Senator Burns gets it

These five legislative priorities are at the top of my list.

Senator Conrad Burns wasted little time identifying the most important tech issues facing the 107th Congress, as a news story on our site today outlines. In case you have a hard time wading through Brian Krebs’ scattershot report, here is my take on five items on the list:

Antispam: long overdue, this item is even more urgent this year as spammers are taking advantage of loopholes in past legislation to flood companies’ e-mail servers with junk. The most bothersome are the several I get a day advertising “100,000 targeted e-mail accounts.” Targeted my tush. But dollars for enforcement need to accompany any antispam measure. Most of the spammers out there could be prosecuted for violating a variety of existing laws. Privacy: Another area in which we need protection from businesses that infringe on our personal space, whether online or in wireless communications. I’ve been warning of a consumer backlash for a while now. Given the fragile state of the Internet economy, a consumer backlash would cripple B2C at a critical juncture. Rural broadband: Tax incentives to businesses that buildout broadband to less populated areas are needed if we are to avoid having 98 percent of the population living on 2 percent of the land. Relief for local exchange carriers: The pressure will be on as the Baby Bells push for legislation that would eliminate hope for local telecom competition established by the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Burns’ bill would exempt small telecom carriers that provide less than 2 percent of the nation’s telephone service from regulation. ICANN oversight: This aristocracy has so muddled the domain name space that it will cost businesses billions to protect their brands on the Internet. Only two of the new domains make any sense at all. And the process by which the group chose the new domains is even more curious.

While some of the items on his list are new, versions of many of them were introduced but dropped amid the budget gridlock that plagued the 106th Congress. My hope is that bipartisanship will help get at least some of these things through to President Bush before the Internet crumbles under its own weight.

James Mathewson is editorial director of ComputerUser.com ad ComputerUser magazine.

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