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Bush, Kerry weigh in on tech issues

A technology trade group queries the two candidates on Net phone policy, stopping spam and more, then posts their answers to the Web.

By Dawn Kawamoto CNET News.com

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry have both responded to a questionnaire on technology policy from the Computing Technology Industry Association, weighing in on such pressing issues as Internet telephony and intellectual-property protection, the trade group said Thursday.

Voters can view the candidates' answers on the association's Web site.

Bush and Kerry, both looking to gain an edge in what might be an extremely close race, expressed their views on 12 topics, which also included spam, privacy and unlicensed wireless spectrum.

"While the questionnaire is only one small part of the information that each candidate has released on their approach to tech policy, it breaks new ground by permitting the average voter to quickly review the candidates' views on some key technology issues," Roger Cochetti, CompTIA's group director on U.S. public policy, said in a statement Thursday. "From (their) responses, it's clear that both the president and the senator understand the important role that the technology sector plays in our economy and in our lives."

One issue the candidates address is the protection of intellectual property on the Internet, including what policies should be put in place to protect intellectual property—while still helping to spur the free flow of ideas based on those creations.

Said Bush: "I strongly support efforts to protect intellectual property and will continue to work with Congress to ensure all intellectual property is properly protected...We must vigorously enforce intellectual-property protections and prosecute the violators, not the technology."

He noted that his administration launched an initiative to enforce such laws and has worked closely with China to support penalties associated with violating American intellectual-property rights.

Kerry, meanwhile, has a slightly different stance.

"I do not condone the illegal sharing of copyrighted material," Kerry said, though he is "open to examining whether legislative action is necessary to ensure that a person who lawfully receives a transmission of a digital work may back up a copy of it for archival purposes."

The candidates were also asked about ways the government can encourage innovation among wireless services that rely on unlicensed wireless spectrum.

"The explosive growth of Wi-Fi shows the benefits of making some spectrum available on an unlicensed basis. This could be particularly important for rural areas, since the cost of deploying new services could be three to four times cheaper than existing wireless technologies," Kerry said. "I would make the regulatory changes...to unleash new broadband networking technologies, such as cognitive radio...and software-defined radio."

Bush noted that his administration established the Spectrum Policy Initiative to promote economic growth, help maintain the nation's communications technology leadership and aid homeland security efforts.

"I have dramatically increased the amount of spectrum...and identified 90MHz of spectrum to be auctioned for advanced wireless services," Bush said.

Both candidates note that the IT industry is critical to the growth of the nation.

Kerry said he is ready to take action on the issue, noting: "I will direct my Cabinet to develop an 'Innovation Agenda' built upon public-private partnerships."

Kerry noted that these partnerships would be used to harness IT and advance such goals as promoting digital opportunity and making the nation's government more open, responsive and efficient.

Bush pointed to the benefits the IT industry has had on improving the nation's economic productivity, as well as contributing to advances in medical diagnostics and homeland security.

"We must continue to tap into the transformations that information technology can bring about in organizations within...vast..industries and sectors," Bush said.

In the United States, there are approximately 10 million tech workers and tens of thousands of technology businesses, John Venator, CompTIA chief executive, said in a statement.

"Voters in this sector are rightly concerned about how government tackles IT policy," Venator said. "It used to not be this way. There was a certain 'garage mythology' that sheltered our view of, and interaction with, government. With America's growing dependence on IT, however, that day has clearly changed."

CompTIA, of course, isn't the only election-minded Web destination. The Internet is buzzing in the run-up to Nov. 2, with everthing from bloggers busily posting their political views on the presidential debates to Web sites such as JibJab's, which is home to two popular animated satires about the candidates.

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