Technology Voters' Guide: John McCain

Republican wants strong laws protecting children from sexual predators online. He also wants to keep Net connections tax-free. Special coverage: Election 2008

Iraq, immigration, taxes, and health care probably have been the four most pressing topics of the 2008 presidential campaign. Technology has made nary an appearance.

Sure, there have been the YouTube-ified debates, polls, record-setting fund-raising efforts, and the now-obligatory Google office visits.

But knowing where the candidates stand on high-tech topics like digital copyright, surveillance, and Internet taxes can be revealing, which is why we've put together this 2008 Technology Voters' Guide.

In late November, we sent questionnaires to the top candidates--measured by funds raised and poll standings--from each major party. We asked each the same 10 questions.

Not all candidates chose to respond: Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson rebuffed our requests, as did Democrats Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. In all such cases, we made repeated efforts to try to convince them to change their minds.

Read on for responses from Sen. John McCain, or check out CNET's election coverage roundup, featuring other Technology Voters' Guide candidate reports.

Q: Politicians have been talking for years about the need for high-speed Internet access. Should this be accomplished primarily through deregulation and market forces, or should the federal government give out grants or subsidies, or enact new laws?
John McCain: I believe that we must promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher-quality services for consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new technologies.

I have been a leading advocate in the Senate for seeking market-based solutions to increasing broadband penetration. We should place the federal government in the role of stimulator, rather than regulator, of broadband services, remove state and local barriers to broadband deployment, and facilitate deployment of broadband services to rural and underserved communities.

Congress has considered Net neutrality legislation, but it never became law. Do you still support the legislation that was re-introduced in 2007 (S 215), which gives the FCC the power to punish "discriminatory" conduct by broadband providers?
McCain: In general, I believe that we need to move to a different model for enforcing competition on the Internet. Its focus should be on policing clearly anticompetitive behavior and consumer predation. In such a dynamic and innovative setting, it is not desirable for regulators to be required to anticipate market developments, intervene in the market, and try to micromanage American business and innovation.

Telecommunications companies such as AT&T have been accused in court of opening their networks to the government in violation of federal privacy law. Do you support with intelligence agencies or law enforcement, which was proposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee this fall (S 2248)?
McCain: The struggle against Islamic fundamentalism is the transcendent foreign-policy challenge of our time. I am committed to winning this battle, enhancing the stature of the United States as beacon of global hope, and to preserving the personal, economic, and political freedoms that are the proud legacy of the great sacrifices of our fathers.

Every effort in this struggle and other efforts must be done according to American principles and the rule of law. When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law.

I am also a strong supporter of protecting the privacy of Americans. The issues raised by S 2248, and the events and actions by all parties that the preceded it, reach to the core of our principles. They merit careful and deliberate consideration, fact-finding, and exploration of options. That process should be allowed to proceed before drawing conclusions that may prove to be premature.

If retroactive immunity passes, it should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing, there should be oversight hearings to understand what happened, and Congress should include provisions that ensure that Americans' private records will not be dealt with like that again.

The 's section restricting the "circumvention" of copy protection measures is supported by many copyright holders but has been criticized by some technologists as hindering innovation. Would you support changing the DMCA to permit Americans to make a single backup copy of a DVD, Blu-ray Disc DVD, HD DVD, or video game disc they have legally purchased?
McCain: The Internet and digital technology have provided widespread access to enormous quantities of information. This, in turn, made it necessary to update our copyright laws in 1998 to protect the rights of copyright holders to keep pace with the technological advances that characterize the Information Age.

As digitization of commerce, education, entertainment, and a host of other online applications proceeds, international copyright agreements have to be maintained and updated while protecting the rights of copyright owners.

I believe now, as I did then, that knowledge and ideas are central parts of what make the U.S. economy productive and competitive. It is vital that this intellectual property be protected and defended. However, we must ensure that such protections are never so onerous as to stifle the very innovation they strive to safeguard.

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