Internet Gets Big Play in GOP Platform

Tech industry part of policy discussion

Internet issues are no longer an afterthought in American politics. For the first time, both political parties are expected to incorporate Internet governance policy in their platforms.

In the GOP platform, released Tuesday, Republicans devoted two sections to the Internet. The broad policies in both sections are more philosophical than partisan, as neither party, it seems, has any desire to upend the healthy multibillion dollar industry that is generating jobs by innovating new technologies. Nor do they want to face the kind of wrath Congress faced from the Internet community when it tried to fast-track online piracy bills last January.

The GOP affirmed its commitment to the current "multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance" and to "resist" against any attempt to give international or intergovernmental organizations control over the Internet.

The bipartisan governance issue gained momentum over the last few months as the International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the U.N., prepares to propose a new treaty later this year that would give the U.N. power over the Internet, prompting both sides of the aisle to hold hearings and pass resolutions. 

Republicans also vowed to keep the Internet free from regulation, promising to "remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new and disruptive technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem."

The Internet, the GOP platform said, "has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. Its independence is its power."

Privacy, another hot-button Washington issue, also got a nod: "We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties; the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector."

The GOP blasted the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules as "trying to micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network."

Protecting children on the Internet also got a brief mention. "The Internet must be made safe for children. We call on service providers to exercise due care to ensure that the Internet cannot become a safe haven for predators while respecting First Amendment rights," the platform read.

The tech industry has been out in force at the convention. Both Google and Facebook have expos and media lounges. Attendees can take a break and update their Facebook timelines. Google is reportedly showing off its new tablet and getting rave reviews for the Google Latte.

"This is the first time the tech industry has had a big presence," said Sarah Hudgins, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's director of public policy. "They've reached a maturation point that they need to be present and be a part of the conversation."