As President-elect Obama takes his oath of office to defend the Constitution, he will have the opportunity to protect the Constitution’s most important 1st Amendment, which guards free speech, in new and unique ways. Never before has there been a national leader who better understood both the importance of free speech and the power of the Internet as a tool to expand free speech, to maintain the free flow of information, and to build democratic institutions. Obama has been dubbed the first Internet president for using IT and communication technology to bring more openness, input and involvement of citizens to his campaign than any previous election. Now his transition team has offered plans to use technology to bring more transparency and democracy to government.
Throughout history democracies have depended on free and open communication, which is why our country has made extra efforts to protect political speech. The Internet has the immediacy and universal access similar to the pamphleteers of the 18th Century whose writings helped stir our nation’s independence. The Internet offers the ability to see and hear candidates like broadcast media, but instead provides two-way communication that has the potential to transform the relationship between citizens and their government. At this pivotal point in history, it is all the more critical to protect the freedom and openness of the Internet.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association is a nonprofit trade association representing a wide range of companies in the computer, Internet, information technology and telecommunications industries. The companies employ nearly one million workers and generate nearly $250 billion in annual revenue. For more than 30 years, we have advocated for open markets, open systems, open networks and full, fair and open competition.
Since we represent innovators, we have continually taken a stand for competition policy that makes it possible for the next YouTube to make it out of the dormitory or garage so that the best technology can prevail over current business models. This has meant advocating for antitrust oversight, more competition in the broadband market and net neutrality, and balanced intellectual property. We have worked alongside consumer non-profit groups like Free Press, Center for Democracy and Technology, Public Knowledge and are a member of the Open Internet Coalition and Internet for Everyone, which all fight for principles of openness on the Internet. We also helped with OneWeb Day activities and an event this year that celebrated how the Internet helps build democracies.
Washington tends to debate issues like net neutrality, privacy rights, copyright enforcement, Internet censorship, and broadband deployment separately. But we believe it is important to understand them in a holistic way. At the core of these issues is the question of how firmly we are committed to a common ethic of promoting Internet openness, freedom, and innovation. Freedom on the Internet is critical to vibrant communication and information exchange, which foster innovation and help drive our economy.
CCIA joins other tech trade associations in supporting principles outlined in House Speaker Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda, but we also want to stress our support for policies that keep an open Internet, balanced patent and copyright reform, broadband competition, net neutrality, and freedom from government censorship and Internet spying in any country. We offer these recommendations because they support the principles of Internet freedom and a climate of innovation, which CCIA has long advocated. We believe they uphold principles President-elect Obama outlined in his own Technology and Innovation agenda. We look forward to working with the administration on these matters and other areas where we can be helpful.