Washington, 24 Oct 2003
The U.S. Department of Commerce has proposed relaxing export controls on computer production technology and software and on microprocessor technology to make them conform to the level of controls on computers and microprocessors themselves.
In an October 24 Federal Register notice, the department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) said the change in regulation would let companies provide access to this production technology to foreign nationals working for them both abroad and in the United States.
The Federal Register notice seeks public comment on the proposed rule by November 24.
BIS said existing export controls for the production technology differ from export controls for computers and microprocessors, or chips, in two ways: the countries eligible and the level of performance measured as millions of theoretical operations per second (MTOPS).
Under the proposal, the unlimited export of computer production technology and software would continue unchanged for 22 countries -- basically NATO members plus Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Also unchanged would be the prohibition on exports of such technology to seven countries accused of supporting terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
The threshold for computer technology exports would rise to 75,000 MTOPS for a group of 47 countries in a category called "Tier 3," including China, Egypt, India, Israel, Russia and Pakistan. The threshold would rise to 150,000 MTOPS for all other countries.
BIS would also relax controls on exports of microprocessor technology but has not yet determined the thresholds.
For two years BIS has considered whether to change its measure of performance for computers and computer technology from MTOPS, a measure viewed by some in the industry as too narrow. As no consensus has emerged yet, the Federal Register notice also solicits suggestions from the industry for measuring such performance by other methods or parameters.