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Computing Your Presidential Choices

When I started writing this column, I figured my job would be unlike that of most other Washington-based pundits: I wouldn't have to spend much time talking to lawyers and lobbyists or reading over laws and court rulings.

I was wrong. Laws and regulation (or the absence thereof) can restrict our choices of hardware and software. Patent lawsuits can force you to switch phone companies and raise the price you pay for a program. Poorly thought-out attempts to stop the redistribution of copyrighted works online can force companies to ask for the government's permission to add new features to their products; the worst of these proposals would have required an enormous variety of manufacturers to build copy-prevention technology into every digital device they make. Your Internet provider can restrict your access to some online sites and services with little or no advance notice.

As the District, Maryland and Virginia get ready to have their say in tomorrow's presidential primaries, it's a good time to ask what the candidates think about tech-policy issues.

The initial answer seems to be not much, to judge by the "issues" pages at most of the remaining candidates' sites. It's not that they don't have have views on these topics--but many seem uninterested in advertising them.

Barack Obama's site provides the lengthiest inventory of tech-policy positions--he supports net-neutrality regulation, universal access to broadband, and reform of the patent and copyright laws. But some of these statements (such as, "We need to update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated") lack specifics.

The other candidates' sites offer less insight on their views.

At John McCain's site, a page listing his economic policies states his opposition to new Internet and cell-phone taxes.

Hillary Clinton's "Innovation Agenda" advocates expanding access to broadband through "tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas" and "financial support for state and local broadband initiatives."

Ron Paul's site makes a vigorous defense of electronic privacy against government and corporate intrusion.

Mike Huckabee's site doesn't seem to cover tech policy at all.

Fortunately, other news sources have provided greater detail. Wired News blogger Declan McCullaugh has compiled a good summary of the candidates' views on such issues as DMCA reform and Net neutrality, and PC World just ran its own survey. The TechCrunch blog put together its own survey of the candidates' views; blogger Michael Arrington interviewed most of the candidates before endorsing Obama and McCain (the site's readers, meanwhile, voted for Obama and Paul).

Now's your chance: In the comments, help me fill in the blanks about what these folks think about tech policy. Please, link to your source--whether it's from a candidate's own site, a vote they cast or a quote from an interview--wherever possible.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 11, 2008; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen  
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Comments

I have two reactions to this.
1. Is there an Internet poll Ron Paul does NOT win?
2. I just have to laugh when Huckabee's platform does not appear to mention technology at all.

Posted by: slar | February 11, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I was certainly expecting more feedback than this on a story such as this one, already three days old.

Certainly Ron Paul offers a lot more to the people with his "less government" pursuit. Of course it's likely that such a candidate doesn't stand a chance, but it's nice to know that some people are thinking about our liberties.

In regards to Obama's agenda when it comes down to tech-policy, you have to wonder if he means "Net Neutrality" as the providers call it or true net neutrality. There's a lot of misconception and a lot of lies out there.

The bottom-line is that the Internet as a whole should not have restrictions and users should not have to pay a premium in order to access [most] sites. This is what the lobbyists are hoping to do. They are hoping to acquire more money from those looking to explore outside of their ISP's network (themselves and their partners).

The Internet is a marketing tool, true, but it should not be solely used for/by the marketplace.

Posted by: barcodedmaggot | February 14, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I looked at each of the candidate's pages, and in my humble opinion, the Republican candidates are living in the dark ages. Their answer to everything, including the promotion of technological innovation, is simply to lower taxes (even on things that are not taxed today). They don't answer how their administration would ensure fair access, monitor security, and provide transparency.

I have to go with Obama on this one. He clearly outlines what he believes should happen, and he doesn't make unrealistic promises. His idea for a Chief Technology Officer (much like every major corporation on the planet) is long overdue for the US government. A CTO whose mission is to provide fair access would be much more effective at managing technology regulation in this country than the current secretive administration that insists that all communication companies (and government agencies) should be immune to prosecution for their spying activities. That's not freedom OR technological incentive. That's Big Brother. As we know, the internet has become a marketing tool for corporations, and it's clear that Republican candidates have no proposal other than to allow corporate policy to dictate future technology deployment, which is largely rooted in regional monopolies and unfair pricing policies ... all at the expense of the end consumer.

Posted by: ron | February 15, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

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