U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today highlighted yesterday’s “Betting on the Rest: Expanding American Entrepreneurship Outside Traditional Hubs” subcommittee hearing, which focused on examining where venture capital is being invested in this country. During the hearing, Thune questioned industry experts, including one from Rapid City, South Dakota, on ways to expand American entrepreneurship.
Thune also noted his work as chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, a role he’s held since the beginning of the 116th Congress. The subcommittee oversees matters relating to the technology and telecommunications industries, including 5G mobile broadband development and deployment.
Thune’s remarks (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, yesterday afternoon the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet held our final hearing of the 116th Congress.
“The title of yesterday’s hearing was “Betting on the Rest: Expanding American Entrepreneurship Outside Traditional Hubs,” and it focused on examining where venture capital is being invested in this country – and where it is not – with an eye to exploring ways to expand investment to other parts of the country.
“Over the past 50 years, venture capital has come to play an essential role in advancing American entrepreneurism.
“Venture capitalists have provided key funding for start-ups that have gone on to become some of America’s most profitable companies.
“And many of the technologies and services we rely on today would not be around if venture capitalists hadn’t been willing to take a risk on innovation.
“However, venture capital investment in the United States has traditionally been highly concentrated in certain areas of the country.
“In 2019, California-based companies received 50 percent of all venture-backed investment in the United States.
“Just three states – California, New York, and Massachusetts – accounted for almost 75 percent of all venture-backed investment in the country.
“Now, there are a lot of valid reasons for this investment concentration.
“However, this geographic imbalance also means that a majority of regions within the United States are often shut out from the kind of investment that creates jobs, revitalizes communities, and enables the pursuit of the American dream.
“Without greater access to capital in underserved regions, the flow of talent, wealth, and opportunity will continue to move to only a handful of coastal cities, and the full reach and diversity of American ingenuity will go unrealized.
“Fortunately, there are a lot of individuals in the private sector who are already working to address this issue and expand venture-backed investment to other areas of the United States.
“And we had the opportunity to hear from some of them yesterday.
“I was very grateful for their input – and very pleased to have a South Dakota entrepreneur among our panelists.
“And I’m committed to making sure that the federal government serves as a help, and not a hindrance, to the expansion of venture capital investment.
“Mr. President, I took the reins of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet at the start of the 116th Congress, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over the past two years.
“We’ve had a very active Congress, holding eight hearings here in Washington, D.C., as well as a hearing in my home state of South Dakota.
“These hearings have explored everything from broadband investment in rural America to the way social media companies filter information on their platforms.
“I’ve introduced several bills over the past two years that have been informed by our work at the committee, including the PACT Act, the TRACED Act, the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act, and the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act.
“A priority of mine over the past several years has been ensuring that America stays at the head of the next wave of internet technology – 5G.
“In addition to the tremendous technological benefits that will result from 5G, staying at the forefront of the 5G revolution will bring tremendous economic investment and create a lot of good American jobs.
“I spent a lot of time working on this issue when I was chairman of the Commerce Committee, and heading up the Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet subcommittee in this Congress has allowed me to continue to focus on 5G deployment.
“Last year, I introduced the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act along with the ranking member on the subcommittee, Senator Schatz.
“Our legislation would help expedite the deployment of the small cells that are a key part of 5G infrastructure.
“This year, I introduced the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act to address another part of the 5G equation – ensuring that we have the workforce in place to handle the demands of installing and maintaining 5G technology.
“Mr. President, as a resident of a rural state, ensuring access to broadband internet in rural communities has long been a priority of mine.
“I introduced legislation this year to direct funds from radio spectrum auctions to expand rural broadband access.
“And I’m continuing my work to ensure that rural communities get access to 5G technology.
“5G has the potential to offer tremendous benefits to rural communities, from expanded access to telehealth services to precision agriculture technologies, and I am committed to ensuring that rural communities are not left behind in the 5G revolution.
“Mr. President, pretty much every American has been forced to deal with annoying and illegal robocalls.
“These calls are a major nuisance – and too often, they’re more than a nuisance.
“Every day, vulnerable Americans fall prey to ever-more-sophisticated scammers and have money or their identity stolen.
“I’ve worked on this issue for years, and in 2019 I introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or TRACED Act, along with Senator Markey.
“While this legislation won’t stop every robocall, the TRACED Act provides tools to discourage illegal robocalls, protect consumers, and crack down on offenders.
“And I’m very proud that last December the president signed our legislation into law.
“Mr. President, more and more, Americans get news and information from social media sites.
“And particularly during this past election cycle, a lot of questions have arisen about the ways social media platforms are filtering the information we see.
“Internet platforms have actively cultivated the notion that they are merely providing the technology for people to communicate and share their thoughts and ideas.
“But the reality is somewhat different.
“Sites like Facebook and Twitter make use of sophisticated content moderation tools, algorithms, and recommendation engines to shape the content we see on these platforms.
“Now, content moderation can certainly improve the user experience – most of us would prefer that YouTube recommend videos that match our interests.
“The problem is that content moderation has been – and largely continues to be – a black box, with consumers having little or no idea how the information they see has been shaped by the sites they’re visiting.
“Last year, I chaired a subcommittee hearing on this issue, and the information we gathered helped inform two pieces of bipartisan legislation I introduced this Congress – the Filter Bubble Transparency Act and the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, or PACT Act.
“Both of these bills would increase transparency around the content moderation process so that users have a better sense of how the information presented to them is being filtered.
“The Filter Bubble Transparency Act and the PACT Act would go a long way toward making social media and other sites more accountable to consumers, and I will continue to work to advance these legislative efforts in the Senate.
“Mr. President, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to chair the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet over the past Congress and for the opportunity it’s given me to work on the important issues and legislation I’ve mentioned.
“I want to thank the subcommittee’s ranking member, Senator Schatz, for all the work he’s done to make our committee so effective.
“And I look forward to continuing to work with all my subcommittee colleagues to advance the 5G revolution, address the challenges presented by the internet age, and make life better for the American people.”