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Trade group pushes Congress to raise high-tech focus

Hoping to head off a hodgepodge of competing state legislation, a major technology trade group is calling for federal action on privacy, Internet taxes and tech education.

    Hoping to head off a hodgepodge of competing state legislation, a major technology trade group is calling for federal action on privacy, Internet taxes and tech education.

    The AeA, formerly known as the American Electronics Association, is hoping Congress and the Bush administration will make its high-tech agenda a priority even in the face of the market downturn and the energy crisis in California.

    At a meeting Tuesday, AeA leaders outlined their policy priorities, the result of 13 town hall meetings across the country with its member companies. The group also has been meeting with Congress and Bush officials to press its plans; it says they've been receptive.

    "They want to keep this engine going," AeA Chief Executive William Archey said. "This is positive."

    Most of the proposals advocate a hands-off approach, but the AeA is hoping Congress will jump in to pre-empt more restrictive state legislation when needed.

    The AeA wants the Bush administration to ensure that its plans to revamp the education system include provisions for training more technology workers. Though it gave few specifics, the group called for more government funding for the K-12 level and urged the creation of more post-high school training programs that would promise people jobs in exchange for completion.

    The AeA unveiled more details of its privacy plans, which were first announced two weeks ago and drew criticism from both industry members who feared the proposals went too far and from privacy advocates who said they didn't go far enough. The principles include providing consumers with notice and choice while ensuring legislation doesn't discriminate against the Internet. The group said it hopes to stave off the passage of what it called "a crazy quilt of onerous, contradictory new state laws," but privacy advocates said the group was merely trying to avoid strong pro-consumer regulations.

    The group also called for a further moratorium on Internet taxation and asked that Congress require states to simplify their tax rules.

    Other priorities included accelerating China's membership in the World Trade Organization and making the research and development tax credit permanent. The group did not take a position on whether the administration needs a tech czar--though several members said it does not. Nor did it unveil any proposals related to the California energy crisis, though the subject came up at many of the town hall meetings.