What This Elections Means To Silicon Valley

November 5, 2012

By Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto)

The future of technology policy and the related implications for Silicon Valley businesses and consumers have not garnered major headlines during the debates or ad buys from SuperPACs. Candidates have generally focused on other issues, such as reducing the nation's deficit, jobs, and energy independence. But because of its impact on the national economy, technology should play a larger role in the national discussion. From software developers and app makers, to infrastructure providers and carriers, this November 6th will be pivotal.

America's technology sector is light years from where it was a decade ago. We've even made huge strides since the last presidential election. Today, 1 out of every 4 new patents goes to California, with half of those going to Silicon Valley. Innovations from unlicensed spectrum, like Bluetooth and WiFi, account for approximately $50 billion of the U.S. economy. A recent Application Developers Alliance and CTIA (The Wireless Association) study said the app economy has created 151,900 jobs in California, with an economic impact of more than $8 billion. In April 2011, Netflix reached 23.6 million subscribers in the United States, solidifying a new era in online video. And Facebook recently surpassed one billion users. It's clear that much is at stake.

Silicon Valley companies are recognizing these stakes. Critical infrastructure companies have weighed in with both parties on cybersecurity legislation, while simultaneously anticipating an Executive Order from President Obama. Hardware developers are duking it out in the courts over patent disputes, waiting for real patent reform in Congress. Wireless carriers are vying to gobble up as much wireless spectrum as possible in order to meet the insatiable appetites of consumers for the latest in wireless technology and services. One startup company CEO recently told me that he would double his workforce to 40 if he could find individuals with STEM education backgrounds.

What ultimately matters for the Silicon Valley ecosystem is not what each party platform promises. Both platforms share similar core values: the need for more workers with STEM backgrounds; allowing foreign-born innovators and students to put their talents to work in the U.S.; keeping the Internet free and open; and promoting broadband access and deployment.. How each party intends to fulfill these promises will be what's essential. Democrats believe in strong public-private partnerships to foster, not inhibit, progress on important issues affecting the tech community. Republicans believe the solution is to trust in the risks and rewards that come with investing in the free market.

Whether an app developer, a smartphone user, an engineer, or someone with a great idea, every day the American people have an opportunity to help shape the future of our technology landscape. This November 6th will be no different.

Rep. Eshoo is Ranking Member for the House Subcomittee on Communications and Technology. This op-ed appeared on SiliconBeat.com, the technology blog for the San Jose Mercury News.