Democratic Candidate for the United States Congress CD-16 Rishi Kumar issued the following statement on his congressional agenda on the Silicon Valley innovation economy:
"I’m running for Congress because I’m tired of seeing career politicians who don’t understand Silicon Valley’s innovation economy. Serious quality of life issues such as the housing crunch and increasing traffic congestion are causing an exodus of Silicon Valley talent. As a valley high tech executive, I have the perspective of what it takes for Silicon Valley’s economy - the 19th largest in the world - to prosper."
"We must prepare the next generation to succeed in an autonomous world. We cannot fall behind with emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. Silicon Valley must lead the world in technological innovation!"
"We need to seed Silicon Valley's innovation success to other parts of California and America, so that our working-class families share in the economic prosperity. As your next congressman, I will implement the "21 minutes to 21 counties" Mega Silicon Valley vision plan to address our tough challenges. I will host monthly roundtable with valley CEOs to ensure Silicon Valley's continued success. I will invest in education and mentoring of our youth, and launching Entrepreneurship Incubation Centers to nurture start-ups. I have already launched youth Lego Robotics and Entrepreneurship programs, and served on the California Computer Science Strategic Implementation panel for K-12."
"Restoring Net Neutrality is crucial to a sustainable Silicon Valley Innovation culture. Data privacy and online security is a growing American concern. I support efforts such as The California Consumer Privacy Act that went live Jan 1, 2020, and the EU's General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679. I strongly support the Internet Bill of Rights."
"I have the experience and knowledge to partner with our tech leaders to develop synergies for future success. I am prepared to champion the needs of Silicon Valley in Washington."
Congress missed another opportunity to call out Big Tech. Due to their ineptness with tech, they allowed the executives to deflect from the real problems with ease.
In July 2020, Congress had a historic opportunity to have an educated discussion with the CEOs of the four biggest tech companies of America, Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook. As usual, an alarming number of Representatives rehashed out of touch questions, doing nothing more than reinforcing their illiteracy with technology.
When it comes to complex subject matter, members of Congress have repeatedly squandered the opportunity to address the core challenges. They rely upon aides who are equally unaware of the complexity of tech issues, and we see congressional leaders reading uncomfortably from papers that seemingly does not make sense or turns into fodder for late night laughter. The blind leading the blind? Yes, we can do better!
As a hi-tech executive, I am fully aware of how complicated even the most basic forms of technology can be. But I can’t say the same for many of our current members of Congress. Instead of asking these CEOs the right questions and requesting a corrective course, some members of Congress brought up irrelevant personal stories about their experiences which clearly demonstrates their bravado, but leaving them exposed.
Our economy clearly depends upon technology, as it establishes America in a position of global power and economic might. America deserves to be represented by those who are well-versed in the impacts of technology — it only becomes more complex every year. But only if our elected officials are technologically literate. Cybersecurity, Net Neutrality, a clean tech economy or green innovation, block chain innovation or even a new digital currency, hinges upon America’s success with tech.
Google’s search algorithm has come into question at this last hearing as it relates to partisan politics, but none of the members of Congress were able to articulate a legitimate argument on this point. Here’s what I would do differently. I would question Google’s CEO on the potential existence of a fact checking machine (AI/ML engines) that could evaluate search results. This way, fake news would not be able to spread and alter public perception. Conservatives could also feel assured knowing that they are not being actively restricted by a specific company.
Silicon Valley, the technological capital of the world, deserves to be represented by someone who gets tech. How much better would Silicon Valley be if their representative was just as well-versed in their technology? Don’t you think we deserve better? Do we have faith in these congressional leaders of today?
The national competitiveness of countries today is largely based on the knowledge economy which is heavily dependent on quick and easy access to information widely available on the information superhighway. Thus, in the “digital age”, access to the Internet is often a key determinant of educational and economic opportunities. The information economy has created unprecedented opportunities to create innovative and sustainable ways of working and living.
Education, basic healthcare, entertainment and even various government services can be more efficiently and equitably delivered through the network.
The Internet has thus spawned rich and growing economic opportunities with collaboration across nations, cultures and time zones to deliver innovative education, entertainment, healthcare that has transformed the global economy. It has created open markets, boosted global productivity, generated employment and improved global living standards.
Tragically, this open access for growth and development is denied to large swathes of the population by what is popularly known as the “digital divide”. Digital divide or the lack of equitable access to the Internet is most pronounced for lower income families, single‐parent households, seniors, rural, native populations, and people with physical or mental challenges. These populations often do not have equitable access to either the Internet or the devices that connect to the Internet or lack the skills to effectively utilize the applications or knowledge that is widely available. Therefore, the digital economy has created a new underclass comprising people that already face many obstacles and the gap is growing rapidly. The present pandemic with its changing nature of economic activities has severely restricted the economic opportunities for this population.
While the United States has always been a leader in the innovation of internet technologies, it lags in providing universal access to broadband services to large parts of the population i.e. there exist a very serious “digital divide” that denies access to global opportunities to many parts of the population.
Internet access in The USA is provided by a category of telecom carrier called Internet Service Providers or ISP. There is a high cost of entry for a new service provider resulting in dominance by oligopolies. The investment required for widespread deployment of broadband infrastructure is capital intensive and risky proposition in a rapidly changing technological environment that has evolved from telephone lines to ISDN, cable, DSL, fiber optics to the newest broadband wireless access technologies, in a relatively short span of time. The uncertainty, oligopoly nature of the business resulting in reduced competition, has resulted in the US lagging many developed (and developing) nations in long term planning and investment in the internet infrastructure. These lagging indicators are even more evident in rural, remote and opportunity (and economically) challenged areas of the country. An oligopoly has low incentive to invest in the infrastructure of these communities.
The “digital divide” has been severely exposed by the global pandemic - lack of broadband internet has restricted access to education, economic opportunities, healthcare and government services for the population on the “wrong side of the digital divide”.
In a globalized competitive marketplace, the United States can ill afford to remain a laggard in broadband access. The need of the hour is to build a national infrastructure for the 21st century economy that provides fast and easy access to information to compete effectively for opportunities in the global marketplace. Broadband access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for education, healthcare, entertainment and economic opportunities in a competitive global market.
Rishi Kumar wants to make broadband services universally available to all citizens of the United States. While upfront capital expenditure is significant for short term focussed private enterprises, it is significantly lower than what has been made for the public utilities like electricity and water that have universal reach. In addition, Internet technologies evolve relatively rapidly (“years not decades”) and proactive investments are required to stay globally competitive. These dynamics are not conducive for private investment that are focused on short term profits. The internet is the “information superhighway” of the 21st century and America cannot afford to fail its population in making this advantage available to every American.
Rishi Kumar believes public investment in broadband for universal access will result in significantly higher returns for the nation as a whole by opening up new economic opportunities for our people - by bridging the digital divide. The basic broadband service must not only be universal and affordable but it must be robust enough to support social and economic applications essential to all communities thriving. This should not only benefit the urban areas but also the underserved rural areas including providing access to education, healthcare and government services. There exists as yet untapped innovation opportunities in farm and rural sectors with emerging IoT technologies that are presently held back by absence of universal broadband in rural areas.
Rishi Kumar believes public investment in universal broadband, delivered in the model of a public service utility, will open up unprecedented opportunities and provide exceptional RoI. Rishi intends to make broadband internet available to every American irrespective of their location or economic status. Broadband services must be universal and as easily available as electricity and water to every American everywhere. To that end, I propose building the Information Superhighway in the model of the very successful Interstate Highway system in the United States.. That model is in fact, widely used in buildout of internet infrastructure in many countries with great success.
I propose a publicly funded build out of a national fiber optic infrastructure that will make fiber access accessible and affordable to every American in every home, school and business. The infrastructure will be leased to multiple service providers (public or private) who can offer customized and localised services tuned to the specific needs of the demography and opportunities. Multiple providers will provide a rich mix of applications over this shared public infrastructure opening up vistas for incredible innovation and expanding economic opportunities. Eventually the infrastructure would be turned over to each state to manage. I believe that the investment will be rapidly recouped by the increased innovation and economic opportunities - positioning America as a world superpower for decades. It will also bridge the “digital divide” and provide unprecedented educational and economic opportunities for the historically disadvantaged population. Internet will be as easily accessible and available 24x7, just like electricity and water.
Silicon Valley is pivotal to the success of both California and the country as a whole due to its role as a global hub for innovation and technology. However, we are now dealing with sustainability challenges and an exodus of workers and companies. Addressing these issues is vital if we’re to ensure long-term environmental health and resource availability, crucial for maintaining Silicon Valley's position as a leader in global technology and innovation.
The federal land at the USGS Menlo Park campus and Moffett Field provides opportunities to help us strengthen the economies of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Making judicious use of these sites will create new jobs and secure the sustainability of our innovation economy.
With respect to Moffett Field, we must account for the long-term effects of climate change. This means developing a plan to mitigate the effects of rising sea levels, such as allocating acreage to open space. Beyond this, we should dedicate some portion of the land to affordable housing for teachers, fire fighters, and police officers. These workers provide essential services, and they are the backbone of our economy. Ideally, we would fund this through a public-private partnership. Tech companies have an important role to play here, since they have long benefited from Silicon Valley’s ecosystem and will also benefit enormously from an investment in affordable housing.
I strongly support the development of initiatives at these sites like the planned Berkeley Space R&D Center and launching Innovation Centers of Excellence. These centers focus on cutting-edge research in areas such as artificial intelligence, healthcare, transportation, climate and biotech that promote both startup and innovation culture. Partnering students with world-class academics and successful entrepreneurs in this way will provide the intellectual seeding that can drive Silicon Valley forward into the next decade and beyond. The idea is to develop a center to nurture and train young innovators, a strategy that has not traditionally been a focus in Silicon Valley.
Establishing such Innovation Centers of Excellence with incentives for startups will attract jobs and innovators from across the United States. This critical investment in our long-term future will ensure the sustainability and growth Silicon Valley needs to continue to be the undisputed global leader in technology and innovation.
Section 230 is outdated and Big Tech should no longer be allowed to hide behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Corporations can be both profitable and good global citizens. Strategically removing the liability protections of Section 230 will compel platforms to take content moderation more seriously and do more to protect their end users from illegal activities and disinformation. In addition, we should introduce provisions that hold platforms accountable for proprietary algorithms that promote or amplify harmful content. This is not about 'big government' regulating technology; rather, it's about Congress rolling back some of the legal protections it granted in the 1990s. We must work together to foster a safer and more positive online world that incentivizes responsible behavior and protects the public.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing on January 31, 2024, featuring testimony from the CEOs of social media companies Discord, Meta, Snap, TikTok, and X (formerly known as Twitter). Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), its ranking member, called for reforming Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which lets platforms largely avoid liability for content that users post online. The committee has unanimously endorsed several measures that could dramatically alter the act.
As a tech executive, I have the experience necessary to develop policies that will protect our privacy while addressing the enormous issues raised by online platforms.
It’s no secret that social media platforms have dramatically impacted the mental health of our youth. In Washington, I’ll push for the implementation of measures proven to mitigate that harm. This includes ’take-a-break’ features built into applications themselves and the active regulation of algorithms to ensure that they don’t promote or amplify harmful content.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects online platforms from liability due to third-party content. That is, if someone posts something harmful or purposefully incorrect on an online platform such as Facebook or TikTok, the platform cannot be held liable for any harm the post might cause. As a result, platforms have little financial incentive to engage in robust content moderation or to alter their algorithms to minimize the “siloing” that often leads users—especially teens—to dangerous or simply one-sided content.
Rolling back the protective cover of Section 230 is a necessary first step. Developing a new framework that preserves the dynamism of tech innovation while also putting sensible guardrails in place is a complex task that requires us to balance free speech and consumer protections. We must incentivize innovation, but there must also be accountability. Here are some potential approaches to reform:
It’s crucial to approach any reform of Section 230 in a thoughtful manner. At stake are critical issues of free speech, the role of tech companies in public discourse, and the fight against online harm. Any reforms would need to consider very carefully the potential consequences for both internet users and platforms.
I believe that all internet traffic should be treated in an equitable manner without penalizing or prioritizing traffic from any specific domain name, service provider or publisher. Thus, I spoke against the FCC repeal of Net Neutrality when it was first announced. Just like free speech, Net Neutrality allows our world to express and have an equal opportunity voice online. Restoring Net Neutrality is the core foundation for sustainable Silicon Valley innovation culture and our startup economy. Internet billing would become more complex if providers were allowed to charge for vital services, like online banking or entertainment. We have to have a level playing field for upstarts to challenge the status quo, and Net Neutrality is a key enabler of that. The very future of startup innovation is contingent upon the protection of Net Neutrality.
As the bedrock for the Silicon Valley innovation culture and it’s continued economic success, the restoration of Net Neutrality is crucial in today's day and age. Fair and equitable network rates will lift up startups and small businesses that challenge the status quo for the better, and I will work to protect them in Congress.
In 2018 alone, accumulated worldwide data grew to over 44 trillion gigabytes, and became a $42 billion industry.* With the Big Data industry growing faster than ever, privacy concerns are growing just as fast, and rightfully so.
The privacy of data and online security is also a growing American concern. I support efforts such as The California Consumer Privacy Act that went live on Jan 1, 2020. I support laws such as The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union. I strongly support the Internet Bill of Rights that includes greater transparency along with opt-in for data collection practices and timely notification if a company holding personal data suffers a hack. We should also consider reforming The Communications Decency Act Section 230 and ensure that social media tools present data with responsibility and are often aided by AI/ML engines to ensure the integrity of information.
Just recently, Congress renewed the Patriot Act to continue its warrantless data collection of the American public. I support the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 reform to outline a consumer’s entitlement to transparency and timely notification of data collection.
Our government should be helping us quell infringements and breaches of our trust. Innovation and growing efficiency within the internet age should not be a trade off for losing our privacy.
America’s tax system needs a do over. Our tax code is complicated and filled with a plethora of deductions and exclusions. The stress level goes up during tax season and many rely on an accountant or a financial team to file their taxes. In surveys about what people find cumbersome about taxes, many find issues with the complexity of the system, rather than having to pay what they owe.
Government is meant to work for the people right? Unlike many other countries, we make people administer their own benefits through the tax code.
We can simplify the filling process.
Several countries utilize a return-free system for taxpayers. For example, in Sweden, you can see your tax forms already filled in and approve them on your cell phone Wow! Isn’t that a strange concept? Citizens have the power to review their tax statement and agree or request an amendment.
Can America’s IRS make the process simple too?
During the pandemic EIDL and PPP loan application and disbursement process for businesses, I was appalled to see the complexity of paperwork and the middlemen involved. All the data is already available with the IRS, so why not simplify it, make the calculation on behalf of the business, and allow them to accept or reject the disbursement.
This problem is right up Silicon Valley’s alley. We can fix it once and for all and free Americans from the burden of a painful process.
California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is failing Californians by gutting the state’s solar program. The big utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and Sempra Energy — are pushing the policy change. Clearly, the utilities — and their unions — see the growth of personal solar systems as a potential threat to their financial future.
Rishi is against CPUC’s attempt to kill off much of the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) industry in California. Rishi is against CPUC’s move to slash solar incentives for customers of investor-owned utilities. CPUC is working for these utility companies when they are facilitating a back-door effort to get middle- and working-class homeowners to pay the damage costs of explosions, blowouts and fire damage caused by the utilities themselves.
NEM 3.0 is a controversial proposal from the CPUC that would introduce some massive changes to net metering for solar customers of the three major electric utilities in the state.
The credit for energy that residential solar owners put back into the grid would be slashed to a wholesale rate of about $0.04 per kWh. On top of slashing net metering rates, the NEM 3.0 proposal adds a new fixed monthly charge for solar owners of $8 per kW installed on their roof. It means that someone with a 10 kW system has to pay $80 per month to their electric utility just to stay connected to the grid and send back electricity at a new lower rate.
The new proposal, which is currently being reviewed by CPUC, has been slammed by solar companies and environmental groups for discouraging a shift to residential solar, while the three major electric utilities – – have voiced their support for the proposal. Naturally!
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The West Bay’s journey from the prune capital of the world to Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world is a wonderful story and part of Silicon Valley’s cherished history. As your Congressman, I will work to ensure that we capture our important milestones and preserve historic sites for future generations to learn and be inspired.