Where does the Romney-Ryan ticket stand on issues pertaining to Internet freedom and commerce? The first, and most important, thing to know is that both of them oppose the ???Net Neutrality??? regulatory regime. Net Neutrality is frequently misrepresented by its supporters, with Orwellian panache, as an initiative to protect the ???open Internet,??? when it actually means the exact opposite: hyper-regulation to force companies to treat all network traffic equally.
Nothing threatens the performance, and commercial future, of the Internet more than Net Neutrality. It???s basically rent control for electronic real estate. By controlling the deployment of online resources, it would make unavailable to users both expensive high-performance Internet access and affordable, lower-bandwidth access. Both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan oppose such regulations, and Ryan has a recent legislative record of voting against them in the House.
Romney, Ryan oppose SOPA
Romney and Ryan are also strongly opposed to SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, a highly controversial legislative package nominally intended to enhance copyright protections for material distributed online. SOPA caused a massive outcry across the Internet, due to its highly intrusive provisions that would have compromised both personal privacy and electronic commerce.
During the January primary debate in South Carolina, Romney described SOPA as ???far too intrusive, far too expansive, and far too threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet.??? He added that ???it would have a potentially depressing impact on one of the fastest growing industries in America, which is the Internet and all those industries connected to it.??? (For the record, none of the other Republican presidential candidates had anything nice to say about SOPA, either.)
Ryan also opposed SOPA and pledged to vote against it, while acknowledging that it attempted to ???address a legitimate problem,??? as he explained in a January 2012 statement. ???I believe it creates the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship, and legal abuse,??? Ryan added. ???I do not support [SOPA] in its current form, and will oppose the legislation should it come before the full House.???
This statement was issued after an online campaign was organized on behalf of Ryan???s prospective opponent in his next congressional race, which called itself ???Operation Pull Ryan.??? The campaign falsely claimed Ryan was a sponsor of SOPA, prompting the congressman???s staff to spend a good deal of time in December and January requesting corrections of misleading media accounts. Much of this misinformation was derived from Ryan???s office merely stating that he would consider the legislation, and the piracy issues it was designed to address, carefully before deciding how to vote.
Ryan voted for cybersecurity
On the matter of cybersecurity???covered by the other big Internet-related bill of recent vintage, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act???Romney has not issued any major statements, while Paul Ryan voted in favor of CISPA in the House. Proponents of CISPA said it included vitally necessary provisions to strengthen American computer networks against attack by rogue hackers and foreign governments. Opponents said it was an unacceptable threat to individual privacy, and would have imposed excessive security costs on the private sector.
Internet sales taxes
There is less firm evidence about the Romney-Ryan ticket???s position on Internet sales taxes. Their campaign generally favors growth-oriented tax reductions, but there are politicians who generally favor lower taxes but who also support taxing Internet sales. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has been closely associated with the Romney campaign, is among the more prominent Republicans to come out in favor of taxing online sales. The Obama campaign also has not stated a firm position on this issue; so, it is currently difficult to judge how policy under the competing candidates would differ in this area.
Internet businesses are businesses, after all, so the final measure of a prospective Romney administration???s performance on the digital frontier is the candidate???s general attitude toward private enterprise. The Romney campaign platform officially calls for corporate tax simplification and reduction, while the Obama administration???s fervor for regulations and mandates is a matter of record. It is worth noting that tech sector layoffs have been brutal in the Obama economy, with over 50,000 planned job cuts announced in 2012. That???s an increase of 260 percent over the previous year, according to a July article at CNET.
Romney has also demonstrated an appreciation for the economic importance of the Internet, as in his comments on SOPA, related above. In the most highly mobile industry ever conceived???where collaborators can easily work together while separated by the bulk of the Earth, and priceless electronic resources can be allocated across national boundaries instantaneously???Obama???s hostile business environment has provoked a dangerous level of outsourcing and capital flight. There is no reason to believe the incumbent president will suddenly change his ideology and support measures to lure electronic commerce back to American cyberspace in a second term, but Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have expressed clear intentions of doing so.