INTERNET REGULATION: ISPs Use ‘Hired Guns’ to Battle Lawmakers
With thousands of Internet-related bills circulating on Capitol Hill and in state Legislatures, Internet service providers (ISPs) have enlisted the help of powerful lobbyists to fight the growing battle over cyberspace, Legal Times reports. While some legislation would force ISPs to police their own Web sites, lobbyists have fought harder to defeat bills that could make companies criminally liable for illegal online activities. But NetCoalition Executive Director Daniel Ebert asserts, "When a member moves a bill to respond to a very real issue or problem out there, the intentions are not to ... create liability problems," adding, "That's why it's important for all of us to work together." According to a congressional staffer who works on Internet issues, lawmakers are not trying to "saddle ISPs with the responsibility of policing the Internet." The staffer said, "Being savvy about the Internet is considered important to every lawmaker's office. But the issues are complicated in ways not everyone has the foresight to see through." Some ISP lobbyists also have discussed legislation to set uniform liability limits for Web hosts. "The laws being passed have varying standards, and we'd like to nail something down," Eric Lee, public policy director of the Commercial Internet Exchange, said. Other issues of concern include database protection and online privacy, but solutions that balance the interests of ISPs and consumers remain elusive. "We don't want lawyers to be able to go after and threaten companies ... with class action lawsuits. We want to be able to protect privacy without allowing trial lawyers to go after innocent companies," Rick Lane, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's e-commerce and Internet technology program, said (Eckstein, 6/5 issue).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.