S. deputy CTO under President Trump; Meanwhile, Recode has a look at some of the top White House science tech posts that have gone unfilled under Trump...Security firm ADT is moving into cybersecurity with its acquisition of Datashield...Forever 21 says that some customers' credit card information may have been stolen in a data breach, BI reports...UC Berkeley is now taking applications for an online master's degree in cybersecurity.

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Ina Fried