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Republican gains in Congress would have limited impact on big tech issues

Grant Gross | Oct. 31, 2014
Anticipated Republican gains in the U.S. Congress after next Tuesday's election have limited implications for tech-related issues like net neutrality and reform of National Security Agency surveillance programs, with some observers expecting no huge changes.

Because of backlash from privacy groups, those cyberthreat-sharing bills have stalled. More expansive cybersecurity bills, including proposed security regulations at businesses operating critical infrastructure, also haven't gotten off the ground because of Republican concerns about too much regulation. In both cases, expect little change with a more Republican Congress.

Still, with major data breaches making the news frequently, Congress may have some pressure to take action, said Veronica O'Connell, vice president of government and political affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association.

"If there is another major breach — similar to Target or Home Depot — both chambers will examine" the issue, she said.

Patent reform

While patent reform doesn't resonate with the public the same way as net neutrality or surveillance, tech groups have been pushing Congress to pass legislation that targets so-called patent trolls.

Late last year, the House, in a lopsided voted, passed the Innovation Act, which would have limited patent-holding firms from filing multiple infringement lawsuits or demanding licensing deals. Legislation stalled in the Senate, however, over concerns that it would hurt small inventors.

A Republican Senate may be "more friendly toward final passage," O'Connell said.

Republicans may make patent reform a priority to show the tech industry they care about its issues, added the Internet Association's Beckerman. Republicans may "want to show some legislative victories early," he said.


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