April 05, 2001, 12:44 PM — U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert is bullish on the effect the IT industry has on the U.S. economy and supports a hands-off approach by government on the issues of Internet taxation and online privacy, he said during a keynote speech at Comdex Chicago 2001.
"I think the tech economy is what is going to keep this economy strong," said Hastert, a Republican from Yorkville, Ill. Hastert's keynote kicked off a public policy forum at the conference.
Hastert said he believes the moratorium on federal Internet taxation should stay in place after it expires in October. Lifting the moratorium would harm the IT industry, he said, adding that Internet taxation would be better addressed at the state level.
Regarding Internet privacy issues, Hastert said consumers should feel comfortable giving information out over the Internet. The IT industry should lead in this effort to secure online transactions and keep users' information private, he said. Congress should not pass any new privacy laws until the federal government gets its own house in order.
"Government for the time being should keep its hands off," Hastert said. "I don't mean the industry should take the concerns lightly. It controls its own destiny. You control your own destiny. We will suffer the consequences if [the industry] ignores the problem."
Congress should be assisting, however, in the deployment of broadband telecommunications services across the United States by supporting policies that support competition and innovation, Hastert said. Even in rural areas of the United States, people are hungry for broadband access, he said.
"If you are a farmer and you want to know whether you should buy soybeans or sell your soybeans today ... It is instantaneous," Hastert said. "The market changes every 15 seconds. You need to know instantaneously to make those decisions."
Last year, one of the key issues that kept coming up in Congress was the issue of H-1B visas so more IT educated workers from abroad could be brought into the United States to fill open technology jobs, Hastert said. More education efforts need to be launched in the United States to train workers for the IT industry.
Efforts need to be made to reduce the drop-out rates of students in poor neighborhoods so they also can take advantage of the riches of new IT economy, Hastert said.
"The success of our education system is the basis of [the IT community's] future success," Hastert said.
Comdex Chicago 2001 runs through Thursday.