Tech Policy Preview for 2011

November 10, 2010

Senator McConnell announced last Thursday that he’s resolved to stop any and all legislative initiatives supported by the White House and/or the Democratic Majority in the Senate. Current House Minority Leader John Boehner, however, has expressed an interest in working with the President and across the aisle in Congress on the chief priority identified by the American people last week — jobs and the economy –should he be elected Speaker in the 112th Congress.

The tech industry will feel the loss of Speaker Pelosi and of Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher from their majority leadership posts, but the ascendancy of Republican leaders like Congressmen Lamar Smith, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., (Judiciary), Fred Upton, (Energy & Commerce) and Darryl Issa (Oversight) are an indication that some of our new leaders will be folks who understand technology issues like patent law reform and spectrum policy, and have often eschewed extreme partisanship.

Meanwhile, many senior House Democrats with leadership ability and expertise in tech and telecom are not going anywhere. These would include Zoe Lofgren, Ed Markey, Anna Eshoo, Mike Doyle and Jay Inslee among others, who fully understand the importance of online privacy and global Internet freedom. Perhaps one of these members will step up to replace Boucher on the Congressional Internet Caucus.

The Commerce Department is currently collecting industry perspectives on global free flow of information on the Internet. The free trade implications of foreign government restrictions on Internet communications and transactions are coming under increased and serious scrutiny.

In the Senate, both senior and younger tech leaders like Leahy, Kerry, Wyden, Hatch, Thune, Cantwell, Klobuchar, Warner and Gillibrand may resume their pursuit of bipartisan legislation on patent reform, broadband access, funding the America COMPETES Act, and next generation public safety devices. Senator Landrieu, who chairs the Small Business Committee, clearly understands the importance of broadband access to America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses, particularly in inner city and rural areas.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller has a strong consumer protection orientation when it comes to broadband deployment in rural areas and preserving public access to the open Internet. Staff indicates he will be focusing on privacy and data breach issues, FCC Title II safeguards for Internet access, broadcast TV retransmission consent and cybersecurity.

The newly elected junior Senator from West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin has also had a longstanding interest in rural broadband deployment. These two will be a force to be reckoned with in the context of transitioning the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF) to support both fixed and mobile broadband Internet connectivity.

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