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Republican, Democratic Platforms Take Different Approaches on Technology Issues

Now that the Republican and Democratic Conventions are completed, let’s take a look at their respective platforms on broadband, internet, and information technology policies. While the Republican Platform and the Democratic Platform both give high priority to select Internet and broadband issues, neither document recognizes the need for a comprehensive IT strategy.

Philosophy: In general, the Republican Platform criticizes the Obama Administration for its antiquated regulatory approach to telecommunications. The Republican Platform calls for enhanced cooperation with the private sector to improve privacy, enhance cybersecurity, and expand broadband availability. The Democrats believe that broadband is essential infrastructure that will allow America to “out-innovate” the rest of the world. The Democrats support investments in broadband programs and regulatory protections for consumers.  

Rural Broadband: Both parties embrace the need for rural broadband build-out. The Republicans claim that the Democrats have done little to expand broadband availability in rural areas. They embrace public-private partnerships and “predictable support” – language often used by rural telephone companies. The Democrats claim to have “expanded broadband access to nearly seven million rural Americans.”

Internet Openness: The Republicans emphasize that the Internet should remain free from government intervention and accuses the Obama Administration of micro-managing the Internet through the “net neutrality rule.” The Democratic Platform reiterates the Obama Administration’s long-standing support for protecting the openness of the Internet. Both parties support keeping the Internet free from control by foreign governments and regulation by international agreements.

Privacy: The Republicans endorse protections against government access to personal information, while emphasizing that the private sector can best protect personal privacy. The Democrats tout the need for “common sense” approaches to protect consumer privacy, such as the Internet Privacy Bill of Rights and the “Do Not Track” option.

Cybersecurity: Both parties support a variety of measures to protect cybersecurity. The Republicans emphasize that the government and private sector must work together to enhance cybersecurity, and they support greater research into cybersecurity protection and an update of the cybersecurity law. The Republicans say that the “most effective” way to prevent cyber-attacks is for the government to share information with the industry. The Democrats proudly note that they created the first military command dedicated to cybersecurity and launched a full review of government cybersecurity measures. They also support a variety of approaches, such as research, legislation, and Executive Orders.

Intellectual Property: The Republican Platform frequently emphasizes the need to crack down on international theft of intellectual property, particularly by China. The Democratic Platform supports “vigorous enforcement” and voluntary efforts by all parties “to minimize infringement while supporting the free flow information.”

For a more detailed comparison of the two parties’ platforms, see the document, A Comparison of the 2012 Republican and Democratic Platforms on Internet, Broadband, and Information Technology Policies.

John Windhausen is President of Telepoly Consulting. He regularly works with EDUCAUSE Policy on matters of networking and telecommunications.

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