Saturday, December 4, 2010

Herb Kohl Responds on Net Neutrality

Since the last election, I have been writing letters and sending emails to as many congress people as I can about the issues that I feel are of utmost importance. One of the most important issues, more than the tax cuts, more than health care, more than the debt, I feel is net neutrality. The internet has been the greatest resources for information and mass communication that the world has ever seen. Especially after the Supreme Court decided that votes were OK to be bought, net neutrality, the ability for everyone to use the tool on a level playing field with money being only a small factor in distribution, is more important than ever. So I wrote to Herb Kohl to urge him to address this issue as aggressively as possible.

And he, or at least his office, replied! Here is what I got back:

Dear Ms. Weber:

I appreciate hearing from you about access to content on the Internet and the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate Internet services.  Recently, there has been a lot of debate about "Net neutrality," which describes the concept that Internet network operators should be neutral conduits of content, and who should have the authority to determine whether some Internet traffic is prioritized over other traffic. In recent years Congress has carefully considered this issue. Should the Senate consider legislation related to net neutrality or Internet regulation, I will be certain to keep your thoughts in mind. 

On April 6, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not have the authority to regulate how Internet service providers manage traffic on their networks. This decision overturned a 2008 ruling that prevented Comcast, an Internet service provider, from blocking users from accessing certain content online. The April 6 decision will further impact the FCC because the National Broadband Plan, which the FCC released on March 17, 2010, includes many provisions that depend on the FCC's authority to enforce net neutrality. 
Since the April 6 ruling, interested parties have asked what this ruling will mean and how it will impact the future of broadband Internet services. This ruling stems from numerous court rulings and decades of debate about the boundaries of the FCC's authority. By definition, the FCC has direct authority to regulate telecommunications services, the authority to regulate information services in certain circumstances, and when appropriate, the authority to reclassify individual services. After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law, the FCC had to choose whether the Internet should be classified as a telecommunications service, such as telephone services, or as an information service. The FCC chose to classify the Internet as an information service, which it only has the authority to regulate in some circumstances, and the April 6 circuit ruling stated that the FCC cannot regulate the Internet to ensure net neutrality. 
However, almost 15 years after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law, our use of the Internet has changed dramatically and people across the country depend on Internet services for critical communications, education, public safety, and health care. On May 6, 2010, the Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, issued a statement announcing that the FCC plans to issue a rulemaking to reclassify the transmission aspect of Internet services as a telecommunications service. In his statement, he detailed boundaries to prevent regulatory overreach and limits on which regulations from the Communication Act of 1996 would apply to the transmission of Internet services. The change would maintain the range of obligations that broadband access service providers faced before the April 6 Circuit Court decision. Reclassifying the transmission of the Internet as a communications service would give the FCC the authority to regulate the transmission of the Internet now and in the future.  It would not give the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet itself or Internet content. 
Some suggest that Chairman Genachowski's proposal would clarify the FCC's legal authority over the Internet and allow the agency to move forward with its National Broadband Plan. Others have voiced concerns that Chairman Genachowski's proposal would unnecessarily expand the FCC's authority over the Internet. 

Chairman Genachowski has indicated that the FCC plans to seek public comments on this proposal before moving forward. Should we consider legislation related to Internet classification in the Senate, I will remember your comments.


                                                      Herb Kohl
                                                      United States Senator

I highly recommend that you contact your congress people regarding this issue. With net neutrality the people can continue to get their messages out to potentially millions of people all over the world. If this is taken away and given to the highest bidder, then how will our voices be heard? Speak now, while you still can!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The House Passes Extension of Tax Cuts

In a bold move that hearkens back to the ideas that Obama ran on in 2008, the House Democrats pushed a vote on the Bush Era Tax Breaks today and were able to pass it 234-188 in favor of extending the breaks only for earnings of less than $250,000 a year. It is a move that some are calling a moot point since the Senate will likely not even get a chance to vote on the same measure due to promise of a filibuster by the Senate Republicans, but it is a move that pulls the argument out of the right's hands and makes it a far less easy case to to look good winning. If the Republicans do not allow this to pass, it drives it home even harder that they are only in favor of tax cuts if they benefit the most wealthy Americans. They would be showing that the most fortunate 10% of Americans are more important than the other 90%. That coupled with the fact that they are blocking extended help for the unemployed, they are really letting their true loyalties show. Republicans go where the money is.

Our debt needs to be addressed. The only way that we will truly be able to get it under control is to increase revenue -- taxes. If you try to take more from those who are already using their entire paycheck just to get by, we will be in deeper crisis as a country with more foreclosures and more people unable to take care of themselves. Those monies must come from those who have gained the most from the way that the economy has been structured. This country has disproportionally favored a few individuals and it is about time that they chip in to help pay for the things that they have gained from it all.

The important thing to remember is that EVERYONE will still get a tax break. This bill isn't singling out individuals to not partake in a take break, it is singling out dollar amounts. Everyone will get a break on the first $250,000 they make -- even those that make $5 million each year, or $5 billion each year. It is only the dollars made after $250,000 that are not getting the break.

The House Democrats showed the moxie that I feel has been lacking in the Democratic party. Democrats need to be fierce and stand up for what they believe in, even if it is against the odds. Obama has been trying to take the easy, civil way out the last two years, and I truly think that the Democrat base and other progressives who tend to vote Democrat are getting sick of the caving that the Democrats have demonstrated for the last 10 years.

If the people are going to get their government to work for them again instead of the corporations, we must be more aggressive and not compromise our ideals away.


Democrats that voted against it:
Ron Klein (Fla.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), Mike McMahon (N.Y.), Walt Minnick (Iowa) and Gene Taylor (Miss.), Brian Baird (Wash.), Artur Davis (Ala.), Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Gwen Moore (Wisc.), Jerry Moran (Va.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Bobby Scott (Va.), Mike Thompson (Calif.) and Peter Visclosky (Ind.). 
Please write to these representatives to persuade them to support this measure.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Watch & Write Potluck - Bush Era Tax Cuts

Congress is still stalled on what to do about the tax cuts that are to expire soon so there is still time to get through to your congress person -- or any congress people you think might need a little nudging!

The wealthy have gained immensely from the irresponsible spending our government has allowed over the last ten years; while the middle class and poor most obviously have not. It is about time that the wealthy give back a little to help get this debt in check and give some relief to those that they are exploiting to get their fortunes!

Personal letters or phone calls are by far the best way to contact your representatives. SO this Sunday at noon, I will be hosting a Watch & Write gathering where we can watch a film about the national debt to get revved and inspired, and then write letters to our congress people to urge them to take action on the tax cuts. I have two films to choose from: Ten Trillion and Counting and I.O.U.S.A. Both discuss the ballooning national debt, where it came from and what it means for this country's future, OUR FUTURE! After watching the film(s) we will write letters to the congress people of our choosing and mail them.

Some of the people that we should think about contacting:

House, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell  -- he might be a lost cause

Bloomberg reports that the following six Democrats are planning to oppose the current tax cut extension proposal that would only extend the tax break for those making under $250,000. These we might be able to sway:

In the House, Democrats Artur Davis of Alabama and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota said they would vote against the measure because it would result in higher marginal rates for high-income taxpayers starting in January. Representative Michael McIntyre of North Carolina, who favors extending the tax cuts to all taxpayers, said he was still studying the issue.
“If all the bill does is extend one class of tax cuts and not others, I’ll vote ‘no,’” Davis said.
He said other Democrats felt similarly. “It’s clear that they are struggling to find the votes for it,” he said.
Davis and Pomeroy are leaving the House at the end of this session. Davis ran for governor in Alabama and lost in the Democratic primary. Pomeroy lost his bid for re-election.
Democrats Jim McDermott of Washington, Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Michael Thompson of California said they may oppose the measure.
“I think it’s a problem if it’s not paid for,” Thompson said. The legislation is exempt from budget-balancing rules, meaning that it doesn’t require offsetting tax increases or spending cuts to pass.

Bring light lunch fare or snacks that we can eat while we watch.
If you are interested you can email me serenaweber[a] or leave a comment below (just click on the word "comments" to access the comment tool).

Hope to see you there!

Shaky Progress in Net Neutrality

There has been a little progress in strengthening the idea of net neutrality, even if it is a shaky one. The chairman of the F.C.C., Julius Genachowski, has lent his support of the idea of keeping the net non-discriminatory and open to all legal content.

There are still arguments that the F.C.C. doesn't have the authority to regulate the internet, but Genachowski thinks he may have found a loophole past those arguments.  The F.C.C.’s Section 706 authority states that they are in charge of ensuring that all Americans have access to broadband. Genachowski argues that they are far from this goal and the only way to ensure that they reach this goal is through protection of net neutrality.

Read story from the New York Times HERE.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eau Claire Rail Rally

I did make it to the rail rally at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire on Saturday November 20th organized by Wisconsin Sierra Club, as did almost 100 other people. It was a great turn out for such a bitterly cold day.

Dean Scanlon, from the Laborers' Local No. 268, stressed that what this state really needed was more jobs, and the rail was poised to introduce a multitude of jobs. Not just jobs immediately associated with building and maintaining the rail line, but also serving as a connection between the unemployed and jobs areas. He said that if Scott Walker were really serious about creating more jobs in Wisconsin, he should be supporting the rail.

Eau Claire City Councilwoman Jackie Pavelski talked about the old Twin Cities 400 railway that her parents relied on to get from southeast Wisconsin to northwestern Wisconsin for family get-togethers. She said that it had been an important part of building Wisconsin's economy and connecting people then, and a new rail could be a part of building Wisconsin's economy and connecting people now. She also made the point that although gasoline/oil is no longer $4 a gallon, we don't know how long it will stay that way. The rail is a project for the future as well as the here-and-now.

Some of the speakers were just people who showed up to the rally and had something to say. One person said that the money was going to be spent on rail project one way or another. What governor-elect Walker needs to decide is does he want that money to benefit Wisconsin, or does he want to give it away to another state; and that he would not only be deciding on this money, but all the money that the rail would potentially generate in many years to come.

Another rallier mentioned how the rail would help reduce the congestion on the road. So many road very expensive road projects are needed just to reduce this congestion that it makes sense to put in rail.

Another made the point that they were not hearing the social benefits of rail being mentioned by anyone. He said that people have been getting increasingly isolated in our society and are not connecting with the other members of their society in a meaningful way. He said that public transportation, such as rail, can help people connect within their society. I personally agree with this statement. My family and I traveled the rail and bus system in the UK and Ireland and met so many wonderful people. There was a sense of community on this public transportation that you just really wouldn't find walled off in a private vehicle.

Eau Claire is going to be holding a city council meeting November 22 and possibly voting on being part of the extension of the rail from Madison. Other cities are also planning to have this topic on their agenda in the near future. Although the results would be meaningless without the Milwaukee to Madison rail project staying alive, it could be a huge message to the governor from the people in this state --


If you would like more information on Eau Claire and Western Wisconsin's interest in the rail project, visit the Western Wisconsin Rail Coalition website.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why It Just Doesn't Make Sense to Scrap the Rail Project

This article by Jesse Russell at I think is one of the best break-downs of the different cost scenarios of the rail project would be:

What happens if the rail extension is now cancelled? U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has made it clear that Wisconsin will be slapped with a $100 million bill for federal money already used on the project under Doyle's Administration. This isn't a bluff. After New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled a more than decade old tunnel plan that would have connected New Jersey to Manhattan the U.S. Department of Transportation slapped the state with a $271 million bill due immediately. That's only the initial estimate from the US DOT who are calculating additional costs which could put the final bill over $350 million.

No matter what the actual number is, Wisconsin will lose. Not only is Governor-elect Scott Walker costing the state an estimated 9000 future jobs, but he is now throwing away $100 million in infrastructure. If the opponents numbers are to be believed, more than 13 years in operating costs. If the proponents are to be believed that's more than a century's worth of operating costs. I don't know if the opponents or the proponents are right about the math. I think it'll actually end up being somewhere in the middle and in that case, Wisconsin still loses.
You tell them Jesse! If this new governor is really serious about creating jobs, he should support the rail. If he wants to make sure that people can actually get to their jobs, he should support the rail. If he doesn't want to waste taxpayer's money, he should support the rail. So why doesn't he support the rail?

Rally for Rail

I found this over at Western Wisconsin Renewable Resources blog:

Rally for Trains, Saturday, Nov. 20, Eau Claire

Join us as we tell Scott Walker that Wisconsin can't afford to say NO over $800 million dollars in federal grant funds for this project, 9,570 permanent jobs, and increased property values.

WHEN: Saturday, November 20, NOON

WHERE: Phoenix Park, Riverfront Terrace & S. Barstow St, Eau Claire, WI

Speakers include Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (invited); Jeremy Gragert (UW Eau Claire graduate); Representative, West Central Rail Coalition (invited). More details.

If we want to save this train, we need to speak up now! Join us as we tell Scott Walker that Wisconsin can't afford to say NO over $800 million dollars in federal grant funds for this project, 9,570 permanent jobs, and increased property values. Let's extend the popular Hiawatha service connecting Chicago and Milwaukee. Let's create a safe, convenient efficient way to travel throughout the Midwest. We can make a difference, IF we stand together. Please attend and bring a friend!
I am going! I think Walker is out of his mind to scrap this project. He says that it is because of the additional costs to taxpayers and wants to spend the money on building roads and such -- but I hate to break this too you Walker, those have additional costs too.

This is a chance to get a message to our incoming governor that he actually has people to answer to. Go and speak loudly to Scott Walker that we need to move FORWARD!