Seeing the Internet as a Place for 'Freedom to Flourish'

Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s interest in tech policy runs deep. A lifelong Bay Area resident, the California Democrat took programming classes during her college days at Stanford and has spent the past 18 years representing a Silicon Valley district.

Why are tech policy issues so important to you?

Number one, technology is the basis for the economy in the district I represent. Also, technology, and specifically communications technology, the Internet, is the biggest opportunity for ideas to be widely disseminated and freedom to flourish that society has ever seen. That’s pretty exciting, isn’t it?

How comfortable are you with the level of technology expertise in Congress?

I don’t want to critique my colleagues. My degree was in political science, not computer science. So, you have to teach yourself. I spend as much time as possible trying to become a knowledgeable person. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve read a lot of books and I’ve taken some courses on how to do some simple programming. And I actually did some simple programming a long time ago in college. So I’m not an expert, but you need to have at least some concept of how the technology works to avoid making mistakes.

Do you see any changes in the direction of copyright issues since the public protests earlier this year over the Stop Online Piracy Act?

It’s up to Americans, including American legislators, to change the direction a little bit and get some balance here. It’s also up to the business world. For example, I think trade is really important for the U.S. My district, we’re a net exporter. There are companies located in Santa Clara County where 70, 80 percent of their revenue comes from what they export, so trade’s a great thing for my constituents.

On the other hand, one of the things that we’ve tried to do on these trade deals over and over is to export, or actually to coerce our trading partners, especially those less powerful than us, to adopt draconian copyright enforcement laws and schemes. That doesn’t come to the House because it’s a treaty, but it’s of great concern to me.