Hillary Clinton's tech policy plan has been released
, and it includes some new, potentially hollow broadband promises, a pledge to continue defending the FCC's net neutrality rules from telecom industry attack, some feel good commentary on the sharing and innovation economies, and continued support for the candidate's absurd war on encryption.
With the FCC's recent net neutrality court victory
, the broadband industry's best path forward is to elect a President who'll stock the commission with revolving door regulators who'll simply fail to enforce the rules. But Trump's proven so divisive to some Conservatives, that even AT&T's top lobbyist Jim Cicconi this week came out in gushing support of Clinton
"Mr. Cicconi, who worked in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said he has backed every GOP presidential candidate since 1976. “But this year I think it’s vital to put our country’s well being ahead of party,” he said in a statement provided by the campaign. “Hillary Clinton is experienced, qualified, and will make a fine president. The alternative, I fear, would set our nation on a very dark path."
Given AT&T's threat to take the neutrality fight to the Supreme Court, Cicconi's support is curious, but may say more about Trump's unpredictability than it does about Clinton. Regardless, the 14-page "technology and innovation agenda" includes upsetting her new BFF by continuing to fight for net neutrality:
"Hillary believes that the government has an obligation to protect the open internet. The open internet is not only essential for consumer choice and civic empowerment – it is a cornerstone of start-up innovation and creative disruption in technology markets. Hillary strongly supports the FCC decision under the Obama Administration to adopt strong network neutrality rules that deemed internet service providers to be common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. These rules now ban broadband discrimination, prohibit pay-for-play favoritism, and establish oversight of “interconnection” relationships between providers. Hillary would defend these rules in court and continue to enforce them."
The plan also makes some arguably vague promises on broadband, promising to deliver ubiquitous broadband to all Americans by 2020:
"Hillary will finish the job of connecting America’s households to the internet, committing that by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs. She will deliver on this goal with continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), and by directing federal agencies to consider the full range of technologies as potential recipients—i.e., fiber, fixed wireless, and satellite—while focusing on areas that lack any fixed broadband networks currently."
While some outlets were quick to call this plan ambitious
, historically vague broadband coverage promises haven't meant all that much.
A favorite pastime of politicians is to make broadband promises they know will be completed even if government doesn't lift a finger
, then gobble up the easy political brownie points (with ample help from an unskeptical tech press) after the fact. Obama, for example, in 2011 promised wireless broadband coverage to 98% of all Americans, ignoring the fact that industry data at the time suggested we'd already met that mark
(albeit poorly) with 2G and 3G wireless. Former FCC boss Julius Genachowski similarly received ample praise for issuing a "gigabit city challenge"
, knowing full well gigabit service was arriving without much help from him or other politicians at the time (mostly via frustrated towns and cities
forced into the broadband business on their own).
And while the FCC will help us get to 100% broadband coverage by opening up spectrum for 5G, moving from the supposed 98% broadband coverage mark to 100% really won't require much government help. 5G is arriving by 2020 or so regardless of what Clinton does, as it's a cornerstone of AT&T and Verizon's plan to hang up on unwanted DSL customers
they refuse to upgrade. That doesn't somehow mean the broadband that's "100% available" to you is going to actually be good
, since that would involve the government acknowledging that lack of competition means Americans pay more for broadband than most developed nations
. Fixing this will take significantly more than empty promises, and for Clinton, it will certainly involve pissing off new allies like Jim Cicconi.
The lion's share of Clinton's tech agenda consists of ambiguous promises that, as with all campaign promises, may or may not have any actual basis in fact.
Clinton's plan calls for improving government adoption of technology and efficiency, improving our patent system (which the Clinton camp declares "has been an envy of the world"), and other feel good efforts such as "facilitating citizen engagement in government innovation" and using technology to "improve outcomes and drive government accountability" (doesn't that sound lovely
?). But Clinton also makes it clear she intends to continue waging war on encryption -- her plan for a "Manhattan Project
" to "solve" (read: weaken) encryption still very much on the table:
"Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe. She was a proponent of the USA Freedom Act, and she supports Senator Mark Warner and Representative Mike McCaul’s idea for a national commission on digital security and encryption. This commission will work with the technology and public safety communities to address the needs of law enforcement, protect the privacy and security of all Americans that use technology, assess how innovation might point to new policy approaches, and advance our larger national security and global competitiveness interests."
Yes, it's abundantly clear that Clinton and friends continue to struggle with the idea that encryption is simply a tool, and like any tool it can be used for a myriad of purposes. That doesn't mean you unilaterally declare war on said tool -- or work tirelessly to make that tool less useful
or more dangerous via backdoors -- a conversation we'll apparently be having over and over and over again should Clinton's presidency ascend beyond the rhetorical, larval stage.