With the Senate impeachment trial over now, what’s everyone in Washington going to do with all the free time? Take a read through R Street Tech, this month’s update on all things technology policy at the R Street Institute:

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT (BUT IT’S STUCK IN CUSTOMS) — Writing for the National Review, Caleb Watney calls for an expansion of U.S. immigration policy to attract highly skilled talent in key technology areas. Noting that the United Kingdom’s recent overhaul of its own visa system is intended to make the country “a hub for global talent,” Watney argues that it’s time for the United States to follow suit and “ensure that the United States maintains its leadership in emerging technology development.”

THIRTY YEARS OF CAT MEMES — Looking back on his three-decade career as an Internet lawyer, Mike Godwin writes for Slate on how the online sphere, and the issues of speech and content on it, have changed over those years. Godwin observes that people today argue that early Internet activists overlooked problems of platform concentration and harmful content. While agreeing that his predictions of the future Internet were not perfect, he concludes that the protection of online free speech through open platforms and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act are even more important today than they were 30 years ago, because they are “crucial to fighting disinformation.”

MAKING THE BROADBAND GRADE — R Street released its 2019 Broadband Scorecard this month. Prepared by Tom Struble and Jeff Westling, the scorecard grades states on their laws that facilitate deployment of broadband Internet services and limit local regulatory interference, including laws on access to public rights-of-way, streamlining permits and expediting franchise agreements. This year’s report features a state-by-state analysis, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s laws.

LET THE CHIP MONOPOLIES FALL WHERE THEY MAY — Charles Duan participated on a panel hosted by ACT | The App Association, discussing the FTC v. Qualcomm case that deals with monopolistic patent licensing behavior in the mobile phone chip market. Duan discussed his amicus curiae brief filed in that case, which dealt with the national security implications of having a single, dominant American provider of security-sensitive technology such as 5G.

FROM C-BAND TO SHINING C-BAND — Together with eleven other organizations, R Street sent a letter to Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission urging a fast auction of certain spectrum known as the C-Band. Because of the importance of that particular spectrum band to efficient 5G deployment, the letter explains, speedy release of that spectrum to firms invested in 5G technology “is critical to maintain America’s economic well-being, national defense, and global competitiveness.”

THE DAMAGES ARE TOO DAMN HIGH — Charles Duan authored an amicus curiae brief on behalf of R Street, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Engine Advocacy in the Apple v. VirnetX case. The brief urges the Supreme Court to consider how damages are computed in patent cases. The courts have failed to separate out the value of patented inventions from other features in complex, multi-feature technologies—the camera of a cell phone, for example—which, the brief explains, can lead to exorbitantly high payouts and discouragement of innovation.

FACT AND FICTION ON ENCRYPTION — Jim Baker appeared on TechFreedom’s Tech Policy Podcast to talk about encryption. Following up on his Lawfare post, Baker discussed the misguidedness of weakening encryption “in the name of preventing crime and protecting children.” His comments come at a time when lawmakers are considering potentially disruptive legislation—the EARN IT Act by Senators Graham (R-S.C.) and Blumenthal (D-Conn.)—that would give the Department of Justice substantial power to influence the activities of online platforms.

R Street also hosted a press call on Monday, Feb. 26 to discuss the EARN IT Act, featuring Daisy Soderberg-Rivkin.

UNBUNDLE OF JOY — Tom Struble and Jeff Westling filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission in its proceeding on unbundling access to telecommunications networks. The comments call on the FCC to “modernize its unbundling rules” in view of “recent technological advances that lower barriers to entry and allow for more competition in the provision of voice, video, and broadband services.”

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