While we’re waiting

Back in early July, we heard that the McCain tech policy (eight months behind the Obama tech policy) was going to be released in… July. It’s August, it’s humid, and no policy.

We can predict to some extent what the in-process policy will say.

The bottom line: Sen. Obama sees the promise of technology. He understands that technology policy should be closely tied to this country’s economic policy, because technology may provide answers — solutions — for our sagging standing in the world.

Sen. McCain, from all we can tell, thinks technology is a problem. We’ve all heard the line from the Chronicle article last week:

McCain said he is well aware that technology “does drive the news. It is changing the shape of the news. … It’s changing the information age, and I’ve got to stay up with it.”

He added, “But I am forcing myself … let me put it this way, I am using the computer more and more every day.”

The problem isn’t that he doesn’t use a computer. The problem is that he thinks it’s acceptably funny to shrug away the entire ecosystem.

Sen. McCain is much more interested in offshore drilling than innovation.

He’s bought into the idea that the “free market” in highspeed internet access in this country is functioning just fine – when in fact we’re failing on every measure. Enormous incumbents have successfully avoided competition by facilitating ongoing regulatory gymnastics, prices are high, and speeds are slow.

Sen. McCain’s got that bemused, “let the kids play around” tone when it comes to technology, even as the country slumps and looks backwards towards its prouder days.

We need new ideas. Those new ideas will generate economic growth and get us out of this hole, someday, with a lot of effort. Tinkering around with capital gains breaks for big companies is not going to do it – we need a concerted, well-led, public effort to invest in the internet access infrastructure the country needs. There is no greater source of new ideas than the internet, and no greater source of hope for our economic future than better technology policy.

Back in 1904 the “Good Roads” movement gathered strength in this country. We had ignored this basic infrastructure and our roads were covered in mud and deeply rutted. It was embarrassing; other countries had invested in their roads and were able to get move their goods to market much more easily. It took leadership to dig ourselves out. One writer said at the time, “If America be the most progressive nation in the world, her citizens will not much longer endure medieval discomforts when they go out to mingle with their fellows and market the fruits of their fields.”

Our basic communications transport infrastructure today is internet access, and we’re in some medieval pain right at the moment. Sen. Obama understands this.

It’s not just internet access that Sen. Obama understands. It’s technology generally. Here’s a paragraph from his technology policy:

The 21st century tools of technology and telecommunications have unleashed the forces of globalization on a previously unimagined scale. They have “flattened” communications and labor markets and have contributed to a period of unprecedented innovation, making us more productive, connected global citizens. By maximizing the power of technology, we can strengthen the quality and affordability of our health care, advance climate-friendly energy development and deployment, improve education throughout the country, and ensure that America remains the world’s leader in technology.

I don’t want Sen. Obama stuck in front of a screen all the time. I just want him to understand what people using millions of graphical screens networked together are capable of. I think he does.

Sen. McCain? I’m still waiting.

3 thoughts on “While we’re waiting

  1. Don’t forget that John McCain thought that Cyren Call had the best idea when it came to the D Block… http://www.rcrnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070201/SUB/70201001/1005/openaccess

  2. I’ve practiced law with enough old, creaky lawyers who shun computers but are incredible practitioners to know that computers usage isn’t a relevant measure of one’s qualifications for a policy/decision-making job. The better question is whether McCain is capable of understanding technology policy without having to actually use a computer to get the policy background. To me, it seems no different that saying you can understand energy policy without knowing how to clean your carburetor, or economic policy without ever having worked in a bank. I’m skeptical that we’ll get a good technology policy out of the McCain camp, but it’s certainly possible.

  3. […] I wanted to highlight some recent discussion of McCain’s missing technology policy statement. Obama released his several months ago, and it hits the mark on most issues, if perhaps it lacks […]

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