Encryption: Industry executives welcomed two new encryption-decontrol bills introduced by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The bills reflect industry's increased opposition to government controls on encryption technology and would effectively bar encryption-export restrictions and hobble the government's effort to promote key-escrow technology. Both bills have attracted significant support in the Senate. To defeat the bills, the White House and the FBI may call upon one of their most powerful lobbying forces - the various state police associations, which are fearful that encryption technology could deafen their wiretaps on criminals' conversations.

Internet Fees: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has thrown his weight against any proposal to levy extra telecommunications fees on Internet users. McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, is in a position to enforce his views. McCain has promised to further explain his opinion at a March 12 hearing.

TV Technology: In hearings and speeches, members of Congress have stepped up the pressure on the TV industry to devise easier labeling technology, so parents could automatically screen out unwelcome TV shows. However, the TV industry opposes any change in its labeling plan, and has the lobbying clout to resist all but the strongest pressure.

8(a): Some proponents of the 8(a) program and other set-asides for minority businesses are concerned that the Department of Justice may toughen draft rules governing the program because of pressure being brought by several lawsuits. However, there is no evidence that the Justice Department will soon release its draft rules.

Software Piracy: In a
submission to the United States Trade Representative, the Washington-based Business Software Alliance fingered the Russian Federation and Paraguay as hotbeds of software piracy. Because of the piracy, U.S. companies lost sales worth $294.8 million in Russia and $4.6 million in Paraguay, according to the BSA, which is backed by Microsoft Corp. and several other software companies, If the USTR accepts the submission, the U.S. government will threaten both countries with trade sanctions unless their police forces curb software piracy.

-Neil Munro

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