Robert Bluey

Technology is changing politics. But can politics change technology?

Sen. Dick Durbin spent the past two weeks trying to do just that. The Illinois Democrat embarked on a new experiment in legislating when he turned to the blogosphere in an effort to develop a national broadband strategy to bring high-speed Internet access to more Americans.

With three principles serving as a starting point -- broadband must be universal and affordable, innovation must remain a priority, and broadband must allow more voices to be heard -- Durbin kicked off this first-of-its-kind experiment in legislating. No other lawmaker at the federal level has ever tried anything similar or as ambitious.

Matt Stoller, a liberal blogger with a passion for telecom policy, put the idea into motion. Stoller’s new blog, Open Left, hosted the four-day discussion with Durbin, his staff and several telecom experts. The experiment would come to be known as Legislation 2.0 because it aimed to reinvent the way business is typically done in Washington.

Stoller’s goal and Durbin’s hope was to put everyone on a level playing field -- the exact opposite of the way the legislative process in Congress usually works. The booming lobbying business in Washington, D.C., benefits the big boys and too often leaves average Joes and Janes without much of a voice, particularly on complex issues such as telecom policy.

But Durbin’s new way of legislating attempts to change that. No longer would high-paid Washington lobbyists have the upper hand. "Legislating is often known as a sausage factory, or a contest of interests done in private,” Stoller wrote on July 22. “And in fact, I think a lot of the negative impressions of our lawmaking bodies come from the secrecy of the process.”

There would be nothing secret about Durbin’s legislation. After soliciting public comments about a national broadband strategy, his policy team will now translate those suggestions into legislative language and then request comments prior to the introduction of a bill. Everything is supposed to be done in the open and on the Internet. Lobbyists were welcome to join the conversation, but they had no more influence than you or me.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com