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Johanne Torres[October 22, 2004]

Bush and Kerry: Head to Head on Tech Issues


With just days away from the U.S. Presidential election, and as presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry start wrapping up their campaigns, the Computing Technology Industry Association’s (CompTIA) 20,000 members challenged both men to a tech policy questionnaire. CompTIA formulated the questions building upon the importance of information technology (IT) in both candidates’ campaigns. Bush and Kerry answered the 12 questions quite differently.

CompTIA asked the candidates to describe the role each thinks the federal government should play on such issues as: tech workforce/training; Internet telephony (define - news - alert); cyber security; Internet content; intellectual property; broadband (define - news - alert) deployment; Internet privacy; spam; unlicensed wireless spectrum; small business competition; research and development (R&D); and the overall importance of IT to America.

“There are nearly 10 million tech workers and tens of thousands of tech businesses across America,” said John Venator, president and chief executive officer of CompTIA.  “Voters in this sector are rightly concerned about how government tackles IT policy.  It used to not be this way.  There was a certain ‘garage mythology’ that sheltered our view of, and interaction with, government.  With America’s growing dependence on IT, however, that day has clearly changed.  Washington matters.  And, because of that, so do the voters who are concerned about a growing array of tech issues,” he added.

Here are the highlights of the debate:

On the Information Technology (IT) Industry

CompTIA asked the candidates, How important is the IT industry to the growth and development of this nation?

Senator John Kerry responded:

“New information and communications technologies can do more than change the way we shop and do business. Used creatively, they can also improve our quality of life and advance some of our most time-honored values. The evolution of the Internet and other information and communications technologies has been driven by bottom-up, decentralized ‘experiments’ by individual users, independent developers, university researchers, companies, non-profits, and ‘virtual communities.’ In some areas, there are appropriate steps that the government can take, working with the private sector, to promote key applications of IT that improve our quality of life. These include: overcoming legal and regulatory barriers to the adoption of IT; making the government an intelligent user of new technologies to carry out its missions; support for R&D and pilot projects; and establishing longer-term national goals on the use of IT.

“I will direct my Cabinet to develop an ‘Innovation Agenda’ built upon public-private partnerships that harness IT and advance the following goals: promote digital opportunity; make our government more open, responsive, and efficient; transform America's healthcare system; empower people with disabilities to lead more independent lives; and put America's cultural heritage at the fingertips of every American.”

President George W. Bush responded:

“In a rapidly changing global economy, one thing is for certain: Innovation will drive America's economic success and prosperity. We must adapt to the reality that the same telecommunication networks that integrate nations into the global economy also bring new competitors to our doorstep. The ability of the United States to compete in this new environment rests not on retreating to protectionist stances, but rather on our ability to innovate. The stakes are high and the challenges are real. But I believe in the ingenuity of American workers and in the innovation of our information technology industry.

“Information technology improves the Nation's economic productivity and offers life-enhancing applications, such as educational technology, advanced medical diagnostics, information sharing among homeland security agencies, and eGovernment. We must continue to tap into the transformations that information technology can bring about in organizations within a vast array of industries and sectors. America needs a strong information technology sector in order to compete in the global economy.

“My support for the information technology sector and agenda for America's future has attracted the support of more than 26,000 investors, 32,000 high-tech leaders, and 71,000 small business owners. They support me because of a shared belief that that one of the constants in our Nation's history is innovation -- seeking to improve ourselves as individuals and as a people. As a result, America has always been the most fertile source of new ideas for the world, and our innovations continue to make America and the world better, stronger, and safer. These breakthroughs ultimately depend on vision, optimism and steady resolve to achieve great goals.”

On Broadband

CompTIA asked the candidates, What should the federal government do to encourage widespread broadband deployment to businesses and homes?

Senator John Kerry responded:

“I support a telecommunications policy that will promote investment, encourage competition, deliver new services, unleash innovation, and accelerate the development of universal, affordable broadband networks and applications. I will spread to rural and underserved areas across America the marketplace solution that was successful in bringing broadband to Western Massachusetts. By joining their purchasing power, businesses, hospitals and other significant telecommunications users in a rural region will be able to attract investment in broadband networks and then benefit from increased economic activity and job creation. By bringing more opportunity to rural America, the telecommunications revolution can strengthen the social fabric of many communities.

“My plan will also provide a 10 percent tax credit for investments in today's broadband technology in rural and inner city areas. Investments in the next-generation of high-speed broadband anywhere in the country would be eligible for a 20 percent tax credit -- this would be available for speeds more than 20 times the current generation of broadband. These tax credits would be in effect for five years and the proposal would cost $2 billion over that period.”

President George W. Bush responded:

“I made a commitment to make broadband affordable and accessible to all Americans by 2007 removing the regulatory hurdles that serve as obstacles to the development and deployment of new technologies.

“I support making the moratorium on Internet access taxes permanent since such taxes only increase the cost of broadband for consumers. I also believe broadband access should not be governed by regulations established decades ago. By applying 21st century policy to 21st century technology, we will encourage new investment that will bring broadband to more homes in more areas of America. Deregulating new ultra-fast broadband infrastructure removes a significant barrier to new capital investments. I have also directed Federal agencies to streamline the process for broadband providers to get access to Federal lands to build out high-speed broadband infrastructure and wireless towers.

“These efforts build on my accomplishments. My Administration has worked to dramatically increase the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband services such as WiFi (define - news - alert) and WiMax (define - news - alert), reduce regulatory barriers that have slowed the rollout of high speed fiber optic cable, and facilitate the delivery of broadband over existing power lines. Over the last four years my Administration has given out $3 billion in rural telecommunications loans, helping to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure in the most rural parts of our Nation and facilitate the delivery of broadband.

“All of these efforts are making a difference. Broadband adoption has grown 300 percent from December 2000 to December 2003 -- from seven million to 28 million lines. Consumers are adopting broadband faster than they have adopted other technologies such as color televisions, wireless phones, VCRs, and personal computers. Over 93 percent of zip codes have broadband access, up from 70 percent in 2000. Over 99 percent of public schools in the United States had access to the Internet in 2002 -- 94 percent use broadband connections to access the Internet, which is up from 80 percent in 2000.”

On Internet Telephony

CompTIA asked the candidates, What is the appropriate role of the federal and state governments regarding Internet telephony and other similar Internet applications?

Senator John Kerry responded:

“I am open to examining the best methods to deploy new technology in a way that is consumer friendly and promotes a competitive marketplace.”

President George W. Bush responded:

“I support innovative communications technologies like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP - define - news - alert), and believe they will lead to more communications choices for consumers. VoIP will benefit from the deployment of broadband, and that is one of the reasons I have set an aggressive goal of having affordable broadband access available to all Americans by 2007.

“We must work toward creating regulatory certainty, which provides companies with the incentive to invest in new technologies and services. Internet telephony by its nature relies on technology that does not distinguish geographic borders. This requires us to take a hard look at the appropriate role of Federal and state regulators with respect to a technology that may be more similar to email than to regular telephony, at least in the way the signal is transmitted. The FCC is looking at this specific issue in an effort to ensure that sound rules exist that will allow these new technologies to flourish in the marketplace.”

On Spam

CompTIA asked the candidates, What should the federal government's role be in regard to spam?

Senator John Kerry responded:

“I am open to considering the best means available to ensure people do not receive unsolicited email.”

President George W. Bush responded:

“The problems associated with spam cannot be solved by Federal legislation alone, but rather require the development and adoption of new technologies. Nonetheless, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), that I signed into law will help address the problems associated with the abuse of spam. The new law establishes important "rules of the road" for civil enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), other Federal agencies, State attorneys general, and ISPs to help curb spam. It also creates new criminal penalties to assist in deterring the most offensive forms of spam, including unmarked sexually-oriented messages and e-mails containing fraudulent headers. At the same time, the law caps statutory damages for civil violations in most cases. The law also provides greater certainty in interstate commerce for businesses. Consumers are provided with a choice not to receive any further unsolicited messages from a sender and senders that do not honor a consumer's request are subject to civil penalties.”

Johanne Torres is contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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