Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Pushes Ambitious Tech Agenda; Tops on List: Privacy, Fast Net

When it comes to the issue of privacy, I'm far more interested in how a President Obama will revisit issues like FISA and eavesdropping, Habeus Corpus, the 4th Amendment, and the Supreme Court than I am with some of the more modest protections discussed in this article.

Nonetheless, Obama's approach to technology and the Internet is a far cry from that of the Bush administration, and offers a huge opportunity to expand access, improve quality, and increase privacy for EVERYONE.

The DailyTech details some of his specific platform policies and key advisers in the area of technology.

Jason Mick reports:

Top on Obama's agenda are many technology-related efforts. President-elect Obama is no stranger to technology and has said that he wants more expansive protection of users rights to online privacy, a stance which surely runs counter to the RIAA, MPAA, and other groups' aggressive litigation efforts. Also on the list are plans to free up unused government spectrum for public use. Obama during his presidential campaign referred several times to the White Space, a section of the spectrum which Google and Microsoft have been lobbying for the government to free up. Finally, Obama wants to fight bandwidth caps and mandate faster internet from internet service providers. He is concerned of what he sees as a trend among companies like AT&T and Time Warner to give the customer less for more.


Both advisers eschew the traditional lobbyist background that many of the advisers from the past several administrations had hailed from. Supporters say that this is a sign that Obama-administration really is about change, including in the tech industry. With his party in firm control of the new House and Senate, barring a conservative filibuster, it looks like he may be able to pass through some impressive legislation which will protect citizens' rights on the internet.

And there's more good news to report on the "white spaces" front. Millions of Americans who do not have basic Internet access or are forced to use antiquated and slow dial-up connections will finally get some relief. On Tuesday the 4th, the FCC voted overwhelmingly to open the vacant public airwaves between TV channels -- called "white spaces" -- for high-speed Internet access. This could vastly expand high-speed Internet access nationwide.

As the Free Press explains, "After an exhaustive study (, the federal agency has found that we can open these unused airwaves for everyone. New technology is available to expand and improve broadband access and wireless communications across the country.

Without affordable and accessible Internet choices, too many people are left on the wrong side of the digital divide -- virtually forgotten in a nation that increasingly demands high-speed Internet access to engage socially, politically and economically."

My friends at The Free Press report:

This decision is a landmark victory that simply could not have happened without the tens of thousands of letters and calls from people like you.

Despite fierce lobbying and scare tactics from the National Association of Broadcasters, we're now one step closer to providing affordable broadband access to everyone in America. Tuesday's vote is a clear example of what we can accomplish when we stand together against powerful media interests, with their high-priced lobbyists, lawyers and PR flacks.

Stay tuned for updates as we move closer to making universal Internet access a reality in America. We can be sure that the Big Media lobbying machine will keep firing away at the public interest.

No matter how you cut it, "change" is in the air when it comes to technology and it how it might be used to positively effect the lives of the people. The greater challenge will be the degree to which privacy is a key component of this "new age" or just an afterthought.

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