Monday, October 8, 2018

HR 6913 Introduced – Blockchain Technology

Last month Rep. Guthrie (R,KY) introduced HR 6913, the Blockchain Promotion Act of 2018. The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Blockchain Working Group.

Blockchain Working Group

The Blockchain Working Group (BWG) would consist of members representing both the federal government and the private sector. The Secretary would select the federal agencies to be represented with a view to ensuring “representation of a cross-section of Federal agencies that could use or benefit from blockchain technology” {2(b)(2)(A)}. The private sector members would be selected to include representatives from the following {§2(b)(2)(B)(i)}:

• Information and communications technology manufacturers, suppliers, software providers, service providers, and vendors.
• Subject matter experts representing industrial sectors other than the technology sector that the Secretary determines can benefit from blockchain technology.
• Small, medium, and large businesses.
• Individuals and institutions engaged in academic research relating to blockchain technology.
• Nonprofit organizations and consumer advocacy groups engaged in activities relating to blockchain technology.
Rural and urban stakeholders.

Within a year the BWG would be required to report to Congress a recommended definition of ‘blockchain technology’ along with recommendations for {§2(c)(1)(B)}:

• A study to be conducted by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission, on the impact of blockchain technology on electromagnetic spectrum policy;
• A study that examines a range of potential applications, including non-financial applications, for blockchain technology; and
• Opportunities within Federal agencies to use blockchain technology.

Moving Forward

Both Guthrie and his single cosponsor {Rep. Matsui (D,CA)} are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the two committees to which this bill was assigned for consideration. Earlier in the session this might have allowed for sufficient influence to ensure that the bill was considered in Committee. Now any consideration would have to take place during the post-election section of the session which is unlikely.

If this bill were considered, it is likely that it would receive bipartisan support, both in Committee and on the floor of the House. No money is being allocated and no regulations are being proposed, so there should be no basis for any serious opposition to the bill.

The bill will likely be re-introduced in the 116th Congress.


I rather frequently disparage bills that require the Executive Branch to report to Congress as a buck-passing measure. There are times, however, when this is the most appropriate way for Congress to gather the necessary information to determine if legislative action is necessary. With blockchain becoming the tech-pop culture answer to all of the world’s problems, I think that this is an appropriate area for a study and report bill.

Having said that, there are two problems that I see with this bill as written. First it is way to vague in its definition of which federal agencies should be represented on the BWG. And second there is no reference to including representatives from State and local governments on the BWG.

There are two main areas where blockchain is touted as a panacea for the ills of the world; in finance and security. At the very least the Treasury Department, Homeland Security and DOD should have been listed as agencies that should be represented on the BWG.

If blockchain is actually going to be able to solve a multitude of societal problems (I am not holding my breath) then State and local governments will also need to get into the blockchain act and should have at least some representation on the BWG to ensure that their concerns are addressed in the subsequent studies.

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