Clinton Issues Clarion Call to Boost Tech in the US

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Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential candidate, this week unveiled a technology and innovation agenda that calls for a broader commitment to improving computer science and STEM education, expansion of broadband Internet to the entire United States, and deployment of 5G wireless networks.

Clinton's plan calls for advancing high-tech training in American schools through collaboration with nonprofits and the private sector to train up to 50,000 computer science teachers in the next decade. It would double the investment in federal training grants to provide computer science education for students. It would provide access to capital for entrepreneurs, and institute measures to promote diversification of the tech workforce.

Clinton called for changes to the immigration system to removed barriers to high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs who want to come to the U.S., where technology companies are in dire need of talented engineers and other staff. The plan would create start-up visas for entrepreneurs, and attach green cards to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited colleges and universities.

Clinton said the digital divide, which has left low income and rural communities without affordable high-speed Internet, should be closed by 2020, and that 5G wireless should be made available to support the Internet of Things, smart factories, autonomous vehicles and other innovative technologies.

She also came out in support of Net neutrality, and called for greater competition, backed up by enforcement from government agencies. She said states and localities should reduce barriers to entry.

Clinton's technology agenda, including her support for STEM education and her plans to expand the new technology workforce, maintain a free and open Internet, and increase emphasis on cybersecurity training, drew praise from Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of the Computing Technology Industry Association.

CTIA, which includes more than 2,000 member companies in the information security sector, is based in Washington.

The need for high-speed, reliable digital infrastructure is "critical to the expansion of innovation and commerce," Thibodeaux added.

Strong encryption, favorable trade deals to allow U.S. companies to remain competitive, and high-skilled immigration reform must be part of the conversation, he said.

CompTIA is one of more than a dozen technology associations that released a technology sector presidential platform in May.

Another is the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which likewise applauded the Clinton plan, noting its emphasis on cybersecurity, digital infrastructure, diversifying the STEM pipeline and increasing fundamental research funding.

"Clinton's proposal conveys a vested interest in the digital economy and understands the importance of open access to information and a fast Internet, as well as how the issues bolster the growth of our economy and quality of life for consumers and businesses in the Bay area," said Peter Luroe-Munoz, the group's vice president of technology and innovation policy.

The Clinton proposals appear to be an extension of existing federal policies, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"It's easy to see why some have suggested that Clinton's technology-related policies would qualify as an extension of Barack Obama's strategy," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Her support for Net neutrality is particularly clear in that respect, and also sets her apart from the presumptive GOP candidate, Donald Trump, who steadfastly opposes it."

Clinton's likely appointments of pro Net neutrality commissioners to the FCC and other agencies could have a lasting impact even if she were to serve only one term, King suggested.

The goal of expanding high-speed broadband to the entire population is praiseworthy, according to broadband technology analyst Craig Settles, but without a commitment to increase the speed and lower the cost, the impact would be limited.

"If she does not address the issue of lack of competition, it's hard to see the U.S. getting an increase in coverage speeds, let alone affordability," he told the E-Commerce Times.

The U.S. is "woefully unprepared" for expanding broadband access, Settles said, because building the infrastructure required to make those services available, including the installation of poles, laying fiber-optic cables, etc., would require thousands of trained workers.

Most politicians -- and most technology executives, for that matter -- lack a full understanding of these issues, technology analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. "They decide which way will give the government the kind of power it needs, without much concern for marketplace realities."

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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