Former presidential candidates John Edwards and Fred Thompson headlined Thursday's keynote presentation at CTIA Wireless 2008, largely sidestepping pressing issues directly impacting the mobile industry audience members in attendance. Opening remarks from CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent suggested the discussion would spotlight the regulatory issues looming over the wireless landscape: A short video segment assembled in conjunction with consumer advocacy group mywireless.org argued against government intervention via statistical snapshots indicating that 69 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers believe they are already paying too much for wireless taxes, 74 percent believe additional regulation would make their bills even higher, and 84 percent believe that a free market economy is sufficient to regulate pricing.
However, the event never again returned to lawmakers' impact on wireless, with both Edwards and Thompson instead outlining their respective views on the state of American politics, culture and society as the 2008 election draws closer. Decrying the media's "focus on the superficial," Edwards proclaimed that citizens deserve a daily dialog that illuminates how each candidate would tackle hot-button issues like the economy, the environment and healthcare if he or she wins the presidential race. "Wireless is important to provide this information," Edwards said, citing the enormous impact of mobile and the web on how campaigns are operated and political messages disseminated.
"[Wireless] has changed the basic dynamic of how we fund campaigns," Edwards continued. "We invited voters to text the word 'Hope' to join our campaign, and had literally tens of thousands who signed up. What happens is [these technologies] democratize the process--instead of a few who control funding and access, it's now being dispersed ... Wireless takes us to a new dimension."
By contrast, Thompson's keynote largely eschewed discussion of mobile: "John said what needed to be said--you can't get away with nothin' anymore," he cracked, agreeing the platform is a hugely positive element of the modern campaign process. Thompson instead split his podium time between a series of corny jokes satirizing his failed presidential bid and more serious subject matter like terrorism, the tax burdens facing an aging population, the cynicism of American people and what he called "the phenomenon of John McCain."
A question-and-answer session following the two candidates also squandered the opportunity to debate wireless regulation--while audience members were invited to submit questions via SMS, Largent chose to query the former senators on subjects including their personal heroes, the bipartisan schism in American politics and the impact of 24-hour news coverage.-- Jason