GOP delegates vow to steer clear of more intrusive Internet regulation

Delegates adopted language on Tuesday that is strong on removing or staving off regulation on the Internet, and the convention center features a substantial presence by Facebook, Twitter and, especially, Google.

The tech giant laid out makeshift wood floors, a glass-walled webcasting studio, treadmill desks, a coffee bar and a Technicolor decor that transformed an otherwise drab space the size of a soundstage. The area also doubles as a workspace for journalists and, mindful of those eyeballs, Google has mounted a display featuring brochures that estimate the company’s impact on the economy of each state.

The reach of Google and of the tech sector as a whole were evident in the platform language approved Wednesday.

One provision says the party 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.”

Some public interest groups, who pressed lawmakers to sideline anti-piracy legislation in Congress earlier this year, saw the language as affirming their view that recent congressional efforts were an overreach.

David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, called the platform plank “a big victory for the Internet” and said that under its terms, lawmakers who abided by the language would have opposed the Stop Online Piracy Act and a recent cybersecurity bill.

“It’s important for politicians to know that if they act contrary to these Internet freedom principles, they’ll risk the wrath of their party’s most committed activists,” Segal said.

The language in the platform doesn’t specifically address the Stop Online Piracy Act, legislation that was aimed at curbing foreign “rogue” websites. It enjoyed bipartisan support until bipartisan opposition mounted a campaign against it, including an Internet “blackout” led by Wikipedia and other firms and supported by Google.

And showbiz lobbies, which have a presence here at the convention, see the plank as a nod to Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd, who was at the convention this week and plans to go to Charlotte next week, said in a statement that the platform language “strikes a smart balance: It emphasizes the importance of us doing more as a nation to protect our intellectual property from online theft while underscoring the critical importance of protecting Internet freedom.”

Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, noted that the platform “also recognizes that effective tools are necessary to combat criminal theft of intellectual property.”

Also at the conventions were reps from the Recording Industry Assn. of America, which co-sponsored, along with the Auto Alliance, a Gavin DeGraw concert on Tuesday night benefiting Musicians on Call.

The platform includes provisions on achieving “full parity in trade with China,” including tough language on taking action in the theft of intellectual property.

Much of the GOP platform ties to the theme that government regulation has stifled innovation. It also takes aim at several policies championed by the FCC under the Obama administration. It opposes the FCC’s Net neutrality rules, approved in 2010, as “trying to micromanage telecom as if were a railroad network.” It calls for an inventory of government spectrum that could be put up for commercial auction and slams the administration for not doing enough to achieve universal access to broadband.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has made access to high-speed Internet a central policy initiative and has touted progress in spurring its reach into rural areas. The FCC is also in the process of creating a system of incentive auctions, in which broadcasters can voluntarily give up spectrum and then share in the proceeds sold for wireless use.

Fred Campbell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Communications, Liberty and Innovation Project, said that the significance of the Internet language is that it reflects conservatives’ increased attention to the tech sector. The institute is a think tank promoting limited government.

“Conservative movements haven’t been really focused on technology in recent years,” he said. “The significance of it is that it shows they are focused on the issues surrounding the Internet.”

Digital rights groups are now pressing Democrats to adopt strong language in their platforms and are even making not-too-veiled references to what is at stake.

In his statement, Segal said, “Democrats should act quickly if they want to keep up, and if they don’t want to lose their position as the party of the Net. Donations from Silicon Valley and the tech industry have been increasingly skewing toward Republicans, and this is a huge opportunity for Democrats to make a play for those dollars.”

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