Tech has most to gain from Trump meeting
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President-elect Trump is meeting with chief executives from many of Silicon Valley’s largest tech titans today. Trump has been critical of tech companies on antitrust, immigration, and other issues, and some in Silicon Valley have responded with criticisms of their own. Despite reasons for animosity — it’s no secret that Silicon Valley overwhelmingly supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' MORE’s candidacy while attacking Trump’s — the meeting offers opportunities for both sides.

For Silicon Valley’s new media monopolies, the meeting is an opportunity to learn that tech doesn’t have a monopoly on good ideas.

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During the Obama administration, policies favored primarily by the tech industry rapidly became indistinguishable from national policy. Tech companies that make money by collecting and selling consumers’ online data sought to protect their profits, so the Federal Communication Commission adopted privacy regulations that hinder Silicon Valley’s data competitors while leaving Valley companies untouched.
 

Tech companies wanted to ensure they can use Internet infrastructure for free, so the FCC adopted net neutrality regulations that place the burden of broadband network deployment primarily on consumers.

Tech companies wanted to use federal radio frequency spectrum for free, so the Obama administration ditched proven policies based on property rights and adopted an untested policy based on spectrum sharing. And so on.

Trump’s campaign signaled that this Obama-era favoritism toward the interests of Silicon Valley won’t survive the next four years. The tired narrative that the tech industry’s success depends on struggling entrepreneurs working out of their garages no longer resonates when the typical Silicon Valley garage is worth more than the average American home. Most Americans couldn’t afford a home in Silicon Valley today, with or without a garage.

The tech industry needs to learn how to work by the same standards as everyone else while doing business in the United States, and today’s meeting could be an important first step in figuring out how it’s going to do that for the next four years.

That doesn’t mean Trump has nothing to gain from today’s meeting. Trump’s campaign centered on the revival of America’s economy, and Silicon Valley companies could play a constructive role in helping him achieve that goal. The tech industry has stuffed hoards of cash overseas to avoid paying the United State’s high corporate tax rate. Silicon Valley’s support for tax reform could be a win-win.

The tech industry could also help the president-elect achieve his goal of creating more jobs by pivoting their focus from an immigration-based approach to a domestic training- and recruitment-based approach to labor. Tech companies could also follow Tesla’s “Gigafactory” example and move major tech manufacturing hubs back to the United States. Building high-tech products here would create jobs while increasing the potential for innovation at the same time — another win-win.

The honeymoon period that starts immediately after an election offers many opportunities for dialogue before the president-elect takes office. The tech industry can’t afford to squander this one.

Fred Campbell is director of Tech Knowledge and served as chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission during the Bush administration.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.