Months Later, Spotify is Back in the House
A few months ago, I wrote about the House of Representatives blocking Spotify under its longstanding P2P regulations, and the diverse backlash which ranged from the RIAA to Eric Cantor. I suggested that the reason these overbroad regulations exist — which are intended for data protection, filesharing prevention, and virus preemption — is a series of unbalanced hearings from 2007 to 2009 that may have “caused technophobic Congressmen to panic, leading to a regulation that is now mindlessly enforced as a part of House IT policy.” The rules appear to have been written and codified without adequately consulting people who understand the technology, and particularly what developments may emerge in the future. Thus, there is an inherent bias against new, often disruptive, technologies, which are essentially blocked and disadvantaged by default.
Roll Call reported last night that Spotify is now accessible on the House network again. According to a staffer, Spotify “modified some of their technology so the program no longer utilizes peer-to-peer technology.” (Roll Call also noted that something similar had happened with Skype being blocked in 2011, but then reinstated after “member outcry and security modifications.”)
It’s good that Congress was responsive and listened to feedback. Congress should continually monitor regulations and review existing and emerging technology, not just when a conflict arises, and also ensure that staffers who write legislation that impacts technology have access to the latest innovative products and services.
Plenty of institutions and businesses have inadequate internal IT policies, so this problem is not unique to Congress. However, Congress is unique, for several reasons. First of all, Congress is the entity that is responsible for shaping technology policy for the nation. Thus, they should be more open minded and should avoid banning new technologies for unreasonable purposes. Additionally, Congress does not face the same disciplinary mechanism that other organizations would face from competitors, who might lose market share as a consequence of not understanding technology. That’s why it is critical to ‘bring in the nerds’ when the Internet and technology are involved — not just when making national legislation, but apparently for internal Congressional regulations as well.
UPDATE: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader), who had tweeted about the initial controversy, celebrated Spotify’s return:
House blocked Spotify? This is 2013. It is a legal service that should be allowed. Pandora, YouTube, iTunes, Spotify… Let the music flow!
— Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader) February 1, 2013
Great to have @spotify available in the Capitol again! #LetTheMusicFlow
— Eric Cantor (@GOPLeader) April 10, 2013
Rep. Darrell Issa did, too:
Glad to hear that @spotify is back in the House. Just in time for spring.
— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) April 10, 2013