Bill Creates Working Group To Create Definition Of Blockchain


A recently introduced House bill intends to create a task force to recommend a definition of blockchain technology to Congress. Couldn’t they just Google it?

On Monday, co-sponsors Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) announced their submission of HR 6913 to the House of Representatives. Called the Blockchain Promotion Act of 2018, the primary purpose of the bill seems to be about getting to a clear definition of blockchain technology.

In the statement on the bill’s introduction, Guthrie said, “Blockchain can be a great resource for innovation and technology, but we must figure out exactly what [the] best common definition is and how it can be used.”

To accomplish this task, the bill would create the Blockchain Working Group, which would within a year of the bill’s passage, submit to Congress a report containing a “recommended definition of the distributed ledger technology commonly referred to as ‘blockchain technology,'” a study on the impact of blockchain tech on “electromagnetic spectrum policy,” as well as a set of recommendations about how federal agencies may utilize blockchain technology.

The makeup of this group would be decided by the Secretary of Commerce. Federal agencies “as the Secretary considers appropriate,” would be chosen for inclusion, with the heads of those selected agencies designating representatives. The group will also include private sector members from the information and communications industry; representatives from “[s]mall, medium, and large businesses”; academics; nonprofits and consumer advocacy groups engaged in activities relating to blockchain technology; and other stakeholders.

While there is some possible disagreement over what does or does not qualify as “blockchain,” it is unlikely that the definition of blockchain is sufficiently contested to necessitate the creation of a group dedicate to the question. Several states have passed legislation defining blockchain without creating a similar task force. Another house bill currently pending defines “blockchain network,” “blockchain service,” and “blockchain developer” all without the input of a task force.    

The working group would also be tasked with deciding on areas of further study, though Matsui already has some idea about how blockchain technology can be used. In the announcement, she says, “Opportunities to deploy blockchain technology ranges [sic] from greatly increased transparency, efficiencies and security in supply chains to more-opportunistically managing access to spectrum.”

Matsui is referring to a portion of the bill calling for studies to investigate potential applications of the technology and the effect blockchain technology will have on electromagnetic spectrum policy. However, the working group itself would not be responsible for performing these studies. It instead would only be tasked with deciding what to study. The studies themselves would be assigned to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

This bill is the fourth blockchain-related bill to be submitted recently to the House of Representatives. Last week, Congressional Blockchain Caucus member Tom Emmer submitted three bills, all intended to encourage the growth of the industry. But like some of Emmer’s submissions, such as his resolution expressing “support for digital currencies and blockchain technology,” HR 6913 is an expression of support for blockchain technology that offers very little substantively.

Tim Prentiss is a writer and editor for ETHNews. He has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. He lives in Reno with his daughter. In his spare time he writes songs and disassembles perfectly good electronic devices.

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