What Happened at the Hearing for New Hampshire’s Free Software Law?

https://yro.slashdot.org/story/22/01/17/040252/what-happened-at-the-hearing-for-new-hampshires-free-software-law

What happened after a New Hampshire state representative proposed legislation either encouraging or requiring free software in much of the state government? The Concord Monitor writes, “It’s been three decades since Linux launched the modern world of free, open-source software, but you’d hardly have known that at a state legislative hearing Tuesday.

One bill (HB 1273) from Eric Gallager, a Concord Democrat, is a sweeping effort that not only establishes a committee to study “replacing all proprietary software used by state agencies with free software” but also does such things as limit non-compete clauses that conflict with open-source development and forbid Javascript in state government websites. The other bill (HB 1581) from Lex Berezhny, a Grafton Republican, would reinstate a requirement that state agencies must use open-source software when it is “the most effective software solution.” That requirement existed in state law from 2012 to 2018, he said.

Gallager said the two bills were developed separately. “The fact that you’ve got people in both parties thinking about this issue independently shows there is a wide range of support for it,” he said.

The Executive Department and Administration committee sent both bills to subcommittee.


But what’s interesting is the arguments that were made — both for and against:

Tuesday’s hearing drew the state’s most prominent free software advocate, Jon Hall, a programmer whose legacy in the field dates back three decades… Among his arguments, Hall said that studies have shown that free and open-source software is cheaper in the long run than software from Microsoft or other vendors because you don’t have to buy regular licenses or be forced into software upgrades or have to ditch equipment like printers because they are no longer supported. Even when free and open-source software has higher costs due to training, he said, those costs have benefits. “Where does the money that you spend go? You can send millions of dollars to Redmond (Washington, home of Microsoft) or Silicon Valley, or pay local software developers,” Hall argued.

On the other hand, Denis Goulet, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology, said Gallager’s bill would put large and hard-to-quantify costs onto the state. “It would take a year, two years, to figure out what it would cost” due to training on new systems, he told the committee. “It wouldn’t be small.” Goulet, who opposed Gallager’s bill and did not speak on Berezhny’s, said the state already uses open-source systems as appropriate, pointing to its web content management system.

“I estimate 85 percent of systems contained one or more open-source libraries,” he said.