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Online Congressional Hearing Postponed

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Fresh off the heels of correcting my egregious mistake regarding Senator Helms, it seems that the Online Congressional Hearing was postponed until later in the year. The story behind the delay is interesting.

The Internet Town Hall depends on donations from many organizations, many of which are commercial entities. Given the cost of computers, software, and network links, this isn't surprising, and in fact, it's an example of how even competing companies can cooperate for the community good, much as people cooperate on the Internet.

Along with everything else, the Online Congressional Hearing was going to transmit audio and video over the Internet, and to avoid destroying the standard links, ARPA volunteered the use of their high-speed experimental DARTNET, whose underlying facilities are operated by Sprint. The Internet Town Hall folks asked if Sprint would like to join, and in the process provide a high-speed link to the hearing room. Sprint expressed some concerns about the ethical considerations of donating the link to the government, even for this use alone, so the subcommittee postponed the hearing for several months.

The problem is that donations to the underlying infrastructure of the congressional committee could be construed as expenses which the government would have to reimburse. The idea is to avoid it seeming as though the committee was beholden to a specific interest group. I have a feeling that things are not so squeaky clean in Washington as this may imply, but I approve of the Internet Town Hall folks making sure that the Internet is kept above any such impropriety. We hope this hearing will happen in a few months and not end up sucked into a giant black hole of government investigations.

You can still email comments to <congress@town.hall.org> to be forwarded to the Subcommittee staff. You can also ask to be added to a list that will be notified when the hearing is rescheduled.

-- Information from:
Carl Malamud -- carl@trystero.malamud.com

 

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