Clinton Puts Forth a Tech Plan. Trump Doesn’t.

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Robbie’s Round-Up for the Week of June 27-July 1, 2016

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton unveiled her Technology & Innovation Agenda this week. Published on her website June 28, Clinton’s 14-page tech plan provides a detailed and ambitious policy agenda that covers a wide swath of critical telecom policy issues. The plan is organized around five major categories: the Economy, Digital Infrastructure, Advancing US Global Leadership, Privacy, and Smart Government. Below we examine the plan through our lens: broadband access, adoption, and use.

Clinton’s tech plan is filled with so many proposals and goals that the best thing to do is just read it for yourself. Seriously. If you’re reading this article, you probably care about Internet adoption or net neutrality, spectrum policy or municipal broadband, privacy or diversifying the tech workforce. Her plan covers all of that.

But, if you’re still reading this because you want the Reader’s Digest version, here goes:

  • 100% of households in America will “have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs” by 2020.
  • Continue investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).
  • Support for the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to extend Lifeline support to broadband. Clinton pledges to work to connect this policy with community-based programs that help citizens with enrollment, offer digital literacy training and expand access to low-cost devices.
  • Connect More Anchor Institutions to High-Speed Internet: To fully realize the benefits of the Internet today, people need a “continuum of connectivity”—the ability to get online in their homes and offices, but also in schools, libraries, transit systems, and other public spaces. Over the last few years, the E-rate program, launched under President Bill Clinton and updated under President Barack Obama, as well as the BTOP program, have brought ultra-speed, fiber-optic broadband to schools and libraries nationwide. Clinton will expand this concept to additional anchor institutions by investing new federal resources. This would enable recreation centers, public buildings like one-stop career centers, and transportation infrastructure such as train stations, airports, and mass transit systems, to access to high-speed Internet and provide free Wi-Fi to the public.
  • Launch a “Model Digital Communities” Grant Program: By leveraging the $25 billion Infrastructure Bank she plans to establish, Clinton will create a new competitive grant program to give cities, regions, and states incentives to create a “model digital community.” The end goal is simple: encourage localities to undertake actions that foster greater access to high-speed Internet for their residents at affordable prices–whether through fiber, wireless, satellite, or other technologies. Regions would come forward with proposals, and grants would be awarded based on impact assessment. Qualifying proposals might seek to:
    • Reduce regulatory barriers to the private provision of broadband services: Localities may seek to stimulate more investment by current or new service providers by streamlining permitting processes, allowing nondiscriminatory access to existing infrastructure such as conduits and poles, pursuing “climb once” policies to eliminate delays, or facilitating demand aggregation.
    • Coordinate the development of broadband infrastructure with other municipal services: Localities may seek to develop information and maps about existing infrastructure and pursue “dig once” policies, where the development of broadband infrastructure (i.e., dark fiber) is coordinated with the development and maintenance of other municipal infrastructure and joint trenching is enabled where appropriate.
    • Develop public-private partnerships for broadband: Clinton will explore ways that targeted uses of the Infrastructure Bank could favorably change the economics of private capital investment in existing or new broadband networks. This approach opens the door to upgrading networks, filling gaps in underserved areas, and new models of public-private partnerships, such as in Huntsville (AL) and Westminster (MD).
  • Clinton strongly supports the FCC decision to adopt strong network neutrality rules that deemed broadband Internet access service providers to be common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

There’s a lot more highlights left un-lighted. But all of this reflects the notion that Hillary Clinton understands that tackling the challenges of increasing access and adoption to telecommunications technologies requires a multi-faceted approach. She wrote that “high-speed Internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity for economic success and social mobility in a 21st century economy.” Clinton’s plan represents the largest and most direct discussion of tech policy by any major candidate.

And What of Donald Trump?
Re/Code ran an article this week comparing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on tech policy issues. The piece provides a breakdown on particular tech policy issues like net neutrality and STEM education, but runs into a common problem with any analysis around Trump’s policies: he has not offered many concrete policy proposals. Just a sampling from the article:

  • “[Trump] hasn’t addressed STEM education specifically.”
  • “[Trump] has been largely mum on the topic of broadband access.”
  • “Trump has said nothing on [patent reform].”
  • “[Trump] hasn’t said anything publicly about the rise of the on-demand economy and its implications for the labor force.”
“We're losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what's happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, 'Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.' These are foolish people." -- Donald Trump

When Trump has voiced opinions related to tech policy, it has often been at odds with people in Silicon Valley. In February, he called for a boycott of Apple products until the company cooperated with the Justice Department’s demand that Apple help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. In December, he said the US should consider “closing up” parts of the Internet to curb radical extremism and seemed to suggest that, as President, he could just call up Bill Gates to help him shut off the Internet. Recently, Trump took to Twitter to criticize the Washington Post and its owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Trump’s rhetoric around tech policy has strained some of the relationships between Silicon Valley and the Republican Party. This week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) quietly made his way through Silicon Valley, with some saying the trip was to “help polish Republicans’ image” in the Valley. Speaker Ryan visited cloud-storage company Dropbox, held a high-dollar fundraiser at the San Francisco home of former HP executive Russ Johnson, and joined a private breakfast in Menlo Park (CA), hosted by Apple CEO Tim Cook.


As we get closer to November, Hillary Clinton has emerged as the candidate with tech policy views most favorable to Silicon Valley. With her detailed plan, it is becoming clearer where she specifically stands on certain issues and how she differentiates herself from the opposition. Her tech agenda is a promising step forward towards increasing access, adoption, and use of communications technologies during the next administration.

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
coffee iconTitle II, cities, and the broadband agenda ahead (Blair Levin, Brookings)
coffee iconFCC Fact Sheet on Updating Media Ownership Rules in the Public Interest (FCC)
coffee iconDear Landlord: Don’t Rip Me Off When it Comes To Internet Access (Susan Crawford)
coffee iconAkamai State of the Internet Report (Akamai)
coffee iconFacebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family, Affecting Digital Publishers (New York Times)
coffee iconCan Hillary Clinton emojis win over the Snapchat generation? (CNN Money)

Events Calendar for July 2016
July 7 -- Fighting ISIS in the Information Space, New America panel
July 12 -- FCC Oversight Hearing, House Communications Subcommittee
July 13 -- Grow2Gig+: Anchors Advance Communities, SHLB Coalition
July 14 -- FCC Open Meeting

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