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McCain’s Technological Divide

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"McCain’s Technological Divide"

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Our guest blogger is Will Straw, Associate Director for Economic Growth at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

mccain-cell-phone.jpgSenator John McCain today responded to 14 questions from scienceblogs.com about aspects of his science policy. The questions are part of a project by 38,000 scientists, politicians and business leaders who initially proposed a televised presidential debate focused on science and technology issues.

It was hard to expect much from the self-confessed computer “illiterate” described by former FCC chairman Reed Hundt as a “technological troglodyte,” who had a lackluster record as two-time chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and has voted over 90% of the time with the President who refers to using “the Google.” McCain didn’t disappoint with not a single reference to “broadband” and only passing references to the “Internet.”

At a time when the United States has slipped to 15th out of the 30 rich Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in terms of broadband penetration and when a “digitial divide” has developed with a lack of access in rural areas, this has become one of the most important areas of science policy.

In fairness to McCain, his campaign website does set out that he “Will Pursue High-Speed Internet Access For All Americans” but it is vague about how he would do so offering mealy mouthed proposals to “encourage private investment” and relying on “people acting through their local governments (sic).”

Obama’s response to the ScienceDebate2008 sets out explicitly that he will provide “broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country.” His website contains a detailed six point plan to “restore America’s world leadership in this arena.”

This includes proposals such as “unleashing the wireless spectrum” that were set out in the Center for American Progress’ own report, A National Innovation Agenda by Tom Kalil and John Irons. Other ideas include:

- Creating tax incentives for companies that invest in next-generation broadband networks and provide access to underserved urban and rural communities.
Permanently extending the moratorium on taxes on Internet access.

- Investing in R&D that will allow us to make better use of the existing spectrum, such as “cognitive radio” that will be able to intelligently detect, which channels are in use and which are not, and maximize our use of the spectrum while avoiding interference.

- Supporting state efforts to accelerate broadband deployment.

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