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Ending Net Neutrality: A Primer

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:38pm

By Nick Stumo-Langer ’15

Net neutrality is the concept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all service consumer equally, regardless of bandwidth use. Currently, consumers and website creators buy access to the Internet at the same rate regardless of use. But, that could change.

Instead of allowing Minnesota 2020 or online retailing giant Amazon to be accessed at the same speed, the proposed tiered system could deliver Amazon to you at a faster speed than Minnesota 2020, simply because Amazon was able to pay your specific ISP (such as Comcast or Time-Warner Cable) more money for its bits to load faster.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a rule to “protect and promote the Internet as an open platform enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, end-user control, competition, and the freedom to innovate without permission, and thereby to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability and remove barriers to infrastructure investment.” The FCC has extended a public comment period on the issue of classifying ISPs as common carriers, so anyone (including you) can leave a comment on their website.

ISPs dislike this rule, because it treats them as common carriers. Common carriers (including buses, trains and cargo ships) cannot refuse or limit service to any user, since the service they provide can be accessed simply for a fee.

Classifying ISPs as common carriers is in the public’s interest because it ensures that anti-trust laws against monopolies are enforced and that the Internet maintains its status as a level playing field. Without this classification, ISPs could refuse to build high speed internet infrastructure in rural areas because they will not be turning an acceptable profit.

To put it simply, net neutrality is one of the most important undiscussed public policy issues. In subsequent posts, I will explain the specific implications that the loss of net neutrality could have in many different sectors that impact Minnesotans’ daily lives. There’s much to think about it.

Originally published at

ID at the Polls: Discrimination or Precaution?

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:13pm

By Griffin Edwards ’17

Anyone that attended Rev. Al Sharpton’s speech on St. Olaf’s campus this Wednesday will undoubtedly vouch for the fact that he made some really good points. I went in skeptical, expecting little. As it turned out, I was surprised at how much I agreed with him on many issues. He especially stressed the unreasonableness of police militarization and unnecessary force in recent times, holes in the education system that leave children behind and allocate resources poorly, and shortcomings of the judicial branch. My disagreement with Rev. Sharpton rests chiefly on his assertion that race causes these issues, instead of an over-bureaucratized government burdened with unnecessary and redundant programs.

One issue Rev. Sharpton brought up that has also been plaguing Americans lately is legislation recently introduced (according to Rev. Sharpton, by the right-wing Republicans in all their villainy) which would require anyone voting in the United States to show ID before they hit the polls. Acceptable forms of ID include gun licenses, driver’s licenses, and state-issued ID cards. These new laws are justified by purporting their importance in “avoiding fraud.”

Rev. Sharpton attacked these laws, saying that they were ridiculous and biased. He asserted that the elderly wouldn’t be able to vote as much because they often don’t carry IDs with them, that some can’t afford IDs because one must pay for them, and that the amount of fraud was so low in the US, any accusation of fraud was ridiculous. His seemingly bulletproof assessment triggered roars of applause from socially aware Oles.

But is it true? Is requiring ID to vote an infringement on personal liberties, specifically designed to marginalize certain groups?

According to the DMV, all state IDs are fairly inexpensive. Oregon is most expensive, at $33.50; by contrast, Delaware, South Carolina, and West Virginia offer them at $5. Furthermore, state DMVs often offer considerable discounts to seniors, knowing full well the practice of opting out of a driver’s license. $33.50 doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable for a state ID card, especially when one takes into account all the other things one can do with legal identification. This list includes renting a hotel room, useing the post office, getting a job, picking up prescription drugs, buying alcohol, and receiving social security. Not having a state ID would be like getting through a week without a St. Olaf ID card: extremely hindering.

What about fraud? Surely the nigh-uncorrupted American democratic system is above the rigged elections often seen in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, where candidates are reelected term after term. Despite Rev. Sharpton’s statistic, which stated that fraud occurs in only .00003% of elections nationwide, election fraud investigations have most recently taken place in Georgia and Hennepin County, Minnesota. Keep in mind also that elections in the past have been won by margins as close as 537 votes (in the 2000 presidential race- that’s one-one millionth of the population). Perhaps the presentation of ID would prevent such close races in the future, taking some of the ambiguity out of fraud investigations and ensure more fair elections.

Of course, one could argue that the state shouldn’t require ID at all, or that the Electoral College is a hindrance to democracy, or that the system itself is broken. But these are bigger questions with much larger repercussions.

The Equal Pay (Non)Debate

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 7:24pm

By Emma Whitford ‘18

Photo taken via Twitter

Equal pay has become one of the driving issues of the 2014 midterm elections, and it seems that everyone, democrats and republicans alike, have been stepping out to defend it. Why, then, are women still making less than men?

Good question.

In 1963 congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which requires that men and women under the same employer be given equal pay for equal work. Even with this in place, women still make an average of 77 cents to the man’s dollar. This gap widens for African American and Latina women, with African Americans making an average of 64 cents to the Caucasian male dollar, and Latinas making an average of only 54 cents to their Caucasian male counterparts.

Previously, equal pay was seen as a women’s issue, but in today’s world it’s affecting everyone. Living in a time of rising costs and falling wages, many families rely on two incomes to support their household. Both women and men are finding it an issue that women earn less money based on pure discrimination.

Women are increasingly the breadwinners for their families. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, 60% of households with children are dual income households. If women are equally important to the finances of their families, and they’re doing equal work with equal skills, it’s time for them to earn equal pay.

This spring the Paycheck Fairness Act was raised once again in the Senate. Introduced in 2009, the bill went through the House, but was denied in November 2010 in the Senate. The bill was put up again in 2012, but fell short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to a debate on the floor. Drafted as an update to the Equal Pay Act, the bill has three main proposals. First, it suggests that it will be illegal for employers to prohibit or discourage the disclosure of wages and salaries between employees. Second, it declares that employers must be able to prove that pay differences are influenced by factors other than sex.  Third, the bill will strengthen the penalties to those found guilty of equal pay violations.

The bill was reintroduced to the Senate in April of 2014, and with 73 votes was put to debate on the floor. Earlier this month, the bill was voted down once again along straight party lines.

The White House and Senate democrats have been very vocal in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. It’s a strategic move to play for the November mid-terms because it plays well to women, a largely democratic demographic.

The GOP announced support of equal pay for women, and Senate republicans justify the rejection of the bill because no amendments to the bill were considered. They claim that the bill will discourage employers from hiring women, in turn hurting the very people it claims to help.

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