EXCLUSIVE: GOP Platform includes Internet Freedom, language indicates influence of Rand Paul and libertarian-Republicans

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Republicans could soon champion the protection of Internet Freedom as an official party issue, The Daily Caller has learned. Language in the final draft of the Internet freedom proposal was obtained exclusively by The Daily Caller.

The language was finalized on Tuesday, a source in the Republican Party told The Daily Caller, but it awaits party approval next week at the upcoming Republican National Convention.

Approval of the newly finalized draft language, however, would make the party the first of the two dominant political parties to fully and officially embrace Internet freedom. It also signals what Republicans view as important and necessary to keep the Internet open and free.

“Internet Freedom”, according to the finalized draft language, would entail the removal of “regulatory barriers” for technology businesses, resistance to international governance of the Internet and the “constitutional protection” of personal data.

“We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new technologies such as mobile delivery of voice and video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem,” said the finalized draft.

“We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations,” it said.

“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,” it said.

Progressive and Democratic proponents of a regulation-laden approach to the Internet have long dominated the direction of the tech policy discussion in Washington.

Having tried to make a claim over the term with their own brand of freedom from corporate influence over the Internet, some progressive and left-leaning libertarian advocacy groups have even gone so far as to promote a Declaration of Internet Freedom that codifies those principles.

Republicans have only recently ramped up efforts to dominate the conversation in bold fashion in recent months.

The GOP efforts are currently being modeled on the recent stance taken by the Ron Paul-founded Campaign For Liberty’s Technology Manifesto, as well as more right-of-center libertarian tech policy voices.

These voices include TechFreedom president Berin Szoka, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Adam Thierer, Associate Director of Technology Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute Ryan Radia, and Netcompetition president Scott Cleland.

It is also modeled off of the efforts of Republican politicians in both chambers of Congress.

California Republican Representatives Mary Bono Mack and Darrell Issa, Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul and Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton are some of leaders in the House on Internet issues.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul have led Republican efforts in the Senate.

The potential platform language also signals that Republicans are looking to modernize what it called the “woefully out of date” Telecommunications Act of 1996, a law which Republicans in the tech policy community believe has kept the FCC and the Obama administration “frozen in the past.”

The remainder of the potential party plank focused on the FCC’s responsibilities under that law.

“Today’s technology and telecommunications industries are overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, established in 1934 and given the jurisdiction over telecommunications formerly assigned to the Interstate Commerce Commission, which had been created in 1887 to regulate the railroads,” said the finalized draft language.

“An industry that invested $66 billion in 2011 alone needs, and deserves, a more modern relationship with the federal government for the benefit of consumers here and worldwide,” it said, stating that the technology industry was being governed by precedents set in the 19th century.

The draft language also criticized the Obama administration and the FCC for the way it has handled its responsibility to conduct auctions for the licenses to various frequency ranges of electromagnetic spectrum.

It states that the Republican Party would  “call for an inventory of federal agency spectrum to determine the surplus that could be auctioned for the taxpayer’s benefit.”

“The current Administration has been frozen in the past,” said the language. “It has conducted no auction of spectrum, has offered no incentives for investment, and through the FCC’s net neutrality rule, is trying to micromanage telecom as if it were a railroad network.”

“It inherited from the previous Republican Administration 95 percent coverage of the nation with broadband. It will leave office with no progress toward the goal of universal coverage – after spending $7.2 billion more,” said the language.

The lack of progress on establishing universal broadband coverage, the draft language said, hurt the farmers and ranchers in rural America, and small business manufacturers. It called for the provision of “predictable support for connecting rural areas so that every American can fully participate in the global economy.”

“With special recognition of the role university technology centers are playing in attracting private investment to the field, we will replace the Administration’s Luddite approach to technological progress with a regulatory partnership that will keep this country the world leader in technology and telecommunications,” it said.

Cybersecurity and online taxation, however, were two major issues absent from the final draft language. It also does not clearly address intellectual property issues.

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