New Congress: Boehner, McConnell agenda hints toward patent, telecom reform

By Josh Peterson | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Patents and telecom may be part of the legislative and regulatory reform agenda for the new Congress.

United States Senator and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, McConnell won reelection, making him the new Senate majority leader in the new Congress.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., outlined their vision for the next two years in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday evening, saying they will focus on taxes, education, repealing Obamacare and battling al-Qaida and ISIS.

When tech policy advocates welcomed the new Congress after Tuesday evening’s Republican takeover, immigration, privacy and national security, net neutrality and telecom and patent reform were all on the table.

Patent trolls, also called patent assertion entities, have been a problem for American businesses — particularly in the tech community — filing lawsuits against companies that allegedly violated the PAE’s patent, in an effort to collect settlements and licensing fees.

Among the issues Boehner and McConnell said they would address “head-on” are “(e)xcessive regulations and frivolous lawsuits that are driving up costs for families and preventing the economy from growing … ”

Boehner said that they would address “(a)n antiquated government bureaucracy ill-equipped to serve a citizenry facing 21st-century challenges, from disease control to caring for veterans … ”

Both Republicans and Democrats have decried government bureaucracy as a hindrance to innovation, and Republicans in the House and the Senate have explored the possibility of reforming the nation’s communications laws as one way to end the inevitable lawsuits when the Federal Communications Commission tries to regulate the Internet.

In addition to the new Congress fighting blanket surveillance by the National Security Agency, free market think tank TechFreedom’s president Berin Szoka recommended Republicans favor new legislation over efforts of the FCC to regulate the Internet.

“The Digital Age Communications Act (DACA) would give the FCC the broad authority it has long sought to police all forms of Internet traffic — but constrain that authority by requiring the FCC to prove that regulation would actually make consumers better off,” wrote Szoka in a blog post.

Szoka suggested combing DACA with net neutrality rules and “pro-deployment reforms,” enabling Republicans to “finally shift the net neutrality conversation from regulation to competition.”

“In short, Republicans could claim both victory and pragmatism on the issue that has bitterly divided the tech world for nearly a decade,” he said.

The Consumer Electronics Association encouraged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to tackle the issue of patent trolls during the last few months of his leadership of the Senate. For the new Congress, CEA’s recommendations were less esoteric.

“The growing debt, out of control entitlements, a broken tax system and immigration reform are real issues which we must resolve for the next generation,” said Gary Shapiro, CEA’s president and CEO.

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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