2008 Shaping Up to

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2007-11-10 Print this article Print

Be Election 2.0"> "The Silicon Valley is looking for a candidate who really gets it—someone who understands how all the public policy pieces fit together," said Google spokesperson Adam Kovacevich. Kovacevich added that Google also uses the visits to "educate the candidates now [on technology issues] and push them to develop a playbook."

The candidates all agree that technology will be critical in solving issues such as rising health care costs and the energy crisis, creating high-paying high-tech jobs along the way. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that the country needs more and faster broadband to remain globally competitive.
Theres also no disagreement that America needs a large reinvestment in science, technology, engineering and math education. All of the candidates endorse more H-1B visas for technology companies, and they all drink green ethanol for breakfast—at least figuratively (and at least in Iowa).
Sharp differences The candidates are offering numerous technology plans. Clinton has a nine-point plan that includes a $50 billion strategic energy fund and broadband deployment tax initiatives. Romney wants to implement a "mandatory biometrically enabled, tamper-proof documentation and employment verification system" as part of his immigration plan. Edwards detailed six-point plan promises to "confront the competitive challenges of the new century." Obama would invest $10 billion over five years to build "standards-based electronic health information systems." To make it all happen, though, there are sharp differences among the candidates approaches to technology policy. The Republicans put their faith in free markets and slashing taxes and government regulations. "Im all for the government encouraging competition, but Ive found over time that less government involvement is better," McCain said at a technology conference in May. "Unless there is a clear-cut, unequivocal restraint of competition, the government should stay out of it. These things will sort themselves out." Rudy Giuliani recently said at the Northern Virginia Technology Council, "Government needs to get out of the way of private enterprise." Likewise, Romney said in January, "The guy on the shoulders, thats your government. And if governments too big, it slows down the inventors and the entrepreneurs." Since Democrats took control of Congress in January, though, a different approach is pacing the agenda and offering voters an alternative choice: increased market regulations, tax incentives instead of cuts, and heightened priority of individual privacy, copyright and telecom laws. Ten months after coming to power, the Democrats are seeking network neutrality laws, patent reform favored by most tech companies and a large taxpayer investment in technology. The Democratic presidential candidates—most notably, Clinton, Obama and Edwards—promise more of the same if elected. Clinton and Obama are co-sponsors of legislation in the U.S. Senate that would impose network neutrality mandates on the countrys broadband providers. All of their competitors for the Democratic nomination endorse the bill. "Ive become an original cosponsor of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which would prevent Internet service providers from blocking, degrading or giving a lower-priority service on their networks," Clinton said in January. Obama weighed in with an attack on the "big telephone and cable companies" that want to "change the Internet as we know it. Those of us who cant pony up the cash for these high-speed connections will be relegated to the slow lanes ... Allowing the Bells and cable companies to act as gatekeepers with control over Internet access would make the Internet like cable," he said last year. Republicans counter that network neutrality laws would amount to excessive and unnecessary regulation of the Internet. McCain believes the market will solve the issue. If a broadband provider discriminates in the treatment of Internet traffic, McCain contends, the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to deal with it. "When you control the pipe, you should be able to get profit from your investment," McCain recently said, defending the proposals of telecoms such as AT&T and Verizon to charge large content providers extra fees based on bandwidth usage. Paul is also on the record against the need for any network neutrality laws. Giuliani and Romney have so far avoided the subject. While network neutrality is, at best, a narrow issue in a presidential race, Republicans and Democrats also disagree over the broader policy approach to competitiveness and innovation. Democrats favor public-private partnerships to promote broadband and a host of other technology initiatives. Republicans salute the goal, but feel the governments best role is to stay out of the way. As the races unfold during the next 12 months, technology policy will likely manifest itself not as separate issues, but as part of the overall fabric of economic realities facing American voters. As Googles Kovacevich recently said, "We want to make sure the next president is a tech president—that they understand how innovation happens and have some concrete ideas about how to keep the tech economy growing." Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.


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