The Reddit community has posted a proposed piece of legislation they call The Free Internet Act on Google Docs. I've just taken a look at it and will need to think about all of these provisions a bit before I have an opinion about whether this is a sensible proposal or not.
But regardless of whether anything comes of this, I want to make a larger point about transparency in government.
A number of NY tech community people met with a US Senator in the USV event space a few weeks ago to give our views on tech issues coming down the pike. At one point in that meeting, the Senator's staff talked to us about the cybersecurity bill, which at that time had not been released. We asked how long it had been in the works. The answer was quite a while. We asked how long would be available for comment once it came out. The answer was about a month. None of this was this Senator's doing. We were just being informed about what was going on and how we should engage in the process. We were encouraged to read the bill and give our elected officials our opinions on it. And we are doing that. You should do the same. The bill is linked to earlier on in this paragraph.
But as we were having this conversation, my partner Albert asked why bills aren't drafted in public. He suggested an approach that is almost identical to the one that the Reddit community has taken with the Free Internet Act. And the Senator's staff said that such radical transparency wasn't likely to develop in Washington any time soon.
When an important piece of legislation is drafted in secrecy, such that Senators and their staff members don't even know what is going to be in it, and then is put out for voting on a very fast track, people are going to be suspicious. And suspicious citizens don't make for a healthy democracy.
If nothing else comes of this Reddit process, I'd at least hope that we show Washington the power of an open debate, commenting, and editing process. For that reason alone, I'm going to put some real energy into The Free Internet Act. I hope you do too.