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The first wiki president? Obama adviser votes 'yea'

Reed Hundt, technology policy adviser for Barack Obama, said the Democratic candidate would use a bottom-up communications strategy in his administration. Yep, wikis too.

Stephanie Condon Staff writer, CBSNews.com
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.
Stephanie Condon
3 min read

WASHINGTON--Even Republicans will probably concede that Barack Obama's campaign made good use of the Internet in the last year. Now an advisor is saying that an Obama administration would do the same, even turning to wikis to discuss topics like privacy.

Reed Hundt, a technology policy adviser for Barack Obama, discusses the candidate's policy positions in Washington on Thursday. Stephanie Condon/CNET News

Bureaucrats in Washington will have to confront a number of issues in the next few years such as how to regulate private, portable electronic health records, said Reed Hundt, a technology policy adviser for Obama and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

"That's the kind of thing that shouldn't be decided by one person in the new administration," he said on Thursday. "There's not anything wrong with a collaborative process that could literally include hundreds of thousands of people."

It was supposed to be a debate here between Hundt and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief economic policy adviser for John McCain and former director of the Congressional Budget Office. But the McCain guy never showed, giving Hundt--someone who Wired magazine once said had "as much sincerity as a photocopy machine salesman"--plenty of opportunities to jab at his absent opponent.

Universal broadband is important, Hundt said, because it will allow anyone to communicate with lawmakers easily.

"Whether it's with Twitter or text messages, it's the creation of community at very low cost," he said. "The real commitment is to have our entire democracy include everyone and through these tools be able to share information in a rapid way and have ideas shared from below."

While Obama contends he will emphasize technology's role in the economy--by taking steps like appointing a chief technology officer--some of his policies have come under fire as possibly constraining to the technology industry.

While both presidential candidates support increasing the number of H1-B visas available for skilled workers, Obama has only said he will support a temporary increase.

"That doesn't mean we don't want skilled foreign workers coming into the United States, but we want it to be part of an overall (immigration) solution," Hundt said.

The Obama and McCain campaigns also take different positions on Net neutrality.

"John McCain does not believe in prescriptive regulation like 'Net-neutrality,' but rather he believes that an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices," the McCain Web site reads.

Some high-profile technologists, including Carnegie Mellon University's David Farber and TCP inventor Bob Kahn, are opposed to preemptive Net neutrality rules as well.

Obama strongly supports the concept of Net neutrality, though Hundt said, "We're not about to nationalize broadband networks."

He said while there should be a regulatory mandate about Net neutrality, it does not necessarily need to come through new legislation. More importantly, he said, the cable industry needs to be able to invest in the next stage of broadband with the prospect for seeing returns on that investment.

"Nobody's actually investing in anything big in America today," Hundt said. "That has to be solved. If you solve that, you'll be building at enough capacity that most of the Net neutrality issues will be easy to solve."