By: Melanie Rosen

“Go ahead, take a look at the back of the nearest electronic device. You’ll see an @fcc number. The agency certifies every innovative mobile phone, television, and computer that emits radio frequency before they can head to market. Guess what is not happening during the shutdown?”

-FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel[1]

For 35 days, between December 22, 2018, and January 25, 2019, the government was shut down due to an impasse between the House of Representatives and the Senate.  This was the longest government shutdown in history.  During those 35-days, 800,000 federal workers went without paychecks, and the effects eventually rippled over into the tech industry.

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) certifies the safety of consumer-electronic devices.  The FCC must approve all products that emit radio frequency energy to ensure that energy does not harm humans or interfere with other products or services.  Though all actual testing is subcontracted to FCC-authorized companies or Telecommunications Certification Bodies, most products need the final sign-off of the FCC.  But, with the government shut down, so is the FCC.  Without FCC approval, companies are forced to put a hold on production.

Though for the large companies, such as Apple, Samsung, and Sony, this is just a mere speeding ticket on their record, for the smaller startup companies it is like losing their driver’s license.  These companies’ survival is dependent on meeting their deadlines.  Thus, when the products are no longer going out, the money is no longer coming in.  If the government shutdown were to continue, these startup companies could be in serious trouble.  There is no real data on how many consumer-electronic products are being affected by the closure because there is no knowledge of where specific companies and devices were in the approval process.  But, the number is potentially in the thousands.

The government shutdown could also take the U.S. out of first place in the race to 5G.  5G technology is the next big thing; it will work 10 to 100 times faster than 4G, depending on the network connection.  However, without FCC approval, the products needed to support 5G technology are not being released.

As of now, the shutdown is over, but that does not mean that tech companies are out of trouble just yet.  President Trump has announced that the government is only temporarily back for three weeks.  The 35-day delay has already affected the tech industry, but any more time and companies will take a huge hit in their revenue.  These next three weeks will be vital for tech companies to try and make up lost time before they are being pulled over again by the President.

[1] https://www.cnet.com/news/government-shutdown-delays-launch-of-new-tech-products/

Student Bio: Melanie Rosen is a second-year student at Suffolk University Law School and is a staff member of the Journal of High Technology Law. She attended the University of New Hampshire, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Justice Studies, as well as a Master of Arts in Justice Studies.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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