Announcer: Welcome to Not Your Father’s Data Center podcast, brought to you by Compass Datacenters. We build for what’s next. Now here’s your host, Raymond Hawkins.
Raymond Hawkins: All right. Welcome to another edition of Not Your Father’s Data Center. I am your host, Raymond Hawkins. Today we are joined by the Computer & Communications Industry Association’s Vice President of Public Policy out of Washington, D.C., Arthur Sidney. Arthur, how are you today, sir?
Arthur Sidney: I’m doing great, Raymond. How are you?
Raymond Hawkins: I’m doing great. There’s a lot in that title, so if you don’t mind, just we’ll lead right off with, first of all, the Vice President of Public Policy, what do you do? Second of all, what does the Computer & Communications Industry Association do?
Arthur Sidney: Great. Well, thank you for that question. I’m Arthur Sidney. I represent the Computer & Communication Industry. We are a 50 year old tech association if you can imagine that. I don’t even know what tech was like 50 years ago.
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. What were we representing 50 years ago?
Arthur Sidney: I don’t know, but we were doing it and doing it well. We represent small, medium and large tech companies and we have an interest and of course the issue we’ll be talking about today, representing a lot of the companies that are affected by these bills, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, amongst others. Our mission is open mission, rather open markets, open systems, interoperation, transparency are all things that are the bedrock of the Computer & Communication Industry Association. We focus on issues ranging from intellectual property, copyright and patents, to competition law obviously, intermediary liability with content moderation and basically any issue that deals with tech, telecommunications, 5G, you name it.
Raymond Hawkins: Is the association headquarter there in D.C., Arthur?
Arthur Sidney: It is headquartered in D.C. We have an office in Brussels. They’re probably, I’d say, about 22 of us. Maybe 11 in Washington or a little less, and about 10 or so in our Brussels office. We can work on matters international as well as domestic.
Raymond Hawkins: Okay. All right. As an association, do the companies pay a dues? Tell me a little bit how it works as the organizations you guys represent. Is it a dues card carrying part of an association? How does that work?
Arthur Sidney: Yeah, we’re, we’re a nonprofit 501(c)(6), and we have members, well, between 28 and 35. I don’t know the exact number right now, but we’ve got a lot of members and they are dues paying members. We are involved, as I mentioned, in all the major fights here in Washington and around the world. Championing these issues of open markets, open systems and interoperability. It keeps us really busy.
Raymond Hawkins: Computers & Communication, are most of your customers the tech companies then? I say, customers. Members, I guess is the right way to say it.
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. Well, we have a large percentage of them are tech companies. We also have telecommunication companies. We have companies that deal with the internet infrastructure. We pride ourselves on having members at every level of the tech ecosystem.
Raymond Hawkins: Okay. I got you. All right. We’ve got a little bit of a primer on what CCIA does. Let’s hit pause on that and let’s understand a little bit about you. Where’s home? Where do you come from? I don’t think you would have any idea who Ben Roethlisberger is. Not that I might have a preview on that, but let’s hear a little bit about you, Arthur, if you don’t mind.
Arthur Sidney: Sure. Happy to share about me. I’m Arthur Sidney as I mentioned. I was born and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Had an interesting background in that I was in the International Baccalaureate program there in Pittsburgh, so it allowed me to become fluent in Spanish. I majored in Spanish. I took my A levels. The IB system in Pittsburgh was a way to integrate the schools there. I had a first rate education at Schenley High School, which is now no longer in existence. It’s now apartment buildings, but Andy Warhol and a bunch of great folks went there. A lot of jazz greats. It’s right in downtown Oakland in Pittsburgh, one of the cultural centers there.
Arthur Sidney: Pittsburgh’s a great cultural town, but I did intellectual … I’m sorry. International Baccalaureate, which I’m very proud to say. I studied, Spanish was one of my majors and it also afforded me an opportunity to get advanced credits in college. Which I then later went and used to study abroad in Africa and do some other cool things and have extra credits to graduate early. It was a great educational opportunity. It was a public school, so that’s a pitch for public school [crosstalk 00:04:55]-
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah, for public school. All right.
Arthur Sidney: Another claim to fame for Schenley High School, it is not mine, i just happened to have gone there, is that it was the first multimillion dollar high school in the country. You can look this up on Wikipedia and [crosstalk 00:05:09]-
Raymond Hawkins: Wow. Really?
Arthur Sidney: … Pittsburgh. Yeah.
Raymond Hawkins: From as far as a building perspective or from a budget perspective, first multimillion dollar building ever?
Arthur Sidney: I’m assuming it’s the building. I didn’t look deeply. I Googled it myself. Sometimes I get nostalgic since dear Schenley High is-
Raymond Hawkins: All right, Schenley.
Arthur Sidney: … no longer there. Schenley Spartans.
Raymond Hawkins: The Schenley Spartans, all right. Very good. All right. Well-
Arthur Sidney: Then from there, to keep talking about me if you want a little bit more, I went to Vassar College after Schenley majoring in international studies and Africana studies. I spent, as I shared before, a lot of time on the continent of Africa and minored in Spanish, economics, and I think religion. I had a lot of interests. I was a nerd through and through.
Raymond Hawkins: We got to spend some time on Africa. Where in in Africa did you go?
Arthur Sidney: My first time in Africa was in Kenya and Tanzania where I studied, gosh, back in the early ’90s? Yeah, the early ’90s. I was trying to fact check that date. It was the early ’90s and studied at U of Nairobi. I went through the Sarah Lawrence exchange program there and I was able to study and study Kiswahili amongst other things. The other thing that’s interesting about me as well because of my International Baccalaureate background, I have a knack for languages. I’m fluent in Spanish, I speak Portuguese. I studied Italian, I’m not fluent in Italian. I can read it, but speaking, not so good. And studied Japanese. I’ve loved all things international, I enjoy travel. Vassar afforded me that opportunity with a great liberal arts education. It was just a great education.
Arthur Sidney: Then from Vassar, I went on to Howard law school and there I was still involved with the international. International law was one of my passions. Immediately after Howard law, I went back to law school as if I didn’t get enough law at school in the first place. I took the bar exam right after my third year in law school, way back when. Passed the bar and then was completing my studies in the LLM program at the American University’s Washington College of Law, where I studied international business transactions and international trade. Then from there, I had this burning sensation in my heart to do trade work. I did trade work for almost nine or 10 years at the Department of Commerce where I litigated cases before the federal courts, international courts and tribunals. After that, I met-
Raymond Hawkins: Hold on, Arthur. When you were there in the Department of Commerce, what kinds of cases get brought there? That this is just personal interest. What shows up as an international attorney for the Department of Commerce in a litigious nature there?
Arthur Sidney: Sure. Part of my function was that I did a lot of administrative law, advising the staff there on the various laws and provisions of international trade. Namely anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty law, a very specific area of law, and the Tariff Act of 1930. The kind of cases that we would see is when domestic industry would sue foreign companies for trade violations. We would litigate those matters when they were brought to the Court of International Trade, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Even worked on one Supreme Court case way back when, on zeroing on a very particular issue. I had a very great experience there and brought exposure to the practice of law and international [crosstalk 00:08:51]-
Raymond Hawkins: What you guys represent, as attorneys, you guys would represent the US government in those matters.
Arthur Sidney: We represented the US government. Exactly.
Raymond Hawkins: Okay. I got you. If I’m a corporation and I’m bringing litigation against a corporation in another country, eventually that gets into the appellate system and moves up in the system and you guys represent the US interest in that. I got you.
Arthur Sidney: Exactly. That’s right.
Raymond Hawkins: Got it. Very interesting. All right. Well, very cool. All right. Loved the time I’m in Africa. I’ve only been through the airport in Kenya. I’ve spent most of my time in Africa, in Uganda and Ethiopia and Sudan. I’ve been to all three of those countries multiple times. But I love Africa. I think it’s a spectacular place. I think until you have experienced Africa personally, it’s hard to understand just how vast it is, how gigantic it is. I read somewhere, and I don’t know if this is true, so we’re getting a little off of the data center and the computer communications, but I read somewhere that the continent of Africa on most of our maps is actually shown smaller than it actually is.
Raymond Hawkins: Because if you actually show how big it is, it really kind of distorts the size of the map. The way I saw this is, they gave you the number of kilometers across the top half of the continent. It’s, I don’t know, something like 1,000 or 1200 kilometers wider than North America. But it doesn’t look that way on a map, because if it did, it would be so disproportionate. I will say this, having flown around Africa in small airplanes, the vastness of that continent and the countries on that continent are just breathtaking. I mean, it goes forever in trees, upon trees, upon trees. It’s just a beautiful place. I love spending time in Africa and-
Arthur Sidney: I agree.
Raymond Hawkins: … I loved serving over there. Yeah.
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. No, I agree. I think I was told it’s about six times the size of the United States. That sounds extremely large. Maybe not six. It’s huge.
Raymond Hawkins: It’s a lot bigger. Yeah.
Arthur Sidney: It’s a lot bigger than the United States. To your point earlier about the places that I’ve been, I studied in Kenya and Tanzania, but I’ve worked and studied in South Africa. Been to Lesotho, Eswatini now, and just a bunch of other, Egypt, Palestine, Israel. Well, the Middle east, I guess now. But all over the continent as well. It is a fascinating place with so much topography, so many different languages and people and great food. The people are warm and it’s just a beautiful place with a lot of history.
Raymond Hawkins: I think that may be two of the things that stood out to me the most when I go to Africa. Is, I think our education here in the US, as far as what other countries have gone through, hearing the history of each country. I was in Sudan, which is now … Actually I was in the very Southern part of Sudan, which is now South Sudan, the newest country in the world. Hearing their history with the North and hearing what they’ve been through and hearing my friends in Uganda and the history of Uganda, just fascinating to hear personal stories. I would agree with you. The warmth of the people in Africa, just their willingness to communicate and connect with you and share their personal stories. I think one of my favorite things on my first trip to Africa were they’re working during the day, it’s lunchtime. After lunch, everybody says, “Hey, we’re going to go home and we’ll be back around 3:00.”
Raymond Hawkins: I said, “Well, hold on a minute. Where are we going?” They said, “Hey, we all go home in the early afternoon.” I’m like, “Well, what are we going to do?” I’ve got my American mindset. “Hey, we got our 30 minute lunch in, let’s get back to work.” They said, “No, no, no. We all go home for a couple hours. We’ll be back.” I’m like, “Well, what are we going to do when we go home?” My African friend said him, he goes, “Raymond, we’re just going to talk to each other.” I’m like, “Wait a minute. We’re not going to get anything done. We don’t have any presentations.” He goes, “No, we’re just going to go home and talk and we’ll come back in a couple hours.” I just love that spirit and that warmth and that connection and that friendship. I mean, and they were like, “Hey, Raymond, come home with us.” I just thought that was great. I really, really love it there. All right. Anyway, enough-
Arthur Sidney: Isn’t that interesting? To your point, if we did more of that here, just spending time talking to one another, fellowshipping with one another, what a better place-
Raymond Hawkins: Hear, Hear.
Arthur Sidney: We’re already a great country, but what a better place it would be in respecting our fellow humans?
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Better understanding of each other and a better appreciation. Anyway, I loved that. That to me, I mean a real personal story of warmth, “Hey, Raymond, please come home with us. We’re just going to hang out and talk for a couple hours and then we’ll come back to work and we’ll get everything done today. But we just want to spend time together.” I think we don’t do enough of that, cars and work and busy and schedule and just spending time together. Anyway, all right, Arthur, I’ll get us back on track. I love the connection Africa, your gift for language, your time in the Department of Commerce. We’d love to hear a little bit about your time serving on the Hill. You did a good bit of a tour there, and then we’ll get into CCIA and where tech companies are headed. But tell us a little bit about your time on the Hill. I think that’s fascinating.
Arthur Sidney: Sure. Yeah. No, it was a great opportunity to come to the Hill. I had wanted to come to the Hill for a while. One of the concerns that I had was that I was getting a little long in the tooth that when I looked around at Hill staffers, every time here in Washington, when I would see Hill staffers, they looked for very young and bushy tailed and I was getting more older and not as bushy tailed. The opportunity came where I was able to start with a member from Texas, Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee from the great State of Texas down there in Houston.
Raymond Hawkins: Houston, right? I was going to say-
Arthur Sidney: Yeah.
Raymond Hawkins: … she’s out in Houston. Yeah.
Arthur Sidney: I worked with her for about a year and some months, I think a year and two months, as her legislative director, directing her legislative team and her agenda there. I got to know New York. Not New York, Texas. She’s from New York originally, but I got to know very well Texas and Houston in particular. I have fond memories of my time there helping the people of the 18th Congressional District of Texas.
Raymond Hawkins: All right. Very, very good.
Arthur Sidney: Then after … Sorry. I was going to say after [crosstalk 00:14:46]-
Raymond Hawkins: That’s what I was just saying. Who was the next one you had?
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. It didn’t end there. After Ms. Jackson Lee, had the opportunity to serve Mr. Hank Johnson, Congressman Johnson, from the state of Georgia, another Southern state. He’s from the Atlanta area, Metro Atlanta. I served with him as chief of staff, chief council for almost 11 plus years. 11 [crosstalk 00:15:09]-
Raymond Hawkins: Wow.
Arthur Sidney: He he was a great person to work for, a great person to learn from, a great leader, a mentor. He sat on a number of interesting committees at the time from some of the antitrust committees to intellectual property committees as chair. We had a good run together. We were able to do a lot of good work for people back there in the Georgia’s 4th Congressional District.
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Good stuff. Well, I’m from a little town called Griffin, Georgia. I’m right next to Mr. Johnson’s district, so I know it well. Very, very cool. All right. You got to tell us one good Hill story that we wouldn’t read in the papers. It doesn’t have to be salacious, but something that you would say, you never guessed the gym is this big. Or something that we wouldn’t know about being on the Hill. Then I’m going to ask you one other Hill question and we’ll get into CCIA and the data center business.
Arthur Sidney: A Hill secret question. I don’t know if I have any secret questions and there’s a tunnel that connects the various offices and the house floor. You can walk across and take the Senate tunnels and the Senate trolley, so to speak, to get around. That may not be something that people know, or maybe they know that. I mean, I’ll try to think of something else.
Raymond Hawkins: That’s just for members and their staff, the underground passageway, or who else can go in there?
Arthur Sidney: When I was there, this is pre COVID people, that had gained access to the building were allowed to also take it as long as they were escorted by a conventional staff member or a member of Congress. We have a small house gym there that we visited. Yeah.
Raymond Hawkins: My house question is this then, tell me how the offices get doled out? Are there big pallial offices for the senior leadership in each party and does the newest freshman Congressman get a broom closet? How big is the spread between the nicest office in the house and the crummiest office in the house? Where did Sheila Jackson Lee and where did Mr. Johnson’s space compare in that hierarchy?
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. You’re asking me trick questions and I feel you already know the answer there. Of course, there’s a spread of offices. The more senior the members are, the more apt and prone they are to have a really nice office that’s got a view of the Capitol. Everyone on Capitol Hill wants a view of the Capitol such that you can have constituents come in your office and you can take a picture with your member of Congress and get the Capitol in the background.
Raymond Hawkins: There’s the dome. I got it. Okay.
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. Both of my members happened to have been … They’re both senior members, so they had nice digs and views of the Capitol. Life was good for them.
Raymond Hawkins: Good. All right. Well, cool. You never had to be in the basement and the broom closet, that’s good.
Arthur Sidney: No, never.
Raymond Hawkins: Very, very good. All right. Well, cool stuff. I think the inner workings of our government and all the roles that get played and all that stuff is fascinating. The history’s fascinating. I take my kids to Washington multiple times and we can spend a week there and you could just read nonstop from the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. The Capitol, it’s just fascinating stuff, and the monuments. I love it there. Cool stuff. Well, very neat. Well, that’s still where you live and you serve there, so let’s switch gears into CCIA, Computer & Communications and Industry Association. You guys are helping be the voice for that industry around legislation. So let’s talk about legislation. You hear it on the news. Is tech got too much control. Are they too big? Are they a monopoly? What should we do? I probably can’t name specific bills, but let’s talk about that as a, what’s the association working on and what’s out there legislatively that could change things the way we all see it today?
Arthur Sidney: Well, with respect to working on a lot of different things, but with respect to competition policy, which has been one of the issues that we see on a daily basis in newspapers and on TV, et cetera, we are working on defending and helping ensure that Americans get to maintain access to the services that they love and use and that are providing a service. The Googles, the Apples, the Facebooks, the Amazons of world that I mentioned, most of Americans, they love these products. They’ve gotten used to these products. They find the value in them. The products are value conscious. We either get the services for free or we pay a nominal amount of money, and we get a great deal in return. Now more than ever, during pandemic, we’re seeing how useful these services are.
Arthur Sidney: The Googles and Apples and Amazons have allowed us to work worship, pray, whatever we need to do during this pandemic and maintain a semblance of normalcy. I’m very proud and very happy to work in the tech industry and represent these great companies, which are really the hallmark of innovators. It is no secret that our tech companies are some of the most preeminent in the world. We have the most successful tech companies because they’re good at what they do, because of the ecosystem here in the United States. We have the appropriate laws that have allowed them to grow and function. We have the appropriate standards. We have agencies that conduct reviews, et cetera. But in spite of all of that, these companies have provided services, continue to innovate, they compete with one another and Americans, they like their services.
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. Arthur, you mentioned in the opening that you guys have association members at all the tiers of, let’s just call it the internet infrastructure. You’re using some names that we would all recognize. We’ve all ordered stuff from Amazon. We’ve all, I’m sure, typed into a Google search engine. I’m certain that most of us have watched something on an Apple product. I think that’s the only thing I watch things on between my Apple TV, my iPhone, and my iPad. I don’t know that I’ve watched anything on anything but an Apple product for a long time. I recognize that part of the layer of the association. What are some other kinds of companies? Then you don’t have to name names if you don’t want to, but we’d love to hear what other organizations are part of the association and you guys helping represent their interest.
Arthur Sidney: Sure. We represent, as I mentioned, the ones we shared, BT, Rakuten, Stripe, Walt, Twitter, Red Hat, Uber, just a wide spectrum, Samsung, Vimeo, WAMO, Intel. Most of the iconic brands that individuals know and are aware of and again, find very valuable.
Raymond Hawkins: I’m not allowed to name any of our customers due to contractual obligations, but we have some on the list you just rattled off. That’s neat to hear that several of those folks would be [crosstalk 00:22:13]-
Arthur Sidney: There’s more.
Raymond Hawkins: … infrastructure.
Arthur Sidney: I don’t want to cast … Sorry. It didn’t mean to cut you off. I apologize.
Raymond Hawkins: All good.
Arthur Sidney: But I didn’t want to cast dispersions. We have, like I said, nearing over 30. That was just a sample of some of the members and no slight against the ones that I didn’t mention. But you were trying to get a sense of the breadth of the association who he represent. I don’t know if I need to go through the entire list, it’s not to be [crosstalk 00:22:37]-
Raymond Hawkins: No, that’s great.
Arthur Sidney: Okay.
Raymond Hawkins: No, that’s great. You mentioned Brussels. Could you tell us a little bit … I think as we alluded to a little bit with our Africa conversation, we tend to see the world through red, white, and blue glasses here and not think about the rest of the world. What does your Brussels office do? International law? How does that impact the members of the association? You mentioned BT, so I’m assuming you’ve got some non-US based customers as well or association members as well. Talk to me about how Brussels and the US, your D.C. office, what kinds of issues are you guys both working on and how are they alike and how are they different?
Arthur Sidney: Sure. Well, I will share that in both Brussels and the US, we have mostly US companies. There are a few that are non-US, Rakuten and others. But the mission in Brussels is the same as ours. They support the membership and they support US technology, competition, and innovation. Sometimes there is a connection. Our paths cross and we align on things. For example, in the EU, they are working against the Digital Millennium Act and the DSA, Digital Services Act, which are companions to, and well, similar to the US antitrust regulations that we have put before us today that we’ll be talking about. In the same instance there, the DSA and the DMA are targeting US tech companies. Which again are the most preeminent in the world. Even there, Europeans are having new opportunities to do tech regulation, which are focusing on our companies. We have problems both at home and abroad, and frankly around the world. Because our companies and the ones we mentioned in particular, the larger ones, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, are so successful, they’re in the crosshairs around the world. [crosstalk 00:24:41]-
Raymond Hawkins: DSA and DMA, are those both EU pieces of legislation? Is that what they are?
Arthur Sidney: Yeah. Those are EU pieces of legislation which also will be targeting US companies, the same ones that I’ve mentioned.
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. I apologize for not understanding those bills. Are they taxing or are they limiting competition or a little of both? Is it, in other words, different sets of fees and whatnot, or is it just specifically aimed at anti-competitive measures?
Arthur Sidney: Well, all of these bills are sort of like a wolf in sheep clothings. They’re all touted to be focused upon competition, but they have the adverse effect of targeting and breaking up taxing, as you said, our companies. The impetus for doing so is different in different jurisdictions. I know in Europe, I mean the European economy has struggled a little bit during the COVID times as have most economies around the world. The DMA and the DSA are ways to tax US companies to help bolster the economies of the European companies and also to allow European companies to grow and compete against the US companies.
Arthur Sidney: Similarly, the US has tech in its crosshairs for a number of reasons. Some believe that tech is just too big. As a result, because it’s big, they think it’s bad. But big by itself doesn’t mean it’s bad. Big means you’re successful. As long as you’re not doing anything that is anti-competitive, usurious, bad for people, bad for consumers. Tech is also, at least in the United States, it becomes a very political issue. Whether it’s content moderation or antitrust, it is very politicized. We live in a [crosstalk 00:26:42]-
Raymond Hawkins: Are there currently any bills on the house, Arthur? Or excuse me. Are there any bills on the Hill, period, either side that are addressing or are moving through the system? Is there anything coming down the pipeline in the US around our tech companies? Any legislation?
Arthur Sidney: Sure. Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of legislation and a lot that’s being introduced on the Senate side. As we speak, there are a number of bills that are of interest in that the world is watching, frankly, with the house judiciary committee and the Senate judiciary committee. They recently introduced six bills on June 11th, 2021 after the culmination of about an 18 month investigation into the tech industry. The result of that was a 450 page report that the staffers wrote looking at the tech industry and examining various companies and component technology companies. We have these bills and then the bills were introduced on June 11th. Shortly after the bills were introduced, they went quickly through a markup. They’re one of the processes by which bills get ready for floor consideration. The bills dealt with all manner of things related to antitrust. Some increased the merger filing fee bills or merger filing fees for large scale mergers. Some dealt with data portability, users being able to port data from one place to another.
Arthur Sidney: Another bill was an acquisition band bill. That bill prevents these covered platforms, which I should define what they are, covered platforms from acquiring any other company. There are two other bills that are moving that have had the most traction recently. That is H.R.3816, the American Choice and Online Innovation Act, which is a bill by Chairman Cicilline. It’s a non-discrimination bill. And H.R.3825, put forward by Congresswoman Jayapal, its title is the Ending Platform Monopolies Act. It’s a bill that’s aimed at getting rid of conflicts of interest. Essentially what it does is, it means that covered platforms, they’re prevented from acquiring tech startups, and they’re also required to sell certain lines of services that benefit the covered platform. It’s a breakup bill basically. Breaking the companies up into its constituent parts, which ultimately all of these bills in tandem, and they have overlapping jurisdiction, all of them will affect the services that I shared before that we know and that we’ve loved and that we’ve used.
Arthur Sidney: When you’re looking at Amazon Prime or Amazon, after these bills, should these bills become law, it won’t be the same. These bills will break those things. If you’re talking about preloaded apps on your iPhone, for example, these bills will break that and cause that to not exist any longer. Ultimately, again, as I shared it’s consumers that will lose. Consumers that may potentially pay more for these services. Consumers that may not have access to these services. Again, the critical thing to remember here is that these services now are nominal costs. If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you pay $129 a month or a year rather, and you get free shipping on Amazon Prime eligible goods, for example. That’s a service. Of course, with Amazon Prime, you get the goods in two days, three days, all free day shipping.
Raymond Hawkins: Arthur, you scared me when you said a month. I was like, “Wait a minute …” [crosstalk 00:30:20]-
Arthur Sidney: No, payment is for-
Raymond Hawkins: … 129. I know. I just, for a second, I was like, “Wait, my daughter told me it was once a year, but hold on a minute.”
Arthur Sidney: One thing I just wanted to share too, I was talking about how these bills and I just went through the litany of bills, the competition bills in particular, which are getting the most traction and the most play, I mentioned in the word covered platform. I want to define what the covered platform is. The bills themselves define it on the house side and the Senate side, they have a similar definition. It’s basically an arbitrary definition. The covered platform under the bills defined on the house side is a online platform that has $500 billion in market capitalization and 50 million active US based monthly users, or 500 billion market capitalization and 100,000 US based active monthly business users. When you add that formula, that gobbledygook together, you get Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. The question was asked, even at the markup that I had shared with you about on June 23rd, shortly after the bills were introduced, the question was asked whether Microsoft was included. There was no straight answer.
Arthur Sidney: That markup was a 48 hour markup. That lasted 48 hours because of the acrimony and the concerns that people had on both sides of the aisle, with the bills in terms of how they were written, the rapidity with which they were written. It is unusual on the house or the Senate to have a bill be introduced and then to have it go immediately to markup. These bills were introduced around June 11th and the markup occurred on June 23rd and June 24th of 2021. These are new bills, little baby bills that are growing up and it’s causing a lot of attention and getting a lot of coverage, as I mentioned, because not only will it affect the services, it will affect us.
Arthur Sidney: Constituents, voters, consumers really ought to be paying attention. Letting their members know they’re not with it or supportive of these bills because they ought to know about it and they ought to be active and take a participatory role. Because ultimately it’s them that’s going to feel the brunt of this. I always look for the what’s in it for me or the what’s in it for people. But what’s in it for you is that you could lose the services that we’ve talked about.
Raymond Hawkins: I’m assuming CCIA is working to either change these bills or stop them from an industry association standpoint. Is that an accurate assessment?
Arthur Sidney: That’s absolutely right. We are looking to change the narrative or stop these bills. That is not to say that we don’t think there’s an opportunity for Congress to act. We’re not saying Congress shouldn’t do anything. There are opportunities for Congress to act. I mean, what Congress can would do that would be beneficial for industry as well as consumers, is provide something like federal baseline privacy. Right now, there’s a hodgepodge of state laws for providing privacy. Businesses and consumers would benefit from having certainty knowing what is the federal baseline. What is a federal government providing and allowing for you? Also, there are agencies that their sole province is to conduct investigations and carry out investigations on these companies and other companies. It’s not for the Congress to step in and regulate how companies should regulate their businesses.
Arthur Sidney: That’s really how we view this at CCIA. Is that these aren’t antitrust bills because antitrust deals with the regulation of markets. These bills, the five bills, they pick winners and losers. They arbitrarily decide which companies are in scope, which companies are out of scope. As result, it’s anti-competitive by itself and discriminatory on its face. Because if the ideas that the Congress was trying to put forward, if they were truly good ideas, they should apply across the board. We don’t have that here. It’s dangerous because, particularly now in the situation where we are in a technology race with China and other adversaries, and it’s real … I say it’s real because every day we’re seeing articles about Chinese surveillance against US companies and US citizens. There’re cyber attacks that are happening with great frequency.
Arthur Sidney: These bills are regulating the business practices of just a handful of US companies, but there’s a complete pass to foreign companies. There’s no regulation of foreign companies. Foreign companies are not required to break themselves up. They’re not forbidden or prevented from acquiring startups like these bills are doing for our US companies. The true beneficiaries of these bills are potentially our technology rivals, Russian companies, Baidu, Tencent, and TikTok, Yandex. I can go on and name a bunch of them. They’re the ones that can acquire the startups that the US companies are forbidden to acquire if these bills become law. They can also acquire the broken up Googles and Apples and Amazons. The little Googles, the little Apples and Amazons, because there’s no prohibition about whom they can acquire and what they do with it.
Arthur Sidney: It’s also dangerous because allowing China and Russia entree into our technological ecosystem, I mean, they’re already involved, but allowing them in this way, whether there’s mandates by the US government where US companies have to interoperate, for example, with these companies, share US data, share US IP sensitive data, certainly provides a national security risk. A risk to users, user data and to the security of the system itself. It brings in a host of unintended consequences that I’m not sure that the judiciary committee on either the house or the Senate have thought all the way through. I think national security should be paramount. The other thing I’ll say is, so that some of the listeners aren’t saying, “Well, you’re crying about a boogieman.” National security is not a boogieman.
Arthur Sidney: There are articles that have indicated that President Xi, as early as 2018 or as late as 2018, said that he was going to invest $1.4 trillion in the Chinese tech sector to overtake the United States. One, it’s no doubt that we are the preeminent tech sector. We are preeminent when it comes to chip production, quantum computing, AI, et cetera. But the Chinese and our competitors realize that and they want to beat us in that race. These bills, which can help the Chinese misappropriate intellectual property and other data trade secrets, these bills were a boon to Chinese companies.
Raymond Hawkins: Yeah. I think you beat me to it, the law of unintended consequences. The problem you think you’re solving, there are problems you create when you think you’re solving one problem. You might be all well intended in the problem you solve and not notice the problem you created in that solution. I think that’s always something to think about. Arthur, you mentioned the competitive nature bills, and you mentioned these two by name, 3816 and 3825. There’s something about being a publisher and not being a publisher, and are these platforms a publisher? What’s that law or rule? What’s that one that we hear a good bit of talk about as well?
Arthur Sidney: That falls under content moderation, section 230. It deals with how a platform is able to put information up and take information down. That’s content moderation. That also is very topical and has been an issue that has come up a great deal in the Congress and in prior Congresses and even this Congress. With respect to removal of child sexual abuse material and other things. I will say that tech companies do a good job of moderating their services. I know they’re under fire. Content moderation is a messy job. You have bright line rules, but there’s also rules that occur and decisions that are made in the moment. What we hear a lot from conservatives in particular, when I go and talk to conservative offices on the Hill, is that there’s an anti-conservative bias.
Arthur Sidney: But the platforms do remove content that is harmful or a dangerous. They have an obligation to do so and they do a good job at doing that. Of course, there’re detractors. There are people that say they don’t take down enough or they don’t catch everything. There are others that say they take down too much. We find that even in that discussion, it’s split along political lines. We hear more from conservatives and GOP offices that these platforms take down too much. They need to let more information stay up. Then Democrats say they’re putting too much stuff up. More progressive offices saying there’s too much stuff. There’s all this bad information about COVID, misinformation about elections, misinformation about whatever. Frankly, it’s dangerous to communities. I think that’s a great question that you ask, Raymond, because I think that ties into why tech is in the crosshair. You probably are saying, “Well look, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, nobody was talking about big tech or tech, tech tech.”
Arthur Sidney: Now, all you hear is tech, tech, tech. They’re not chanting in a happy way like, “Yeah, we support them.” The chant is, “Yeah, we want to get them.” There has been an about face because of, I think some content moderation concerns. The fact that the companies are successful, that they are big. But the companies, as I say, they’re doing their jobs. They’re doing what they ought to be doing. They’re not getting a pass. When you look in the papers every day, not only do you see information about tech and how the Congress is going after them, tech they’re being scrutinized by everybody. By the public, the public has their opinions. Then not only that, you also have opinions by agencies. Agencies are investigating the companies. There’s been a change in how we view technology. We’re no longer the golden people of the world. We are in everyone’s crosshairs. But nevertheless, I think it’s great to work for CCIA because we’re champing the good fighting.
Arthur Sidney: We’re ensuring that people have access to the technology that they need and again, that we really enjoy. I mean, no one would have qualms about Amazon Prime? You opted, Raymond, to pay for Amazon Prime, so you find the value in that service. We all enjoy getting … I know myself, especially during the pandemic, it’s been great to order something online and have it come in two or three days or one day. It’s phenomenal. It makes life very convenient, very easy. That’s the beautiful thing about tech. Tech has become so integrated. When I say integrated, the systems themselves have become integrated. For example, using Google Search and Google Maps, they’re integrated systems. If you were to do a search right now on your computer about best pizza places near you in Dallas, the results would appear organically and in search.
Arthur Sidney: They would also appear simultaneously in Google Maps. That’s convenient because then you know, Hey, I only have a half an hour, I’ve got an hour to get to Pizza Hut or wherever I’m going. I want to get there, get my food and come back. Well, these bills that we’re talking about, in particular, 3816, the American Choice and Innovation Online Act, would prevent a covered platform from … It’s called a non-discrimination bill. It would prevent a covered platform from preferencing the covered platform’s own products, business, service, or lines of service over another business user. It also says that all business users have to be treated the same. Now, that Google search you just did, because it was so integrated with Google Maps, that’s a preference, which now is illegal under the bill. When it’s illegal, what that means is, the penalty for infringing upon that is 15% of the revenue of the covered platform.
Arthur Sidney: That’s a lot. These are multi billion dollar companies. That’s huge. There’s also greater powers to the agencies that I’ve already talked about that are conducting these investigations, like the FTC and the DOJ. There’s widespread injunctive relief powers. Going back to that example, when you’re searching for best pizza places near you on Google, and let’s say this bill became law, and the FTC brings a lawsuit and they seek an injunction, what does that mean for the rest of us? If we are enjoying from Google, Google search isn’t just going to stop the Google search for you. It doesn’t cut off the valve just for you. I don’t know. You were talking about unintended consequences, I don’t even know how to work from a practical standpoint. But the bills are fraught with problems. Yeah.
Raymond Hawkins: Complex problems call for complex solutions. Arthur, you mentioned that our chant against tech has changed in the last decade. It did make me think, success breeds contempt. I think we can think of a current or a modern day iteration of it. Folks think of mine and your childhood, the Pittsburgh Steelers were loved and hated because they were a dynasty. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, I think is what’s happening to our tech friends. As they continue to grow and be successful, that breeds some contempt in the marketplace. Just like we think of our greatest sports franchises that people love to hate here in Dallas.
Raymond Hawkins: The Cowboys haven’t been good for a long time, but there was a while there where people loved to hate the Cowboys too. All right, Arthur, we’re going to come full circle. Here’s my last question for you. This has been great to understand what CCIA does for the tech industry and for consumers. What I’d like to hear is, in your 12 years on the Hill, what’s the one piece of legislation that either out of Mr. Johnson’s office or Ms. Jackson Lee’s office, that you’re the most proud of and why? That’ll be a great way for us to end.
Arthur Sidney: These are great table topic questions. So many pieces of legislation working on performance rights legislation over the years, which has allowed artists on terrestrial radio broadcasted to get paid. That was interesting and very helpful and needed under the Music Modernization Act. I’m trying to think. There’s so many different things that we worked on, from issues related to criminal justice reform and working on equalizing the crack cocaine sentencing disparity. Which has nothing to do with technology, but certainly is something that is topical and it affected generations of people. Where their parents and loved ones and family members were incarcerated for long periods of time because of that sentencing disparity. It’s not one to one with crack cocaine and [crosstalk 00:47:18]-
Raymond Hawkins: Powder cocaine. Right.
Arthur Sidney: Powder, thank you. Powder cocaine. [crosstalk 00:47:21]-
Raymond Hawkins: Obviously not an area of expertise for either of us.
Arthur Sidney: Right. Exactly.
Raymond Hawkins: But I knew where you were going.
Arthur Sidney: Thank you. Yes. But it is small. I think it’s 10 to one, so it’s better. Incremental steps. Certainly a lot of the criminal justice work that I worked on with Mr. Johnson was very near and dear to my heart and was helpful to the community. Some of it did not get passed into law yet, but they were still great ideas that were helpful for society. One of the great things about working in the Congress is, you have a lot of quick sodic and sort of ideological ideas or ideological things that you want to get put forward. The Congress and the members of Congress sometimes will suffer that with you and allow you to really put your [inaudible 00:48:11] and try to help be of service to people and constituents.
Arthur Sidney: We worked on all kinds of really fascinating and fun things, and had the opportunity as a result to meet a lot of interesting people. I think, to your point we raised earlier, everything is about connecting with people. If we’re not connecting with people and helping one another and lifting one another up, then what is the point? What is the point of being in these roles? Whatever role we’re in. Whether we’re doing podcasts, whether we’re serving as a VP for an association, whether we’re serving as an attorney for the government or the house of representatives, we should be of service to each other.
Raymond Hawkins: Hear, hear. Well, Arthur, I think that our political discourse focuses far too much on what separates us. I always find when I spend time with friends of mine from the other side of the aisle, that we agree on 80 or 90% of life and there are a very few things that we disagree on. Even in those, we disagree on them in matters of shades. There are almost nothing that we’re diametrically opposed on. I know that doesn’t make for interesting TV or radio or newspapers, but I find we have far more in common with each other than we have in opposition with each other. I wish we’d focus on that more than anything else.
Raymond Hawkins: Because I think we’re all generally trying to do the same thing, raise healthy families and balance kids and provide and love each other well. I wish we’d focus on that far more than other things that set us apart. Well, you said this was your first ever podcast. Arthur, you did awesome. You’re a fantastic guest. Easy to talk to. We loved having you. So much so we think we’re going to have to have you back to talk about more legislation and time on the Hill and more business in CCIA as we watch HR 3816 go through and 3825. It’s really been fun having you. Thank you so much.
Arthur Sidney: I appreciate it. Thank you for the opportunity. I enjoyed talking with you. It’s been great to share some ideas and thank you for inviting me on the show.