It’s been widely reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is a self-admitted “illiterate” when it comes to computers. But some have suggested that he could still put forward sound technology policy because he surrounds himself with tech-savvy advisers, such as former Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina and former eBay president and CEO Meg Whitman.
But it’s unclear how much he is listening to them. Yesterday, McCain finally released his technology platform. (Until this time, “technology” was not even listed in the Issues section of his campaign website.) His plan supposedly focuses on innovation, but in reality, it often repeats McCain’s previous non-innovative positions, such as his opposition to net neutrality:
When Regulation Is Warranted, John McCain Acts. John McCain does not believe in prescriptive regulation like “net-neutrality,” but rather he believes that an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices.
This position is misguided and opposed by major Internet innovators. As Free Press explains, net neutrality preserves a “free and open Internet” by preventing “from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.”
On April 5, 2006, technology industry leaders wrote to Congress and asked it to preserve net neutrality. Although these companies would be more than able to pay any fees the telecoms might charge, they recognized that it would hamper future entrepreneurship on the Internet. One of the signers to the letter? Meg Whitman, who was then heading eBay. From the letter:
Until FCC decisions made last summer, consumers’ ability to choose the content and services they want via their broadband connections was assured by regulatory safeguards. … This “innovation without permission” has fueled phenomenal economic growth, productivity gains, and global leadership for our nation’s high tech companies.
To preserve this environment, we urge the Committee to include language that directly addresses broadband network operators’ ability to manipulate what consumers will see and do online.
Whitman has stayed silent about McCain’s opposition to net neutrality, and apparently, McCain is refusing to listen to Whitman as well. In 2006, McCain sided with the telecom industry and voted against legislation sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have prevented broadband providers from creating a pay-for-play system. McCain sided with the telecom industry and voted against this bill.
It turns out that it is Whitman vs. the McCain camp on another technology issue – whether consumers should have legal protections for their privacy when surfing online. The new McCain privacy statement says that the market and “self-regulation” should protect our privacy. But Whitman testified in Congress in 2006 supporting a federal statute to protect privacy.