The Words Not Found in McCain's Tech Policy


Words Not in McCain's Tech Policy

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McCain has delivered his tech policy. And it's clear: This election will determine whether America willfully becomes a third-world participant in the online economy and culture.

Much of the McCain policy is the expected stuff about public-private partnerships, educating the workforce, and providing incentives to reach under-served populations, etc. But he shows his hand on three issues:

1. He's flat against Net neutrality.

2. He wants to see copyright extended and enforced more vigorously.

3. He thinks the current infrastructure only needs a couple of tweaks.

In sum, our Internet policy should be the same as our energy policy: Hand a key resource off to big corporations whose interests are fundamentally out of alignment with ours as citizens.

Let's assume that this is not because McCain is a tool. Let's assume he has the best intentions and that his policy accurately reflects how he thinks about the Internet.

To McCain, the Internet is all about business. It's about people working and buying stuff. There is nothing — nothing — in his policy statement that acknowledges that maybe the Net is also a new way we citizens are connecting with one another. The phrase "free speech" does not show up in it. The term "democracy" does not show up in it. What's the opposite of visionary?

Further, the Internet to McCain is a set of tubes for delivering content to an awaiting public. Jeez, does he not have anyone on staff under the age of 25 who could have clued him in on what the Net is about?

It gets worse. Even if we ignore the cultural, social, and democratic aspects of the Net, even if we consider the Net to be nothing but a way to move content to "consumers" (his word), McCain still gets it wrong. There's nothing in his policy about encouraging the free flow of ideas. Instead, when McCain thinks about ideas, he thinks about how to increase the walls around them by cracking down on "pirates" and ensuring " fair rewards to intellectual property" (which, technically speaking, I think isn't even English). Ideas and culture are, to John McCain, business commodities. He totally misses the dramatic and startling success of the Web in generating new value via open access to ideas and cultural products.

The two candidates' visions of the Internet could not be clearer. We can have a national LAN designed first and foremost to benefit business, and delivered to passive consumers for whom the Net is a type of cable TV. Or, we can have an Internet that is of the people, by the people, for the people.

Is it going to be our Internet or theirs?