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Trump's Telecom Policy? Who Knows?

Nonpartisan ITIF does its regular review of candidate policies on innovation and technology, finding Clinton has lots of ideas, Trump almost none.

September 6, 2016

3 Min Read
Trump's Telecom Policy? Who Knows?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have very different views on technology and innovation policy, according to a new report from a nonpartisan policy think tank. And when it comes to telecom policy, specifically, the Democratic presidential nominee has laid out some very specific plans around wireless spectrum, broadband funding and even the Internet of Things, while the Republican candidate has been largely silent.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) looked in detail at the two US presidential candidates' policy statements and public comments on a range of issues including innovation and R&D, broadband and telecommunications policy, training of skilled workers, the Internet and the digital economy and more. You can find the full report here.

What it largely found was that Clinton has detailed positions on a number of issues, and specifically addressed how she would stimulate innovation and develop better high-tech training programs, whereas Trump's positions were largely unspecified.

The ITIF, which features a board of directors and leadership team carefully divided between Republicans and Democrats, has done this for past elections and is careful not to endorse either candidate, nor did they review the policies proposed by third-party candidates.

For the 2016 election, the report states the task of comparing the two major party candidates was much harder, because Trump has offered very few specifics while Clinton is offering up detailed plans.

Broadband and telecom policy is one area where the comparison between the two was stark: Clinton has laid out policies on re-purposing spectrum for next-gen wireless usage and support for 5G through licensed and unlicensed spectrum; developing a national "civic" Internet of Things; putting $25 billion into a national infrastructure bank to help fund broadband projects; public-private partnerships for broadband as well; re-doing the Communications Act; digital literacy programs for Lifeline recipients and much more.

Trump's only known telecom position is based on a tweet he issued, deriding the Open Internet Rules as "a top-down power grab" by President Obama that would target conservative media.

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"We really have no way of knowing what a Trump presidency would look like in terms of telecom policy," says Doug Brake, telecom policy analyst with ITIF. Around Washington, there is some confusion as to whom Trump might name to the FCC or who he might work with on telecom and broadband policies, he says.

"It's pretty remarkable when you line them up side-by-side," Brake says. "You can quibble with her proposals but Clinton has put a lot more thought and effort into designing a technology and telecom platform."

Regarding innovation, where ITIF is very interested, what specifics Trump provides are largely focused on reducing government barriers, such as taxes and regulations, to benefit the overall economy. He hasn't specifically discussed innovation.

Clinton does explicitly address innovation, and wants to expand public-private partnerships to drive a US innovation and technology policy, and use such efforts to achieve social goals, such as "revitalizing economically distressed communities and regions and supporting economic opportunities among disadvantaged minorities and other groups," the report notes.

Trump has spelled out his position on trade policies much more thoroughly, and in that area he and Clinton aren't as far apart, as both opposed expanding trade and focus on trade enforcement to benefit and protect US interests, the report states.

On policy related to education and skills, however, there are clear differences between the two that could impact the tech community, the report notes. Trump's stance against H1-B visas and his proposal to ban Muslims from coming into the US could impact the availability of highly skilled workers. Clinton, by contrast, would give green cards to foreign-born graduates of accredited US Master's and PhD programs in science, technology, engineering and math; and has multiple specific proposals to increase training programs, train more computer science teachers, and improve STEM training and education overall.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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