Trump vs. Clinton: Who's Better On Telecom?

A Motherboard report card.

Editor's Note: In anticipation of the presidential debates, Motherboard has graded Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the depth of their insight, and the viability of their policies, regarding the subjects near and dear to us: cybersecurity, health, energy, space, environment, telecom and, of course, marijuana. Spoiler: It's not always pretty.

Evaluating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on technology and telecom policy issues poses an interesting challenge. Clinton has laid out detailed proposals on issues ranging from net neutrality to expanding broadband access to increasing broadband competition. Trump has not, and there is very little material in the public record with which to evaluate his positions. On the issues where Trump has taken a public position, his statements indicate a troubling ignorance of technical facts, and an alarming willingness to peddle blatant falsehoods for political gain.

Take net neutrality, the principle that all content on the internet should be equally accessible to consumers. Clinton is on record saying she would defend net neutrality against attacks by the broadband industry and its political allies. Trump opposes net neutrality and bizarrely compared it to the FCC's old Fairness Doctrine, which suggests that he doesn't even know what net neutrality is. The Fairness Doctrine, which was eliminated decades ago, required media outlets to afford "reasonable opportunity" for the airing of opposing views on major issues. Net neutrality does no such thing, but rather ensures that consumers have open, unfettered access to the internet.

Another example: Clinton supports the US plan to transition stewardship of the internet's Domain Name System, which translates Web names like vice.com into IP addresses, to a LA-based non-profit group composed of public and private global internet stakeholders. Most tech policy experts support this effort, which has been in the works for nearly two decades, as a key step to ensure the long-term health of the global internet. Trump, by contrast, opposes the US internet transition plan, which his campaign has falsely claimed would "turn control of the internet over to the United Nations."

Clinton has presented a detailed set of policy proposals aimed at ensuring internet openness and reducing the digital divide by encouraging broadband deployment, including at the community level, and increasing competition in markets often dominated by a dwindling number of corporate giants. Trump has largely ignored issues like the digital divide and broadband competition, and his erroneous statements on issues like net neutrality and the internet governance transition suggest that he has little grasp of, or interest in, tech and telecom policy.