Thursday, June 15, 2006

Feingold on Net Neutrality

Senate Judiciary Committee

WASHINGTON - June 14 - Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today on the important issue of ensuring competition in our communications laws.

I hope that the Judiciary Committee will make this hearing one of a series addressing consumer and competition concerns in the telecommunications field. There are a number of significant issues we should look at, such as media consolidation, preemption of state rights, and anticompetitive practices in the radio and concert industries. In fact, as I think about the issue of Internet competition, it makes a lot of sense to me to consider it through the lens of the problems with the radio and concert industries that I have been concerned about for some time.

Ten years on, the radio and concert industries have not recovered from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which I opposed. The massive consolidation that resulted from that law took a toll on the local flavor of radio, and it also allowed the problem of payments for airplay, or “payola,” to reemerge. Within the radio industry, payola effectively created a two-tiered system of the labels and artists with the resources to purchase airtime under the table and those who could not or would not. Consumers looking for diversity and localism were the big losers.

I see a parallel situation potentially developing if we allow Internet access providers to create another pay-for-play system and become de facto gatekeepers to the Internet. Without a non-discrimination requirement, certain websites on the Internet could gain an unfair advantage. For example, the major record labels and music stores might be able to pay what the broadband providers demand to prioritize their music distribution, while smaller rivals might not. The independent labels and musicians who have found a niche on the Internet after consolidation and payola drove them from radio could again face an unfair pay-for-play system. Moreover, without protections, Internet users could have fewer choices as only those content providers who could afford to pay the corporate toll-keepers would be able to offer a competitive level of service. We need to make sure that the Internet retains its crucial role as an open forum for the free exchange and dissemination of information.

While antitrust protections such as net neutrality’s non-discrimination concept might not be needed if we had truly competitive markets, the current landscape, which amounts to an emerging duopoly, does not meet this threshold. Perhaps this will change if WiFi, municipal broadband or other technologies become widely available and competitively priced, but for the time being the principle of non-discrimination is a very important one. I also understand that there are legitimate reasons for broadband providers to prioritize one type of data over another to manage their network efficiently. I support the core net neutrality proposals I have seen that allow for this legitimate management of the network, while preserving the basic principle of equal access to the Internet.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Russ Feingold on Death of al-Zarqawi

WASHINGTON - June 8 - “I commend our military forces for their great accomplishment. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a ruthless terrorist who led an insurgent campaign of brutal suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq. This is great news for the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. It is also a testament to the professionalism and capability of the men and women in uniform in the U.S. military and the effectiveness of well-planned and targeted operations.

Unfortunately, al-Zarqawi’s death will probably not end the insurgency. As long as large numbers of U.S. troops remain indefinitely in Iraq, that country will remain a crucible for the recruitment and development of a wide range of terrorist networks determined to fight so-called American ‘occupiers.’ It’s time to refocus our global fight against terrorism. We must move away from the Iraq-centric policies that are draining our resources and focus on Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are reportedly operating in reportedly some 60 to 80 countries around the world.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Statement on Marriage Amendment

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
On the Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Marriage
As Prepared for Delivery from the Floor of the U.S. Senate

June 6, 2006

Mr. President, the Constitution of the United States is an historic guarantee of individual freedom. For over two centuries it has served as a beacon of hope, an example to people around the world who yearn to be free and to live their lives without government interference with their most basic personal decisions. I took an oath when I joined this body to support and defend the Constitution. I am saddened, therefore, to be once again debating an amendment to our Constitution that is so inconsistent with our Nation's history of expanding and protecting freedom.

There are serious issues facing this Congress -- the war in Iraq, health care, high gas prices, relief and recovery after Hurricane Katrina, the economy. These are the issues on which the American people are demanding that Congress act. But instead, we are spending much of this week debating this poorly thought out, divisive, and politically motivated constitutional amendment that everyone knows has no chance of success in the Senate.

The proposed constitutional amendment before the Senate today, S. J. Res. 1, has no better chance of getting a two-thirds majority in the Senate than it did in 2004, another election year. There are no new court decisions that supporters of the amendment can legitimately argue make it any more imperative now than it was then that such an amendment be passed. Yet the Judiciary Committee was ordered to mark up this amendment to fit a schedule announced by the Majority Leader months ago.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Feingold on C-Span

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and former Virginia Governor Mark Warner
(D) address the New Hampshire Democratic Party's annual covention. It
takes place at St. Anselm's College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. New
Hampshire is expected to hold the nation's first presidential primary
in 2008.