Congress on-line posponed...

Rob Harper Rob.Harper at csc.fi
Mon Jul 12 00:28:44 EST 1993


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>Newsgroups: alt.internet.services
>Subject: Re: Congress hearing on Internet
>Message-ID: <1993Jul11.223024.4342 at guvax.acc.georgetown.edu>
>From: rosati at gusun.acc.georgetown.edu (Anthony Rosati)
>Date: 11 Jul 93 22:30:22 -0400
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The following is the long-awaited and promised series of messages about the
delay in the On-Line Congressional Hearing about the Internet. Please do not
email me about the contents, I just received them and am passing them on; I
have nothing to do with the hearing, nor with Sprint, nor with anyone else 
involved in organizing this. Thanks!
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Date: Wed, 7 Jul 93 16:13:36 -0400
From: Carl Malamud <carl at trystero.malamud.com>
Org: Internet Multicasting Service

Congressman Edward J. Markey has asked that the July 26 On-Line Hearings be 
delayed until October or November until issues regarding the propriety of 
private corporate donations to the congressional infrastructure are resolved. 
While it is clearly allowable for a corporation to bring in computers if they 
are testifying, there is as yet no precedent for an on-line congressional 
hearing and the Subcommittee and the Congressman would like to make sure that
any issues are carefully examined.  

I will be posting a personal note shortly.

Carl Malamud
Internet Multicasting Service

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Date: Wed, 7 Jul 93 16:26:50 -0400
From: Carl Malamud <carl at trystero.malamud.com>
Subject: Congressional Hearings

I wanted to explain a bit more my understanding of why we are delaying the 
congressional hearings. Please be very clear that I do not represent the 
committee and that this explanation is being sent in my capacity as the 
organizer of the Internet Town Hall.

The Internet Town Hall depends on voluntary donations from a large number of 
parties. For this Internet Town Hall, we've had a tremendous outpouring of 
support from groups such as O'Reilly & Associates, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, 
ARPA, Empirical Tools and Technologies, UUNET, Metropolitan Fiber Systems, and 
many others.

The purpose of this broad coalition is to demonstrate how the Internet works 
and how the Internet can be made to work in the congressional process. We 
wanted to make the point that there exists a general-purpose infrastructure 
that allows everything from email to IRC chat to WAIS databases to the World 
Wide Web to be accessed.

One of the key things we wanted to show the Congress was how audio and video 
can work over a general purpose infrastructure such as the Internet. Rather 
than transmit video over the key transit networks, which tend to get over-
loaded during events such as the Internet Town Hall, ARPA had agreed to 
furnish the use of DARTNET, the experimental advanced research network they 
operate.

The underlying transmission facilities for DARTNET are operated by Sprint. 
In order for the National Press Club, the headquarters site for the facility, 
to be part of DARTNET we required a T1 line from our facility to the Sprint 
point of presence a few blocks away. We had requested Sprint to provide that 
T1 line and become part of the Internet Town Hall.

In the course of examining our request, Sprint postulated that furnishing a 
T1 line for a congressional hearing might violate congressional ethics laws. 
There are in fact laws on the books that prohibit members of Congress or its 
committees from accepting in-kind donations over a certain value under certain 
circumstances. Sprint forwarded their concerns to the House Ethics Committee,
and then later informed the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance and 
my organization of their actions.

Needless to say, there are technical alternatives to the T1 line that we 
asked Sprint to furnish. In fact, a single call to Metropolitan Fiber Systems 
resulted in a 10 Mbps virtual Ethernet using ATM between Washington, D.C. and 
Boston which is available for the hearing when it does occur.

Even though the technical issue is solved, there still remains the ethics 
concern. We firmly believe that a broad industry/government group volunteering 
time and money to show how the congressional process can be changed to include 
more input from the general public to be in the public interest. However, we 
are equally adamant that *ANY* ethical concerns *MUST* be cleared before we 
proceed with the hearings.

The crux of the issue has to do with in-kind contributions. If you are 
testifying before Congress, it is clearly allowed to bring in computers. 
However, a donation to the underlying infrastructure of the congressional 
committee might be construed as an expense that must be reimbursed by the 
committee to the donor. The purpose of such laws is to establish beyond the 
shadow of a doubt that the congressional process is clean and not subject to 
the undue influence of a particular interest group.

We believe that an on-line congressional hearing is in fact a desirable thing, 
particularly given the broad coalition formed to establish the infrastructure. 
However, we feel strongly that everybody involved in the process, whether they 
are familiar with the Internet or the law, must understand exactly what we 
intend to do and how those actions relate to the ethics laws.

As such, we will spend the next few months describing to congressional 
officials exactly what we have in mind for the hearings. Since this will be a 
historical occasion, there is no precedent for on-line hearings. We want to 
make sure that everybody is very comfortable with the issues & that officials 
believe that there is public benefit in such a demonstration.

I'd like to thank all the volunteers for their time and effort to date. A 
tremendous amount of behind the scenes efforts has already taken place and 
we're hoping to salvage some of that effort so we don't have to start from 
scratch. I'd also like to thank everybody on the network who sent in letters. 
The Subcommittee and Congressman Markey were truly impressed at the volume and 
the quality of the commentary from the public through e-mail and are looking 
forward to a successful on-line hearing later in the year.

Sincerely,

Carl Malamud
Internet Multicasting Service


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