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5 technology initiatives and reforms IT wants in Washington

Kenneth Corbin | April 4, 2014
Leaders from Microsoft, Cisco and other tech players are pressing their agenda as they meet with the White House and Congress this week. Some initiatives have been years in the making -- and will take many more years to see through -- but other reforms may not be far off.

"The climate's different. It changed last year. We're in a post-Snowden era, and people have more questions about how technology is used," Smith says. "We've advocated that governments work pursuant to the rule of law - and it will be good if there's a clear modern legal framework that all of us work in."

4. Faster, More Secure Broadband

Chambers, Smith and others spoke excitedly about the global surge in mobile technology, citing projections that some 10 billion mobile devices could come online in the next decade. Then there's the emergence of the Internet of Things, where all manner of smart devices ranging from parking meters to refrigerators are brought onto the network, where they can be more efficiently and effectively managed.

That new traffic will bring with it an enormous strain on the broadband networks that carry it. Web companies have long advocated for policies to increase broadband access, speeds and affordability. In recent years, they have turned their attention to mobile broadband, calling for reforms that would free up spectrum to enhance capacity for wireless networks.

The Federal Communications Commission is receptive to those concerns. The agency plans a set of auctions to transition a portion of the airwaves from TV broadcasters to mobile broadband, and earlier this week the FCC voted to make 100 MHz available for Wi-Fi applications.

For many in the tech sector, particularly in areas of critical infrastructure, simply expanding capacity to support the Internet of Things isn't enough if the networks aren't secure. That's especially true of the energy grid, where a host of innovative firms are working to realize the dream of the smart grid but deal with an aging infrastructure that many see as a soft target.

"The grid has a security problem," says K.R. Sridhar, CEO of Bloom Energy, a firm specializing in efficient energy generation. "Not only do we need to upgrade our infrastructure, it needs to be resilient. It needs to be robust."

5. Patent Reform

As a matter of political reality, many of the priorities tech leaders pressed in their meetings in Washington are issues for the long haul. The odds of an immigration bill advancing this year are getting longer, and the feds aren't going to solve the country's broadband challenges overnight.

A possible exception: Efforts to reform the patent system to curb frivolous litigation from outfits, sometimes known as non-practicing entities or patent trolls, which hold patents but don't produce any products based on the covered innovations.

Many tech firms complain that they are the target of incessant lawsuits brought by patent trolls, arguing that the system needs reforms that would saddle losing plaintiffs with attorneys' fees and introduce transparency around the identity of the organization that owns the patent in question.

 

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