Transformative Proposals from Obama (+)
by: Matt Stoller
Wed Nov 14, 2007 at 11:29:51 AM EST

Today, Obama is throwing down the gauntlet on a internet freedom, telecom lobbyists, and on opening up government in general to the public. It’s some genuinely radical stuff, and it includes the use of blogs, wikis, and openness in government hearings. Significantly, Larry Lessig has endorsed Obama’s platform.

Specifically, Obama wants the public to be able to comment on the White House Web site for five days before legislation is signed.

Several well-known local figures are expected to announce their support for Obama’s plan, including two former FCC chairmen under President Clinton: Stanford University legal expert Larry Lessig and John Roos, chief executive of Palo Alto law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Roos, one of Obama’s top fundraisers, said Silicon Valley start-ups will be encouraged by Obama’s call this month for a clean technology venture capital fund backed by a whopping $50 billion in federal money over five years.

In the plan, Obama also calls for more aggressive government support of broadband access. Specifically, he says subsidies for phone carriers should be given only to those offering both regular phone service and Internet broadband to rural areas. To date, carriers offering merely phone service have been able to claim subsidies from the so-called Universal Service Fund, giving them little incentive to roll out out broadband.

Obama also calls for reviewing the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to open the wireless spectrum for competition. He thinks the FCC may not have gone far enough with its recent ruling, according to campaign managers who asked not to be named. He wants to conduct a multiyear review but is leaning toward pushing for the opening of some spectrum on the 700 MHz band so third parties can lease it on a wholesale basis.

This is to ensure that the winners of a pending auction for the spectrum – expected to be large phone carriers like Verizon – don’t just sit on the spectrum and not use it. Some fear they may do that to block others from competing with them.

Obama’s proposals are supported by Google, which is expected to bid on the wireless spectrum.

The candidate also is in favor of network neutrality, a policy that would prevent Internet service providers from charging companies like Google extra to ensure the speedy transfer of data over the Internet.

It’s a little difficult to discuss just how significant these proposals are, since we don’t have a great frame of reference. Take the Universal Service Fund, and his plan to move the money that is currently subsidizing rural phone service and ensuring that broadband is subsidized as well. High speed broadband is a core tool for citizens to engage politically; it’s not an accident that Color of Change emerged in 2006-2007, after massive growth in broadband to African-Americans. Building this network out, as Obama is putting forward, and opening up government could create organizing opportunities the likes of which we haven’t dreamed. Imagine the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley combined with the power of government and the movement building organizing capacity of the netroots, and that’s a start. Of course, what’s possible is not necessarily what will happen, and it’s all in the execution, but this is reaching for something bold.

And then of course there is spectrum and net neutrality. Both Edwards and Obama have made it clear they will break the power of the wireless gatekeepers, the telecom lobbyists who gut our laws, and the Comcast traffic shaping tyrants. Clinton, though, has been a noted absence in the debate about spectrum, mumbling about it incoherently at Yearlykos, and her plan for broadband was written by the telcos and doesn’t include net neutrality. She still hasn’t come out clearly on retroactive immunity, as her campaign’s ties to telecom lobbyists are not trivial, and it looks from her possible FCC choices that her administration would be a continuation of the Clinton-Bush years of media and telecom deregulation.

Rest of article is here.

I don’t really understand all of it, but the key phrase for me was net neutrality, something that I fought for last year when the House was in danger of giving it up. The openness in government and investment in technology can’t be anything but good for the country, since it is the future, business-wise. I think these are all positive moves by Obama, and further distinguishing himself from Clinton.

UPDATE: Entire Platform Posted on Obama’s Site

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