Now that John McCain has at last turned in his answers to Science Debate 2008 (after peeking at Barack Obama's answers for a couple of weeks) there are some interesting tidbits hidden among his rambling responses.
Take this reply to a question about maintaining America's lead in innovation.
I am uniquely qualified to lead our nation during this technological revolution. While in the Navy, I depended upon the technologies and information provided by our nation’s scientists and engineers with during each mission.
Let's stop there for a second. Here John McCain insists he's uniquely qualified to discuss technology because... he used some. Forty years ago. This is the same kind of high standard by which he assured us that Sarah Palin knew more about energy than anyone else in America, and Phil Gramm was one of the smartest people in the world on the economy. At least he didn't claim any MacGyverite tech affinities developed in Hanoi.
Okay, let's continue.
I am the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The Committee plays a major role in the development of technology policy, specifically any legislation affecting communications services, the Internet, cable television and other technologies. Under my guiding hand, Congress developed a wireless spectrum policy that spurred the rapid rise of mobile phones and Wi-Fi technology that enables Americans to surf the web while sitting at a coffee shop, airport lounge, or public park.
And, stop. There you have it, people. John McCain not only invented cell phones, he tossed in wifi as an afterthought.
Let's go back and see how McCain's hand guided that development.
With the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Senate passed the first major revision to telecommunications law in 62 years which provided the foundation for much of the cell phone and Internet regulation over the next decade. The bill passed 81-18 and was signed into law by President Clinton. McCain voted against the act.
In 2002, McCain authored the "Consumer Broadband Deregulation Act of 2002" which eliminated the requirement of the 1996 law that telecommunication companies provide access to competitors. It didn't pass.
In 2003, the Internet Tax Freedom Act was passed, putting in place a moratorium on taxes for activities on the Intenet. The bill had 11 cosponsors – McCain wasn't one of them. He did vote for the bill, but since it passed 97-3, that's definitely "guiding" with a small 'g.' Granted, this wasn't directly a bill about wireless, but since McCain doesn't seem to have authored any law on wireless technology, I'm having to search for connections.
Of pending legistlation, McCain is not a sponsor of the "Connect the Nation Act" – though Senator Obama is. McCain is not a sponsor of Senator Rockefeller's call for a universal next generation broadband by 2015 – though Senator Obama is. And of course, McCain isn't a sponsor of the "Internet Freedom Act" that would ensure net neutrality – though Senator Obama is. That last is no surprise. McCain has repeatedly opposed net neutrality, saying that companies have a right to restrict speed or even limit access to sites "when you control the pipe you should be able to get profit from your investment."
So, McCain's "guiding hand" seems to consist of opposing the legislation that laid the groundwork for the communications we have today, and authoring failed legislation designed to benefit big carriers. Of course, we should probably be glad that John McCain really didn't invent the cell phone or wifi, otherwise we'd all be getting our wireless services from one monolithic company free to restrict our access to only the pages that pay for the privilege. And we'd all be using "Jitterbugs."
Update [2008-9-16 12:36:29 by Devilstower]: Not only did John McCain invent the cell phone and wifi, he was the first to tie them together in his other invention the Blackberry.
"He did this," Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did."
So now we know what McCain has been doing while missing all those votes in the Senate. He's been moonlighting as a Canadian MP -- RIM, the company that makes the Blackberry, is headquartered outside Toronto.
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