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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Presidential Contrasts: Network Neutrality

There are some very big differences on some very big issues at stake in this election. From Iraq to healthcare, energy to education, and everything in between, the differences are stark. One issue that receives considerably less attention, however, is a little thing called net neutrality. It's an interesting issue in a number of ways because while somewhat technical in nature, it exemplifies some of the more fundamental differences between the two presidential candidates.

First, here is a brief video to explain what net neutrality is, and why it's important.

Barack Obama supports net neutrality, while John McCain opposes it. Well to be fair, McCain has flipped back and forth a few times, but mostly he opposes it. This is a great example of the divergent approaches to policy that Obama and McCain take, however. Obama explicitly expresses support for net neutrality on his Technology issues page. It is one component of an impressively comprehensive federal technology (specifically communications and information access) policy.

McCain, on the other hand, has nothing on his website that even addresses how his administration would handle federal technology policy. His issues page is a hodge podge of cultural hot-buttons (2nd amendment, pro-life), while Obama's is a wonkish list of intelligent policy proposals, from technology and urban policy, to health care and his Iraq plan (not to mention his energy plan, which alone would earn him my vote).

The funny thing about this issue is that McCain is admittedly computer illiterate. He's probably not that far ahead of Ted "the internet is not a dumptruck" Stevens. How can someone who can't figure out email be expected to preside over a country as dependent and tied to information technology as our own? I don't need a haxor president, but I do think that basic computer literacy is desireable if not essential.

Meanwhile, net neutrality is a perfect example of the promise of an Obama presidency. His fundraising helps insulate him from the pressure that the telecom and cable companies can exert on politicians, and his pragmatism and progressive sensibilites point him in the direction of supporting smart policy. Supporting good ideas on their merits is a rare thing indeed.

(Rudy Giulliani, by the way, also opposed net neutrality. I still burn a candle for my favorite failed Republican presidential candidate, and his absurd, shilling ways.)