Time for Congress to agree on what they agree on

I’m not going out on a limb when I say that we are living in very polarizing times. As evidenced by the midterm elections, there is much that divides us. However, progress can only be made on our nation’s most vexing issues by focusing on the things – and there are many – that unite us.

Division within the Congress and executive branch over the past decade has led to legislative gridlock at the national level and, as a result, state legislators have had to step in on a variety of critical technology policy issues to include consumer privacy, Internet sales tax, cybersecurity, etc. While this is sometimes a welcomed addition to policy, more often it creates a difficult patchwork of regulations that are bewildering at best, and often inhibiting at worst, to innovation and growth.

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Here's the thing. Americans of all stripes are engaged with technology in some fashion. Whether it is the casual smartphone user, the tech in your office, the student who is a remote learner, or the doctor who inputs to your medical records, most of our fellow citizens have a touch point with technology. A recent survey that was conducted by CompTIA found that 93 percent of respondents expect their usage or reliance on technology to increase or stay the same over the next two to three years (45 percent expect to increase).

Let’s find the opportunities that bring us together. Our national leaders need to turn their collective attention to building a stronger nation through sound policies that ensure U.S. technology companies continue to lead the world by delivering the most innovative products and services to the market.

There are several major technology issues and initiatives that both parties agree on and, most importantly, will bring significant benefits to the national economy.

The 116th Congress will bring new faces to Washington and new leaders to key committees in both chambers. There will most likely be new agendas and new ideas. There will be political and partisan challenges around every corner, but there will also be a very real opportunity for members of both parties to collaborate on issues that affect citizens and businesses in communities around the country.

Three core technology issues are rather universal:

  1. Greater access to broadband networks for all communities – from rural to urban – and the inclusion of broadband deployment in any national infrastructure funding package.
  2. Robust workforce development and technical training programs and initiatives designed to train a future-ready tech workforce.
  3. The creation of national digital privacy regulations or laws that protect consumers without harming innovation.

These issues directly or indirectly affect the lion’s share of Americans regardless of geography, demographics or politics.

Access to the broadband connectivity – via wired or wireless networks – needs to be addressed to ensure no communities are left behind as new technologies continue to improve our daily lives at home, work and school. Future innovations that will transform society, from autonomous vehicles to smart cities to telemedicine, can only become a reality if we have the broadband infrastructure and wireless spectrum necessary to create vibrant, secure and reliable 5G broadband networks.

America also needs more technology workers. The U.S. currently faces short-term tech talent supply issues and long-term skills development opportunities. Providing a quality education to students at all levels will lead to a more knowledgeable and empowered workforce in the future. We support increased investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education activities issues.

Congressional support of innovative public-private partnerships, under the direction of the U.S. Department of Labor, have the potential to deliver the trained workers the information technology industry needs. More funding and support for apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs that help with transitions from the classroom into a career is necessary to create a more diverse and skilled tech workforce.

The newest issue facing technology companies today is the growing need for national digital privacy laws. A patchwork of state privacy laws is not good for consumers or business. Congress should take a thoughtful approach to crafting federal data privacy and security regulations that ensure companies protect consumer information from being used in harmful ways while still promoting the innovative spirit that has made the Internet such an integral tool for our daily lives.

If Congress works together to tackle these technology issues in 2019, the entire nation will benefit.

The stakes are high for the U.S. economy and the technology sector, but we believe the new Congress will be up for the challenge if they begin their work on focusing on critical issues that we all can agree on.

Elizabeth Hyman is the executive vice president of public advocacy for CompTIA.