Presidential candidates are thinking broadband

Here’s a news flash: The winner of November’s U.S. presidential race won’t get there because of how he or she treats broadband-Internet regulation.

“Presidential elections are not won or lost on a candidate’s broadband policy,” said Carlyle Group managing director William Kennard at a Cable Show ’08 panel discussion yesterday.

Even so, representatives of each of the three mainstream candidates for the presidency said high-speed connections to the Internet are a central part of the emerging U.S. economy – and an elixir for prosperity for future generations.

On the subject of broadband’s importance, the three primary U.S. presidential candidates demonstrated “raging agreement,” as former FCC commissioner and panel moderator Kathleen Abernathy described it during Sunday’s Public Policy luncheon at The Cable Show ’08.

Abernathy hosted an entertaining (if not exactly news-producing) dialogue with a trio of former FCC-ers who are aligned with the campaigns of U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain. Asked to explain their candidates’ views of broadband’s role, the former FCC officials responded this way:

  • Former FCC chairman Kennard (an Obama supporter) said Obama’s broadband policy focuses mainly on ensuring deployment to rural and under-served areas.
  • Former chairman Michael Powell (McCain) said the Republican Party nominee shares concerns about the lack of widespread availability in rural areas, and recognizes the need to ensure that incentives exist to attract investment capital to expand broadband availability and performance levels.
  • Former commissioner Susan Ness (Clinton) said Clinton has a particular interest in applying broadband communications technology to support more efficient delivery of health-care information and services.

One specific area of critique: the former FCC officials criticized the agency’s current definition of broadband (200 kbps downstream data rates) as antiquated. “It’s not what our children will expect,” Powell said. On the subject of network neutrality, Kennard said Obama believes a tiered and non-discriminatory retail pricing approach could work to preserve open access to networks while encouraging network operators to continue investing in their infrastructures.

– Stewart Schley

(Also, see coverage at IP Democracy; also Qik coverage here and here.)

  1. Roger Osburne said:

    We need a National Policy that ensures affordable high speed Internet access for all Americans. Healthcare, education, public safety, government and civic participation and economic growth are all at stake. This issue is at the forefront with the Communication Workers Of America and their project Speed Matters. Check out the website for more information at

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