Barack Obama's victory last night has far-reaching fiscal, social, and military implications, all of which are familiar to anyone who kept at least one eye open during any of this year's debates. But what do four more years mean for tech? Turns out, a lot.
While Obama hasn't indicated that he'll dramatically change course on any of his technological policies and initiatives, it's useful to look a little closer at the ones he's got. Here's what we can expect.
One of the biggest threats a Romney presidency posed was to net neutrality. In his mind, broadband providers should be wildly unregulated, able to block access to competitors if it provides a competitive advantage, or if they just feel like it. Obama, meanwhile, has been a staunch net neutrality defender since his time in the Senate. It hasn't been high on his priority list—the FCC's existing Open Internet rules could use some fine-tuning—but at least we know he won't roll back the gains that have been made.
Obama promised years ago to get broadband access "to every community in America." He's gotten closer than you'd think. According to PolitiFact, as of this spring about 95% of US homes had broadband access (although only 67% subscribe). Obama's also been active in freeing up wireless spectrum, and is well on his way to doubling the amount available for broadband by 2020.
This won't matter for many of you reading this now, but it's hugely important for rural communities and schools across the country. You can argue whether broadband internet is a privilege or a right; either way, it should at least be an option.
Let's face it; Uncle Sam's not pointing at you any more. He's got his eye on a shiny new weaponized UAV. Romney and Obama seem to be equally enamored with the flying deathbots, so this would be the same no matter who had one: we'll keep bombing people from far, far away with highly sophisticated remote control toys.
Remember Stuxnet? Remember Flame? Under the Obama administration, America has embraced cyber warfare like never before. And even though we got caught with our hand in the malware jar, there's no reason to think we're going to back off on electronic espionage or outright attacks. And we can probably anticipate that someone will return the favor.
Sorry, kids. We're not going to be undertaking any ambitious Mars or moon projects in the next four years. Obama wants to send a human to the red planet by 2030, but the astute observer will note that he won't be anywhere near office then. The best he can do is keep funding NASA, something that's increasingly difficult given our country's budgetary woes.
A lot of the green energy progress Obama wanted to make has already been achieved; renewable wind and solar usage has doubled since he took office. But he's also got a long-term goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral by 2030, something we're still a long ways off from. And again, a 2030 goal is another way of saying it's someone else's problem.
Did you know that $20 billion of stimulus money went towards health information technology? And that Obama had originally promised $30 billion on top of that? Congress hasn't wanted to fork over the rest, and there's little indication the GOP-led 2012 caucus will either. But the Obama administration as already created an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and made funds available to help institutions bring analog records digital.
It's not something you'll encounter on a day to day basis, but it could very well save your life someday. Here's hoping it gets the funding it deserves.
Okay okay, so it's not directly Obama-related. But the fact that Nate Silver crunched his magical numbers to such accurate ends will hopefully help political punditry in the same way PECOTA changed the way we talk about baseball. Or at least make the fights we're going to have anyway more intelligent.
Hey, a guy can dream.