Encryption Regulations Entrenched This Year: The infotech industry won't loosen government controls on encryption technology this year, say industry observers. Although three bills have been introduced to sharply curb regulations that hinder the export of encryption, a packed calendar, the November election and White House opposition have postponed the important congressional votes until next year.

Lott Backpedals on Digital TV Spectrum: Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., has backtracked on a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission by himself and Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. The letter effectively ended congressional efforts to charge TV broadcasters for the use of digital TV spectrum. Lott's back-step was partly in deference to Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., the chairman of the Senate's commerce committee. Pressler, who faces a tough re-election battle this November, has called on the TV industry to pay for the new spectrum. The spectrum is estimated to be worth $71 billion. Despite the lure of that huge pile of cash, don't expect any action this year; the politicians all want favorable coverage from their local TV stations during the election campaign.

No-Shows on Capitol Hill: White House officials declined to appear at a science-budget hearing called June 26 by Rep. Bob Walker, R-Pa., chairman of the House Committee on Science. Walker had called the hearing after administration officials had suggested that President Clinton's seven-year balanced budget plan was having little effect on budget plans being prepared by NASA, the Energy Department and the National Science Foundation. Clinton's plan fails to identify how $67 billion in projected cuts would be realized by 2002, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and if fully implemented, could cut science spending by 24.5 percent over seven years, according to the Washington-based American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It's Round Two for Semiconductor Pact: Expect a diplomatic fight over the extension of the 1986 U.S.-Japan Semiconductor Agreement, which opened the Japanese market to sales of U.S.-built computer chips. The agreement expires July 31. The Japanese don't want to extend it, saying North American companies supply 78 percent of the Japanese market's demand for microprocessor units. However, U.S. industry officials say the agreement should be continued to help erode trade barriers.

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