(Reuters) - A Republican majority in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives presents opportunities and challenges for technology-related legislation in Congress.
Big industry groups are drawing up wish lists and honing strategy. The following are some of the developments technology and telecommunications lobbyists are watching in the next Congress:
The expected new leaders of key Senate committees are familiar faces. South Dakota’s John Thune is likely to take over the Senate Commerce Committee, and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley is expected to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee, both after serving as ranking members.
House communications leaders Fred Upton and Greg Walden have prioritized efforts to rewrite the Communications Act, the charter for the Federal Communications Commission and all the communications industries. With Republicans controlling the Senate, the massive undertaking is now a stronger possibility.
Although some in the tech industry believe a Republican-controlled Congress will instead try a piecemeal approach, providing an opening to tackle the less controversial issue of high-skilled immigrants, TechNet President Linda Moore said the group has not given up hope for comprehensive reform.
“We’re still very hopeful for comprehensive immigration reform ... we’re going to keep pushing very hard,” she said.
“It was a very sensitive and fractured coalition that was brought together ... To put that together is certainly a challenge, but we’re not going to give up.”
Lobbyists said the Senate’s incoming leaders were well-versed in digital trade issues, such as efforts to fight digital protectionism and protect intellectual property, and saw promise on that front.
“There’s an understanding and recognition that in the new generation of trade, the digital economy, the Internet economy is an important part and needs to be taken into account,” said Michael Beckerman, who runs the Internet Association that represents Web companies such as Google Inc GOOGL., Facebook Inc (FB.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O).
New FCC regulations on how Internet service providers (ISP) manage traffic on their networks are expected to set up a clash with regulation-wary Republicans.
“If (the FCC passes) a more muscular form of Title II (telecommunications) regulation,” said one cable industry executive, “I have to believe that the ISP community would be concerned enough not only to seek relief via the judicial system, but also the legislative process ... That just begs a confrontation with the White House.”
TechNet is expected to continue its push for research and development tax credits and tax extenders during the lame duck session, and plans to keep lobbing on corporate rates and repatriation in the next Congress.
Beckerman said updating patent laws and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which guides government access to Americans’ email and online communication, might be quickest issue to be resolved.
“There’s only a handful of things that are truly bipartisan,” he said. “(The Republicans) are going to want to show off the bat that they can govern, and one of the things that they can do is pass things that the president will sign and it’s one of those.”
Reporting by Alina Selyukh. Editing by Andre Grenon