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Reason Foundation

Broadband Policy Undergirds Much

Steven Titch
February 4, 2008, 7:23pm

Broadband doesn't get much play out on the campaign trail, but just about every other issue in the headlines – health care, immigration, the war on terror, education, environment – have a broadband, or at very least an IT, component. How well the telecom and IT sector is able to respond depends on the degree of freedom it is given to innovate and invest. As to be expected, the Republican candidates are more amenable than Democrats to allowing market forces to work. Still, the GOP frontrunners have not been shy about proposing federal government solutions in areas where the market seems to be doing quite well on its own. Republicans in general, beginning with President George W. Bush, over two years.seem enamored with a centrally-planned, centrally-operated health information system – a government-run repository for the health records of all citizens. Sure, it will make portability of records easier, but the government will know everything about your medical history. Private sector solutions are emerging that stand to be more private and directly under control of the consumer. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney have made proposals that follow Bush's lines, which that National Taxpayers Union pegs at $169 million in its first year. Mike Huckabee also has an extensive health IT proposal, which the NTU pegs at $234 million in the first year. None of the Republicans propose grandiose infrastructure funding in competition with the private sector. But oddly enough it's Romney, the so-called conservative, who is talking about boosting spending on dubious government IT programs. For example, Romney wants to mandate an employment verification system relying on biometric ID cards that the NTU estimates will cost $150 million a year for five years. The former Massachusetts governor also envisions a nanny state role for the government in PC distribution, ensuring no machine is sold without Internet filtering software. It's not clear whether he use taxpayer money in this effort or foist this cost on manufacturers and retailers, but his proposed program to involved the government in education about Internet parental controls will cost $10 million


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