Parties pressed to treat internet as ‘essential’ in platforms

A group of technology and civil rights groups are pushing Republicans and Democrats to adopt party platforms that defend internet privacy, affordability and openness. 

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Nearly 20 organizations sent a letter to the heads of the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as they start drafting their platforms for the 2016 elections. They say the parties should treat internet access as "essential, not a luxury.”

The RNC is reportedly meeting with a number of technology trade groups on Monday about the issue, and the DNC is hearing testimony from stakeholders on Wednesday and Thursday in Washington, D.C., about its party platform, which will be taken up during the presidential nominating convention next month. 

“Understanding where both political parties stand on issues such as protecting privacy online, or ensuring greater broadband access, deployment, and adoption in urban, rural, and tribal areas alike, will be crucial to helping voters make an informed choice on Election Day,” according to the letter

The letter was signed by groups like the Center for Democracy and Technology, Color of Change, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, the Open Technology Institute, and Public Knowledge. 

Democrats and Republicans have come down on opposite sides of many regulatory policies involving the internet in the past few years. 

While Democrats championed strict net neutrality rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year to regulate internet service providers, Republicans have called the rules overbearing and unlawful. Republicans have also pushed back against increased privacy regulations for the industry that are currently being drafted by the FCC. 

The parties are also at odds over the FCC’s subsidy program known as Lifeline, which was recently expanded to help low-income families pay for internet service. Republicans have pushed for a hard budget cap on the program, which currently spends about $1.5 billion per year.  

“We look forward to the opportunity to discuss these issues with you further,” the groups said in the letter.