State of the Union 2015: 5 Takeaways From the Most Tech Heavy Address in History

The clapping and cheering may be over, but Tuesday night's State of the Union in 2015 will live on for IT folks.

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Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The most tech heavy address in history

Many of President Obama's proposals, which have languished in Congress for years but now garner wider support than ever given the consistent and high profile of breaches and cyber attacks, would impact the IT field. Here are the top five things to be on the lookout for in the year ahead.

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Credit: REUTERS/RNGS Reuters
‘The evolving threat of cyber attacks’

President Obama urged Congress to finally act on cybersecurity legislation. Companies have been hesitant to back the legislation because it would require data sharing with the government, which they fear could expose them to shareholder lawsuits or possibly cost them customers. However, the need for action came to the national fore most notably following the attack on Sony Pictures over the movie “The Interview,” which the government has attributed to North Korea. The President has also called for tougher penalties for computer hacking, and to create nationwide cyber defense standards. With greater backing than ever, and a nation-state having taken destructive action on a private company withing the US, expect legislation to move forward -- so start preparing, IT execs.

Quote: "No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids." -- President Obama

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Credit: REUTERS/Rick Wilking
2014: The year of the breach

Many security experts have dubbed 2014 the year of the breach, following most notably the major attack on Target. The administration will call for better protecting student data, as well improving data breach notification rules -- a push that has won industry support. Most states have their own breach notification laws, but there’s no national standard after a decade of trying in Congress to get one passed. The new law would require that customers be notified within 30 days of a data breach. The President has also called for broadening the definition of hacking and increasing penalties.

Quote: "If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe." -- President Obama

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Keeping the Internet open

All eyes are on how net neutrality will play out, and Obama on Tuesday gave his unequivocal support for keeping the internet open. That move, before the FCC vote on net neutrality in February, has the Electronic Frontier Foundation "encouraged." Without protection, tech giants including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T would be allowed to "throttle" internet users' access to sites and services that refuse to pay them for fast lane access. It's ultimately up to the FCC, but the administration used the State of the Union to double down on its backing of net neutrality.

Quote: "I intend to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world." -- President Obama.

End of tax breaks for big tech

With tech giants having avoided paying some or all corporate tax in the US for years thanks to loopholes, one way the President plans to pay for some of his initiatives is to change the tax code. Apple and Google have been creative in avoiding taxation, but so have many other big firms. One worry: Changes to the tax code might put the squeeze on IT.

Quote: "For far too long, lobbyists have rigged the tax code with loopholes that let some corporations pay nothing while others pay full freight. They’ve riddled it with giveaways the super rich don’t need, denying a break to middle class families who do. … Let’s simplify the system and let a small business owner file based on her actual bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford." -- President Obama.

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Free community college: Just what new legislation ordered?

Who’s going to take on the new cybersecurity requirements that could finally come? How about some fresh community college and technical school graduates? President Obama outlined what he called a "bold" plan on Tuesday to make two years of community college and technical schools free for some. He also called for extending tax credits for college. This education push could, in coming years, relieve some of the pressure given some of the new requirements on businesses.

Quote: "By the end of this decade, two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It’s not fair to them, and it’s not smart for our future. That’s why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero." -- President Obama