Here Come the Feds

Legislation to help small- and mid-sized businesses in e-commerce

February 22, 2001 -- H.R. 524, a bill known as the Electronic Enhancement Act, is currently moving through 107th Congress and may assist smaller businesses and manufacturers in e-commerce. Introduced in early February by James Barcia (D-Mich.), the legislation orders the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to use its Manufacturing Extension Program as an outreach to study the challenges facing small- and medium-sized businesses in integrating and using e-commerce technologies and business practices.

The bill also directs NIST to identify critical integration standards so businesses all along the supply chain can communicate effectively. 

Under the Act, NIST will establish an Advisory Board made up of key members from the business community, ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Small Business Administration.  After a 12-month period, the board will present a report about the current e-commerce practices for both business-to-customer (B2C) and B2B. Encryption, authentication and data security issues will be addressed as well.

Barcia, the ranking member of the Technology Subcommittee of the Committee on Science since January 1998, said, The goal of this legislation is to provide American small businesses with the information and knowledge they need to make informed business decisions about their e-commerce investments. This bill builds upon successful programs already being run by NIST. As electronic commerce becomes a major part of daily business operations, it is important that the Federal Government work with the private sector to ensure that all businesses are able to keep up with our fast-paced, technology driven economy. If American industry is unable to keep up and communicate electronically, they will be at a disadvantage to technologically-savvy foreign competitors.

The House voted 409-6 in favor of the bill and passed it to the Senate. Originally introduced last May, the bill died in the Senate during the election period.