From Washington

Shelley Feist

Wireless Technology Investment and Digital Dividends Act
Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a bill on May 2, 2002, that includes some of the ideas introduced last year by Newton Minow and Lawrence Grossman in their Digital Promise proposal.

Digital Promise proposes the establishment of a major educational trust fund — termed the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust, or “DO IT”— that would be financed by billions of dollars in revenue from auctions of unused, publicly-owned telecommunications spectrum, as mandated by Congress. Digital Promise has received underwriting from Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Century Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Open Society Institute. The proposal has been endorsed by several technology companies, as well as by several leading not-for-profit organizations, universities, and unions.

Markey's bill, HR 4641, proposes: (1) creation of a permanent “Digital Dividends Trust Fund” based on the proceeds of spectrum auctions. This trust fund would support such “human capital” investments as teacher training, educational software development, digitizing archival material, and AmeriCorps technology projects, as well as broadband infrastructure projects that address the “digital divide” in rural and inner-city locations; (2) establishment of a “Spectrum Commons” through the set-aside of two bands of frequencies for unlicensed public use as an open wireless platform for communications; and (3) provisions requiring that specific policy objectives and goals (e.g., the transitions to digital television and 3G wireless service) would be set before spectrum auctions are scheduled.

It is expected that a bill more deeply reflective of the Digital Promise proposal will be introduced in the Senate in the near future.

New America Foundation — Public Assets Program
One of Washington's newest think tanks, the New America Foundation, has brought on Michael Calabrese as director of the foundation's Public Assets Program which will focus on three areas: a Spectrum Policy Project, the Information Commons Project, and the Universal Asset-Building Project.

Mr. Calabrese previously served as director of domestic policy programs at the Center for National Policy, as general counsel of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, and as pension and employee benefits counsel at the national AFL-CIO. Mr. Calabrese is a graduate of Stanford's Business and Law Schools.

On May 10 New America sponsored a forum in Washington — “Protecting the Information Commons: Asserting the Public Interest in Copyright Law and Digital Infrastructure.”

Museum and Library Services Act of 2002
The U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce in March reported out the bill HR 3784, to reauthorize the Museum and Library Services Act (House Report 107-395). The bill provides for ongoing funding of the federal library and museums program under the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS); consolidates library and museum advisory board activities to create a Museum and Library Services Board; and provides new authority for the IMLS to conduct ongoing analyses of the needs for, and trends of, public museum and library services. Finally the bill requires that federal library activities under the Act be coordinated with library activities under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-110).

The bill keeps in place provisions on Internet “safety” for libraries. Under the Act, libraries must have an Internet “safety” policy in place to be eligible for grants.The bill alters the definition in the Act of “museum” to clarify that the term includes nonprofit aquariums, arboretums, botanical gardens, art museums, children's museums, general museums, historic houses and sites, history museums, nature centers, natural history and anthropology museums, planetariums, science and technology centers, specialized museums, and zoos.

Negotiations are underway for floor action on the bill in the House, and for a markup of a similar bill in the Senate. It is hoped that the bill will be considered on the House floor prior to the Memorial Day recess.

HR 3784 includes a Title II on Library Services and Technology, and a Title III on Museum Services. The library community, led by the American Library Association, and museums, led by the American Association of Museums, have been working separately and together to ensure timely and non-controversial consideration of the legislation.

Title II Library Services and Technology
The libraries requested an increase in authorization for Title II, Library Services and Technology, to $500 million for fiscal year 2003 and such sums as may be necessary for later years. However, the House bill provides for just up to $300 million in 2003, and such sums as may be necessary in the years 2004-2008. If the Appropriations Committee looks favorably on the new reauthorization level, it could result in a significant increase over the FY2002 appropriations of $207 million.

President Bush's budget for 2003 recommended $182 million for library services and technology activities. The libraries requested a change to the existing minimum state allotment from the current $340,000 to $500,000. This minimum state amount has not been increased since the 1970s. The House Committee agreed to increase the state minimum to $500,000.

Under the Act, 3.75 percent of the authorized levels is reserved for national leadership competitive grants; 1.75 percent for library services of Native Americans; up to 3.5 percent for federal administration; and the remainder allotted by formula based on population, to states via the state library agencies. State grants, which represent the bulk of the funding provided under the Act, require a match from the state.

May 7 was the library community's annual day on Capitol Hill. More than 500 library representatives and trustees attended.

Title III Museum Services
Museum advocates proposed an authorization level of $80 million for fiscal year 2003. However, HR 3784 provides just $50 million for FY2003 and such sums as may be necessary for the fiscal years 2004-2008. The FY2002 appropriation level for museum services is about $30 million.

Library and Museum Program Impact Analyses
Both the library and the museum communities are pleased that the House Committee adopted the recommendation to provide authority for the director of IMLS to conduct regular analyses of the impact and effectiveness of library and museum programs under the Act. The bill provides for the IMLS to conduct annual analysis of the impact of museum and library services, specifically to: identify national needs and trends of services provided under museum and library programs, report on the impact and effectiveness of IMLS-funded programs in addressing these national needs, and identify and disseminate the best practices of funded programs. As stated in the House report, “Analyses of the impact of museum and library programs will help the Institute of Museum and Library Services make informed and responsible program decisions based on concrete, current, and reliable data.”

The Future of Ideas
The April 27, 2002 National Journal carries a piece by Kurt Kleiner titled “The Enemies of Innovation” in which he reviews a new book by Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of Commons in a Connected World. Kleiner writes, “Credit Lessig with pulling off a difficult trick — he's written a book largely about the arcana of Internet protocols and intellectual property laws, and he's made it engaging and even enjoyable. He also helps readers understand what the insiders already know: How we deal with these issues matters.”

National Journal, a weekly magazine on politics and government, is a publication of the National Journal Group, Inc., which also publishes two daily publications widely read by federal-level policymakers — CongressDaily and The Hotline.

Livingston Biddle
Cultural advocates mourned the passing of Livingston Biddle, 83, who, as a staff person working for Senator Claiborne Pell in the early 1960s, drafted the legislation to create the National Endowment for the Arts. He later served as deputy to the Endowment's first chairman, Roger L. Stevens, and as chairman from 1977 to 1981. He died May 3 at a Washington hospital.

Shelley Feist is associate, National Culture Program, The Pew Charitable Trusts.