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Among Friends, Boucher Stays on Message at CDT Gala

in Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2009 - As 700 of Washington's technology and political elite gathered Tuesday night at the Center for Democracy and Technology's annual fundraising gala,  guests celebrated new-found progress and the hope brought by a new administration, but called for further action to fulfill many of the organization's longstanding goals.

The highlight of the evening was a keynote delivered by Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., the newly-minted chairman of the House subcommittee on Technology, Communications and the Internet, who praised CDT for its efforts at promoting "open communications...and open technology."

Boucher marveled at the "state of transition" that the Internet is bringing to technology today. But "the time could not be more ripe," for groups like CDT to help Congress  enact policies to keep it "open, innovative and free."

Boucher identified three issues of importance that he will push in the 111th Congress.  Congress must pass privacy legislation to protect users from techniques like deep packet inspection. Consumers must have confidence that their data will be safe, that can be ensured by laws that "promote and safeguard the users' online experience."

And despite the economic stimulus package's inclusion of $7.2 billion for broadband deployment,  Boucher cautioned that stimulus funds alone "are not a policy."  "For the sake of our economy, we must do alot more for communities that have limited access to broadband."

The Federal Communications Commission can take a lead in enacting "necessary policy reforms" that can ensure rural Americans get access to quality broadband.  The stimulus package requires the FCC to develop a national broadband strategy within the year.

The commission may be able to take an even greater role in broadband deployment. Thursday morning, Boucher will hold a hearing on reform of the Universal Service Fund, which provides subsidies that enable low income and rural Americans to receive telephone service.

Many stakeholders, including consumer groups, telecommunications companies and equipment manufacturers, have submitted comments to the FCC supporting a proposal to expand certain USF funded programs to include broadband Internet service. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners endorsed the proposal at their winter meeting last month.

And Boucher called for a federal journalist shied law to keep reporters from having to reveal sources in court. The law must "protect journalists' sources and the public's right to know," he said.

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