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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