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Trade group gives tech advice to Congress

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IDG.net

(IDG) -- The AeA high-tech trade association on Tuesday submitted a report to U.S. President George Bush and Congress detailing the group's public policy priorities for 2001, including education, privacy issues, taxation, broadband deployment and international trade.

"You may be aware that the AeA is predominantly a grassroots, member-driven organization," Richard Martin, AeA's chairman, said in a news conference following the report's release. "This past Fall, we held a series of town hall meetings around the country. Out of those meetings we bubbled up what were the major concerns of our member companies. I don't think you will find that there are any surprises here."

On the education front, AeA officials called for expanded government and industry support for upgrading science and math education at the K-12 level. In order to accomplish these goals, both federal and state governing bodies were asked to increase funding, adopt national standards for teacher training and remove regulatory barriers to online learning.

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"While we recognize and respect the fact that K-12 education is largely, and should continue to be, a state and local responsibility, deficiencies in science and math education are a serious national problem, with profound implications for the nation's economy and security," the AeA wrote in its report. "Addressing this problem necessitates a concerted national effort involving government at all levels in partnership with the private sector."

The AeA continued to support industry self-regulation on privacy issues, calling for the protection of users' personal information. The group asked that any legislation made by Congress in the privacy arena be solely designed to preempt the enactment of onerous and contradictory new state laws.

"The high-tech industry is acutely aware that no issue today more threatens online relations between consumers and business than consumer privacy," the AeA wrote. "Consumers should be allowed to receive benefits and services from vendors in exchange for the use of information. It is important that the consumer understands this use and be able to make an informed choice to provide information in return for benefit received."

The report also suggests that Congress pass a moratorium extension on new or discriminatory taxes on the Internet, permanently ban access taxes and direct the states to simplify their sales tax rules.

"We are finding that the President has surrounded himself with some capable and pretty knowledgeable people," Martin said. "I am comfortable that they will adequately be able to represent the issues."

The AeA also took a vociferous stance on international tech issues, especially those relating to China. The new administration should quickly assist China's World Trade Organization (WTO) admittance procedures and provide a means of monitoring China's compliance with new legal obligations, the AeA said in a statement.

Lastly, the AeA asked Congress to refrain from regulating sectors of the broadband market that are being served by multiple providers, while at the same time taking measures to promote competition in sectors where there are service bottlenecks or barrier to entry.

"While broadband deployment is growing at a rapid rate, it is not growing sufficiently fast to meet apparent demand," the AeA wrote. "How regulators and lawmakers treat broadband deployment could have a crucial impact on how quickly that gap is closed and how quickly e-commerce can continue to grow."

Formerly known as the American Electronics Association, the AeA's members come from the high-tech corporate ranks and the group makes periodic assessments of issues affecting the tech sector. AeA officials were some of the most outspoken advocates for an increase in the number of H-1B visas designed for foreign skilled workers.

"The worker shortage is more severe this year than last and will be more severe next year," Martin said.

The group called for continued moves in trying to assuage the problems caused by the labor shortage, highlighting its education stance as a way to resolve those issues.



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