With few direct comments on IT or telecommunciations policy from President Bush or presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Washington pundits are digging deep into party ideologies to gauge the upcoming elections potential effect on technology industries.
According to the forecasters, four more years of the Bush administration would mean a continued deregulatory agenda, relying heavily on market forces to transform the once-monopolized telecommunications sector into a competitive industry. By contrast, a Kerry administration would likely press for regulation where it sees the market failing to promote competition or the public interest.
Several key members of Congress have promised to take a new look at the Telecommunications Act of 1996 next year to account for rapidly emerging technologies, and broadband will be at the center of the agenda. Philosophical outlook will likely play into whether high-speed Internet service is treated as a universal need, such as basic telephone service, or more as a luxury.
The Bush administration has indicated that high-speed Internet service should not be subject to federal regulation, ensuring universal service or traditional telecom taxes, according to Thomas Lenard, vice president for research at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, in Washington.
A Kerry administration would probably offer government incentives to promote affordable broadband service throughout the country, said Blair Levin, managing director and telecom analyst for Legg Mason Inc., in Washington, and chief of staff to former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt (a Democratic appointee) from 1993 to 1997.
In a similar vein, Kerry would likely take a stronger stand to ensure that markets overseas are open to U.S. technology, which will become increasingly important to the industry, said Robert Atkinson, vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, in Washington.
"Trade is going to be the future of high tech," said Atkinson, who was gathered with other analysts at a discussion here hosted by Dittus Communications Inc. and CNBC Television.