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Democrats part with GOP on net neutrality, online privacy

Preparations are made in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention.

Preparations are made in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. // Charles Dharapak/AP

As the Democrats open their convention on Tuesday in Charlotte, they will adopt a national platform that addresses many of the same tech and telecom issues as the Republican Party plan, but with starkly different approaches in some key areas.

Like the GOP platform adopted last week during the party’s convention in Tampa, the Democrats’ plan pledges to take steps to shore up the nation’s cyberdefenses, to protect intellectual property, and to resist international attempts to impose new regulations on the Internet.

But unlike the GOP plan, the Democratic platform again endorsed the idea of net neutrality, saying, “President Obama is strongly committed to protecting an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, creativity, consumer choice, and free speech, unfettered by censorship or undue violations of privacy.”

Another area where the parties depart is on privacy. The Democratic platform backs Obama’s call for a consumer “Privacy Bill of Rights” and to offer consumers a chance to opt-out of Internet tracking. The administration’s privacy bill of rights, unveiled in February, calls on companies to do more to protect personal data by, for example, telling consumers about what data is being collected and how it is used. The administration called on Congress to codify its privacy proposals into legislation but the Democratic platform is silent on the issue.

The GOP platform discusses the need to protect individual liberty from government intrusion. However, the Republican platform does not mention the need to enhance consumer privacy.

The Democratic platform touted President Obama’s proposal to promote access to wireless broadband services. It notes that the administration has pledged to ensure that 98 percent of the country has access to wireless broadband service and is “finding new ways to free up wireless spectrum.”

The GOP plan also supports this goal, but offered more details and criticized Obama for not doing enough to free up more spectrum. The Republican platform noted that the Federal Communications Commission has yet to conduct one spectrum auction during the Obama administration. It also called for conducting an inventory of the nation’s current spectrum holdings to determine what airwaves can be auctioned for use by wireless providers.

Like the GOP platform, the Democratic plan also devotes attention to cybersecurity. The Democratic platform noted the “unprecedented steps” the administration has taken to protect the nation from cyberattacks and pledged to “continue to take steps to deter, prevent, detect, and defend against cyber intrusions by investing in cutting-edge research and development, promoting cybersecurity awareness and digital literacy, and strengthening private-sector and international partnerships.”

It notes that the president supports “comprehensive cybersecurity legislation that would help business and government protect against risks of cyberattacks.” But congressional attempts to pass such a measure stalled last month in the Senate. The platform said the president will “continue to take executive action to strengthen and update our cyber defenses.”

The GOP platform argues that the administration’s policies have “failed to curb malicious actions by our adversaries.” It called for an update of a decade-old law related to the security of government computer systems and greater sharing of information between the government and private sector.

On intellectual property, the Democratic platform said the administration is “vigorously protecting U.S. intellectual property—our technology and creativity—at home and abroad through better enforcement and innovative approaches such as voluntary efforts by all parties to minimize infringement while supporting the free flow of information.” Both party platforms call out China in particular for failing to do enough to protect U.S. intellectual property.

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