Technology issues in the election

OK, I’m really going to try not to be political with this. It’s already pretty clear who we support in the upcoming election, but I thought putting together this list would be interesting.

The following is a list of four major technology-related issues that are important in the upcoming presidential election, and the candidates’ positions on them. I will say that I don’t agree 100% with either candidate here, and I’ll try to be as objective as possible in putting together this list. Here goes…

Net Neutrality

What it is: Currently, your internet service provider (ISP) is required to give all internet traffic equal treatment, whether you are looking at ebay,, or This basically ensures that you can get what you want, when you want it. Some ISPs have announced their intention to begin treating some traffic with greater priority than others. For example, might pay your ISP to give preferential treatment to them, which means that yahoo will work faster than google, or any other website that doesn’t pay for priority handling.

Barack Obama’s stance: Supports enacting a law to ensure a neutral internet

John McCain’s stance: Believes ISPs should be able to determine what content they deliver and how they deliver it

Intellectual Property Protection

What it is: Copyrights, patents, and all that stuff.

Obama: Wants to ensure that intellectual property (IP) is well protected both in the USA and internationally

McCain: Says government should handle blatant IP issues, but warns against “protectionism”

Broadband Availability

What is is: Helping as many people as possible have access to fast, always-on, internet connections.

Obama: Supports government involvement in getting broadband access for everyone. Also wants to change the legal definition of “broadband:” Currently the government defines broadband as 200kb/s or faster. Obama wants to raise that number so that it has to be faster to qualify as “broadband.” (For the sake of reference, at 200 kb/s, it will take about 3 minutes to download a typical pop music mp3).

McCain: Supports increased broadband access via competition between ISPs, instead of government intervention. No comment from McCain on the definition of “broadband.”

Internet and Telephone Privacy

What’s the big deal? The internet has created a whole new world of privacy issues: How long should a website that you buy something from keep your credit card number? How much personal information should myspace and facebook be allowed to publish to the masses? What about information about your children? Also, the national security climate has led to government agencies listening in on phone calls or monitoring internet use without a warrant (“warrantless wiretapping”). Many believe that this is unconstitutional, while others argue that it is not actually “search and seizure” as defined by the constitution. When the issue finally makes it to the supreme court, IF it is deemed to be unconstitutional, an interesting legal question arises as to the liability of the telephone companies and ISPs that participated in the wiretap.

Obama: Wants to increase the Federal Telecommunications Commission’s budget to give them more resources to track down cyber-criminals. Wants to update laws to ensure that information gathered for national security is properly used, and that all intelligence-gathering is done by completely legal means.

McCain: Supports retroactive immunity for companies that participated in warantless wiretapping. Believes the government should use all instruments of national power to fight the war against terrorists. Says that this must be done without “impinge[ing] on the rights of our own citizens or restrict[ing] their freedoms.”

As already stated, we’re supporting Obama this time around, but I tried to make this list as objective as possible and to not take anything out of context, giving each candidate a valid representation in terms of the technological issues that we currently face.

Without pushing my views on you, the only thing I’m going to encourage you to do is to make sure you’re registered to vote, and when the time comes, go out and vote!

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