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Oregon’s digital future tied to avoiding regulation mistakes

August 13, 2012

“Light Touch” Internet Regulation is the Key to Oregon’s Digital Future
By Tom Gurr,
Pacific Technology Alliance

A recent article in The Oregonian touted Oregon’s booming tech sector while simultaneously issuing a warning of its “schizophrenic state.” The article demonstrates that Silicon Forest has shown much promise; venture capital investments in both tech startups and larger companies have soared in the last year. However, the challenge remains to develop the tech hub to a level rivaling that of Seattle and Silicon Valley.

Over the decades, a largely hands-off approach to Internet regulation in the United States has helped tech companies in Silicon Valley, Seattle and elsewhere to blossom. Policymakers have long been aware that burdensome regulations stifle innovation and economic growth.

We may not always realize how relatively light regulation has led to innovations that have transformed the communications industry. Once upon a time, the communications infrastructure was designed almost exclusively to support voice communications, which didn’t need to handle tremendous data loads. Now, communication has changed, consumer needs have morphed and our communications infrastructure has kept pace so as to support massive data transfers that consumers often expect. Internet Protocol (IP) networks are able to carry enormous quantities of data at incredibly fast speeds, as well as voice communications. This new infrastructure has thrived because industry has had room to innovate without the hindrance of burdensome regulation.

However, there is a danger that policymakers will try to impose laws and regulations designed for the world of old to our new, fast-paced, ever-changing digital world. Fortunately, many policymakers recognize the digital revolution and the need to modernize regulations that foster development, innovation, and investment in the transition to IP-based networks.

In his speech on July 18, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai laid out a proposal to “unlock investment and innovation in the digital age.” He reinforced the need to foster an environment supporting budding entrepreneurs while holding the U.S. government accountable for enforcing smart regulatory policy, particularly eliminating outdated legacy regulations.

Additionally, Oregon Congressman Greg Walden held a hearing in May urging the Obama administration “to reject international efforts to bring the Internet under government control.”

There is a bright future for digital technology in Silicon Forest and nationwide, but its future hinges on America’s leadership and strong stance for a sound regulatory environment that continues driving the investment and innovation that will lead to more jobs and a stronger economy.

  
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