Technology on the Candidates' Minds? Where do the presidential contenders stand on issues like wireless auctions and fair prices for Internet service? Tech expert Chris Rabb breaks it down for Farai Chideya.
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Technology on the Candidates' Minds?

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Technology on the Candidates' Minds?

Technology on the Candidates' Minds?

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We're entering a new year, a new technology is on candidates' minds. Where do the presidential contender stand on issues like wireless auctions and fair prices for Internet service. Well, we've got to look at the politics of tech and more in this week's technology update.

This week, Chris Rabb is our guide. He's usually in the chair on our Bloggers Roundtable, but Chris also runs a new media strategy company called Visceral Ventures based in Philadelphia.

How are you doing?

Mr. CHRIS RABB (Principal, Visceral Ventures): I'm doing great.

CHIDEYA: So we asked you do some digging. We gave you a list of White House hopefuls and asked you to find out where each of them stands on key technology issues.

CHIDEYA: So there's a bunch of different issues on the table. Let's start with open government. What does that mean and what did you find out about some of the candidates?

Mr. RABB: Well, you know, it's interesting because we're talking about this in a political context, and open government is essentially one's belief in transparency and accountability of the people they elect and who our electeds appoint. So do we deserve to have access to records that the people who we elect to office? Should we have access to that - unfettered access and have that access be facilitated via Web technology, Web sites et cetera. And some candidates believe, yes, some don't address it. I haven't heard any them say absolutely not. But it's a matter of peoples' priorities. So…

CHIDEYA: Who stepped up and said this is a good idea?

Mr. RABB: Barack Obama and John Edwards. And I have not looked at all 700 people running for president.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RABB: I have looked at about six. I mean, this is pretty labor intensive. You gave me quite a…


Mr. RABB: …job. It was fascinating.

CHIDEYA: We loaded it on.

Mr. RABB: Absolutely.

CHIDEYA: How about broadband access? Where are some of the candidates on that one?

Mr. RABB: Well, you know, a lot of this stuff feels like, do you love your mother? No one is going to say I hate broadband access. One of the problems is that a lot of people use these terms but don't necessarily know what they mean or - there's no uniform definition for broadband. So, for me, when I say broadband, I mean, fast, right? I don't mean dial-up. I mean, super fast. But what is super fast? And even if I told you and your listeners what that meant, would that really mean anything if I told you 200 bits per second versus 200 megabits per second.

Well, one sounds faster than the other. But it - you know, you don't have any kind of experiential point of reference. But think of it like, if we all agree that red was fire engine red and not ruby red, well then okay, let's talk about fire engine red. That's what we have to do with broadband.

But essentially, again, the two candidates that talked openly and consistently about broadband access are Obama and Edwards. Clinton does a job of it, too, but it's a little more vague. And interestingly, just in terms of how all of these issues are addressed, when you go to the various Web sites, and I did, which ones talk explicitly about technology.

Well, Hillary Clinton under issues, its innovation agenda of which technology is but a small subset. Obama has an issue area that specifically called technology and innovation. Edwards has innovation and another bullet point called open media, and he connects innovation and media, which is important.

Romney, Giuliani and let's throw in Mike Huckabee, none of them talked about anything explicitly as relates to technology that is easy to find within several minutes.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, let's…

Mr. RABB: If it's in there, I couldn't find it.

CHIDEYA: Let's move on to network neutrality. That's something that bloggers who come on our roundtable - when we ask people what they want to talk about, they're always like, net neutrality, net neutrality. First of all, what the heck is that?

Mr. RABB: Well, it's the Internet's founding principle that access should not be denied to individuals or organizations based on the content they provide or seek to find based on the nature of that content, the application or type. It's like the - it is tantamount to digital rights like civil rights. You don't want any discrimination based on what you're interested in Googling or what you're interested in putting out there.

If you are not a friend of Verizon, does Verizon have the right to say, hey, I'm making access to you either impossible or painfully slow, just because you're not a partner with me, or Comcast or whomever, any of the big boys. That's something that a lot of people, regardless of political ideology, feel strongly that this is about liberty. This is about Internet freedom, and the government must secure our freedoms not impose itself but to impose a series of protections for consumers and citizens so that we shouldn't be discriminated against - based on where we want to go or what we want to put up on the Web, you know, within reasonable, ethical and legal, you know, guidelines.

CHIDEYA: So you said it's sort of like these political questions can be like, do you love your mother, it's like everyone's going to say yes. What are people saying on this?

Mr. RABB: Well, again…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RABB: …the folks who are really promoting - who are strongly supporting network neutrality are, in fact, Obama and Edwards, in really kind of consistent, explicit terms. Clinton does so as well, but not as stridently. And I think you can find a connection between how they're running their campaigns and how they are crafting their methods and specifically addressing these issues because quite frankly, the people who talk about net neutrality, broadband access, open media, that sort of thing - media consolidation - are grassroots in nature. And they…


Mr. RABB: …they're on both sides of the political spectrum but they tend to be more Democratic than Republican and as a result, those are the folks who are overwhelmingly active online who - Edwards and Obama have a much stronger connection than does Hillary Clinton.

MARTIN: All right, Chris, we're going to have to wrap it up there. Thanks so much. We've been talking with Chris Rabb who runs the media consulting firm, Visceral Ventures. He joined us from Philadelphia.

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