US Senate

Inspired by Hatch HS Student, Sen Udall Calls on FCC to Make Wi-Fi Available on School Buses

Sen Tom Udall (D-NM) called on the Federal Communications Commission to do more to ensure all students in New Mexico and across the country have equal access to the Internet for educational and economic opportunity. Specifically, Sen Udall wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC should extend the successful E-rate program, which pays for Internet access in schools, and provide Wi-Fi on school buses so students can have more time to do their homework.

While the E-Rate program has helped ensure schools are equipped with broadband Internet, a third of New Mexico households - and homes across the country - still lack access, either because families can't afford it or because it simply isn't available. But with seven in 10 teachers nationwide assigning homework that requires Internet access, students without access at home are now at an unfair disadvantage to their peers. "Broadband should help create educational opportunities for these children, not a new barrier to their success at school," Sen Udall wrote to Chairman Wheeler.

Senators Launch Broadband Caucus to Bridge the Digital Divide

Sens Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Boozman (R-AR) are joining together to launch the Senate Broadband Caucus.

As internet access plays an increasingly important role in all sectors of our economy, from education to agriculture, telemedicine to the innovation economy, the Senate Broadband Caucus will serve as a platform to engage in discussions across Committee jurisdictions and to inform Senators and their staff about emerging broadband issues. The caucus will focus on strengthening broadband infrastructure and deployment across the country. The caucus will address broadband challenges facing Americans, promote bipartisan discussions about possible solutions to increase connectivity and close the digital divide, especially in rural America, and engage with a broad range of industries and other stakeholders. The economic benefits of broadband infrastructure are clear. For every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure, 250,000 jobs are created and with every percentage point increase in new broadband distribution, employment expands by 300,000 jobs. Yet, according to the FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report, one in ten Americans lacks access to the FCC’s definition of broadband. In rural America, 39 percent of Americans lack access. A recent study found that after each megabit per second increase in internet speeds, the unemployment rate dropped, the rate of bachelor degrees earned increased, and the median household income increased. In rural areas, where broadband serves to bridge geographic barriers, these benefits are particularly important.

Sen Leahy Introduces Historic Bill To Ban NSA’s Dragnet Collection Of Americans’ Electronic Communications

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.

The updated version of the USA FREEDOM Act builds on legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Sen Leahy introduced with Rep Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in October 2013. The legislation bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court.

Thousands Use Sen Sanders Senate Website to Protest FCC Plan on Net-Neutrality

As part of a torrent of criticism pouring into the Federal Communications Commission, Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) delivered to the FCC nearly 19,000 comments from consumers demanding a free and open Internet.

In advance of a meeting of the FCC, Sen Sanders had invited visitors to use a form on his Senate website to weigh in what the senator called a “terribly misguided” proposal.

Sen Franken: Comcast-Time Warner Cable Proposal Threatens Nature of Internet, Raises Net Neutrality Concerns

Sen Al Franken (D-MN), who recently came out in opposition to Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable, continued to raise concerns about its potential impact on consumers.

The deal, he said, could jeopardize the open nature of the Internet by tilting the balance of power from people to huge corporations. In a letter sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Sen Franken called the Internet a place where everyone can participate on equal footing. But, he said, the proposed deal would give Comcast-already the nation's dominant Internet service provider-even more leverage to manipulate Internet traffic to serve its own corporate interests.

"The Internet is an open marketplace where everyone can participate on equal footing, regardless of one's wealth or influence-and I believe that's the way it should be," Sen Franken wrote. "The Internet has been a platform for innovation and economic growth since its inception. It also has connected Americans in unprecedented ways, facilitating the free exchange of information and ideas. Simply put, the Internet belongs to the people, not to huge corporations. Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable could disrupt this balance of power, resulting in higher costs and fewer choices for consumers." Later, he added, "I am very concerned that Comcast could use its clout in the broadband market to dictate the content consumers receive and the prices they pay, and these concerns are only intensified by Comcast's proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable."

Statement on Intel Committee’s CIA Detention, Interrogation Report

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) spoke on the Senate floor regarding the committee’s study on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program:

“Over the past week, there have been numerous press articles written about the Intelligence Committee’s oversight review of the Detention and Interrogation Program of the CIA, specifically press attention has focused on the CIA’s intrusion and search of the Senate Select Committee’s computers as well as the committee’s acquisition of a certain internal CIA document known as the Panetta Review. I rise today to set the record straight and to provide a full accounting of the facts and history. The origin of this study: The CIA’s detention and interrogation program began operations in 2002, though it was not until September 2006, that Members of the Intelligence Committee, other than the Chairman and Vice Chairman, were briefed. In fact, we were briefed by then-CIA Director Hayden only hours before President Bush disclosed the program to the public.

The resulting staff report was chilling. The interrogations and the conditions of confinement at the CIA detention sites were far different and far harsher than the way the CIA had described them to us. As result of the staff’s initial report, I proposed, and then-Vice Chairman Bond agreed, and the committee overwhelmingly approved, that the committee conduct an expansive and full review of CIA’s detention and interrogation program.

In 2009, then-Vice Chairman Bond, then-Director Panetta, and I agreed in an exchange of letters that the CIA was to provide a ‘stand-alone computer system’ with a ‘network drive’ ‘segregated from CIA networks’ for the committee that would only be accessed by information technology personnel at the CIA -- who would ‘not be permitted to’ ‘share information from the system with other [CIA] personnel, except as otherwise authorized by the committee.’ It was this computer network that, notwithstanding our agreement with Director Panetta, was searched by the CIA this past January.”

[March 11]