Take heed: The following has nothing to do with crowdsourcing, but I think you'll find it worth your while anyway. My Wired colleague, Nick Thompson, has written an essay for Washington Monthly about McCain's and Obama's respective track records on technology in general, and Internet access in particular. As usual, technology has been given short shrift in the current election cycle. (Though at least it's not a punchline, as it was in 2000.) This is understandable, what with the economic apocalypse looming and all, but a shame nonetheless. The next administration will wrestle with some of the most complex, urgent technological issues of our time, including net neutrality and the innovation lag in the United States.
So for a moment, forget the bailout, forget Palin and forget about Iraq. Most of you reading this care deeply about technology, the Internet and the future of innovation. As Thompson points out in his piece, the US has fallen from fifth in the world to twenty-second in broadband penetration. We pay more for slower access. Why? "The real reason things went wrong is that we haven't regulated our telecom markets properly," writes Thompson. And that, he continues, "is where John McCain comes in."
The problem is primarily the lack of competition among Internet providers. In most places, you have, at best, two choices—the local cable company or the local phone company. And these behemoths know that they don’t have to worry about new competitors. With the government’s help, they spent decades digging up roads and building lines into everyone’s home, creating an infrastructure that no start-up can replicate. Now they sit, fat and happy, neglecting customer service and innovating about as much each year as Google does each Tuesday.
None of this is to say John McCain is wrong in general (Ed's Note: But he is!), or to proffer an endorsement of Obama (Ed's Note: We'll be making that one later), only to point out that McCain's zealous adherence to a deregulate-at-all-costs philosophy has ill-served his country. By forcibly yanking the teeth out of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, McCain blocked the entry of smaller, more nimble competitors to the big Telecos, and goes a long way toward explaining why we receive such horrible customer service from our cell phone carriers and ISPs.
McCain’s mistakes derive partly from a lack of technological curiosity (he doesn’t use e-mail) and the presence of all sorts of Bell guys around him. His campaign manager, deputy campaign manager, Senate chief of staff, and chief political adviser have all worked as lobbyists for Verizon or AT&T.
Obama, by contrast, has presented a comprehensive and, for a politician, surprisingly sophisticated technology plan, including proposing the creation of a national CTO. Maybe we can convince Mayor-for-Life Mike Bloomberg to drop his bid for perpetual autocracy over New York and apply?