ITIF Report Compares Obama, Romney Broadband Telecom Policies

Divisions over net neutrality and spectrum auctions, but agreement on international Internet governance
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A new report from the bipartisan Information Technology and
Innovation Foundation outlines major differences and several similarities 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 point of agreement, said Richard Bennett, senior research fellow, is the need for spectrum. Both candidates agree more spectrum is needed for wireless broadband and both strongly support incentive auctions to repurpose broadcast spectrum for commercial use.

In fact, which it comes to wireless spectrum policy, he said, the Administration and the Republicans are pretty much in agreement that wireless does not warrant the same degree of regulation as wired broaddband.

Another 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.

Bennett gave McDowell props as one of the earliest voices of concern about the ITU effort.

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What Would Romney Do?

He would try to lower or level regulations to get them out of the way of private-sector investment and fashion a new-look FCC (but possibly with an old hand at the helm). That’s what awaits the television industry if the Republican nominee wins the White House.