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New SEC Chief Nominee Leaves Tech Void in House

With the appointment of Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the U.S. House of Representatives loses one of its most technology friendly members.

While probably best known as the first chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the 52-year-old Cox played a key role in a number of Internet issues in his 16 years in Congress.

Chris Cox
Chris Cox
Source: House.gov

As early as 1996, Cox aggressively pushed for a non-regulatory climate for the Internet. His Internet Freedom and Family Empowerment Act that year called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to step away from regulating the Internet, a debate that continues today.

As a member of the House Commerce Committee in 2004, Cox argued against telecom reform since, as he saw it, competition now exists in the markets. Cox's idea of reform was to dismantle the FCC and leave disputes to the civil courts.

"As we look at all of the productsall of them enabled by the Internet and driven by the advances in computer hardware and software markets, it is useful to remember that these largely unregulated markets have a history of innovation that the highly regulated telephone market cannot match," he said at a House hearing two years ago.

Cox added: "I think that it is not because of the lack of innovative creativity in telephony, but rather the difference in the regulatory environment. We should be weary about 1930s era telecom regulation into these high tech industries, and we should be seeking ways to liberate telephony from the heavy regulation that began so long ago in the age of analog scarcity and dominate carriers."

Cox was also a key player in the passage of the first Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act in 1998, which exempted dial-up Internet connections from taxation by federal or state regulatory agencies. He subsequently sponsored legislation renewing the access tax moratorium and expanded the definitions to cover broadband connections.

When the moratorium was renewed in 2004, Cox said the case against taxing the Internet "has never been stronger. With 200 million Americans using the Internet, [a tax on access] would be a tax on working families."