Microsoft will press the Washington state legislature to prioritize privacy legislation and infrastructure improvements this year, according to a blog post penned by Brad Smith, the company’s president and legal chief.
Microsoft published its legislative wishlist Monday, outlining the company’s policy goals in its home state for 2019. Each year, Smith puts out a road map of policy priorities that Microsoft will throw its weight behind.
Here’s what’s on Microsoft’s 2019 agenda:
Housing is a key area of focus for Microsoft this year. The Redmond, Wash., tech giant announced a $500 million fund last month that will invest in middle- and low-income housing and provide grants to homeless service providers. Microsoft is urging the legislature to invest an additional $200 million in the state’s Housing Trust Fund for low-income homes. The company is also pressing local governments in the state to re-zone neighborhoods to allow for more density and asking the state to reconsider policies that create barriers to development.
In addition to housing, Microsoft wants Washington to improve access to broadband internet for rural residents. Microsoft’s goal is to close the rural broadband gap across the country through its Airband Initiative. The company wants Washington to create a State Broadband Office and invest $25 million to create a grant program that would encourage broadband development to underserved areas.
Finally, Microsoft will continue its push for a high-speed rail line connecting Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., and Vancouver, B.C. Microsoft donated $300,000 to help study whether high-speed rail was feasible and “confirmed this service could be operated cost-effectively,” according to Smith’s blog post. Now the company is backing Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s $3 million proposal to establish a formal partnership between the three cities and move forward with a high-speed rail line.
Microsoft is one of the most vocal supporters of privacy legislation working its way through the Washington state House and Senate. The bills would give residents of the state more information about and control over data that is collected on them. It would also require companies that develop facial recognition technology, including Microsoft, to make their software available for third-party testing, among other regulations.
“There is no more reason for a company in the facial recognition market to object to third-party testing than there is reason for an automobile company to object to testing the airbags in a new car,” Smith writes.