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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Returning to the chair of the US Senate Communications Subcommittee, Senator Conrad Burns last week outlined ten policy priorities for the 2003 legislative session. Themes of internet security, broadband adoption, spectrum management and spam are predominant.

The three "centerpiece" parts of the agenda are spam, spectrum reform and E-911. Other "priority items" are broadband expensing, ICANN reform, wireless privacy, online privacy, universal service reform, digital democracy, and the US Asia network.

Burns said: "In this era of consolidation, terrorism, and rapid technological innovation, I intend to use this chairmanship of the Senate Communications Subcommittee to provide greater security and to shepherd much-needed reform for consumers."

Burns said at a press conference Thursday that he will, before the summer, re-introduce the CAN-SPAM Bill, which he introduced with Senator Ron Wyden last year, when it passed through the committee but did not make it into law.

He said the bill could save US business $9bn a year by requiring spammers to provide an unsubscribe option to those they spam. "Harsh" penalties would be imposed on spammers who try to spoof their identities to evade detection, he said.

Burns also proposes scrapping the auction model of allocating wireless spectrum to companies, saying it didn't work in Europe and is responsible for bankrupting carriers. In its place, the senator is expected to propose a royalty-based model in legislation.

"Spectrum reform is long-overdue," Burns said in a statement. "In Europe we have witnessed how the system failed consumers, and we must avoid implementing a similarly exploitative process in the United States."

The Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, a popular whipping boy on Capitol Hill, also will come in for renewed scrutiny, with hearings "to address potential legislation to authorize ICANN's continued existence" planned for the spring. The senator has been on ICANN's case for years.

Burns will "take aim" at ICANN's "persistent half-hearted efforts at internal reform", he said. The committee will also rehash the issue of whether ICANN's existence is constitutionally legal and accountable, as well as whether its responsibilities have any impact on national security.

Burns also makes privacy, both on the internet and the airwaves, a priority for his chairmanship. Bans on cellular eavesdropping and a two-tiered opt-in/opt-out approach to the use and storage of personal information given out online are expected to be proposed for legislation.

Also on the cards is a bill giving tax breaks to broadband service providers, that Burns said will allow them to "expense" their investments in network rollouts. The bill is designed to bring high speed internet access to rural and remote areas, Burns said.

© ComputerWire

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