Both ideologies take for granted that technology is good, and if left unfettered goodness will prevail. There's an extreme naiveté that makes the high-tech industry as a whole one unequipped to lead efforts for the greater national good. Certainly there are individuals quite capable of that leadership, but the Obama administration should be very cautious in letting the high-tech industry as a whole try to set any agenda.
Instead, start with the policy agenda -- what is good for the nation and people as a whole -- and put the high-tech industry in the position of having to deliver on that policy agenda. It will do better executing than leading. With that in mind, my recommended tech agenda starts with policy proposals, not with technologies per se.
Broadband and net neutrality
The telecom industry and activist community have fought for years over national broadband and Internet access. The telecom industry has fumbled this technology, trying to game the system for years to prevent competition for both the actual pipes and for the information services that ride over them. The telecom industry has failed in providing compelling information services, and its pipes are overpriced. But the activists' proposals that the broadband infrastructure should essentially be a government-provided benefit for everyone is nonsensical; we don't do that for water or electricity, after all, which are more necessary for human survival.
Yes, every American should have access to broadband for Internet access. The Internet is as much a public utility as water, electricity, gas, and telephone. And it should be treated that way. The telecom industry has failed in making broadband near-universally available, favoring high-margin deployments in rich areas. The result is price gouging and limited availability. The Obama administration's public musings about encouraging broad availability is on the right track.
Infrastructure is expensive, and expecting for-profit companies to spend lots of money to build infrastructure in areas with low returns is foolish. It should be no surprise they avoid rural and poor areas, given their investor demand for high profits and margins. So it makes sense for the government to subsidize the infrastructure development in such areas, as well as set national minimum requirements for broadband bandwidth -- but not for the specifically technology used to deploy it.
In many cases, it will make sense to subsidize the incumbent providers rather than set up new quasi public agencies or rely on startup companies, but that decision should be made on a case by case basis. In some cases, it makes more sense to extend the incumbents' technology; in other cases, there is no capitalist rationale for providing service, so the government should step in and treat it as what it is: a public good that relies on public monies or tax transfers (such as is done with phone service access charges today).
Of course, the incumbents should compete for the subsidies like anyone else. And there should be strong strings attached to any subsidies, such as maximum pricing for the basic service tier, a prohibition against tying that service and its price to use of other offerings (as the feds forced AT&T to accept as a condition of approving its BellSouth purchase, but as they have not forced the cable companies to do). The government may also need to create a subsidy system for the poor to pay for access, as it has long done for other utilities with the concept of lifeline pricing for qualified citizens.