GOP platform: Broadband and R&D tax credits

Widely available broadband, electronic health records and increased government spending on research and development (R&D) are among the technology-related goals in the U.S. Republican Party's 2004 platform, released this week.

Republicans, meeting in New York, adopted a wide-ranging platform that repeats technology goals set by President George Bush in recent months. The 106-page document, made available to the general public Wednesday, echoes a Bush plan, advanced in March, that calls for affordable broadband available to all U.S. residents by 2007.

Republican policies have helped advance broadband, the platform document says. "Broadband provides Americans with high-speed Internet access connections that improve the nation's economic productivity and offer life-enhancing applications, such as distance learning, remote medical diagnostics, and the ability to work from home more effectively," the platform says. "Broadband technology will enhance our nation's economic competitiveness and will improve education and health care for all Americans."

Policies such as a moratorium on broadband access taxes have encouraged broadband growth, the platform says. (The moratorium was supported by some Democrats and opposed by some Republicans.) The document notes broadband use in the U.S. has grown 300 percent from December 2000 to December 2003.

The document also notes that the amount of spectrum for wireless broadband applications such as Wi-Fi and Wi-Max has nearly doubled since Bush took office.

The platform also calls for most U.S. residents to have electronic health records within 10 years, saying e-records will reduce medical errors.

The platform repeats Bush administration talking points on R&D, noting that federal R&D spending between the 2001 and 2005 budgets rose 44 percent, to US$132 billion. Bush supports making an R&D tax credit permanent, the platform says, although a House version of a corporate tax bill passed in June by the Republican-controlled House only extends the credit for 18 months.

R&D is important because two-thirds of the growth in the U.S. economy in the '90s came from new technology, the platform says. "America's economy is undergoing a fundamental transition from one based primarily on manufacturing to one based on innovation, services, and ideas," the platform adds.

The Bush administration is best suited to create a good environment for IT companies, administration officials have argued in recent months. Broadband access and wireless broadband services are leading to new business models and new ways of working, John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said during a media briefing in late July.

The Bush Administration has largely tried to avoid companies competing in the broadband marketplace, while making wireless spectrum available and extending the moratorium on Internet access taxes, Marburger said. "The administration understands this new (broadband) phase of the information technology revolution," he added.

Democrats, including former U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt, have accused Bush of not being aggressive enough in pushing for a nationwide broadband infrastructure. Some Democrats, including Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia, also suggest a hands-off regulatory approach may not be enough to bring broadband to all corners of the U.S. Boucher has advocated tax credits for companies that roll out broadband in rural areas.

Democrats have also focused on offshore outsourcing as an issue in the presidential campaign. Boucher in June suggested Congress should explore tax penalties for moving jobs overseas.

The Republican platform doesn't deal with the issue of outsourcing, but calls for worker training for new jobs to be more readily available. "Ensuring that workers have the tools they need to succeed in the 21st Century Economy is a critical step in helping Americans be self-sufficient and successful," the platform says.

The Democrats' criticism of offshore outsourcing has turned off some technology executives, said Rick White, president and chief executive officer of the TechNet coalition. "Our members didn't like the idea that they were being called Benedict Arnold CEOs," said White, a former Republican congressman.

But both parties have heavily courted the support of the technology industry by pushing such issues as an improved U.S. education system, White said. Republicans, often supported by business leaders, have to be reminded not to take tech industry support for granted, White said.

While technology policies in both parties' platforms can translate into support from the IT industry, technology issues don't often turn into the ultimate political goal -- votes during elections, White noted. "Tech issues don't really move any voters," he said. "It's a rare tech issue that motivates anyone to vote."

The Republican platform is available at: http://www.gop.com/media/2004platform.pdf.

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