Capital Roundup

Take a Closer Look<@VM>Encryption Skirmishing<@VM>Good Faith With Justice<@VM>On the State Side

By David Silverberg

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has declared he will introduce legislation requiring the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration to analyze the factors and issues surrounding broadband access to the Internet with a special emphasis on rural and low income areas.

Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., are pledged as co-sponsors.

McCain announced his intentions at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on cable industry plans to offer Internet access. In part, McCain was responding to a February FCC decision not to do such a study but to continue monitoring the market. McCain intends to hold a second hearing on the issue, but no date has been set.

In another plunge into the waters of information policy, McCain also introduced the PROTECT act to ease export restrictions on encryption technology.

His bill is similar to legislation introduced by Burns and the SAFE Act introduced by Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., in the House. According to McCain, he and Burns have been working to reach a compromise on lifting the export restrictions.

Four telecommunications industry associations have reaffirmed a good faith agreement with the Justice Department to seek a 60-day stay from a court case over the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

In a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the Personal Communications Industry Association, the Telecommunications Industry Association and the United States Telephone Association pledged to work with the department to conclude an implementation plan that would allow law enforcement access to continue to tap digital networks, but in a "reasonably achievable, cost-effective manner" within a $500 million authorization limit.

In their lawsuit, the associations argued that FBI regulations failed to reimburse the companies and manufacturers for the costs of complying with CALEA.

Alan Hald

The Maryland General Assembly has passed a bill offering tax credits to companies for IT training expenditures. It is the first legislation of its kind to pass in the country and is now awaiting the governor's signature. House Bill 1176 provides a 25 percent credit up to $6,000 for companies and individuals who undergo training outside of a two- or four-year college program.

In Congress, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., introduced the Information Technology Training Act in February, which would provide the same kind of credits on a national basis.

"The passage of this bill in Maryland should encourage other legislative bodies to enact similar measures," Alan Hald, chairman of the Computing Technology Industry Association's public policy committee, said in a press statement. "In order for legislation like this to succeed in Congress and other states, we'll need the grass-roots involvement of more companies and associations in the IT sector."

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