Friday, October 10, 2008

Candidates on broadband: McCain favors market, Obama favors regulation, offers more details

Both major presidential candidates see high-speed Internet service, or broadband, as important to rural America. But they offer considerably different ways to achieve it. "Obama advocates legislation to make it happen; McCain trusts the free market to bring it about," the Daily Yonder reports.

"Both candidates support public-private partnerships, but only Obama offers a specific funding mechanism to pay for his program," writes Timothy Collins, assistant director of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. Examining the candidates' plstforms, he notes that Obama wants to reform the Universal Service Fund "to extend broadband services across the country. . . . McCain does not mention the Universal Service Fund, instead promising to keep the Internet free of taxation. In fact, he lists a number of tax breaks and incentives for firms."

The candidates also differ on "net neutrality," a proposed policy that would prevent Internet service providers from setting different rates or access based on type of content. "McCain seems to support net neutrality in theory, as a policy direction, but does not want the government to mandate it for fear regulations would stifle competition and innovation," Collins writes. "Obama, on the other hand, believes government has a role in guiding competition to keep the markets fair. He supports net neutrality, with an attendant set of regulations to assure that the Internet – in all of its aspects, from research and development to personal use – is set up so it is fair to everyone."

Obama says the current federal definition of broadband, 200 kilobites per second, is too slow, but offers no alternative definition. Collins found no position for McCain on this issue. He also found, "Obama raises two other issues of importance to rural areas: making sure schools, libraries, hospitals and households have access to the next generation of broadband technology and using technology to lower health care costs by improving record keeping. McCain does not mention these issues." Collins offers many more details on this important topic for rural America. (Read more)

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