logo

CongressLine - The Virginia Internet Policy Act

By Carol M. Morrissey, Published on June 14, 1999
In December of 1998, the Governor's Commission on Information Technology held its first meeting ("The State's Role in Responsible Internet Growth") at which the Commission presented a report entitled, "Towards A Comprehensive Internet Policy for the Commonwealty of Virginia."  (The full text of the report can be accessed in pdf or HTML format at http://www.sotech.state.va.us/docs.htm.) As the title suggests, the report proposes draft legislation in the areas of consumer privacy, encryption, spam or unwanted e-mail, the regulation of online content, online taxation and fraud and the development of a web-friendly government environment. 

Thirty-six IT associations, such as the Internet Alliance worked closely with the Commission to formulate policies which balance the interests of industry and the Commonwealth. In other words, they developed a legislative platform which would encourage the growth of the electronic commerce industry in the Commonwealth of Virginia and protect consumers as well. (Please go to http://www.internetalliance.org/news/981202.html for a press release and to http://www.sotech.state.va.us/102898.htm for a "backgrounder" on the new Internet Policy.) Also see the CEMA (Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association) press release praising the Commission recommendations.

Towards A Comprehensive Internet Policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Internet Alliance

Internet Alliance's Press Release

Developing Internet Policy for the Commonwealth

CEMA's Press Release

Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail: Spam for the Masses

Office of the Secretary of Technology 1999 Legislative Tracking

The one plank of the platform which has received negative press is the provision which outlaws unsolicited bulk e-mail or spam and provides for civil and criminal penalties for "spammers." Attempts to ban spam on the federal level have run squarely into the argument that e-mail, whatever the intent, is constitutionally protected free-speech. (Please see Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail: Spam for the Masses for a discussion of federal spam legislation.) The Virginia chapter of the ACLU has protested the measure on the basis that "anonymous communication" is not clearly defined. The ACLU overall position is that it is too early for the government (state or federal) to place curbs of any kind on electronic communications. ISP's are particularly pleased with this provision for it allows them to prosecute those who use their services for fraudulent and deceptive practices.

Upon the commencement of the 1999 Virginia State Legislature in January of 1999, several bills were introduced which were based on the Commission's recommendations. (A comprehensive list of the legislation which was tracked by the Office of the Secretary of Technology during the 1999 session is available at http://www.sotech.state.va.us/legtrack.) The seven bills which were eventually enacted into law as the Virginia Internet Policy were;"Virginia Computer Crimes Act" (HB 1714); "Encryption Used in Criminal Activity" (HB 2236); "Encryption Technology" (HJ 649); "Virginia Computer Crimes Act, Penalties" (SB 881); "Freedom of Information" (HB 2638); "Privacy Protection" (HR 2152) and "Child Pornography and Indecent Liberties with Children" (HB 1760).

The following websites will allow you to access the summary and full final text of each of the bills listed above.

Please also go to http://www.nvtc.org/arlo/News/newsletter/may.html (go to "Legislative News") for the Northern Virginia Technology Council's news release on the legislation.

On the heels of his successful shepherding of the Technology Commission's proposals through the Virginia legislature, Gov. Gilmore is expected to be appointed Chairman of the President's Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce. The Advisory Commission's first meeting is being held at the end of June in Williamsburg, Virginia. Please see the press release announcing the meeting and also visit the Advisory's Commission's website for additional information and stories. Gov. Gilmore's position as Chairman is sure to keep Virginia in the forefront of technology and both he and the state should be watched for future developments.

NVTC Newsletter

Virginia Governor Gilmore Announces Historic First Meeting of the Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce

Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce's Press Releases