Monday, October 13, 2008

Obama vs. McCain: The Scorecard

By Nicholas Thompson October 12, 2008

What do Barack Obama and John McCain say, and what have they done, about policies that matter to Here are descriptions and analysis on five issues:

  1. Broadband
  2. H1B issues
  3. Investment in green tech
  4. Net neutrality
  5. Spectrum

Except for green tech, none of these issues has played a big role in the campaign so far, and none will likely come up in Wednesday's third and final debate. But they are all still quite important. And there are many other technology issues that matter, beyond these five.

For more, read this report -- or, better yet, scroll down and use the Reddit tools to submit your own topics, grade the candidates, and vote on other reader submissions.


The Issue: The United States is becoming a tortoise in a world of hares. One of the world’s most Wired nations a decade ago, we now lag behind most of our peers. In France, broadband access is half the price and four times as fast. The main cause for the debacle is a lack of competition in telecommunications. Most communities have, at best, one cable choice and one DSL choice. This situation came about through the mass consolidation of the industry, and through the non-enforcement and then repudiation of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which mandated that entrenched telecom companies lease their lines into people’s homes to smaller companies.

McCain’s Position: As argued here and here, McCain has consistently been on the wrong side of this issue. As Senate Commerce Chair, he supported the mass consolidation in the industry. He also consistently voted the wrong way on whether entrenched competitors should be forced to lease their lines. The one point in his favor is his support of the Community Broadband Bill which would help cities offer wireless Internet, even when the local companies try to crush them.

Obama’s Position: Obama wasn’t around for the major votes on this issue. And while he is advised by all the right people, he hasn’t come out with a specific plan to open up the industry. His big proposal is to take money currently used to subsidize rural phone use and, instead, use it to subsidize rural broadband use. This could be helpful. But if the markets aren’t made competitive beforehand, it could also end up as little more than another subsidy to the same giant companies that have served us so poorly.

Grades: McCain: D Obama: B

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