The following is a guest post from Gandi’s COO Thomas Stocking about Internet Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and is cross-posted with permission from Gandi Bar.

CapitolThis week we are heading to the US Capitol, braving the chilly weather and organized chaos we call the US Congress to talk to our representatives. After what happened with SOPA last year, it’s clear that our lawmakers need to have a more detailed understanding of exactly what the Internet is and does, and how we as web hosting and DNS providers make it work if they intend to improve it. We need to make sure the laws they create respect the decentralized nature of the web, and protect the incredible benefits that the Internet has created.

We share the concerns stated in the open letter from Internet Engineers to Congress, which is why Gandi is joining with other members of the Internet Infrastructure Coalition in a day of Advocacy on the Hill on Wednesday February 27th, 2013. We will be presenting on Internet services and business models to members of Congress in an informational session and a series of direct meetings.

The priorities of Gandi’s advocacy are positive: we don’t just say no to bad laws like SOPA, but openly advocate for positive changes to existing laws, or even call for new ones. Aaron’s law (also known as CFAA reform), introduced by Zoe Lofgren, is needed to prevent overzealous prosecutors from using a provision of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which they have interpreted as making it a federal crime to breech the “terms of service” for a web site you access.

The i2Coalition’s current priority is supporting proposed changes to ECPA, which should be updated it to more accurately reflect the realities of data we store as web hosts, and to require warrants when that data is requested by law enforcement agencies. We call this “digital due process”.

The CFAA reform legislation proposed by Lofgren is good, and is badly needed in order to clarify what is and is not a “computer crime”. Gandi would like to see what we see as draconian interpretations taken off the table. This law should be applied to true criminals who cause real harm, not used to bully advocates for greater freedom of information, as was clearly the case with Aaron Swartz. Let’s catch the real criminals here: identity thieves, corrupt officials or executives, to name a few. Let’s not use the law to bully activists. Whether you agree with their actions or not, we need to make sure the power of this law is not abused again.

It is with a spirit of seeking to foster a greater understanding of how companies like Gandi bring innovation and new ways of doing business to the information economy that we are doing this advocacy. We want you, our customers, to be protected, your private data to remain private and safe from malicious hackers. We also want you to benefit as you have been, by having access to a free and open Internet, without censorship or unjust restrictions.

UPDATE Feb 28th, 2013:
After two days of meetings with member offices, and a well-attended lunch session on Wednesday February 27th, we can say that the i2Coalition has gotten off to a good start in our efforts on Capitol Hill.

While the issues we raised about privacy, open access, and censorship are important, it’s clear that to make headway in the current Congress we will need the help of interested US citizens. Please, call your congresspeople, tell them that you support laws that help the Internet to stay free, open, and secure, without taking away the right to privacy online. We heard from many people how difficult that job will be, but we also saw that it is possible, if (and ONLY if) we all keep the pressure on.

Senator Wyden in particular echoed this sentiment when he spoke at our lunch event, where we honored him, Senator Moran and Congressman Issa with awards for their support of a free and open Internet. They deserve your emails and letters of thanks. We had a live stream that included inspiring speeches by i2C founder Christian Dawson, and reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Other representatives such as Senator Franken, who is generally supportive of these goals, also deserve your support. If you care about keeping your private data both private and safe from malicious hackers, as we do, please, tell your Congressperson, and ask them to help us offer you these services.

Gandi is happy to have contributed to this first event on Capitol hill for the i2Coalition, and we look forward many more, and to your involvement.