By Rebekah Castor Syracuse N.Y. (NCC News) – A week after Donald Trump’s presidential victory, many are anxiously awaiting the announcement of his presidential appointments. In California’s Silicon Valley, tech companies are worried about the future of their relationship with Washington.
“Internet companies could have a more difficult time with the less sympathetic administration in Washington,” Syracuse University (SU) professor Lee McKnight said.
Lee McKnight specializes in national and international internet policy and governance at the I-School at SU. He believes the Trump administration will be similar to Bush’s administration, in that both have a closer relationship to the oil and gas industry rather than alternative energy.
“The fate of many tech companies lies in the hands of the future chairperson of the FCC,” McKnight said.
Ultimately, Trump will not be the one making decisions about the tech industry. However, Trump can express his authority through the power of appointment. It’s customary for the chair of the FCC to step down when the White House shifts to the opposing party. FCC commissioners are appointed by the president and confirmed by the US senate, with the president’s party having a one-vote majority.
Co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel is one key internet player inside the Trump circle, according to McKnight. Thiel, along with others close to the new administration will advocate policy for the technology industry. However, McKnight said traditional benefits many companies enjoyed during the democratic administration will change.
One policy change many expect to be made in the first six months of Trump’s presidency relates to net neutrality. Net neutrality is the idea that the Internet should be an open highway that doesn’t give any service or content provider special treatment. Netflix, Google, Facebook, and Amazon are just a few notable internet companies that lobbied hard for net neutrality in Washington. The Obama administration passed net neutrality policy, endorsing strong open internet rules, in February 2015.
Other policy changes to look out for include a call to large tech companies to bring manufacturing to the United States, stronger internet privacy rules, and changes in who controls the Internet. However, these changes will take about two to three years, according to McKnight.
“Even if there’s a new chairmen of the FCC, he can’t just kill a policy. That’s not how it works. There’s a process,” McKnight said.
Current Chairperson Tom Wheeler’s term doesn’t technically end until November 2018. Therefore, Wheeler could remain as a commissioner. However, the president decides the chairperson.