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Firms welcome self-regulation

Internet companies embrace the White House's Internet commerce policy with open arms.

The White House's Internet commerce policy framework has won endorsements from a variety of Internet organizations and companies, particularly for its recommendation of industry self-regulation in many key areas.

"The Clinton administration's Internet policy represents a hyperlink to the future of our economy," Carl Pascarella, chief executive of Visa USA, said in a statement. "From an industry perspective, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to promote a unified approach to setting standards that address the needs of consumers, merchants, and banks."

  They handed us the keys to a Corvette, not an Edsel.
--Ken Wasch, Software Publishers Association
"The Clinton administration holds the keys to driving electronic commerce on the Information Superhighway," Ken Wasch, president of the Software Publishers Association trade group, said in a statement. "With this report, they handed us the keys to a Corvette, not an Edsel."

Other industry organizations responded immediately to today's announcement with initiatives of their own. CommerceNet, a trade group for e-commerce firms, and the Information Technology Association of America, a Washington high-tech lobby, will build a "virtual laboratory" to assess how various legislative action and policy would affect Internet commerce. They also aim to showcase leading electronic commerce applications and business models.

Not everyone was happy with the policy, however. Companies in the encryption field were disappointed in the White House's decision to stand pat on limiting export of strong crypto software.

"The administration's current export controls are ineffective and adversely affect U.S. business competitiveness in the high-tech sector," Barbara Dooley, executive director of the Commercial Internet Exchange, said in a statement. CIX, a trade group for Internet service providers, also urged Congress to clarify ISP liabilities under international treaties to protect intellectual property, though it otherwise praised the White House document.

  Electronic commerce requires security that is effective, global, and commercially acceptable.
--Ed Zander, Sun Microsystems
The encryption export issue was addressed more obliquely by Ed Zander, president of Sun Microsystems' hardware unit: "Electronic commerce requires security that is effective, global, and commercially acceptable," he said in a statement.

Sun's statement also called for legal principles on the Net. "Without some sort of International agreement about legal guidelines, the [Global Information Infrastructure], could expose companies to unjust acts, unsanctioned taxation, and arbitrary tariff policies," it said.

Steve Case, chief executive of America Online, issued a statement applauding the White House framework.

The best policy is for our new industry to take the responsibility to regulate itself.
--Steve Case, America Online
"The best policy is for our new industry to take the responsibility to regulate itself. We especially appreciate the administration's position that the Internet should remain a duty-free environment," he said.

Jim Hornthal, chairman of online agency Preview Travel, said he's more comfortable with the framework's final form than with some earlier versions.

"Some of the original thoughts a couple of months ago had a more intrusive, regulatory feel to them," Hornthal said. "The government's attempt to try to maintain a distance from the commerce and activities of Internet is a healthy and good thing."

The Silicon Valley Software Industry Coalition also congratulated the administration for the paper, saying it is "immensely important" for government "to promote regulatory restraint" globally and within the United States.

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