Congressional panel exploring ways to help tech companies

April 18, 2011 7:00:51 PM PDT
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing in San Jose on Monday to lend its ear to issues the tech industry would like addressed, and it lined up three witnesses who are bringing divergent views to the process. Google, Microsoft and Rivet Software each laid out their individual concerns.

Committee chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista near San Diego, says his goal is to hold government accountable to taxpayers and to look for ways to get government out of the way of businesses so they can innovate and create jobs.

Each of the companies that testified Monday brought a different perspective. Google, for example, is concerned about infrastructure impediments that make it difficult to deploy high-speed Internet across the country. Google recently selected Kansas City as its launch site for the Google Fiber Project. It would like to see local communities dig once when opening the ground for utility and fiber optic pipelines, along with other utility easements. It also complains that outdated regulations impede the ability for new fiber cabling to be attached to existing utility poles.

The search engine giant pointed out how much money and time are wasted digging trenches over and over when fiber optic cable needs to be installed.

"When a telecom operator wants to open a road to lay new fiber or new infrastructure, that that be publicized so that others could actually gain access to that same project so you don't have to rip open the ground multiple times," said Milo Medin, Google access services vice president.

Microsoft would like to see the issues of privacy and security addressed as technology companies gravitate to cloud computing. (Cloud computing is the central storage of users' data in large data centers that a user can access wherever they are -- at home, at work, or on-the-go.) It would like transparency in those privacy policies and enhanced criminal enforcement when cloud computing data centers are compromised.

"We urge Congress to consider legislation that would 1) require cloud service providers to make their privacy and security practices transparent to customers, 2) ensure rigor in federal government procurement of cloud services by requiring agencies to evaluate provider security practices," said Stuart McKee, Microsoft public sector tech officer.

Microsoft also would like to see the passage of Free Trade Agreements that contain protection for the intellectual property of American firms that sell in the global marketplace.

A third company, Rivet Software, which helps companies organize their financial data, urged the government to do the same with all the data it is collecting and making available to the public so that the public can digest and understand the information. It cites the Recovery.gov website, where the dispersal and spending of federal stimulus funding is tracked, as an example of the massive amounts of data the government is generating in its mission to be transparent.

Overall, the ideas being advanced are not high-ticket items. Given the state of the federal budget, the committee chair says that's a good thing.

"We spend an awful lot of money doing it wrong and we spend more money doing it over," said Issa. "If we can in fact refine our requests, particularly when we're leveraging state and local money, if we can refine them to be more efficient, everybody saves."

There is no pending legislation, but Monday's input will be useful in developing future legislation and policies.


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