April 27, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Missing: Politicians who take clear stand on tech

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To be sure, there are some differences in the two major parties' respective documents.

Where the Democrats talk about affordable high-speed Internet access, they propose more government spending, more regulation by the Federal Communications Commission, and having government officials create a "national broadband access map." The Republicans, on the other hand, say the goal of speedy Net-links can be achieved by "minimizing regulation on innovative new Internet services."

Similarly, the Democrats propose creating a new federal agency to spend more money (presumably through higher taxes, though the document doesn't say) on "high-risk, high-reward energy technologies." The Republicans prefer to "encourage the private sector to develop" them.

In general, the Republicans are more specific. Technet and the Information Technology Association of America have asked for reforms to Sarbanes-Oxley, ongoing support of free trade, more H-1B visas, and limits to Internet taxation--all of which appear in the GOP document but not the Democratic one. (In fact, Senate Democrats voted down a plan this week to limit Sarbanes-Oxley's impact on smaller companies.)

Still, if the Democrats can specify details like creating a national broadband access map, why can't they pledge to support new Net neutrality laws? House Speaker Pelosi has said they're necessary, and a House vote last summer fell largely along party lines.

That leads to a second explanation for the vagueness: Being vague means being able to change your mind. If Pelosi were serious about introducing Net neutrality legislation, the argument goes, she could have done so months ago. But that would antagonize telephone and broadband providers, which have some of the most influential lobbyists and some of the most generous political action committees. (Pelosi's office did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.)

"If they did embrace technology, they might be asked a question about it, and they'd be in trouble," quipped Lew Rockwell, a political analyst and commentator who is the president of the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Rockwell added: "I think that has something to do with the nature of government. Government is very low-tech. When it makes use of technology, it doesn't know what it's doing... They don't really know anything about these issues."

CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report

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5 comments

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It's time for the public to wake up
Net neutrality, and security are issues that should never be ignored. And in some ways the People can no longer blame the politicians. Apathy and illiteracy has grown to epidemic proportions.

Downloading, blogging, and gamming have become more important than issues of net neutrality, national security and Constitutional Rights.

Too many Americans have developed the lifestyle and belief that our elected officials will protect us, and do what is right. These Americans feel there is no need to do any thing because it's already being done.

Added to this is the tragedy that hand writing and mailing a letter via the US Postal service is becoming a lost art. Granted that users of the Internet has grown tremendously, but the largest percentage of the US population is not online and depend on their daily newspaper, and /or local television news,

I have one question for the readers here. Do you know your neighbors first name?
Posted by the1kingarthur (47 comments )
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Net neutrality ruined this article
Net neutrality is entirely different from all of the other things in this article which tend to be based on good economic principles. Net neutrality, on the other hand, is interest group politics. It is no surprise that CNET News.com supports it, because that's their best interest. Unfortunately, it makes them an incredibly biased source. Companies should be able to price as they desire, not based on government regulation.
Posted by Michael K. (19 comments )
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Not at all
CNET News.com has never taken a position on Net neutrality. We were neutral, so to speak, in our scorecard last year:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Technology+voter+guide+2006+-+Grading+Congress+on+high-tech+cred/2009-1040_3-6131719.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Technology+voter+guide+2006+-+Grading+Congress+on+high-tech+cred/2009-1040_3-6131719.html</a>

But contrary to what you surmise, even *opponents* of Net neutrality would like to see politicians take a stand on it one way or another.

Put another way, specifics benefit both opponents and supporters of a certain piece of legislation. What they don't benefit are politicians, who like to preserve their wiggle room, which is why we don't see it in their political manifestos this week.
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
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The wisdom of Wittgenstein
No one would accuse Ludwig Wittgenstein of being a political theorist. However, in this case he hit the nail right on the head: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man scheigen." ("What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.") Most politicians do not know much about technology, but most of them seem to have learned the dangers of speaking about it from a point of ignorance!
Posted by ghostofitpast (199 comments )
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Heh
"Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt."

So far as I can see, the devil is in the details, re net neutrality. Too much "neutrality" means monopolies, as does too little.
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
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