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Technology Voters' Guide: Chris Dodd

Democrat, who dropped out of the race on Thursday after the Iowa caucuses, supports Net neutrality and opposes the "idea of assigning people bar codes." 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, MySpace.com 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.

Sen. Chris Dodd, who dropped out of the race late Thursday after a poor showing at the Iowa caucuses, had been one of the candidates who did respond to News.com's questions.

Read on for responses from Dodd, or check out CNET News.com'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?
Chris Dodd: It is time that we approach the Internet the same way we approach water, electricity, and highways--as critical infrastructure that our citizens require to participate fully in American society.

The power of the Internet creates the ability for individuals to reach out to not just their community, but the world. Unfortunately, some Americans are silenced by the lack of access to this technology. Many communities have taken action to meet the public's demand by creating city- or town-wide Wi-Fi public networks.

America's leadership must commit to ensuring that every American has access to broadband, whether at home or in public libraries, or through our local schools, so as to enrich their lives, further their education, and expose them to and further business opportunities.

As president, I would use revenue gained from the spectrum auction to expand the development of new technology and ensure affordable high-speed wireless Internet access nationwide, ensuring the Internet as a reliable public good that will continue to transform our daily lives.

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?
Dodd: Yes, I am currently a co-sponsor to S 215. I was also a co-sponsor to S 2917, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which was introduced last year. This bill encourages free and open access to digital content, supports the development of new technology, and ensures that Americans have uninhibited access to the Internet, regardless of which service they choose.

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)?
Dodd: I firmly and publicly oppose granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. I placed a "hold" on any FISA legislation that includes retroactive immunity in October. When the Intelligence Committee version of the bill was brought to the floor including retroactive immunity, I made my opposition to it clear.

By standing up to the Bush administration once and for all, and standing on principle to defend the rule of law, I was able to win a victory by getting the legislation pulled from consideration. It will come up next year, and I will do everything in my power, including filibuster, to stop retroactive immunity from becoming law.

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?
Dodd: I support reasonable use of copyright material that does not endanger the copyright owner's rights. We should be able to strike a balance between allowing Americans fair use of material they purchase, while protecting copyright holders from piracy.

The Department of Homeland Security restricting which state ID cards can be accepted at federal buildings and airports. Do you support those regulations as written, would you want to repeal Real ID, or would you prefer something in between?
Dodd: At the same time that we need to reform our immigration system, we need to turn back those who have seized on the fear caused by the September 11 attacks to drive through their agenda with bills like the Real ID Act. In my opinion, that bill amounted to nothing more than a national ID card.

The idea of assigning people bar codes--I can hardly imagine a law that goes more against what we believe and who we are as a nation. I believe we are better than this.

The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the proposed merger of Google and DoubleClick. Some members of Congress have raised privacy concerns, while others have said the deal should proceed. What are your views? (Editors' note: We posed this question before the FTC gave the merger unconditional approval on December 20.)
Dodd: The privacy of Americans' Internet records is a great concern for me--something I told Google employees in person when I appeared at their Candidates@Google forum (in December).

We know the Bush administration has sought unprecedented access, sometimes without warrant, to data from telecommunications companies. This should be a reminder to us that there must be strong privacy protections in place whenever companies handle this sort of data. Beyond that, I share Sen. Dorgan's concerns about antitrust violations with Google's online data collection.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about sex offenders using social-networking sites. What, if any, new federal laws are needed in this area?
Dodd: As a founder of the Senate's Children Caucus, no one in Congress takes the threats that children face more seriously than I do. But that doesn't mean that Facebook or MySpace.com require new legislative initiatives to protect children.

Rather, we need to ensure that we have strong oversight of these new technologies, as well as clear policies on social-networking sites for handling online predation. In so doing, Congress should be attuned to the particular challenges that may arise regarding predatory behavior on social-networking sites.

The Bush administration has supported legally requiring Internet service providers, and perhaps search engines and social-networking Web sites as well, to keep logs on who their users are and what they do. Do you support federal legislation, such as HR 837, to mandate data retention?
Dodd: At a time when we learn about new executive branch efforts to acquire data through telecommunications companies on Americans suspected of no crimes, I am very wary about requiring our Internet service providers to store even more information about their users.

I do not support the record retention provisions included in HR 837, as it would create an even greater risk for abuse. Names, e-mails, sites visited, and search records are bad enough--but to add the requirement that ISPs retain information about the addresses of their users is beyond disturbing, when we talk about countless Americans who are neither being charged with nor suspected of guilt of any crime.

Do you support enacting federal laws providing for any or all of the following: a) a permanent research-and-development tax credit, b) a permanent moratorium on Internet access taxes, and c) an increase in the current limits on H-1B visas?
Dodd: The United States must make certain that its citizens have the education necessary to vie for job positions and are economically viable options for employers. In this vein, Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed an amendment to the first immigration reform bill that served two purposes.

It raised the cap on the number of H-1B visas available each year, while increasing the competitiveness of American skilled workers by raising the H-1B fee for employers, and using the additional revenue to create an American Competitiveness Scholarship Fund for qualified students pursuing higher education in the sciences. I voted for this amendment, and it passed by a vote of 59 to 35.

We have to know: what's your favorite gadget?
Dodd: The Dodd Pod--my iPod that's been filled with songs suggested by my supporters.

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