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3/23/2009
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Government Action On Cloud Computing Urged

A new Google-supported report only paints with a broad brush what should and shouldn't be done, but delves deeper into the possibilities.

The United States government should work to encourage development of cloud computing as a means to reassert American dominance and build national wealth, according to a new Google-sponsored report released last week.

"This country has played a signal role in global business and technology leadership since the mid-19th Century," notes the Marketspace report, written by former CBS News president Andrew Hayward and Marketspace chairman Jeffrey Rayport. "As this country seeks to redefine its future in a changed world, it seems reasonable to propose that the cloud is one avenue for the United States to re-assert economic and technology leadership on a global stage."

As such, the government should facilitate the development of the cloud computing industry by taking a deliberate and thoughtful approach to things such as universal broadband access and cybercrime prevention but should, on the other hand, keep its distance from trying too hard to shape the market, the report said. These are lines well-expected to be endorsed by a company like Google, which has increasingly been involved in lobbying political leaders in the last few years.

"It will be critical for policy-makers and business people alike to understand the enablers and barriers that will shape the future of cloud computing," the report said. "The role government plays -- or chooses not to play -- will be critical to the outcome."

In a discussion of the report in Washington, D.C., last Friday, Hayward and Rayport detailed where they thought government should play a role and where it shouldn't. In areas such as cybercrime prevention, broadband, and sustainability, the government will likely play key roles. In others, like interoperability, reliability, and determining the cloud's economic value, the government should largely stay out of the debate, the authors said. "What government can do best is clear the road, not pave it," the report said.

The report only paints with a broad brush what should and shouldn't be done, but delves deeper into the possibilities. Among the key tasks for government: "Helping to ensure universal connectivity to broadband, policing cyber-crime [and] clearing away potential obstacles to fair and open Internet access" as well as getting Congress to rewrite laws and regulations to deal with cloud computing. Among the key tasks for the private sector: everything else.

The report notes lawmakers are likely to continue pushing universal access to the Internet, and such pressure could result in tax incentives, re-regulation of wireless spectrum and subsidies to low-income Internet users that could spur increased expansion of the U.S. footprint of high-speed Internet access. It also said the government might require compliance with EPA recommendations and finance the use of cloud computing for basic science research, though it doesn't explicitly prescribe these actions.

Hayward and Rayport do, however, come down on the side of caution. "There are areas where government must be mindful not to overstep its bounds," they write, adding that most experts interviewed for the report recommended a generally hands-off, legislation-light approach to cloud computing by the federal government.


How are other companies striking a balance between innovation and cutting costs with cloud computing? InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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