2006 in Congress

[SOURCE: CIO Magazine, AUTHOR: Grant Gross]
The U.S. Congress will face a broad range of technology-related issues, including communications law reform and data-privacy issues, when it returns to work in 2006. Telecom reform could take up a large chunk of Congress’ limited tech bandwidth, and other issues in Washington, D.C., including the Iraq war, could sidetrack tech issues. It’s also an election year, for all of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. Congressional leaders will be under pressure to adjourn early in the fourth quarter of the year, so that lawmakers can campaign for re-election. "The political environment will only increase in intensity as we go through the year," predicted Jack Krumholtz, Microsoft’s managing director of federal government affairs. That said, here are some tech-related issues likely to come up in Congress during 2006. 1) Telecom reform: Last year, the House Commerce Committee looked at two drafts of telecom reform legislation. A key issue in 2006 will be net neutrality. Two large telecom carriers have proposed walling off their broadband television services from other Internet access. Net neutrality advocates -- including Microsoft, Google, and eBay -- say such a provision is needed to prevent broadband providers from selling off access to their highest speed services to a handful of partners. Without a net neutrality provision, innovation online could be hurt, with small, groundbreaking companies relegated to a second tier of service, net neutrality advocates say. The House draft bills also would streamline cable television franchising requirements, clearing the way for telecom companies like Verizon and AT&T to offer broadband television in competition with cable providers. Cable companies argue that the telecom giants should jump through the same hoops as they had to, but the telecom providers say it would take them decades to get thousands of local franchise approvals.



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