Presidential candidates stake out tech positions

Future of tech largely drowned out by the war in Iraq, the US economy and social issues

Senator Barack Obama

The Illinois Democrat in November released an extensive tech policy paper, earning him praise from several tech groups.

Obama gets technology, said Julius Genachowski, co-founder of Rock Creek Ventures and a long-time friend. "He will be a true 21st century president, using technology to improve the lives of all Americans," Genachowski said at a tech forum last week.

In the tech agenda, Obama called for net neutrality regulations for broadband carriers. "Users must be free to access content, to use applications, and to attach personal devices," he said in his tech policy.

Parents need better tools and information to control what their children see on the Internet and television, he said.

He called for greater privacy protections for all US residents, including Internet users, and he said government and businesses should be held accountable for privacy violations. He wants an update of government surveillance laws that allow intelligence-gathering on U.S. citizens to be done "only under the rule of law."

Obama would also increase the Federal Trade Commission's enforcement budget and focus increased international cooperation to track down cybercriminals.

Obama also wants to make government data more available online. He would revamp a number of existing programs, and create some new ones, to help roll out broadband in the US He called for a review of wireless spectrum use in the US and said he would "confront the entrenched Washington interests that have kept our public airwaves from being maximized for the public's interest."

He has pledged to make the research-and-development tax credit permanent. He also called for patent reform, primarily by giving the US Patent and Trademark Office more resources to improve patent quality.

Former Governor Mitt Romney

Romney, a Massachusetts Republican, hasn't made many tech issues a central part of his campaign, but he has focused on U.S. competitiveness, a popular issue for many IT companies.

Romney's competitiveness initiative would seek to improve U.S. schools and at the same time cut individual and corporate tax rates. He wants to improve worker retraining programs by consolidating and streamlining numerous federal programs.

He has taken positions on a couple of other tech-related issues as well. In interviews Romney has expressed support for a permanent Internet tax ban, and he's said he supports free trade, a position echoed by many large tech vendors.

Romney has also said he would support an increase in H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

"I like the idea of the best and brightest in the world coming here," he told the TechCrunch blog in November. "I'd rather have them come here permanently rather than come and go, but I believe our visa program is designed to help us solve gaps in our employment pool. Where there are individuals who have skills that we do not have in abundance here, I'd like to bring them here and contribute to our economy."

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