RealTime IT News

Ensign to Chair Senate Tech Subcommittee

Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada has been appointed chair of the Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation and Competitiveness. Ted Stevens, the Republican Senate Commerce Committee Chairman out of Alaska, made the appointment as part of a committee reorganization.

Sen. John Ensign
Sen. John Ensign
Source: Senate.gov

Ensign is one of the emerging technology leaders in the Senate, along with Republican Senators John Sununu of New Hampshire and George Allen of Virginia. A former veterinarian and casino general manager, Ensign is also chairman of the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force, a separate entity that provides the technology industry an avenue to communicate directly with Washington lawmakers.

"Technology remains one of the fastest growing industries in the world and exciting new developments are being created by America's entrepreneurs every day. There are major issues to be considered, and the subcommittee will be at the forefront of some important debates," Ensign said in a statement.

With telecom reform of some sort a top priority for the Senate Commerce Committee, Stevens and Ensign are expected to be heavily involved in Voice over IP issues and reform of the Universal Service Fund (USF).

The USF is a 70-year-old federal subsidy program designed to promote landline telephone penetration rates. The cost of the program is passed on to consumers on their telephone bills. Currently, 94 percent of Americans have a hard-wired telephone line.

With cable, wireless and VoIP companies providing alternative voice platforms, questions have been raised about the future effectiveness of the USF and what, if any, rates alternative providers will pay into the fund.

"Whenever possible, we need to remove government obstacles and allow innovators to provide the latest and best products to consumers everywhere," Ensign said. "Our tech industry is greatly responsible for one of the largest economic expansions in American history, and we need to allow that free-market spirit to continue to thrive."