"What they don't want to recognize is that those 'controversial issues' contribute mightily to economic growth and job creation," Brodsky said after the forum. "A neutral Internet opens the possibilities for many entrepreneurs, competing Internet service providers, applications developers, and others who flourish in an environment not controlled by telephone and cable companies. Look what happened during the Internet's early years when Internet access was covered by government regulation. It was the greatest innovation wave we've ever seen."
Tech group need to work together to push for tech issues in the new Congress, said Pablo Chavez, Google's director of public policy. Too often, tech groups in Washington, D.C., argue about issues, he said.
Asked for his priorities for Congress, Chavez mentioned free trade agreements, but he called on Congress to write anticensorship provisions into those deals. He also called on Congress to resurrect patent reform efforts of recent years, even though many of the proposals were controversial.
In some cases, Congress will need to break off noncontroversial proposals to make progress on some issues, Atkinson added. Although there was heated debate about some patent reform proposals, including post-grant review of patents, Congress could pass legislation to stop funds raised by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from being returned to the general fund, he said.
An earlier panel featuring three lawmakers illustrated disagreements over several tech-related issues before Congress. Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, called on Congress to address online privacy after a series of media reports this year revealed broad data collection by online companies. Online privacy practices need to be examined by Congress, she said.
But Ensign questioned whether new privacy regulations were needed. Often, a spotlight on issues by the media and Congress can lead to a change in behavior by companies, he said.
"It's always better when business regulates itself and becomes responsible corporate actors and players than if the Congress gets in," he said. "Anytime we enact laws, there are all these unintended consequences, sometimes that more severe than what we were trying to fix in the first place."
Asked about the possibility of passing cybersecurity legislation, Ensign also talked about unintended consequences. Several data breach notification bills were introduced during the past two years, along with more comprehensive cybersecurity legislation focused on new standards, training and funding.
"Because it's such a complicated areas, this is an area where you need to move very, very slowly," Ensign said of cybersecurity.