Candidates should take telecom stand



It's still more than a year until the presidential election of 2008, but as recent debates and media coverage have demonstrated, it's certainly not too early to talk about the issues. Every four years around this time, the telecom industry begins to engage in an exercise to determine which telecom issues might matter most in the presidential race, and which might figure most in one candidate's victory and another's loss.

Past elections have shown it's mostly an ego-inflating exercise. While presidential candidates embrace easily-embraceable telecom issues, they rarely offer much detail into their plans, and the issues that seem to matter most to the telecom industry never quite become the campaign, debate or election turning points we want them to be. So far the attention given to these key telecom issues seems to promise more of the same for this particular presidential run:

- Rural broadband: This is what we mean by an easily-embraceable issue. Who isn't in support of making rural broadband more broadly available? But, where are candidates' ideas on how to do that? How will they pressure or influence the industry and the Federal Communications Commission to make it happen?

- Net neutrality: Is it dead, or can it be employed by one of the presidential candidates (probably a Democrat) as a key issue to win over the high-tech throngs? If it's not a big issue in the real-life race, maybe it can be in Second Life.

- Foreign investment in U.S. companies: Huawei's minority piece of the 3Com acquisition drew some security concerns this week, but we're talking more broadly about the desire of foreign carriers and vendors to build on their presence in the lucrative U.S. market. Some of those deals have happened and more are on the way. Do candidates want to lower the hurdles to these deals or raise them?

- Immunity for telcos in the domestic wiretapping scandal: If the candidates were president right now, would they push for legislation granting immunity to telcos who took part in the wiretapping program, as President Bush is doing?

Where do the candidates really stand on these issues and why? If we knew, we might also know where telecom will stand after the 2008 election. -Dan

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