Tauzin to lead key House panel

Rep. Billy Tauzin

Champions of technology — one recognized by industry and the other self-proclaimed — have taken over chairmanships of two House committees that deal heavily with information technology.

Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) was named chairman of the newly revamped Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) was picked by House Republicans to head the Science Committee.

Both have been heavily involved in telecommunications issues, including efforts to increase Internet access. Tauzin is the author of the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 1999, which he said was intended to break the lock cable and "Internet backbone" companies have on Internet access and make it easier for regional phone companies to get into the business.

Tauzin said consolidation and concentration of cable and Internet companies in urban areas was leaving rural areas without high-speed Internet access.

For his efforts, he was selected as one of four 1999 winners of the High-Tech Legislator Hall of Fame award from AeA (formerly American Electronics Association).

Congress will confront several key IT issues this year — including online privacy and concern over government competition with Internet companies — and the Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to play a prominent role.

Boehlert, too, has expressed concern about rural access to communications, and expanding satellite television service has been one of his key issues. He said legislation permitting satellite companies to carry network broadcasts would bring rural viewers the same quality television that urban viewers receive.

Boehlert also supports requiring schools and libraries that receive federal funds to install filtering software on computers connected to the Internet.

Tauzin replaces Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), who retired. Boehlert replaces Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), who had to step down under House rules that limit chairmen to three two-year terms.

The chairmanship shuffle affects subcommittees as well, but it may be weeks before new subcommittee chairmen are appointed.

Departures on key IT subcommittees will include:

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) from the chairmanship of the Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology. Horn may be replaced by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.). Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) as head of the Science Committee's Technology Subcommittee.

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