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Tech issues rarely discussed in U.S. presidential campaign

The 2012 presidential debate has focused more on the overall economy, health care and jobs than on tech-specific issues

By Grant Gross
November 2, 2012 01:37 PM ET

IDG News Service - With the U.S. presidential election on Tuesday, it's fair to say that technology policy hasn't risen to the top of the agenda in the debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The two candidates have occasionally mentioned issues important to some people in the tech industry -- including immigration, education and trade -- but the focus of the campaign has been on the sluggish U.S. economy, the government's huge budget deficit, health-care reform, and continued worries about terrorism and national security. The debate over the U.S. economy and jobs, in particular, has dwarfed other issues.

It's been a quiet presidential campaign for tech and mobile issues, said Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs at CTIA, a trade group representing mobile carriers. "That's, frankly, not surprising," he said. "As scintillating as we find a good conversation about spectrum policy, it's probably not going to move undecided [voters] in Iowa."

CTIA expects that the trade group's push for more mobile commercial spectrum, and other major tech issues, will again be policy priorities in 2013, no matter who is elected president. "We'll be here when they get around to focusing on us," he said.

Many tech and telecom issues, aside from a bruising debate on net neutrality in recent years, don't break down neatly into a partisan divide in U.S. politics. In Congress, both parties have pushed for cybersecurity bills focused on allowing private companies and U.S. agencies to share cyberthreat information with each other, although Republicans criticized Democrat-supported bills for being too regulatory.

In the debate over the controversial copyright enforcement bills the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), many Republicans and Democrats, including some with tech-friendly reputations, originally supported the bills. The opposition in Congress was led by Democrats from Silicon Valley and conservative Republicans concerned that the bills would damage the Internet.

Romney and Obama haven't focused directly on tech issues, but many of the debates during the campaign have related to the IT industry, said Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, a trade group representing app developers and other small IT firms.

It's hard to separate tech issues from broader issues in many cases, he said. "In a sense, tech has become the fabric of our lives," Reed added.

Both candidates have talked about funding for science and technology education, and Chinese trade issues, and those two issues are important to ACT's members, Reed said. App developers want to be able to sell their products in China, he said, and both candidates have talked about putting pressure on the country to open up to U.S. products.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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