ITIF Report Compares Obama, Romney Broadband Telecom Policies

Divisions over Net Neutrality, Spectrum Auctions; Agreement on International Internet Governance 9/12/2012 2:18 PM Eastern
By John Eggerton
A new report from the bipartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation outlines major differences in telecom policy between President Obama and candidate Mitt Romney, many rooted in the basic Democrat/Republican divide over the role of government regulation.

Based information gleaned from "campaign websites, party platforms, administration documents, and media reports," the study looks at a number of topics, including broadband telecommunications policy.

While the president has not commented on a report from his tech advisers on sharing government spectrum (to free up more for wireless), the Republican Party platform calls for a federal spectrum inventory to identify surplus that can be auctioned.

The Obama administration supports network neutrality conditions on some spectrum auctions and substantial spectrum allocations for unlicensed use. Romney would not place net neutrality conditions on auctions and would allocate "much less" spectrum for unlicensed.

On the FCC's network neutrality rules, the Obama Administration has given its strong support, and supports exempting wireless nets from most net neutrality rules. The Romney camp would prefer market forces over regulation, and would rather not apply the rules to either wired or wireless broadband. The Republican Party platform calls the net neutrality rules an attempt to micromanage telecom policy.

On privacy and cybersecurity, the report said their specific policy stands were less clear. "President Obama has called for legislation to address both online privacy and cybersecurity through stronger regulatory controls. While Governor Romney has not explicitly supported or opposed proposed online privacy or cybersecurity legislation, he has generally argued for a more limited role for government and has criticized regulatory efforts by the Obama Administration."

One area both sides agree on is international Internet governance. They are in accord that the current decentralized, multistakeholder model is best, and oppose the International Telecommunications Union efforts to exercise more top-down control, including possible charges for Internet interconnection.

Both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms include a commitment to the Internet freedom in the context of that continued multistakeholder model.

Even as the ITIF report was being announced, Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell and administration officials were on the same panel at a Media Institute lunch in Washington to discuss the Internet governance implications of the upcoming ITU telecom treaty conference in Dubai where, the governance issue is expected to be a key issue of debate.

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