Three Questions for John McCain


With all the other important issues confronting presidential candidates, it’s hard sometimes to figure out where political would-be leaders stand on geek-centric topics. But since John McCain is making a whistle stop in Silicon Valley next Monday, maybe we can take advantage of the situation and press the senior Senator from Arizona on matters close to Silicon Valley’s heart.Just in case moderator Tony Perkins runs out of questions to ask McCain, here’s a few suggestions with a decided telecom slant:1) Since the Bush Administration seems sure to fall short of its 2004 campaign promise of broadband everywhere by 2007, what priority would a McCain administration put on broadband deployment? And what steps would or should the government take to ensure competition from outside the cable/telco duopoly?

Predicted answer: Judging from his rubber-stamp approvals of last year’s big-telco friendly telecom reform bill (which never made it to the Senate floor for a vote), don’t expect much from McCain beyond “allowing the market to decide” and “keep government regulation off the Internet.” But it’s a setup question anyway, for #2:

2) Since your public declaration of plans to introduce legislation to back the Cyren Call idea for a first-responders’ network, you’ve been somewhat silent on the upcoming 700 MHz auctions. What are your thoughts on the Frontline Wireless plan, and do you think some kind of public/private partnership is necessary to build such future networks, since the government has shown no willingness to do so itself?

Predicted answer: McCain will likely waffle a bit on the Frontline specifics, and may say that his public backing of the oft-derided Cyren Call plan (even the FCC rejected it) was simply an effort to draw attention to the need for public safety requirements as part of the spectrum lottery. Still, it would be fun to hear him try to defend the Cyren Call endorsement, and it would help set him up for our cheap-shot question #3:

3) In a speech earlier this year, you noted that China “spends billions” trying to control its citizens’ use of the Internet, and admonished China to “use its power responsibly.” Given that Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is now a part of your campaign team, how do you balance your views on China with Cisco’s sales of sophisticated routers into Chinese markets, which allow for the same kind of Internet control that you apparently do not approve of?

Predicted answer: Probably not a “bomb Iran” song refrain. But roll tape, just in case.


Paul Kapustka

Hey David, I said No. 3 was a cheap shot! Doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t like to hear McCain explain the apparent conflict.

Daniel Golding

David: Website filtering belongs at the host (your house) not on the wire. Why should you decide what I get to see? You know very well that the Great Firewall of China is not there to protect kids, its their to protect China’s regime. Cisco is contributing to oppression and the point being made here is that McCain doesn’t approve of political censorship of the Internet – even to “save the children”. Good for him, bad for Cisco.

Also, on a technical fine point – switch and routers have no content filtering capabilities to speak of, aside from being able to null route entire netblocks. Most filtering takes place on dedicated filtering boxes – either servers or hardware devices full of FPGAs. The same sort of thing one would use to look for malware or spam. Routers and switches will do redirects and forwarding to such boxes.

David Mackey

Hmmm…Not a fan of McCain? Anyways, the third is a cheap shot. Or are you a fan of no switches/routers/etc. with blocking capabilities (or, to setup a straw man, are you advocating our children being freely able to stumble upon pornography)?

Mark Johnson

Given McCain’s comments at D that the US telecom and broadband infrastructure are one of the best in the world and his unwillingness to listen to an audience who would argue otherwise, it is doubtful that he’ll say anything of substance in this area. Given Ed Whitacre is also a big contributor, this is not a surprise.

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