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Obama Outlines Tech-Policy Agenda

If elected president, Barack Obama would appoint the nation’s first chief technology officer, “clarify the public-interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum” and help public broadcasting to develop a digital online platform—“Public Media 2.0.” He’d also “encourage improvements to the voluntary ratings system” and “encourage the industry not to show inappropriate adult-oriented commercial advertising during children’s programming.”

Those were among a host of media-related moves the Democratic candidate and Illinois senator outlined in a technology policy paper released by the campaign Wednesday in advance of his visit to Google’s headquarters.

Media-reform activists, notably, have been encouraging the candidates to outline their positions on media issues, particularly network neutrality.

Obama reiterated his support, defining network neutrality as “the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some Websites and Internet applications over others.”

Obama said the nation’s CTO would oversee the safety and the interoperability of the government’s “infrastructure, policies and services.”

Taking a page from the Bush administration, Obama added that he would also push broadband deployment. As part of that, he said, he will “confront the entrenched Washington interests that have kept our public airwaves from being maximized for the public’s interest.”

He did not elaborate, but progressive site Open Left read it as a desire to open the reclaimed 700-megahertz band being auctioned in January for lease by third parties. The FCC did not open the band for such leasing, although it did open a key swath of spectrum third-party technology, essentially unbundling service from particular handsets and other devices. said it would ask candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to add network neutrality to her Internet-policy plan.

Although Obama’s paper mentioned the term “digital” nine times—including “digital age,” “digital media”—he made no mention of the transition to digital TV, which he would inherit within the first couple of months, if elected.