McCain: ‘No Net-Neutrality, Need Piracy Crackdown’

Does, however, believe that consumers should be able to access and use content, applications, and services of their choosing, and also that too much IP protection can “stifle the proliferation of important ideas.”

I usually try to steer clear of politics, but I think it’s important for our file-sharing readers here to learn about where the presidential candidates stand on technology-related issues like net-neutrality and piracy, especially in the wake of Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent, and the entertainment industry managing to get legislation passed that forces colleges and universities to begin filtering content on campus networks.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain recently unveiled his technology platform, dubbed the “John McCain Plan for American Innovation” that lays out his stance on each of the aforementioned issues.

Technology policy has not been a front-burner issue for Sen. McCain (R-AZ), but it has become more critical for the McCain campaign in recent weeks following his earlier admission that he is “computer illiterate.” This admission certainly haunts his positions, yet let’s take a look.


“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,” reads his plan. “Given the enormous benefits we have seen from a lightly regulated Internet and software market, our government should refrain from imposing burdensome regulation.”

His policy on net-neutrality does have some good points, but I think it’s by and large very naive because it presupposes that consumers have choice among ISPs when they in fact do not unless, that is, he’s lumping in dial-up (yuck) and DSL with broadband in his policy thanks to his computer illiteracy.

Broadband service providers enjoy market monopolies in this country making it important for the govt to ensure – through regulation if necessary – that the “information superhighway” onramps are “neutral” until such time that consumers can vote with their feet.

“John McCain will focus on policies that leave consumers free to access the content they choose; free to use the applications and services they choose; free to attach devices they choose, if they do not harm the network; and free to chose among broadband service providers,” his platform continues.

This is a sort of tradeoff with his anti-net-neutrality stance for it he says that consumers should be able to use the “applications and services they choose” (read BitTorrent) so long as they “don’t harm the network.” But, how does he define “harm?” Is the network harmed if there’s a large amount of BitTorrent traffic during the day? What about at night? So long as ISPs are allowed to define the “harm” caused by applications and services to their network consumers are the ones who’ll wind up being harmed.

As for his position that consumers be “…free to choose among broadband service providers,” is he kidding? I think we all know there is no choice nor probably will there ever be till well into the foreseeable future.


“While the Internet has provided tremendous opportunity for the creators of copyrighted works, including music and movies, to distribute their works around the world at low cost, it has also given rise to a global epidemic of piracy,” reads his plan. “John McCain supports efforts to crack down on piracy, both on the Internet and off.”

I think we all know what this means. It means that he’ll support the entertainment industry’s efforts to target the file-sharing community. It would’ve been nice to ge a better sense of how he plans to support a piracy crack down while at the same time claiming that consumers should be “free to access the content they choose,” but he he didn’t vote on the recent College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008 which, if you recall, mandates that colleges and universities begin installing content filters on campus networks (it was signed into law by President Bush just yesterday).

You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and you know it’s only a matter of time before the entertainment industry begins pressuring lawmakers to force ISPs to begin filtering the Internet – the national “campus network” – as well. What will McCain’s stance be then?

Perhaps it will be to allow it for he does seek “ agreements and enforcement efforts that ensure fair rewards to intellectual property.” Why not the same for domestic intellectual property concerns?

The only real bright side of his plan for intellectual property and piracy is that he recognizes that “…too much protection can stifle the proliferation of important ideas and impair legitimate commerce in new products to the detriment of our entire economy.” For this he only proposes patent reform in plan, which I think with much bigger issues like DRM, device interoperability, and the like leaves many feeling wholly unsatisfied. Who cares about patents when you pay $10 bucks for an album that you never really own and whose use is subject to change without notice?


The fact that McCain was, and maybe still is, computer illiterate doesn’t bode well for those trying to determine if his “Plan for American Innovation” is based on unbiased data necessary to make an informed decision. With McCain suggesting that net-neutrality isn’t the answer, but consumer choice of ISPs is it makes you wonder if the guy has ever even had to choose one before. There is no choice of broadband service providers in this country.

Furthermore, increased intellectual property enforcement is fine, but what about IP reform, not patent reform? At some point music, movies, and other artistic works have to become part of the “public domain” and to allow corporations to profit form them long, long after an artist’s death is insane.

In any event, McCain’s stance on net-neutrality and piracy is not very encouraging.

**In the spirit of full disclosure I am, or perhaps was now, a John McCain supporter. I do plan to write a piece that chronicles Obama’s stance on the same important issues as well in the near future.**