Government Shutdown Comes to an End

capitol building.pngAfter a three-day shut down, Senate leaders reached an agreement to fund the government through February 8. The Senate voted 81-18 to pass the measure, shortly followed by the House, which passed it 266-150. The deal was based on a commitment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to find a solution for Dreamers to remain in the U.S. until February 8. The agreement includes:

  • Authorizes the Small Business Administration to shift funding to administer increased 7(a) loan demand
  • Delays the re-implementation of the Obamacare medical device tax through 2019
  • Delays the re-implementation of the tax on “Cadillac” health plans through 2022
  • Suspends the Obamacare tax on insurance providers for 2019
  • A provision to provide back pay to workers who were briefly furloughed
  • A six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The continuing resolution (CR) includes other provisions which can be found here.

This is the fourth CR for FY18. As a reminder, a CR funds the government at current levels, in this case, FY17 levels. Having trouble keeping track of the CRs for FY18? See below.

CRs for FY18

  • September 30, 2017: First Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through December 8, 2017 (passed by Congress on September 8)
  • December 8, 2017: Second Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through December 22, 2017 (passed by Congress on December 7)
  • December 22, 2017: Third Deadline for FY18 – CR extended funding through January 19, 2018 (passed by Congress on December 21)
  • January 19, 2018: Fourth Deadline for FY18 – CR extended through February 8, 2018 (passed by Congress on January 22)
    • Note: The House passed a CR on January 18 to fund the government through February 16. After House passage, the Senate amended the CR by changing the expiration date from February 16 to February 8 and including the back-pay provision. The Senate then passed the amended bill yesterday afternoon, with the House following suit on January 22.  President Trump signed the bill into law that night.
Members Answer WIPP’s Call to Action!
On January 19, as the Senate was trying to find a way to keep the government open, we issued and Action Alert asking WIPP members to contact their senators about the shutdown. We’re proud to report that the Action Alert resulted in nearly 50 letters sent to Senators urging them to keep the government operating and telling them that shutdowns are bad for women business owners.
Thank you for making your voice heard and watch for future opportunities to engage!

ChallengeHER Stories: Chaunty Spillane wants to expand a new film production venture into government contracting

Knowing businesses struggle with building an online presence, Massachusetts-based Chaunty Spillane is embarking on a new film production venture that will help businesses stand out among competitors.

She is also looking to expand her reach to government contracting, which led her to a recent ChallengeHER event in Boston.

“I learned a lot about the different organizations that are available to help women business owners with the technicalities of qualifying and competing for contracts,” Chaunty said of her experience. “ChallengeHER helped me realize this is definitely the right path for me.”

Chaunty began working in the film industry as an actor and a model, but fell in love with production and the equipment used to make film. She recalled making movies on a camcorder as young as 6-years-old and wanting to share her skill with others.

“I love helping out people and providing artistic value to what my customers are doing,” she said. “Video marketing allows businesses to be more relatable, not only to claim their identity in a visual format.”

Since going into business for herself recently, she has done subcontract work on a government contract and wants to earn her own contracts. She plans to certify as a woman-owned business and register with the federal system, two important steps she learned about during the ChallengeHER workshop.

Sponsored by Women Impacting Public Policy, the Small Business Administration and American Express, ChallengeHER events are designed to be a one-stop-shop opportunity to gather resources and learn from the experiences of other women entrepreneurs who have successfully navigated the world of government contracting. Panelists share tricks of the trade, like how to market your business successfully through capability statements and build your reputation to earn repeat business.

“One of the things I was surprised by was everyone’s willingness to offer support,” Chaunty said. “I am realizing that I can do this, and it feels like the next level of my career.”

Pamela O’Rourke, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – March 2017

Pamela O'Rourke.jpg

Pamela O’Rourke, president and CEO of ICON information Consultants, serves on WIPP’s board of directors and has been a strong supporter of the organization through her leadership and generous contributions of time and fiscal support. Indeed, Pamela became WIPP’s very first donor to earn the “Trailblazer” title in February by contributing $10,000 to support our education work and advocacy on behalf of women business owners in Washington, D.C.

It’s thanks to people like Pamela that WIPP thrives. Thank you, Pamela!

Q Tell us a little about ICON and its mission.

A ICON Information Consultants, LP, is a Houston-based, woman-owned (WBENC Certified) staffing and payrolling firm. ICON has provided recruitment and payrolling solutions for 19 years and has over 3,500 contractors on staff daily within the US and Canada. Our primary services include Contract, Contract-to-Hire, and Direct Hire Staffing services, Payrolling services, Independent Contractor Compliance and Management services, and Specialized IT Project Management services. We target clients in the Fortune 100 and 500 arena. Some of our clients include Bank of America, John Hancock, Exelon, Deutsche Bank, NRG Reliant Energy, Shell, Halliburton, HP, Waste Management, Schlumberger, Lyondell/Basell, among many others throughout the nation. Simply put, ICON’s mission is to become the best human capital solutions firm in the US.

Q Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A Even before ICON’s inception, I maintained a firm belief that clients deserve more. Make the client happy while always doing the right thing, such as staying late, providing outstanding service internally and out, and doing the best job the first time. I realized while working for other firms that the level of service I wanted to provide was far superior to that which was requested of me. At that time, I saw a window of opportunity to channel my energy and work ethic towards a new business venture. As banks accredit no value to best intentions and denied my loan request since “people are not tangible assets,” I created a business plan and solicited two groups of friends to invest in the start-up. Between my own investment and the money I raised, in 1998, I opened ICON Information Consultants LP with $250,000 in capital. I then gave myself six months to make it work.

Q Have you encountered any challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A ICON Information Consultants began its journey as a human capital procurement firm in the area of Information Technology. IT has always been a male-dominated field, and my approach and tenacity have broken through a few glass ceilings to ensure ICON remains at the top of our clients’ lists (recently, Bank of America noted ICON Information Consultants as their “favorite supplier”). I learned one of my biggest lessons when I first started to hire people. As an entrepreneur, I realized early on that in order to be at the top of my industry, I must build a team that shares my hunger to continuously learn and improve. As a team, we need to be ready, because competitors are poised to seize any opportunities left open. That’s why I survey the competition to ensure that ICON’s competitive advantage is consistently one step ahead of the curve (if not two).

Q Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A The first few years of ICON Information Consultant’s existence forms the basis of my success story. Between my own investment and the money that I raised, in 1998, we opened the business with $250,000 in capital. I gave myself six months to make it work. Choosing to work only with Fortune 100 and 500 corporations because of their significant investment in state-of-the-art technology, I managed to cross over into the midmarket range within months. I thought I was going to do $70,000 my first year, but I did $2.5 million. The next year was $7.7 million. The third year was $11.7 million, then $14 million and $16 million. In 2016, revenues exceeded $270 million. That’s how glass ceilings are shattered.

Q Do you have any tips you would like to share with other women pursuing entrepreneurship?

A Get out of your comfort zone and make contacts. Once you have a prospective client’s undivided attention, know what you need to do to get on their radar, be direct with what you do and make sure they know why you’re great. Always remember: be yourself, relax, and bring lots of business cards.

Summer Telecom round-up: How events from this summer will affect your phone and Internet service

There was a mixed bag of news this summer involving the Federal Communications Commission and actions affecting our phone, TV and broadband service.

Among the best news was the Commission’s unanimous vote in July to open nearly 11 gigahertz of high-frequency spectrum for wireless broadband. This will spur better and faster mobile service, including advances in online healthcare and education. Reuters has a good analysis.

Also, last month, the Commission and industry leaders announced a joint effort to curb robocalling.  A new industry task force, will work with the Commission to solve this growing problem.

In another hopeful development, a growing chorus of public and Congressional condemnation appears to be giving the FCC second thoughts on its ill-advised effort to regulate cable TV set-top boxes. Independent programmers and content creators continue to express concern, and leading voices in the African-American and Latino communities blasted the proposal this summer, as did dozens in Congress, including Representative Yvette Clarke and Senators Harry Reid and Pat Leahy. We at WIPP expressed our own concerns about how the proposal could specifically harm women and minority programmers in the media marketplace.

Last month, the U.S. Copyright Office voiced grave concerns over the proposal’s legality and potential to promote piracy.

Unfortunately, it’s not all blue skies. In contrast to the cooperative effort on robocalling, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler seems insistent on pushing a unilateral and expensive Federal overreach on Internet privacy and business broadband.  Both are unfortunate examples of Federal “solutions” that are much worse than any perceived problem.

On privacy, the Commission seeks to carve out Internet Service Providers for new regulations, while exempting entire classes of other online companies.  The Internet’s ongoing mergers and agreements, coupled with the growth of encryption, show how backwards-looking this approach really is. The Harvard Business Review has a good summary.

Chairman Wheeler’s proposed updated regulations to special access services (also known as “business data services”) is even more problematic.  He’s pushing to reinstate rules that the FCC itself scrapped as unnecessary back in 1999. Rather than resurrecting these outdated rules, a smarter and more obvious solution would be to facilitate new forms of broadband deployment.  For an analysis of the likely economic damage from Chairman Wheeler’s proposal, click here.

The Courts: Wise policy goes 1 for 2
Not all the important telecom news occurred at the FCC.  Two court decisions this summer deserve attention:

  • Internet regulation. In June, a three-judge panel for the DC Court of Appeals upheld the FCC’s 2015 order giving itself expanded powers over our Internet service. The judges upheld the FCC’s authority to use a 1934 law to regulate both wired and wireless broadband.  This case is being appealed to the full DC Court of Appeals. Among many problems, the new regulations are likely to delay better broadband services as the FCC flexes its oversight authority and broadband companies confront expensive legal uncertainties.

 

  • Municipal broadband. On a more hopeful note, taxpayers can breathe easier thanks to a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  On August 10, a unanimous three-judge panel nixed the FCC’s attempt to overturn municipal broadband laws in North Carolina and Tennessee.

 

The real issue in this case wasn’t the ability of localities to deploy their own broadband.  They had the right to do that before and still do.  But state officials did not want their localities using tax dollars to fund deployment outside their areas.  The FCC’s objection to this was so convoluted that the U.S. Justice Department would not even defend it.  FCC Chairman Wheeler has announced that the Commission will not appeal.  Daniel Lyons at TechPolicyDaily has an excellent summary.

FCC Set Top Box Hearing – Move Towards Good Direction

This week, WIPP kept a close eye on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission.  The hearing had a major focus on the Commission’s proposal to regulate set-top boxes which has received much criticism from since its release earlier this year.

More than 190 Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and several advocacy groups and industry leaders have spoken out against how the proposal could negatively affect media diversity and consumer privacy. We at WIPP expressed our own concerns about how the proposal could specifically harm women and minority programmers in the media marketplace.

Under the FCC’s proposal, the playing field would be stacked against minority programmers in tilted in favor of tech giants.  These large companies would be able to take content from independent and minority programmers and redistribute it without having to pay the content creator.  As a result, these programmers would lose revenue that is necessary to maintaining and funding the creation of new quality content for their audiences.

This past February, 18 independent programmers and content creators wrote a letter to Congress expressing concern about the “devastating and lasting harm” the proposed regulations could have on media diversity and their businesses.  They stated that “It’s clear that the independent programming landscape would quickly become a ‘race to the bottom’ if this rule were to pass.

Fortunately, the video industry recently came up with an alternative to the FCC’s proposal that would protect the copyrights of programmers’ original content. Under this plan, pay-TV providers would offer apps that can be used on third-party boxes or streaming devices.  This way, content creators remain in control of how their programming is distributed and consumers are able to access their favorite shows on the device of their choice.

It seems that after months of debate, the Commission is moving forward in a positive direction.  During this week’s House hearing, Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked the FCC Commissioners if they believe their original proposal to regulate set-top boxes is flawed.  All Commissioners acknowledged that the original proposal needs improvement and that the video industry’s proposal is potentially a better approach.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn further stated that the Copyright Office voiced concerns with the FCC’s proposal and that copyright security and privacy must be put in place.

We strongly encourage the FCC to move forward with this apps approach.  This alternative offers a constructive solution for all content creators, especially women and minority businesses enabling them to continue doing what they do best: providing consumers the diverse content they demand.

Stop New Taxes on Internet Access

internetThe Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, learn, innovate and for business owners, it has been a game changer in their ability to manage and grow their businesses.  The Internet’s success and rapid growth is due in large part to a current law, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which has kept Internet access free from state and local taxes and fees since 1998.

We believe that Congress should act now and permanently extend the moratorium on taxing Internet access. ITFA is critical to keeping Internet access affordable for business owners and consumers, enhancing Internet adoption rates and growing the digital economy.

Finally, after much delay, it looks like the vote on a permanent version of ITFA could be as early as tomorrow! We need your help to urge your Senators support the Customs Bill and keep the Internet Tax Freedom Act in the bill. 

Urge your Senator to Support the Internet Tax Freedom Act!

With communications taxes on telephone services already on average at 17%, we don’t need the potential for another tax of close to 20% added to our Internet bills. In a time when our economy is still recovering, any money saved from the monthly bills of women-owned small businesses is much welcomed.

Tell your Senator to permanently extend ITFA today and keep Internet access free from new taxes.

Did You Really Mean That FCC?

 

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on a bill, HR 2666, which would prevent the FCC from regulating broadband rates. In fact, the FCC’s Chairman Tom Wheeler is quoted as saying “Let me be clear, the FCC will not impose ‘utility style’ regulation…” when
issuing the Commission’s decision to subject broadband service providers to regulations that govern telecommunications services – Title II of the Communications Act.

 

That begs the question, why pass a bill that reiterates what the Chairman promised? There are a couple of reasons why. First, FCC Commissioners do not have permanent appointments—they arinternet.jpge appointed by the President and serve five-year terms. While we doubt anyone questions Chairman Wheeler’s integrity, the next set of Commissioners may not hold the same view. Second, regulating rates in utility- style fashion does not really fit the fast moving technological changes that come with the industry providing internet services. Third, talk about a damper on investment – subjecting broadband networks to the government’s slow ratemaking process would surely have a negative effect.

 

As we understand this issue, no one is purporting to restrict the FCC’s ability to protect the consumer with respect to broadband access or technology companies who rely on an open internet to conduct business. Women-owned businesses have much to lose if the government does not properly balance internet access with regulation.

 

We are keenly aware that according to the SBA Office of Advocacy, “Small businesses, defined as firms employing fewer than 20 employees, bear the largest burden of federal regulations. As of 2008, small businesses face an annual regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee, which is 36 percent higher than the regulatory cost facing large firms (defined as firms with 500 or more employees).” Small businesses are usually the losers when it comes to more regulation.

 

The Congress ought to pass this bill. Broadband access is a critical lifeline to all businesses. Business certainty resonates throughout our economy—especially small companies. Putting the FCC intent into law with respect to broadband rate regulation is a good idea.

AT&T Announces Plans to Connect Everything We Own to Everywhere We Go

By Lynn Bunim, WIPP Membership & Special Programs Director

ATTAt its Developer Conference running in Las Vegas parallel to the Consumer Electronics Showcase, AT&T spent time talking up the potential of reaching its 132 million wireless customers and 45 million video customers. The change in the tenor, from showing off its newest phones or touting the latest upgrade that speeds up its wireless network, speaks to how AT&T plans to be a part of its customers new, more connected life. The carrier recognizes it is no longer enough to power your smartphone or home DSL connection. It wants to be the link that connects your car, the health devices that monitor your body and even the infrastructure in your city.

“This is a new AT&T,” Ralph de la Vega, CEO of the company’s mobility and enterprise business, said in his keynote address. The push is part of the Internet of Things trend. The idea is that every device — whether it’s a refrigerator or glucose monitor — talks to each other to better serve you, with AT&T angling to become the bridge between things. Those connections are going in everywhere, including coolers built by Red Bull that enable the company to track their location, state and temperature.

AT&T offered new information about its smart cities initiative, through which it promises to bring everything from traffic monitoring to electric grid management to gunfire detection into one comprehensive ecosystem. The program’s initial cities will be Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago, and it involves a huge range of partnerships, with giants including Cisco, Ericsson, GE, IBM, and Qualcomm. “We are going to go up the stack,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie. “We are going to bring things that are complete solutions.”

WIPP’s membership and WIPP’s Coalition Partners comprise thousands of entrepreneurs and women owned small businesses, all of whom are on the move all the time.  Improved connectivity could bring improved productivity for this important segment of the business community.

Resources:

 

Regulation or Innovation? Congress Will Weigh In On FCC Regs That Can Impact Advances In Technology And Wireless Access

19109887010_40b0dfa987_mOn November 17th, all five FCC commissioners are scheduled to appear at a Congressional hearing during which they will discuss the Commission’s work including the upcoming incentive auction and the open Internet order passed earlier this year.  This hearing is a very important opportunity for Congress to ensure the FCC’s recent actions on these issues serve the interests of the American people and our economy.

The economic landscape has changed drastically over the past few decades.  Advances in technology and broadband are changing consumer demand, and businesses and entrepreneurs must evolve in order to compete and thrive in today’s marketplace.  However, current FCC regulations are failing to keep up with these changes, and as a result are interfering with competitive industries’ efforts to innovate and grow.

For business owners, access to high-speed broadband enables increased efficiency of business operations, improved customer service, reduced cost, and the ability to reach new customers and markets.  Entrepreneurs also gain the flexibility to start and grow their businesses, whether they are working from an office, their home, or on the move.

The benefits of today’s broadband technology exist because of the hands-off regulatory approach the government applied to the Internet over twenty years ago.  This framework has a proven record of increasing private investment in new networks, enabling innovation to thrive, and expanding access to the highest quality broadband services to more consumers and businesses.

Unfortunately, the FCC could hurt this track record of success by changing course and adopting old regulations that were meant for the old telephone monopoly.  By saddling the Internet with price regulation micromanagement, among other things, the FCC is discouraging companies from building out their broadband infrastructures.  Similar policies have failed in Canada and the European Union.

The FCC’s regulatory overreach is a high-risk gamble. It puts consumers and businesses in harm’s way, risking the choice and lower costs we have experienced and benefitted from in the modern, broadband-connected world. Instead, we need to maintain the long-held, light touch policy. This approach will generate even more innovation and investment in our broadband infrastructure, crucial for business owners throughout the country.

Congress needs to hold the FCC to a high standard this Tuesday and ensure its actions help foster an innovative and competitive business environment.  This is the only way wants to provide consumers and business owners with access to the high-quality, affordable broadband services they need, while helping to grow our overall economy.

New Requirements for Credit Card Processing Requirements – How will they affect your business?

cc chip

Merchants of all sizes were required to upgrade their credit card processing technology to avoid liability for fraudulent charges by October 1st. The House Committee on Small Business held a two-part hearing series on implementation of new credit card technology designed to increase security and prevent fraud. This industry-led changeover will require all businesses to use the Europay – MasterCard – Visa (EMV) chip system to process credit card transactions. To affect this change, financial services providers will no longer be liable for instances of fraud if the merchant has not upgraded to the EMV chip system

The hearings offered interesting, and often contrasting, perspectives on this issue. At the first hearing, representatives from the financial industry praised the upgrades and highlighted the protections that the EMV chip system offers. The second hearing, featuring small business owners that need to implement these changes, revealed a much more complex situation. While witnesses at both hearings and the Committee members generally agreed that the EMV system offers more sophisticated fraud protections, implementing these modifications is a significant burden for small businesses.

Despite the outreach efforts of financial firms, small business owners are generally not aware of these changes. According to a recent study about preparedness for this changeover, less than half of small businesses were aware of the October 1st changeover deadline and liability shift.

Small businesses will have to purchase equipment to process sales using the new chips, but the required upgrades do not stop there. Integrating the new technology with point-of-sale terminals, inventory management tools, and other systems could exponentially inflate costs. Given integration, software upgrades, training, and ongoing maintenance, a quick and easy changeover is unlikely.

Please see the links below for several resources for small businesses to prepare them for the change:

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8264-credit-card-processing-changes.html

http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/emv-faq-chip-cards-answers-1264.php

http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/02/06/october-2015-the-end-of-the-swipe-and-sign-credit-card/