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Hillicon Valley — Amazon, Meta spend record sums on lobbying

Today is Friday. Welcome to Hillicon Valley, detailing all you need to know about tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 

Follow The Hill’s tech team, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@millsrodrigo) and Rebecca Klar (@rebeccaklar_), for more coverage. 

Filings submitted to Congress showed Amazon and Meta spent record sums on federal lobbying in 2021, as lawmakers look to pass bills that would limit the tech giants’ market power.  

Meanwhile, Intel said it is investing $20 billion to build a chip facotry in Ohio — a move that President Biden cheered to help economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Let’s jump into the news. 

Big Tech’s big spenders

Amazon and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, spent record sums on federal lobbying in 2021 as they fought legislation to limit their expansive market power.   

Record levels: Amazon and its subsidiaries spent roughly $20.3 million to lobby Congress and the federal government, while Meta shelled out $20.1 million, according to filings submitted to Congress on Thursday. Both tech giants increased their lobbying spending by around 7 percent from their previous benchmarks set in 2020. 

The powerful firms aggressively lobbied lawmakers to abandon bipartisan bills in the House and Senate that target Silicon Valley’s controversial business practices. 

The industry is currently setting its sights on the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which would block dominant companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple and Meta from giving preference to their own products or discriminating against rivals on their platforms. The bill advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, but senators have expressed support for making industry-friendly changes to the final version.   

Amazon and Meta are the top two lobbying spenders among individual companies, according to money-in-politics research group OpenSecrets. Together they contracted with dozens of K Street firms to deploy lobbyists with close ties to congressional leaders and Biden administration officials. 

Read more here.  

Intel to build $20B chip factory

Intel announced Friday it is investing $20 billion to build chip factories in Ohio amid a shortage of computer chips worldwide. 

The “mega-site” will be constructed outside of Columbus on 1,000 acres of land in Licking County, according to a statement from Intel. Construction is expected to start near the end of 2022 and be completed in 2025. 

The project will initially employ 7,000 construction jobs and 3,000 Intel jobs with thousands more long-term jobs expected in the future. 

The factories will boost production to help meet demand for semiconductors that are increasingly difficult to obtain. 

“Today’s investment marks another significant way Intel is leading the effort to restore U.S. semiconductor manufacturing leadership,” CEO of Intel Pat Gelsinger said.  

Read more about the announcement here.  

BIDEN COMMENDS THE MOVE

President Biden on Friday commended Intel’s $20 billion investment to build chip factories as a tool for the U.S. economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“During this pandemic, your pocketbooks felt the consequences. Inflation, higher prices,” Biden said in remarks at the White House, adding that COVID-19 has compounded problems with chips so products like cars and dishwashers are delayed and demand is high.  

“Because supply is low, we find ourselves in a position where we’re really behind the curve. Prices are going up,” he added. 

Intel’s investment aims to boost production to help meet demand for semiconductors amid a shortage of computer chips worldwide.  

“My administration’s going to keep using all the tools we have to re-shore our supply chains, strengthen our economic resilience, and make more in America,” Biden said. “Because at the end of the day, this is about national security, economic security, and it’s about jobs. Good paying, decent jobs you can raise a family on.” 

Read more about Biden’s comments here.  

 

CRYPTO PRICES NOSEDIVE

Cryptocurrency prices took a nosedive on Friday, wiping out hundreds of billions in the crypto market. 

CNBC reported that $150 billion was lost as a result of the price drops in major cryptocurrency. 

Bitcoin fell about 10 percent, and Ethereum dropped around 13 percent on Friday, the outlet reported, citing Coin Metrics.  

The price of Bitcoin, the most popular and well-known cryptocurrency, fell below $40,000. 

The cryptocurrency market had been on an upward swing before Friday. According to The Independent, Bitcoin hit an all-time high in November, reaching nearly $70,000. 

Read more here.   

BITS AND PIECES

An op-ed to chew on: Towards the Metaverse: First thing we do, let’s grill all the lawyers  

Lighter click: An American lit refresher 

Notable links from around the web: 

Augmented Reality Theater Takes a Bow. In Your Kitchen (The New York Times / Andrew Dickson) 

Organized on Facebook, a ‘who’s who’ of anti-vaccine activists head D.C. (NBC Ben Collins) 

One last thing: Biden admin makes moves to boost STEM  

The Biden administration announced new efforts on Friday to attract international science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and researchers to the U.S. as part of its mission to increase recruitment of talent abroad. 

Friday’s announcement said the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will implement new guidance, allowing up to 36 months of academic training for STEM students on a J-1 visa, or a non-immigrant visa for those participating in an exchange visitor program. 

The Department of Homeland security will also add 22 new fields of study in the STEM Optional Practical Training program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. 

“These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities,” the administration said in the release. 

Read more here. 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s technology and cybersecurity pages for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Monday. 

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