Over the course of two days we met with quite a few Hill staffers, congress people and representatives. It was a fascinating experience, though also incredibly tiring.
Why does Blacknight care?
Blacknight is an Irish company. While we do have clients in the US and do quite a lot of business with US companies, we do not have a corporate US entity.
So why on earth did I fly all the way to Washington DC to spend two days lobbying people I can never vote for? Simple. Because it matters.
The US government is very influential, both directly and indirectly. US legislation can and does have a direct impact on both our own business and the internet industry as a whole.
And Irish (and other European) governments keep a very close eye on Washington DC.
There were several key areas of legislation that were of interest to us on this trip:
- Government access to data and surveillance.
- Safe Harbor
- IANA Transition
Access to data/ surveillance:
This is always going to be a touchy subject, especially in light of the recent terrorist atrocities in Paris (and elsewhere). However the concept of “due process” is really important. The reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is key as it strengthens US 4th Amendment rights, while providing the “due process” that is sorely needed in relation to digital communications
After the recent case in the EU there currently is no Safe Harbor, which is highly problematic. Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic need to be able to move data around for a multitude of reasons.
The IANA transition is a topic I don’t talk about a whole lot. Why? Because while it’s important, it’s not terribly “interesting”. Essentially the US government currently has a “special” relationship with ICANN and the IANA functions. This needs to be transitioned away from ANY government and to the global internet community. Congress needs to support this move. Simple. And yes, ICANN needs to show the world that is has matured enough as an organisation in order for the training wheels to be removed
Who did we meet with?
I don’t have the full list to hand, as we were broken up into smaller groups. Each group had 4 people (give or take) and all the groups had a very packed schedule of meetings.
The group I was in met with:
- House Judiciary Committee Republican Counsels
- House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Counsels
- Congressman Will Hurd (R – TX) – he spoke at a breakfast hosted by CTA
- Senator Gillibrand’s (D – NY) office
- Senator Schumer’s (D – NY) office
- Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
- Senator Marco Rubio’s office (R – FL)
- Congressman David Schweikert’s office (R-AZ)
- Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D – FL)
- Congressman Trent Franks (R – AZ)
- Senator Bob Casey’s office (D – PA)
The “hill” is a labyrinth of buildings, tunnels and offices, as I discovered.
Fortunately we were being accompanied by people who knew exactly where they were going!
How much impact a “fly in” like this can have is hard to gauge, but hopefully we were able to have some kind of impact on one or two of the people we met with!
And being interested in history I really loved seeing this, even if it was by accident: