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Still Looking For Leadership On Telecom Policy

If you're looking for leadership on telecom policy, you'll go wanting during this presidential election year. That's my summary after a frustrating and mostly fruitless search for substantial telecom policy nuggets on the main Web sites for John Kerry and George W. Bush.

It might seem like a narrow way to look at the election, but a coherent, detailed telecom policy could go a long way toward establishing credibility for a candidate who wants to convince voters he has real solutions for the country's still-staggering economy. While both Bush and Kerry identify the importance of broadband communications, neither offers any concrete solutions to existing or future problems, or even addresses the jumbled state of regulation that plagues the market today.

Of the two, Kerry offers more specifics, some of which are detailed here. Among his main ideas are a reallocation of spectrim for 3G wireless networks, and a tax break for companies who provide broadband services to rural areas.

Well -- if you believe the government can quickly reallocate spectrum, you may also believe in other deities. Thanks to the muddled waters that is telecom regulation today, we still can't agree on how to properly implement the Telecom Act of 1996. A better plan might be to start with telecom regulatory overhaul, instead of trying to fit tweaks into the existing system.

Kerry also suggests a tax break for companies providing broadband to rural areas, and the need to "empower Americans" by making Internet access universally available. That's similar to the only telecom policy statement we could find on the Bush site, which can be summed up simply as "Broadband is good."

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