Summary: CCIA’s 2008 Washington Caucus

May 14, 2008

At the Washington Caucus May 6, tech executives had the chance to engage in a dialogue and to get an update on tech measures, including several which have been stalled in Congress this session. Sixteen officials and members of Congress shared their insights on issues from patent reform to trade, FISA legislation, net neutrality, and broadband deployment, among others. While this report focuses on what CCIA members and guests heard from our distinguished presenters, the format offered frequent opportunities for CCIA’s views to be presented, and for comments, questions, and feedback from all those attending.

Several lawmakers expressed frustration that some of their colleagues still don’t understand what’s at stake in the debate over preserving principles that have been part of the Internet’s success, net neutrality and fair use. They said the economic interests of some shouldn’t be put above operating principles that allowed innovators to found companies that could compete from the start against those with similar business models.

Many also mentioned the need for a national broadband policy to spur both competition and deployment, which they linked to innovation. FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said broadband plays a role in all the big issues the nation is facing, the economy, global competitiveness, energy and the environment.

Another issue raised by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers was the lack of antitrust oversight in recent years. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he sees little evidence the scores of antitrust lawyers at the Department of Justice are working.

There were also bipartisan admissions that trade issues have become too politicized and that Congress needed to pass the Colombia trade agreement. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he hopes Congress can ultimately have a trade policy debate without the need to score political points.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., who gave the lunch keynote despite undergoing chemotherapy, walked through the U-shaped table where executives asked questions and engaged in the discussion. Specter outlined the obstacles remaining on the patent reform bill. He also vowed to continue his fight against retroactive immunity for telecom companies in the FISA legislation, saying the lawsuits were needed to provide judicial oversight over the actions of the companies and the administration.

In the afternoon, buses took executives to the Folger Shakespeare Library where two members of Congress as well as an incoming member spoke. The new FTC chairman, William Kovacic, gave an energetic breakfast speech Wednesday morning on his goals during his tenure.

Lawmakers thanked CCIA and its members for their voice on issues like trade and patent reform and for standing up for consumers on telecom issues, saying it helped sway colleagues to do the right thing. But one also said more must be done to counter the views of opponents, whose lobbying operations have been around longer and spend more. “It’s like baseball, when only one team shows up, the other forfeits,” Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn. said.

Click here for full Caucus report

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