2008 proved, in a way, to be the year Washington discovered the Internet.
Among the many ways the election of Barack Obama for president this year made history, it transformed the way politicians use technology. In the first presidential race since the birth of YouTube, Obama was able to harness the power of social networking and online organizing to raise stellar sums of cash and fervent followings across the country. Presidential candidate Ron Paul continued to prove the power of the Internet by using it to garner political support that extended to more than just the mainstream candidates.
Meanwhile, the Democrats gained a stronger hold of the congressional majority, which could be a mixed bag for the tech sector. The new Congress could pay more attention to tech issues like universal broadband and Net neutrality. Some progress was made on the broadband front in 2008, when the Federal Communications Commission voted to free up "white spaces," or unused broadcast spectrum for unlicensed use. Also, Congress enacted legislation promoting widespread broadband deployment and allocating funds to encourage its adoption.
The next administration also intends to get more people engaged on the Internet and started encouraging civic discussions on Change.gov. Obama also said he intends to appoint the first ever chief technology officer to his cabinet.
However, the Democratic majority in 2008 largely ignored free trade, an important issue in the tech community, in favor of bailing out the banking and auto industries--though this fall's $700 billion bailout bill included tax credits and bonds for alternative energy.
Members of Congress, including then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.), also angered privacy advocates by giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for illegally providing the National Security Agency with access to their networks.
Technology and innovation are integral to the nation's economic and homeland security, politicians acknowledged. President Bush in January established the National Cybersecurity Initiative to address the growing threat of criminal and terrorist cyberattacks. While there is widespread consensus that cybersecurity has become increasingly significant, the new program, led by the Homeland Security Department, has come under intense scrutiny.
The president and Congress also unanimously supported the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) Act, a law roundly supported by the business community that increases penalties for intellectual property infringement and gives the Justice Department more resources to combat it.
The Justice Department became more entangled in technology issues this year, launching its antitrust division into an investigation of an advertising deal between Google and Yahoo. The investigation was reportedly responsible for the death of the deal, which would have generated $800 million for Yahoo within its first 12 months.
And just weeks after Congress finally changed its rules to allow members to use nongovernmental Web sites like YouTube, Ted Stevens, the senator who infamously referred to the Internet as a "series of tubes," was convicted of seven felonies and lost his Senate seat.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says Silicon Valley should send "best and brightest" to work with government on preventing cyberattacks.
Justice Department is preparing to send out document requests to third parties, as part of investigation into an advertising deal struck between Yahoo and Google, according to sources.
Bush wins hard-fought battle after Senate immunizes telecom companies that illegally opened their networks to the Feds. There's a chance a suit against AT&T could continue.
Texas congressman, no longer running for president, draws thousands to a pro-individual rights, pro-peace rally organized at same time as Republican National Convention.
Originally a three-page $700 billion bill, House-approved bailout package now includes surveillance provisions and tax credits for green tech, SunKist tuna, and wooden arrows.
Congressmen can now use third-party sites, after both the House and the Senate recently approved new rules.
The Broadband Data Act encourages wider collection of information regarding nationwide access to broadband.
A new law signed by the U.S. president creates a cabinet-level position to coordinate federal efforts to combat copyright infringement.
The FCC unanimously approves rules that will open unused broadcast TV spectrum known as "white spaces" for unlicensed use.
Democrats in the White House and Congress will make it easier to push efforts on Net neutrality, trade restrictions, and copyright changes. Also: Who will be Obama's tech czar?
As President-elect Barack Obama's transition team assembles an administration, it could look to one of its own to fill the role of chief technology officer.
The Bush administration has been skeptical of Net neutrality, unlike President-elect Barack Obama. Fans of more regulation hope to use this support to target wireless as well.
With a supportive administration behind it and some reshuffled leadership, the next Congress may make more progress on tech legislation, for better or for worse.
President-elect Barack Obama is delivering his regularly scheduled Saturday address in video format, uploaded to YouTube. Why favor YouTube?
The technologies that helped Obama reach the White House are going to make the president-elect's life more transparent and scrutinized than any previous White House occupant.