March 4, 2015

Internet users unlikely to notice impact of FCC rules

File photo: WRN

File photo: WRN

One expert says new rules on net neutrality will make sure content providers have equal access to the Internet, although regular customers are not likely to notice much of a difference in how they access information and entertainment online.

The Federal Communications Commission this week adopted standards that will treat the Internet like a public utility. UW-Madison telecommunications expert Barry Orton says the move keeps service providers from discriminating against certain content by creating “fast lanes” for those who pay to have their content reach customers faster. The rules are intended to prevent a scenario where start-ups and smaller companies have a difficult time being able to compete against more established businesses that can afford to pay for faster speeds.

For the most part, Orton says the FCC protected the status quo for much of the Internet currently operates. He says customers should see the same service they have always been getting, whether it’s “bad or good.”

Opponents argue the new rules will limit investment and innovation in Internet technologies. Legal challenges of the FCC’s decision are expected.


Budget deletes UW sexual assault reporting requirement

A provision in Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2015-2017 state budget would allow University of Wisconsin System campuses to stop reporting sexual assaults. The language is part of the governor’s larger proposal to grant greater autonomy to the UW. A summary of the governor’s budget compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau noted that the language is just one of a number of changes included under a plan to create a UW System Public Authority.

“The bill deletes a number of current law provisions that require or permit the Board of Regents to take a specific action or specific actions. These deletions are described in the following section. In most cases, the UW System Authority Board of Regents would have the authority to take the actions described although the Board would no longer be specifically required or authorized to do so by law.”

The provision set off a flurry of criticism from Walker opponents on Friday.


“Scott Walker has never condemned Rush Limbaugh’s disgusting jokes about sexual assault — does his inexplicable plan to eliminate sexual assault reporting requirements mean he agrees with Rush that the victimization of women on college campuses isn’t an important issue?” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Melissa Baldauff said Friday.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said that changes to state statute were required to give UW System full authority status. “The UW System requested the deletion of provisions of duplicative reporting requirements as part of the move to the authority. In this case, UW System requested this report requirement be removed because there is already a federal reporting requirement related to sexual assault and harassment on campuses,” Patrick said.

“The state statutory changes in no way lessen our commitment,” said Heather LaRoi with the Office of University Relations. “They allow us to focus on one report. Many requirements proposed for removal from state statutes are duplicative of federal requirements and reporting standards we comply with and are deeply committed to.”

LaRoi noted that a new UW System Task Force on Sexual Violence and Harassment was appointed last fall as part of ongoing work to examine and strengthen efforts to address sexual violence and harassment on campus.

Patrick noted that Walker “has made protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault a top priority,” and pointed out that his last budget increased funding for sexual assault victim services and provided funding to support partnerships and state initiatives to shelter and protect victims of domestic abuse. “His recent budget proposal increases funding to continue protecting victims and their families,” she said.

Lawmakers push to eliminate waiting period to buy handguns

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin State Capitol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Eliminating the waiting period for new handgun purchases gets a public hearing at the Capitol Thursday.

Rice Lake Republican Romaine Quinn sponsored the Assembly bill (AB-49). He says it brings the gun background check system into the 21st century. “The background system has not kept pace with the rapid technology and the progress we’ve made. With the technology available today … the vast majority of background checks are completed approximately in an hour.”

Quinn notes there’s no waiting period to purchase shotguns and long guns.

Racine Republican Van Wanggaard is the sponsor of the Senate bill (SB-35). He says a host of other items can be used as a weapon with no waiting period, including a baseball bat, steak knife or shotgun.

Tony Gibart with Domestic Abuse Wisconsin takes issue with that claim, saying eliminating the 48-hour waiting period would put victims at risk. “If we had to choose whether we would want an attacker to attack us with a firearm or some other weapon, I think we would all choose some other weapon because we all know instinctively that a firearm is more lethal.”

Gibart says family and “intimate assaults” involving fire arms are 12 times more likely to result in death than assaults without guns. Having a gun in the house of an abused woman increases her chance by five of being killed in a domestic homicide.

Wanggaard says only eight states, including Wisconsin, require a waiting period at the point of sale prior to transfer of a handgun.

Senator Johnson threatens subpoena over Tomah VA investigation

Tomah VA

Tomah VA

Senator Ron Johnson is threatening to subpoena an investigation file into the issues at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center if the VA won’t turn the files over.

Johnson is giving Acting VA Inspector General Richard Griffin until 5pm this afternoon to turn over the document. In a letter obtained by Gannett, Johnson says that Griffin has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

A spokesperson for the VA says federal law prohibits them from turning over the file, because it contains personal medical records of veterans. She also says that talks with the Justice Department have confirmed their decision to hold the records.

Johnson launched a special investigation into the Tomah Center after a report that the facility was over-prescribing opiate painkillers for several years was released.


Deer Trustee Report rules package sent to legislature for approval

Whitetail deer in central Wisconsin (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Whitetail deer in central Wisconsin (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The Natural Resources Board has sent a number of administrative rules adjustments about the annual deer hunt on to the governor’s office and the legislature for approval.

The annual Deer Trustee Report was approved earlier this week, and along with new deer management goals, the package will be putting new and revised administrative rules in place. DNR regulations specialist Scott Loomans says the process is slightly different than introducing a bill. “First we’ll get the Governor’s signature, and then we can send it over to the Legislature, and they will refer it to standing natural resources committees in each house, in the Senate and the Assembly.”

Included in the package are permanent annual rules for how the deer hunt will work. “We’ll have a continuous archery season, a nine day firearms season, a ten day muzzleloader season after the firearms season. One new feature, or slightly different, is that the four-day December antlerless deer only firearms season would be held statewide.” Loomans says that will include formalizing the crossbow hunt, which was an emergency rule last year. “So now we’re wrapping this into the permanent rule package and, again, for for 2015 the crossbow season will be the same as 2014. And if everything goes smoothly, which is sounds like it has been, that will be the season framework going into the future as well.”

The package will also set the Deer Management Assistance Program into state code, and formalize the new County Deer Advisory Councils which are responsible for recommending population goals across the state.