Spectrum, tax reform, and more money for research and development are just some of the items in a wish list that six tech groups and several companies want to see included in the deficit-reduction package from the congressional super committee.
“First and foremost, America’s corporate tax system is globally uncompetitive and is woefully out of step with the world in which we currently live,” they wrote in a letter on Thursday to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “We should take immediate steps to encourage U.S. businesses to repatriate the approximate $1 trillion in accumulated foreign earnings that are locked outside of our country because of an antiquated and punitive tax code."
Other suggestions include increased funding for research and development, more visas and green cards for skilled foreigners, greater government use of technology, and legislation to make more spectrum available for wireless broadband technologies.
“There is a window here. Because of the way the committee is structured, there is a gun-to-the-head mentality,” TechNet CEO and President Rey Ramsey said during a conference call with reporters. “You have to take every opportunity you can.”
In addition to TechNet, the letter was also signed by the chiefs of the Business Software Alliance, Consumer Electronics Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and TechAmerica, as well as executives from eBay, Microsoft, T-Mobile USA, and others.
Spectrum is seen as among the issues likely to make it in the super committee’s proposal. Four members of the panel have endorsed freeing up more government spectrum and authorizing incentive auctions aimed at persuading broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum. A spectrum bill approved in June by the Senate Commerce Committee would raise an estimated $24.5 billion, some of which would go to pay down the deficit.
In Thursday’s conference call, the tech-group executives were asked whether they would like to see the House Energy and Commerce Committee move ahead with separate spectrum legislation in case the deficit committee is unable to reach a deal by their Thanksgiving deadline. “Our goal is to get spectrum [legislation] through, no matter how it’s done,” Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro said.
Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., has said he wants to move a separate spectrum bill through the committee and has been negotiating with his panel’s ranking member, Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and full committee ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Waxman and Eshoo both expressed frustration in recent days in interviews about the pace of those talks. They said that the committee needs to pass its own spectrum bill and give the joint committee guidance on some of the more technical spectrum issues. “The House should not be left out of this,” Eshoo told National Journal on Thursday.
Among the areas of disagreement between Energy and Commerce members is whether to reallocate a section of spectrum known as the D-block to public-safety officials. Walden has called for maintaining current law and auctioning it off to commercial bidders, while Eshoo and Waxman favor giving the D-block to public safety for a national broadband network. The issue may be resolved through an amendment during a markup of the spectrum measure.
Other spectrum ideas that could be taken up by the super committee that worry various stakeholders include spectrum license fees and unlicensed spectrum auctions. A tech coalition known as the Wireless Innovation Alliance has urged the super committee to reject calls to auction off unlicensed spectrum and to ensure the continued use of “white spaces”--unlicensed spectrum between television channels. Many tech companies would like to use white spaces for such technologies as ultra-fast Wi-Fi.