Congress should avoid penalizing workers whose income fluctuates because they lose their jobs by reinstating income averaging in the federal tax code.

Before the 1986 Tax Reform Act taxpayers could average their income over three years, enabling them to avoid lower taxes in years when their incomes were temporarily low. The current federal tax code lacks this provision, penalizing workers who lose their jobs. Taxpayers should be allowed to average their income over three years and be able to take a tax credit for prior taxes paid if their tax liabilities fall because their incomes drop.

Congress should allow foreign students receiving STEM graduate degrees from U.S. universities to automatically qualify for green cards.

Scientists and engineers are key drivers of innovation. Yet the number of Americans obtaining graduate science and engineering degrees has not kept up with demand. Indeed, almost one half of Ph.D. graduates of U.S. engineering, computer science, physical science, and life science programs are now from other nations. If we want the United States to continue to be the global innovation leader, we should make it easier for the talented individuals who receive a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to stay in the United States after graduation by making them eligible for permanent residency.

Congress should fund a competition for broadband providers to sign up the most new subscribers in low-income communities.

Broadband appears to be widely available in most low income urban and suburban communities. But adoption rates are much lower than in higher in come areas. One way to encourage adoption would be to provide incentives for broadband service providers to sign up new customers, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. Currently, they have limited incentives to do so because the costs of getting new customers in these areas can exceed the revenues expected. These costs may include digital literacy training, computer subsidies, and marketing to explain the benefits. But harnessing the competitive spirit of providers to get more customers could prove a cost-effective way to increase adoption. Providing a competition would help mitigate some of these costs and help limelight firms that go the furthest to provide serves in low-income areas. Furthermore, because it would rely on market competition to figure out the best way to get subscribers, it is likely to spur innovative efforts.

Congress should exempt wired and wireless broadband Internet access from federal, state, and local taxes and extend and expand the moratorium on Internet taxes.

Internet access is a fundamental building block of the digital economy, a key enabler of many applications and services, and a prerequisite for participating in our digital society. Government should support access to this basic public good by eliminating taxes on Internet access, including broadband. Specifically, Congress should make permanent the current moratorium on Internet access taxes and eliminate the grandfather clause which allows some states to tax Internet access. In addition, the ban on Internet taxes should be clarified to include the underlying transport services acquired by ISPs, such as the wire, cable, or fiber used to carry traffic from customers to the Internet. Currently, some states tax the underlying transport for broadband Internet access, a cost which ISPs then pass on to consumers in the form of a tax recovery fee. In addition, Congress should ban state and local discriminatory taxes on wireless services. Given that the average tax on telecommunication services is 13.5 percent, more than twice the average tax rate on all other goods and services, Congress should act to ensure that the short-term fiscal interests of states do not trump the long-term economic and social interests of the nation.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration should create a digital literacy and broadband adoption clearinghouse.

One challenge with expanding the scope and effectiveness of community-based digital literacy and broadband adoption programs is that considerable work is duplicated. For example, effective programs may deal with issues such as the optimal design of a computer. Not withstanding the fact that communities differ, often communities and organizations within communities invest valuable resources in what amounts to “reinventing the wheel.” As a result, there is a need for a national organization to track effective practices and compile and disseminate shared tools (e.g., curricula, how-to manuals, software tools, etc.) that can be easily customized for local initiatives. Toward that end, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration should fund an organization to work to provide these shared services.

NTIA should encourage wider broadband adoption by increasing funding for the Technology Opportunities Program that provides grants to build and deliver technology capability to local residents.

More compelling public-interest broadband applications will also play a role in encouraging broadband adoption. One programmatic tool used to spur digital adoption was the Technology Opportunity Program (TOP), administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). A revived TOP program should have as its primary focus the development of nationally scalable Web-based projects that address particular social needs, including law enforcement, health care, education, and access for persons with disabilities.

The FCC needs to reform the Universal Service Fund program to extend support for broadband in high-cost areas.

The federal USF program does not provide explicit support for broadband. The USF Board recommended using a reverse auction mechanism to allocate its funds. Companies would compete to win funding to provide broadband services in rural areas, with awards going to the lowest bidder. The funding would consist of a one-time subsidy and the company would operate on limited contract (perhaps 5 or 10 years) and be required to meet minimum standards of performance. The one-time auctions would cover the higher capital costs and higher capitalized operating costs of service in rural areas. These auctions should be open to any provider using any technology.

The Federal Government needs a National Innovation Foundation to help domestic firms become more innovative and competitive.

Innovation drives economic growth. However, the nation faces a growing innovation challenge in today’s global economy. To respond, the federal government should establish a National Innovation Foundation (NIF)—a new, nimble, lean, and collaborative entity devoted to supporting firms and other organizations in their innovative activities. The basis of NIF would be the consolidation of existing programs scattered among different federal agencies.

The Secretary of Energy should create a pilot program to fund and support collaborative, public-private clean energy research consortia that can act as regional anchors for competitive industry clusters.

The Secretary of Energy should establish a program that supports public-private clean energy research consortia and should make grants of $10-30 million annually for up to three years to three or more consortia. Eligible consortia should consist of two or more research universities or governmental research facilities and at least three other private sector firms engaged in research, development, or commercialization activities. Consortia must enter into an agreement to perform collaborative translational research activities focused around a key technical theme (e.g., more efficient, affordable solar cells).

Congress should reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to ensure that citizens have a right to privacy for their electronic data whether it is stored at home on a PC or remotely in the cloud.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was enacted in 1986 and has not kept pace with the advancement of technology. For example, there are different levels of protection afforded to the privacy of an individual’s data based on where the data is stored and how long the data has been stored. This means that the privacy of a person’s email may be different if it is stored on his or her PC versus if it is stored in the cloud. In the former case law enforcement might need a search warrant based on probable cause to review the data, but in the latter law enforcement would only need a subpoena. Reform is needed in this area to protect Fourth Amendment rights. Where possible, the privacy of an individual’s communication should be the same regardless of the type of technology that is used to facilitate this communication.