Technology is a critical component of America’s economic future. In order to ensure continued growth in this area – and revitalize those areas that are depressed –government must be responsive to the needs of private industry.
My experience in Congress has taught me that all too often communication breaks down between government and private industry. The Republican High Tech Task Force was established to solve that problem by serving as a portal for the technology community, where their issues will be heard, addressed and disseminated among other members of the United States Senate. I am honored that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist appointed me to lead the High Tech Task Force as its chairman, and I want to share some of my goals for the coming session.
During the 108th Congress, the High Tech Task Force will be acting on some of the technology community’s top priorities, which have been identified during our numerous and ongoing discussion and strategy sessions. Some of those priorities include:
Creating fair tax treatment for technology
Current tax law is not designed for the fast-changing nature of the technology industry. I have already introduced the Invest in the U.S.A. Act in the Senate. This legislation would allow technology companies with foreign subsidiaries to bring billions of dollars back home to invest in the American economy.
Opposing efforts to expense stock options
Mandatory expensing of stock options will have an enormous negative impact on the growth of technology enterprises and the financial stability of thousands of rank-and-file employees in the American economy. Investors deserve clear, straightforward, transparent information about corporate balance sheets. I plan to introduce legislation to achieve this goal.
Guarding against piracy in the digital age
Theft of digital content is a problem that is only going to get worse. We will continue to advocate for strong enforcement of anti-piracy laws already on the books and fight against heavy-handed technology mandates.
Deploying broadband networks
Broadband (high-speed) deployment is a critical component in helping resurrect the telecom sector of our economy. Following the enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the American economy experienced unprecedented expansion, largely due to investments in telecommunications and technology. However, in March of 2000 the bubble burst and since then, billions in investment dollars have bled from capital markets. Once profitable businesses have gone bankrupt and thousands of employees have been laid off. The Task Force is expected to advocate for deployment of wire-line broadband networks through tax incentives and fair regulatory treatment, as well as advocate for the expansion of wireless broadband.
Privacy is a growing concern among Internet users, and the Task Force supports industry-led efforts to bring a greater level of privacy and security to American consumers. However, as the privacy debate continues to progress in the Senate, the Task Force will fight to ensure any privacy legislation is fair to both on-line and off-line retailers and that such legislation does not provide new opportunities for private rights of action.
Advocating DTV transition
The transition to digital television will be one of the greatest technological challenges of this decade. In 1996, broadcasters were given valuable spectrum for free until 2006 or when 85 percent of the viewing markets have digital capability. As 2006 approaches, and as there is a growing need for more commercial wireless spectrum, the television industry needs to work cooperatively among different industry segments in order to achieve a timely, seamless transition. DTV will change the face of television viewing across America, and when the transition occurs, vast amounts of wireless spectrum will become available for commercial use and sale at auction. The Task Force is expected to be actively involved in the process on behalf of American consumers.
Fighting Internet Taxation
One of the greatest obstacles to consumer adoption of broadband (high-speed) Internet is the cost of the service. If federal, state and local governments are allowed to tax access to such services, the price will increase and consumer adoption will inevitably decrease. National broadband policies should encourage the adoption of broadband services; therefore, the Task Force will advocate against the imposition of onerous taxes on Internet access.
I will work to ensure that regulations and bureaucracy are not excuses for the United States not to be the global leader in the technology sector. The American sense of entrepreneurship and invention, coupled with lawmakers who want to encourage growth and opportunity, will ensure all Americans benefit from the new frontier of technology.