President-elect Barack Obama brings a decidedly different technology agenda to the White House than President Bush did eight years ago. Widely considered the most tech-savvy president ever elected, Obama sees an activist government - tinkering here, readjusting there and spending here, here and here - as the path to innovation and the future.
Since technology is the key to virtually all of President-elect Barack
Obama's plans for sweeping changes in the direction of the country and the way
Washington does business with its citizens, it is not surprising Obama brings a
decidedly different technology agenda to the White House than President Bush
did eight years ago.
Bush praised technology as a key driver of the economy and worked to remove
government barriers such as laws, rules and regulations to let the free market
make its decisions on winners and losers. Obama, though, embraces technology as
the path to innovation and the future and plans to invest heavily in technology
as the key to reviving the economy.
An eWEEK look at the emerging new Washington
Would innovation blossom if virtually any legal Internet service or software
program could run on any broadband network? Obama thinks so. Broadband
providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast do not, conjuring up nightmare
traffic management scenarios. One of Obama's
earliest tech campaign promises was to throw his support behind network
, which would prohibit discrimination in the delivery of broadband
services by providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.
Absent network neutrality rules, Obama said, "you could get much better
quality from the Fox News site and you'd be getting rotten service from some
mom and pop site. And that, I think, destroys one of the best things about the
Internet-which is that there is this incredible equality there."
Prime example? In August, the Federal
Communications Commission ruled that Comcast violated the agency's Internet
when it throttled peer-to-peer traffic by BitTorrent, a clear
discrimination against the P2P provider. The agency ordered Comcast to stop the
practice but did not fine the cable giant. Comcast
has sued to overturn the decision
, claiming the FCC does not have the legal
authority to impose the decision.
Obama has already promised to put network neutrality proponents on the FCC,
but if Comcast wins its case against the agency (and many think it will) Obama
is likely to put his support behind federal legislation to mandate network
neutrality. His first choice, though, is to leave the issue with the FCC. All
this will take time to play out.
The technology sector has long fought for an increase in H1-B visas, a
specialized-occupation (i.e., tech-related) temporary worker. While Obama has
said he will support a temporary increase in the H1-B cap, his heart is not in
it. The president-elect, along with a number of Midwest
lawmakers, does not see it as a long-term solution to providing the high-tech
community with skilled workers.
Comprehensive immigration reform with an emphasis on retraining workers who
lose jobs to offshoring is a top priority for Obama. As with under Bush,
though, as long as H1-Bs are tied to immigration reform and its more incendiary
border security and amnesty issues, the visa issue is likely to go unresolved
with, perhaps, only a small bump in the number of H1-B visas.
A more likely scenario is an overhaul reform of the H1-B system. A recent
U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services report said as
many as 20 percent of the applications may be fraudulent or technically flawed
Cleaning up the system would free more H1-B visas for tech companies.