Credit: Amanda Walker
With a U.S. government shutdown looming, most everyone's asking: How will this affect me? The tech sector's no different -- and given how many government agencies deal with, use, or manage technology in some way, they've got good reason to be worried.
The good news: Not everything will be disabled. A shutdown doesn't affect the entire federal government, only those services which are deemed "nonessential" -- which works out to about 41 percent of the government's workforce; emergency management, the military, law enforcement, senators, and congressmen would stay on the job.
The bad news: A lot of what will get shut down can have a major impact on the technology world, either directly or indirectly.
Here's a rundown of all the key ways a government shutdown could affect the tech sector:
What won't work
Third-party government contractors. The single most visible affect of the shutdown will be on every third-party contractor -- from big players with government contracts like Google or Microsoft, down to the two million or so civilian workers who operate on government contracts. Many of them provide IT services through smaller firms; many of them will have to improvise in figuring out how to deal with their employees' pay. It also means no new contracts will be struck, so anyone waiting on the government to come through with a deal will continue to wait.
Passport processing and other citizenship functions. Tech workers looking to get into (or stay in) the country won't be able to get any passport or other citizenship-related paperwork, such as H-1B visas, processed during the shutdown.
Authorizations of new equipment through the FCC. Sadly, most of the FCC' s operations will be offline during a shutdown. Any services relating to the management of spectrum, consumer protection, enforcement of competition, authorizations of equipment, or other paperwork-style handling of technology issues will all be out of commission. About the only part of the FCC deemed an essential service is the handling of emergency contacts (e.g., the Emergency Alert System).
The Do Not Call registry and the Consumer Response Center. The FTC's Do Not Call registry will be offline during the shutdown, along with any CAN-SPAM enforcement. Both of these are controlled by the Federal Trade Commission, which is being stripped down to its bare essentials (pretty much only those working on pending litigation).
Freedom of Information Act requests. Another "nonessential" FTC service, FOIA requests are used by a great many tech whistleblowers. All FOIA processing will be put on hold.
IPOs. If a government shutdown takes place, the Securities and Exchange Commission will be one of the affected branches -- which means companies filing for IPOs (Twitter, for instance) would have that paperwork stalled in medias res. No new filings will be accepted during a shutdown, either.