What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Tech?

The eight-year bromance between Barack Obama — who appointed the first chief technology officer for the US — and the tech industry is ending. Now what?

That’s the question the tech industry has been asking since a real-estate mogul turned reality star, with a spotty reputation with tech, was voted in as 45th president of the United States.

President Obama, a self-proclaimed geek and Trekkie, was the most tech-focused president in modern history, committing billions of dollars to support initiatives to spur tech innovation, improve education and encourage exploration and discovery. Unlike Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump said very little during the campaign about where he stands on most tech-related issues — though he did call for a boycott of Apple products over the company’s stance on privacy in its fight with the FBI

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One thing is clear. Silicon Valley in general isn’t excited about the next four years. In July, 150 tech leaders, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Vint Cerf, considered the “father of the Internet,” wrote an open letter calling a Trump presidency “a disaster for innovation.” Some in the industry, notably broadband service providers, criticized him for policies they believe would stifle investment in infrastructure.

The outlook is “beyond grim,” weighted down by fear that the industry and world would suffer from this election, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Ouch.

Since Trump, 70, didn’t say all that much about tech during the campaign (he did call out “the cyber” when talking about cybersecurity concerns during one debate), industry watchers are left reading whatever tea leaves they can find until the president-elect reveals more-definitive policies.

Given that the tech industry accounts for 12 percent of all jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and given Trump’s message about improving America’s economy and competitiveness, his technology policies will have a long-lasting impact.

“The onus is on him to convince us that what we have seen in the past, the erratic behavior that has been defining character of the campaign, is not what will lead policy and that we’ll see a more pragmatic approach,” said Evan Swarztrauber, communications director for the DC-based think tank TechFreedom.

Here’s what little we do know about Trump’s stand on some important tech issues.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality became a relatively big deal in the 2008 election, but little was said during this election cycle about last year’s policy.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. This means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the internet, can’t block or slow down the services or applications you use over the web.

That said, we do know Trump isn’t a fan of the FCC’s current regulations. In 2014, at the height of the debate to rewrite the rules around Net neutrality, he tweeted, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”

It’s possible that an FCC led by Republicans could eliminate all or part of the rules and strip the FCC of some of its authority. If that happens, broadband providers could create so-called fast lanes and charge internet companies, like Netflix, different rates to deliver their services.

Loosening regulations around telecom will likely benefit broadband and wireless carriers. The NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, which lobbies for the cable industry, said it’s eager to work with President-elect Trump.

“We look forward to participating in a constructive and robust discussion about policies that will continue to make America a global technology and entertainment leader,” they said in a statement Wednesday.

Industry Consolidation and Broadband

Trump also seems to have taken a populist view against mergers and acquisitions. That could spell trouble for big pending mergers, including AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of entertainment giant Time Warner. When that deal was announced last month, Trump vowed to block the merger if he was elected.

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” he said.

AT&T’s executives still like their chances of getting the deal approved by the US, pointing to statements Trump made in his victory speech about investing in “infrastructure.”

“His policies and his discussions about infrastructure investment, economic development and American innovation all fit right in with AT&T’s goals,” Chief Financial Officer John J. Stephens said Wednesday. “We’ve been the leading investor in this country for more than five years running, and our Time Warner transaction is all about innovation and economic development, consumer choice, and investment in infrastructure with regard to providing a great 5G mobile broadband experience.”

Encryption and Cybersecurity

The president-elect has made only vague statements about privacy and security, and downplayed Russia’s alleged hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign email servers. Still, when the Justice Department tussled with Apple over unlocking the iPhone of the terrorist suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, he called for a boycott of Apple products.

What he has said about cyber security is that there should be a review of US cyber defenses by a “Cyber Review Team.” He also told the The New York Times in July that “certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process… Inconceivable the power of cyber… you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber.”

RELATED: The Union Built Cloud Secure Data Storage Solution

Tax Policy

The biggest boost to the tech industry could come from Trump’s plans to lower corporate tax rates to encourage companies to invest their money in the US.

There’s a good chance that money could be invested in the US, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). But it’s not a given. In 2004, the US allowed American companies to bring in the profit they’d earned overseas in the hope they would hire more workers. Most of the money went to executives and shareholders, instead.

Trump has also called for high import taxes on products, which could drive up prices for consumers on tech goods. In January, Trump said in a stump speech, “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”

Apple, which declined to comment on Trump’s statements at the time, designs its products at its Silicon Valley headquarters, but uses a Chinese contractor to build them. If Apple products were manufactured in the US, the price of an iPhone could rise to as much as $900 to offset worker wages versus the $650 cost of an iPhone today.

YOUR TURN

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Additional Reporting by CNET

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When Donald Trump Had a Choice, He Chose Nonunion Labor for His Construction Projects

Donald Trump has admitted before that when he has a choice between union and nonunion labor for his construction projects, Trump chooses nonunion labor. Just how often was that? A new report from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) reveals some figures about his dealings with IBEW contractors.

From the IBEW investigation:

A review of Trump’s projects reveals that he hires union when project labor agreements or dominant market share forces him to. But more than 60% of his projects developed outside New York City and Atlantic City – which includes most of his recent projects – were built nonunion. When you exclude developments with project labor agreements, that number jumps to nearly 80% built nonunion.

Except for his own house.

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Trump has developed or licensed his name to eight projects in Florida, for example. The only one using IBEW workers is his palatial home and private club in Palm Beach. “For everything he sold to other people, he went nonunion. But for his house, he went with us,” said IBEW Local 728 Business Manager Dan Svetlick. Svetlick says it’s something he’s seen with other billionaires like Trump. When it comes to their own homes or the homes of their family members, “They want that to last,” he said.

Here are 10 other key facts from the IBEW report:

1. According to analysis of lawsuits filed against him and his companies, when union contractors were hired, Trump developed a reputation for stiffing some, delaying payment to others and shorting workers on overtime and even minimum wage.

2. USA Today found 60 lawsuits against Trump for not paying his bills on time, including by a dishwasher in Florida, a New Jersey glass company, a carpet supplier, plumber, painters, 48 waiters, dozens of bartenders and a real estate broker.

3. Trump has been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

4. Trump-associated properties and companies have filed for bankruptcy often: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza and Trump Marina (1993), Trump World’s Fair and Casino (1999), Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts (2004) and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009). In each of the bankruptcies, unpaid contractors were sent to the back of the line for repayment and often received only pennies on the dollar for what they were owed.

5. Lawyers who represented Trump in lawsuits for non-payment sued Trump for not paying them.

6. Since 1980, more than 200 mechanic’s liens have been filed against Trump properties for nonpayment.

7. According to former Trump Plaza President Jack O’Connell, Trump would negotiate the best price he could, but when it came time to pay the bills, Trump would say: “I’m going to pay you, but I’m going to pay you 75% of what we agreed to.” It was known as the “Trump discount,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

8. Trump continues to stonewall unionized casino and culinary employees looking for their first contract at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas.

9. Most of Trump’s recent projects have been in anti-union and “right to work” states. Where the law is different, his choices are different: “For every union-built development outside of New York and Atlantic City, Trump built nearly two nonunion, and if there is no PLA, Trump has hired union workers once for every four projects that go nonunion.”

10. Trump Tower, where he announced his presidential campaign, was built on a site cleared by undocumented immigrant laborers from Poland. A lawsuit was filed against Trump that dragged on for nearly two decades—he didn’t reach a settlement with the working people who did the job until 19 years later. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote: “No records were kept, no Social Security or other taxes were withheld, and they were not paid in accordance with wage laws. They were told they would be paid $4.00 or in some cases $5.00 an hour for working 12-hour shifts seven days a week. In fact, they were paid irregularly and incompletely, sometimes with [the subcontractor’s] personal checks, which were returned by the bank for insufficient funds.” Employees complained to the press of working in “choking clouds of asbestos dust without protective equipment.” The District Court concluded that Trump “knew the Polish workers were working ‘off the books,’ that they were doing demolition work, that they were nonunion, that they were paid substandard wages with no overtime pay and that they were paid irregularly if at all.”