International Security Studies


The Internet Policy Agenda of the 107th Congress

March 27, 2001 // 11:00pm

Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA), co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, addressed an audience of 36 high technology business executives, government officials, and foreign embassy staff at a session of the Wilson Center's "Sovereignty in the Digital Age" program.

The session was chaired by Les Simon, Senior Policy Scholar at the Center. Congressman Boucher, who has played a key role in the development of the Internet and electronic commerce, spoke on "The Internet Agenda for the 107th Congress."

The Congressman's first topic was Internet privacy. Because of the Internet's technological abilities to invade individual privacy, he said, some minimal federal standards are needed to protect individual privacy. To achieve this, he and Congressman Goodlatte (R-VA) are introducing legislation to require Web sites to publish their privacy practices and mandating minimal standards for those practices. The Congressman noted that a number of high technology companies, including Intel and Hewlett-Packard, were supporting the legislation.

Congressman Boucher also addressed a number of telecommunications issues, including the need for open access to the Internet, not only over telephone lines, but through cable modems, satellite services, and through the next generation of wireless offerings. He made the point, for example, that interactive television services should have direct access to users, without interference from cable companies or other providers.

Among the other topics addressed by Congressman Boucher were the need to deregulate the Internet backbone, the need for FCC reform, and the need to protect the "fair use" doctrine of intellectual property rights on the Internet. He made the point that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may have gone too far in protecting the rights of copyright owners.

While the Congressman also said he supported an extension of the current moratorium on new taxes on the Internet, he thought the real issue to be resolved was the proper escrowing of sales taxes, which was a complex issues involving the fifty states.

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