Does Congress Get The Internet?

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Findout in our annual look at Capitol Hill’s cyberheroes and cybervillains

Now that the country has decided it can’t live without the Internet, Congress has decided that it can’t live without trying to control the Internet. That was the lesson of last year’s legislative sessions —senators and representatives who had previously ignored the medium rushed to regulate it. Whether it’s the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act (prohibiting the sale of alcohol directly in violation of state liquor laws—and thus stifling the sale of liquor online) or the steady stream of e-commerce taxation proposals, the past year has seen all types of Net-related issues head to Congress. Understandably, many online advocates don’t like it.

But although many legislators still don’t understand the potential of the Internet, a strong core of Internet allies in Congress is trying to show others the light. As a political issue, it cuts across party lines. Y-Life’s top two most Net-friendly members of Congress are Spencer Abraham, a Republican from Michigan, and Patrick Leahy, a liberal Democrat from Vermont. Despite Republicans’ social conservatism, they have a slight edge over Democrats because of their creed of less taxation and government interference. And, of course, legislators from states with heavy tech industries—such as California and Washington—tend to be more friendly.

With a pivotal election year looming, no doubt many politicians will tout themselves as defenders of the online faith. And just as many will blame the Internet for corrupting society. Who are the Internet’s true allies on Capitol Hill? Read on.