When folks ask me what policy actions are going to take place in 2014, an election year, my knee jerk reaction is to say, “not much.”
But when I spend a moment to think about it, there is a substantial agenda of things that can be accomplished next year from a tech industry perspective. Here’s the short list:
Patent reform – there’s real momentum behind patent reform. The 325-90 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives shows that support for patent reform is strong and bipartisan. There will be a hearing in the Senate on December 17, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hopefully take up the bill soon in the New Year. This legislation is critically important to help level the playing field against patent assertion entities, which we know as patent trolls. It helps dry up the financial incentives that allow patent trolls to thrive.
E-rate modernization and reform – The FCC has on its docket E-rate modernization. This program has connected 100,000 schools and libraries to the Internet since its inception in 1996. Now the program needs to be updated to meet the modern needs of schools and libraries. Cisco has made 5 major recommendations for reform in our white paper, “High Speed Broadband in Every Classroom: The Promise of a Modernized E-Rate Program.” We will continue to work with the FCC to get E-rate reform over the finish line in 2014.
Adding more mobile spectrum – Also in front of the FCC is an effort to create more spectrum for WiFi. There is a looming spectrum crunch in this country, and by 2017, there will be 67 times more mobile internet traffic than in 2007. That’s like adding double the cars on the beltway each year for the next five years. We need an all-of-the-above policy on spectrum, and a critical component is more spectrum for wifi in the 5 GHz band as part of a larger effort to add more mobile spectrum.
Trade – The U.S. has a robust trade agenda in front of it in 2014, and we’re hopeful that there will be significant progress in more areas. The U.S. made substantial progress in Bali last week. Now the hard work to get agreements finalized, approved, and ratified must be done. Trade is critical to helping U.S. companies grow and thrive in overseas markets.
That’s four major issues there. As my grandmother would say, that’s not chopped liver.
So even in an election year, there’s a considerable amount of work that can and should be done.