When the technology community rallied together in opposition of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), Rep. Issa was at the front lines of Congress fighting to kill the bill. And as a former electronics company CEO, he’s one of the few Congressman who seem to “get it” when it comes to technology (Fun fact: Rep. Issa lent his voice to the alarm system for the ultra-sleek Dodge Viper).
The debate around SOPA and other technology bills doesn’t divide neatly along party lines. Do you think technology issues are, in a way, bipartisan?
“Intellectual property and how we deal with that is always bipartisan … Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) was particularly helpful in this entire debate, he brought his own version [of an intellectual property bill] to the Senate floor. [Rep. Jared] Polis [D-Colo.] was great to have as somebody else who knew the Internet and what it could do.”
You put the draft version of the OPEN Act online for the public to read and comment upon. Do you think that kind of transparency is the future of politics and technology?
“I do believe it is the future. Congress has to be willing to fund it. The Madison project had to be done at an external site because that kind of interactive exchange isn’t allowed under the House’s firewall rule, so we went to an outside storage facility.
“We don’t like to call the people who make the rules in the House and the Senate “Luddites,” but they’re pretty close. They’re very ultra-conservative on what (new technologies) they’re willing to adopt. Congress only went to Outlook Web a year ago — and it was still only a belt-and-suspenders type of access … our whole infrastructure is built around not getting hacked rather than getting access.
“The technology systems in the House are quite archaic, and if you’re dealing with members that have been around for a long time, it’s harder to adopt new platforms than if you’re in the private sector and more comfortable with new platforms. A big part of the House’s bandwidth is actually used for an off-site redundancy, which duplicates every one of our sites for Outlook and all of our servers. We use so much bandwidth for that, I’m still fighting to get (Voice over IP) telephones installed in the House.”
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