Broadband and R&D tax credits key goals for US Republicans

Widely available broadband, electronic health records and increased government spending on research and development (R&D) are...

Widely available broadband, electronic health records and increased government spending on research and development (R&D) are among the technology-related goals in the US Republican Party's 2004 manifesto, released this week.

Republicans adopted a wide-ranging platform that repeats technology goals set by president George Bush in recent months.

The 106-page document calls for affordable broadband available to all US residents by 2007.

Republican policies have helped advance broadband, the manifesto said.

"Broadband provides Americans with high-speed internet access connections that improve the nation's economic productivity and offer life-enhancing applications, such as distance learning, remote medical diagnostics, and the ability to work from home more effectively," it said.

"Broadband technology will enhance our nation's economic competitiveness and will improve education and health care for all Americans."

Policies such as a moratorium on broadband access taxes have encouraged broadband growth, the manifesto said.

The document noted that broadband use in the US has grown 300% from December 2000 to December 2003.

The document also notes that the amount of spectrum for wireless broadband applications such as Wi-Fi and Wi-Max has nearly doubled since Bush took office.

The platform also calls for most US residents to have electronic health records within 10 years, saying e-records will reduce medical errors.

The platform repeats Bush administration talking points on R&D, noting that federal R&D spending between the 2001 and 2005 budgets rose 44%, to $132bn (£73bn).

Bush supports making an R&D tax credit permanent, the platform says, although a House version of a corporate tax bill passed in June by the Republican-controlled House only extends the credit for 18 months.

R&D is important because two-thirds of the growth in the US economy in the 1990s came from new technology.

"America's economy is undergoing a fundamental transition from one based primarily on manufacturing to one based on innovation, services, and ideas," the manifesto added.

The Bush administration is best suited to create a good environment for IT companies, administration officials have argued in recent months. Broadband access and wireless broadband services are leading to new business models and new ways of working, John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said in late July.

The Bush Administration has largely tried to avoid companies competing in the broadband marketplace, while making wireless spectrum available and extending the moratorium on internet access taxes, Marburger said.

"The administration understands this new [broadband] phase of the information technology revolution," he added.

Democrats have also focused on offshore outsourcing as an issue in the presidential campaign. Boucher in June suggested Congress should explore tax penalties for moving jobs overseas.

The Republican platform does not deal with the issue of outsourcing, but calls for worker training for new jobs to be more readily available.

"Ensuring that workers have the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century economy is a critical step in helping Americans be self-sufficient and successful," the platform says.

But both parties have heavily courted the support of the technology industry by pushing such issues as an improved US education system, White said. Republicans, often supported by business leaders, have to be reminded not to take tech industry support for granted, White said.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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