Congress Seeks to Define 'Blockchain'

A bill has been introduced that would bring together stakeholders in government and private industry to come up with a common working definition of blockchain, which Wikipedia defines as "a growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked using cryptography.[1][6] Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block,[6] a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a merkle tree root hash)."

"Merkle tree root hash" certainly begs for further explanation, and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) have teamed up on the bipartisan effort, H.R. 6913, the Blockchain Promotion Act of 2018. The title gives away their view on the potential of the technology, which has applications across the internet of things. They are looking at the new tech as a way to promote innovation. "Blockchain can be a great resource for innovation and technology, but we must figure out exactly what best common definition is and how it can be used," said Guthrie. Those uses include for advertising and media distribution.

Need to Know: What Blockchain Means to Media

The bill would require the Department of Commerce to create the working group, which in addition with coming up with a consensus definition of blockchain, would also consider charging the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the President's principal communications advisor and a part of Commerce, and the FCC with teaming on a study of the potential impact of blockchain on spectrum policy or its use to promote a more efficient government.

The bill comes as states are trying to come up with their own, varying, definitions, so this would be an attempt to come up with a common definition, a rhetorical technical standard, as it were, that all could refer to.

“Blockchain technology could transform the global digital economy. Opportunities to deploy blockchain technology ranges from greatly increased transparency, efficiencies and security in supply chains to more-opportunistically managing access to spectrum," Matsui said.

Related: House Looks at Implications of IoT

“Blockchain technology shows serious promise for not just the financial industry, but also for many others by enhancing security, authentication, and regulatory compliance," said Software Information & Industry Association VP Mark MacCarthy. "A technical definition for blockchain will help set up a common framework for businesses, researchers, and policymakers and guide research and applications development. This is what happened when NIST set a definition for cloud-computing."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.