Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton's Tech Platform: Government Meddling for Some; Incentives and Deals for Others

Policy guide is essentially a call for lobbying to influence regulations and spending.


Richard B. Levine/Newscom

Hillary Clinton has just released a huge policy guide detailing what she's promising to accomplish for the behalf of the tech sector as president. The Washington Post noted that it "reads like a Silicon Valley wish list."

Indeed, it's extremely obvious that parts of the agenda were written by the interests themselves. To wit: "Localities may seek to stimulate more investment by current or new service providers by streamlining permitting processes, allowing nondiscriminatory access to existing infrastructure such as conduits and poles, pursuing 'climb once' policies to eliminate delays, or facilitating demand aggregation." Let's see that get excerpted as a quote in Clinton's Twitter feed.

The larger substance of Clinton's platform on technology tracks alongside Clinton's overall plan to get elected: She's presenting herself as President Barack Obama's third term. Everything that the Obama administration has either promoted or done on tech issues, she seeks to continue.

Clinton wants a greater emphasis on STEM education and computer science in schools and more tech-oriented training opportunities, with more government involvement and "investment" (spending). She wants tax credits for tech incubators and entrepreneurs and college loan repayment deferment and partial forgiveness for young post-college people involved in startups. She wants to ease green card pursuits for those who get educations in the right tech fields.

And she also wants to continue the administration's meddling in the development and spread of technology itself. She seeks to continue the Federal Communications Commission's role—and the government's role in general—to expand access to broadband internet access for all and essentially treat the internet like it's a utility. Fortunately her platform is more about developing public-private partnerships instead of encouraging municipal services to attempt to compete with the private sector with their own services. Her platform doesn't seem hostile to municipally controlled broadband, but that's a potential disaster in the making.

She says that she wants to "reduce barriers to entry and promote healthy competition" for tech innovation. And then on that very same page she declares her support for "net neutrality," which expands government power and takes control away from Internet providers and lets the government decide how flexible they can actually be. Net neutrality is a barrier to innovation.

Clinton and the people who put this policy paper together do not see a contradiction here. Note the use of the word "healthy" to modify "competition." The government will decide what that means. That's exactly what's happening with the FCC and net neutrality. This is a paper fundamentally about how the federal government will either control outright or heavily nudge through incentives and grants how tech innovation progresses in the United States—and who gets to participate.

And so what we have at the end is documentation of who is going to have to lobby the Clinton administration and for what ends to make sure they benefit from tech policy. So much of what is proposed here—training, education, more innovation—is tied not just to regulation but government spending. This policy lets people know well in advance that the government under Clinton will most certainly be picking winners and losers over who gets grants and who doesn't and who gets regulated and who doesn't. Does your coding camp measure up? Will the FCC let you run your Internet service your way? It will be the government—possibly influenced by your competitors or rival influences—calling the shots.

Read through Clinton's plan here.