Senator Al Franken (D-MN) speaks at IFE INFO

On December 9th, friends and supporters of the Institute for Education came together in the historic LBJ room of the U.S. Capitol to hear Senator Al Franken (D-MN) share his thoughts on a range of policy issues and the state of Capitol Hill in the wake of the 2014 mid-term elections.

Coach Kemper kicked off the event by introducing Norm Ornstein, a pundit and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an IFE Steward. Ornstein welcomed guests and set the stage for Franken to share his thoughts on the state of the internet before taking questions from guests.

Franken started his remarks by sharing the story of YouTube: a company started by three guys in an office over a strip mall in San Mateo, California. Describing a David and Goliath story of YouTube’s challenge to Google’s video service, he explained how an open, neutral internet enabled innovation and competition–which led to Google eventually purchasing YouTube for $1.65 billion.

“That’s what net neutrality is all about,” said Franken. “All content and applications on the internet should be treated equally by internet service providers, regardless of ownership.”

Casting net neutrality as essential to ensuring a level playing ground for new businesses to innovate and to avoid stifling competition, Franken argued that in order to ensure we see the next Amazon – which was started in a garage – or the next Facebook – famously started in a dorm room – policy must ensure that consumer’s choices on the internet are not driven by the interests of large internet service providers.

Franken also described net neutrality as vital to democracy, in addition to economic opportunity. “Because of net neutrality, an email from a constituent in rural Minnesota reaches me just as fast as an email from a big lobbyist. … The quality of an idea matters more than the depth of one’s pocket.”

Opposing the proposed policy of allowing internet “fast lanes” that companies would pay to access, Franken pointed out that net neutrality is not changing how the internet works, but enshrining the tradition of open and equal access to encourage and foster innovation.

Public opinion is on the side of net neutrality, argued Franken. Franken argued that to ensure that net neutrality becomes a sustainable and enforceable policy, broadband internet service should be reclassified as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act and “commonsense” rules would apply.

Asked about the mood on Capitol Hill following the midterm elections, Franken joked that it was very good on the Republican side. On a serious note, he said he looked forward to working with Republicans on common ground issues like early childhood education.

Attendees of Tuesday’s INFO Public Policy Breakfast Forum included Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde of the Embassy of Finland; Ambassador Björn Lyrvall of the Embassy of Sweden; Ambassador and IFE’s Diplomatic Steward Johan Verbeke of the Embassy of Belgium; and Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld of the Embassy of Luxembourg.

IFE Leadership included: Jim Valentine, IFE Founder; David Fenstermaker, Raymond James & Associates; John Paul Farmer, IFE Emerging Markets Roundtable Co-Founder, Presidential Innovation Fellows Co-Founder, Microsoft; Timothy “Bo” Kemper, Robertson Foundation for Government; and Mark Schulte, IFE Chief Technology Officer, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

Contributed by IFE Fellow Nick Seaver. Photo credit to Kevin Allen.

View event: Photos | Program & Guest List | Round-up

About Senator Al Franken

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Senator Al Franken (D-MN),

Senator Al Franken was born on May 21, 1951, and grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. In 1973, he graduated from Harvard, where he met his wife Franni. They’ve been married for 38 years, and have two grown children, Thomasin and Joe. Senator Franken has one grandchild, Joe, born to Thomasin and her husband Brody in May 2013. Before running for the Senate, Al spent 37 years as a comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host and has taken part in seven USO tours, visiting our troops overseas in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Uzbekistan – as well as visiting Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait four times.

In 2008, Al was elected to the Senate as a member of the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) Party from Minnesota. He currently sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee; the Judiciary Committee; the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. Read More

About Norm Ornstein

Mr. Norm Ornstein
Mr. Norm Ornstein, IFE Steward, Author, Pundit and Scholar

Norman Ornstein is a long-time observer of Congress and politics. He is a contributing editor and columnist for National Journal and The Atlantic and is an election eve analyst for BBC News. He served as co-director of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project and participates in AEI’s Election Watch series. He also served as a senior counselor to the Continuity of Government Commission. Mr. Ornstein led a working group of scholars and practitioners that helped shape the law, known as McCain-Feingold, that reformed the campaign financing system. His many books include The Permanent Campaign and Its Future (AEI Press, 2000); The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann (Oxford University Press, 2006, named by the Washington Post one of the best books of 2006 and called by The Economist “a classic”); and, most recently, the New York Times bestseller, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, also with Tom Mann, published in May 2012 by Basic Books. It was named as one of 2012’s best books on politics by The New Yorker and one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post. Read AEI Bio

About the historic Lyndon Baines Johnson Room

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