Hillary Clinton’s tech plan draws praise, skepticism

Jun 29, 2016, 3:14 PM EDT
Hillary Clinton. (Source: Nathaniel F./flickr)
Hillary Clinton. (Source: Nathaniel F./flickr)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton unveiled her Initiative on Technology & Innovation this week, which outlined her plan for bolstering American tech markets, and (not unexpectedly) earned her both applause and criticism.  

The fact sheet details Clinton’s five-pronged approach to tech: creating jobs and committing to computer science and STEM education, delivering high-speed broadband to all Americans, promoting high-tech exports, supporting innovation while safeguarding privacy, and making the "government smarter" with new technologies. Investing in STEM fields, diversifying the tech workforce, increasing capital for startups, loan deferment for entrepreneurs, and closing the digital divide are just a few of the points on the agenda — enough to make any techie salivate.

The plan echoes much of what President Obama has championed during his terms, i.e., building out infrastructure, supporting the FCC’s net neutrality measures, etc. Some critics have called Clinton’s plan, in many ways an extension of Obama’s initiatives, lofty and view it as a bid to win a bigger chunk of Silicon Valley’s heart -- and wallet. (Newsweek points out that the tech sector has donated a total of $2.7 million to Clinton so far, compared to the over $13 million Obama brought in during his 2012 re-election campaign.

Specifically, Clinton’s goal of bringing high-speed broadband internet to every American by 2020 is coming under some fire, notably in relation to the FCC’s changes to the definition of high-speed broadband last year. (The Commission raised the standard of broadband from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps last January, shaking up the numbers of Americans considered to have access to sub-standard broadband.) ZDNet points out that no state in the U.S. has operating speeds of 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up. The District of Columbia is getting close, but in general, getting every American onto 25 Mbps by 2020 seems nearly impossible.

It remains to be seen if Clinton's tech agenda is an achievable mission or a mere courting tool directed at Silicon Valley. If the former, it could get America moving full steam ahead into the next chapter of the digital era. A girl can dream.