has tech marketing agenda
March 26, 2001
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
the Justice Department vs. Microsoft Corp. antitrust case began,
stories about high-tech companies taking an interest in Washington
have run regularly. Now, Washington is taking an interest in high-tech.
bipartisan leadership of Republican Rep. Jerry Weller of Illinois
and Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, the 107th Congress
is looking at technology policy and some critical issues.
these Congressional leaders met witha group of industry executives
in a session pulled together by Techissues.net and the organizers
of the COMDEX trade shows.
legislators’ concerns are:
wireless penetration: Is this technology reaching enough
Americans? Is the Telecommunications Act of 1996 effective in
spreading innovative technology? Should the Federal Communications
Commission be reorganized?
Internet commerce: It’s not a question of if
commerce should be taxed on the Internet, but when and how.
and intellectual property: Congressional leaders see
these issues as intertwined, and while they want to protect
individuals’ rights to privacy, they also want to make
sure content creators are rewarded for their efforts.
and national defense: Congressional leaders are concerned
divide and education: Congress sees that technology
improves educational development and wants to share it fairly.
development: Lawmakers worry that unrealistic exuberance
has turned to excessive pessimism.
Understanding the technology: Congress respects the power of
new technology, and members want to learn more about it.
all this mean for marketers? Plenty. Take broadband penetration:
Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin of Louisiana, Chairman of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee, laments that broadband service
is only available to about 5% of the population.
brought penetration up to 25%, just think what the impact would
be on the stock market," he says. And he’s right.
don’t expect the Internet to remain a tax-free haven. But,
says Ellen Fishbein,director of taxation at AOL who spoke on one
of the day’s panels, there are some issues to be ironed
need uniform product definitions across state lines; you can’t
collect tax on the sale of a package of peanuts if it’s
classified as a commodity in one state, a snack food in another
state and an ingredient in another state. You need a central point
of registration—a clearinghouse, so to speak. You need one
tax rate across each state ... and you need a third party that
would oversee the entire process."
and intellectual property planks seem to be coming together quickly.
If the courts don’t put Napster out of business, my guess
is the 107th Congress will. Rep. Tauzin and his colleagues have
the power to stimulate marketplace reforms and assure what he
describes as "fair use and protection of creativity."
All the members
of Congress who met with us seemed concernedabout technology’s
economic benefits. Rep. Weller was quick to point out that America
has more than 100 million people online, more than 5 million Americans
work in high-tech industries, and that technology is now the country’s
No. 1 export. At a time when recession seems to be looming, he
reminded us that there’s room for 1.6 million new high-tech
service jobs in the economy, and yet 800,000 of them will go unfilled.
On the digital
divide front, Democrat Rep. Silvestre Reyas of Texas, Chairman
of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, wants access and regulation
to "assure that our new technology is inclusive and available
to all people across the country."
the members of the 107th Congress were off to a good start with
a range of reasonable ideas and a spirit of open-mindedness. Toward
the end of the week, I happened to hear the chairman and CEO of
Qwest Communications, Joe Nacchio, speak at a technology conference
at Wharton. Nacchio, one of the telecom industry’s leaders
in deploying fiber optic-based technology, said the problem with
government regulation is that "by the time the laws are passed,
the issues have passed them by."
I hope Rep.
Weller and his colleagues have on their Nikes.
Michael Krauss is a partner with DiamondCluster International
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.