State of the Net West Series for 2012: Technology Town Hall Roundtable with Congressman Mike Honda

There were a lot of themes touched upon in this discussion.  I would consider it three separate discussions, that got rolled into a single roundtable.  There were short discussions on STEM education including inclusiveness, immigration reform (including HB1, DREAM Act, and other aspects), and Internet regulation (including self-regulation, SOPA, and other laws being introduced).  The participants where:

  • Eric Goldman, Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law (@ericgoldman)
  • Congressman Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda)
  • Dana Ditmore, Oak Valley Consulting and an advocate of STEM education
  • Tim Lordan, Executive Director Internet Education Foundation / Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (@tlordan)

STEM Education

Rep. Honda noted that STEM education should be starting earlier, e.g. in pre-K.

We are deteriorating internally, and are defeating ourself, per Rep. Honda.  We need to understand that we have to invest in this country.  Should states have the sole responsibility for education?  The Constitution does not exclude the federal government’s involvement in education.  We should have more national involvement.  The only things kids have, their only currency, is time.  It’s not something we can bank.  We need to use it wisely.  Policy makers need to understand why poor schools exist, and why we re-segregated.

Talk in policy language.  Not “all children deserve equal rights and equal opportunity,” but “each child deserves a quality education.”  Use the children’s time well.

Solving this problem is expensive, but mediocrity is not an option.  If someone imposed this level of mediocrity on us, we would consider it an act of war.  We need to invest in it, as if were a real conflict.  If all children can learn, then children in Beverly Hills and Appalachia should have the same educational opportunity.  The bumper sticker says “what is the price of ignorance.”  We see it every year, and in every legislation.

A question on the “war on science” was asked, and Rep. Honda responded that the only way to fix such systemic problem is to change the policy makers.  Also, provide education to those folks who are putting policy makers in place, to see the longterm harm to their children, and children’s children.  We don’t have a national policy to drive science and education.  We appear to have a lot of self-interest, and we forgot about our responsibility to the whole community, and the whole world.


Rep. Honda notes that we are handling immigration piecemeal, and focused on our borders.  We should instead make a comprehensive plan, addressing existing legal and illegal immigrants in the country, as well as the border.  The Congressman supported the DREAM Act, making HB1 more effective and efficient, and family reunification.

Rep. Honda called HB1, as it exist a “high tech coolie” system in which the high regulations, and the amount of power provided to the sponsor, and lack of mobility.  Dana Ditmore, of Oakvalley Consulting, a STEM education advocate, noted that we do have a single comp structure, and that Silicon Valley is driven in part by immigrant talent.  Rep. Honda noted that he does support HB1 visas, but would prefer to address it in comprehensive reform, with additional freedom for the immigrant.

Rep. Honda also noted that he was a sponsor of the DREAM Act.  With respect to the family reunification, Rep. Honda noted that he supported family reunification including same sex families.

SOPA, DMCA, and Internet Regulation

Rep. Honda notes that Congress doesn’t understand technology, or how the Internet works.  He agrees with a constituent who noted that the job of regulation and Congress in this matter is to “stay out of our way.”

Rep. Honda opposed SOPA, and in fact blacked out his own website during the protests.

Professor Goldman noted that for the first time content owners lost a fight, when SOPA was tabled by Congress.  But Rep. Honda noted early on that attempts to control the Internet will not stop.  We need to stay vigilant.

Professor Goldman further noted that the content owners are now going to anywhere but Congress.  They are going to the courts, to industry self-regulation, and to prosecutors.  The risk of self-regulation, and going outside of the legislative process, is that there is no transparency into the process, no due process.  Tim Lordan noted that there is now an Advisory Board for the industry self-regulation, which will likely provide a check on that.  Professor Goldman responded that while the Advisory Board is a good step, it has no power, and we cannot rely on the Board to keep content owners in check.