Tech Issues Flood The Hill This Week

By Cameron
November 16, 2005

It’s November and Congress is supposed to be long gone, but finalizing this year’s budget remains a key sticking point. While trying to strike a deal, they are looking into a host of other things. There is a bit too much going on for us to analyze right now, so we thought we would post highlights of some of this week’s developments:


Yesterday House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Democrat’s innovation policy agenda. Here is a sampling of their proposals:

  • “We will add 100,000 new scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to America’s workforce in the next four years by providing scholarships, other financial assistance, and private sector opportunities to college students to achieve this goal.”
  • “Our agenda will double federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences, and promote the public-private partnerships that will translate new ideas into marketable technologies.”
  • “We will create research “centers of excellence” across the country, and modernize and make permanent the R&D tax credit.”
  • “Our agenda guarantees that every American will have affordable access to broadband within five years.”
  • “Our agenda commits to protecting the intellectual property of American innovators worldwide.”

To be bipartisan in this post, here is a sampling of the House Republican high-tech agenda that was unveiled in May:

  • “We will seek to extend the R&D tax credit and ensure that basic federal R&D spending is sufficient to maintain U.S. technological edge.”
  • “We will continue to prepare and develop workers for an information economy by supporting education reforms and funding that improve American’s math and science programs in order to fill high-tech jobs.”
  • “We will continue to promote free and fair trade by lowering barriers and supporting trade agreements like CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).”
  • “We will promote and enforce strong copyright and patent protection laws to prevent and combat the growing trend of digital piracy.”
  • “We will work to fulfill the President’s goal of access to broadband by working to create economic incentives, to remove regulatory barriers, and to promote new technologies to help make broadband affordable for all Americans.

While similar in several spots, one of the things that immediately jumps out is that the Democratic proposal calls for specific increases to basic research in the physical sciences, while the Republican proposal is more vague and may not include research grant programs. We’ll try to do a side-by-side at some point.

Internet Governance:

The Wall Street Journal (sub. required), AP, and a bunch of other sources are reporting that a “deal” was reached on ICANN’s role over Internet Governance issues. We’ve discussed some of the mounting tension in previous posts. While the reports aren’t entirely clear, apparently ICANN will continue its role, but hold listening sessions around the world on Internet issues. The House of Representatives unanimously passed a non-binding resolution today about the current controversy. Here is part of the text from the House resolution:

(1) it is incumbent upon the United States and other responsible governments to send clear signals to the marketplace that the current structure of oversight and management of the Internet’s domain name and addressing service works, and will continue to deliver tangible benefits to Internet users worldwide in the future; and

(2) therefore the authoritative root zone server should remain physically located in the United States and the Secretary of Commerce should maintain oversight of ICANN so that ICANN can continue to manage the day-to-day operation of the Internet’s domain name and addressing system well, remain responsive to all Internet stakeholders worldwide, and otherwise fulfill its core technical mission.

“Fair Use”:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing titled “Fair Use: Its Effects on Consumers and Industry.” Here is the witness list with links to the testimony:

Mr. Peter Jaszi, American University;
Mr. Gary Shapiro, Consumer Electronics Association;
Ms. Prudence S. Adler, Association of Research Libraries;
Mr. Jonathan Band, PLLC, NetCoalition;
Ms. Gigi B. Sohn, Public Knowledge;
Mr. James V. DeLong, Progress & Freedom Foundation;
Mr. Frederic Hirsch, Entertainment Software Association;
Mr. Paul Aiken, Authors Guild, Inc.

The point of the hearing was to explore what are some of the benefits of the fair use doctrine on technology development. Unofficially, it looks pretty likely that it was an effort to push back on the House Judiciary’s efforts to restrict fair use, such as its proposal to close the so-called “analog hole.”