The Senate made its "High-Tech Week" sound intriguing. But in an effort to dodge controversy, this week's agenda casts aside the hottest Net and computing issues.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) touted the week as an opportunity to take up a handful of bills passed by the Senate Commerce Committee, such as his bill to require that public schools and libraries getting federal discounts on Net access install filters to screen out material that is "inappropriate for minors."
"It's pretty much a bust," said David Sobel, legal counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "They had said at the outset that it was going to be the noncontroversial technology issues and I guess they realized there aren't too many of those."
Also left out is a bill to prohibit most forms of online gambling; and the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which would place a three- to six-year moratorium on the creation of state and local taxes targeted specifically at Net access and services.
"There have been a number of rumors that Internet Tax Freedom will come up, but I don't think it will," said Lauren Hall, chief technologist for the Software Publishers Association. "We'd be happy to see a good crypto bill come up this week."
A new bill was introduced in the Senate today to relax the Clinton administration's controls on the export of strong encryption.
Civil liberties organizations are glad to see McCain's bill on hold. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation kick-started a fax campaign this week to stop the so-called Internet School Filtering Act, which the groups say poses a threat to free speech under the First Amendment, along with Coats's bill.
"They got taken off because I think we succeeded in making everybody realize that those bills were in fact controversial," Sobel added.
With most of the sticky proposals still on the sidelines, the Senate does plan to vote on a handful of other technology-related bills, as follows: