Obama and McCain’s Stand on Technology

October 31st, 2008 at 12:00 am

The United States 2008 presidential election is only a few days away. Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain have debated and made stump speeches about Iraq, the US economy, health care, foreign policy, etc. But, what about technology?

The White House approach to technology issues may not be as critical as diagnosing and treating the health care crisis, but still such matters are important. How would the two presidential candidates handle this important issue?

Main technology issues

Broadband access is one of the main issues the candidates have addressed. The Internet becomes ever more important to our everyday lives, and the US is slipping behind many other developed countries in the ubiquity and speed of broadband access. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the country is now down to 14th place.

Net neutrality and innovation are also important issues. Some of the companies that control the Internet prioritize some data over other types and sometimes charge extra for preferential treatment. Also as other countries start to assert their technological prowess, the US government should play a large role in sparking R&D to catch up with the competition.

Privacy and security issues have also been addressed by Obama and McCain. Many privacy and security threats are indisputable, but the situation becomes blurry when the US government monitors communications in tracking down terrorists.

Obama’s stand

Obama has promised to make broadband an essential and universal service. He also says he will "demand a review of existing uses of our wireless spectrum" and "create incentives for smarter, more efficient and more imaginative use of government spectrum." As for Internet neutrality, he strongly backs the network neutrality principle as well as the copyright and patent reform.

On privacy and security issues, Obama strongly opposes the Homeland Security wiretapping, saying he "would adhere to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rules for the surveillance of any Internet and telephone communications, and would establish strict procedures for the use of any PATRIOT Act powers, especially national security letters." Finally, regarding innovation, the candidate proposes doubling the federal funding for R&D and making it tax credit permanent.

McCain’s stand

Speaking on broadband access, McCain acknowledges the "growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America," encouraging corporations to act in their own interests, with tax benefits and to improve access. Unlike Obama, he strongly opposes regulations that enforce the neutrality principle. He said at a technology conference, "When you control the pipe, you should be able to get profit from your investment."

Moreover, McCain supports anti-terrorism drives. However, the candidate says that, "When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law." Lastly, like Obama, he proposes to make the R&D tax credit permanent.