Russ Feingold


Democrat Russ Feingold called Thursday for the federal government to treat broadband internet service as a public utility as part of his Badger Innovation Plan.

Feingold, who is running against U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, for the Senate seat Feingold lost to Johnson in 2010, touted his plan to expand high-speed internet access to rural areas during a visit with the La Crosse Tribune’s editorial board.

“Up to a million people (in Wisconsin) do not have adequate internet,” Feingold said, which limits not only individuals’ ability to connect to digital infrastructure but also businesses’ ability to compete globally.

Feingold told a story of students in rural areas who aren’t able to get internet access at home and so drive to town to do homework.

“They park outside the library or the high school or the local college, and there are a couple different cars there and they’re not up to no good — they’re just trying to get wi-fi,” Feingold said. “You can’t really compete as a business or a student without internet.”

Feingold called for a “robust” federal program of broadband build-outs by both private and public providers to bring rural residents up to the same level of service as people in the city, at similar rates — similar to federal subsidies in the 1930s that expanded electricity to those same areas.

“This needs to be a utility,” Feingold said. “Everybody needs to have it. You can’t let these three big companies have control.”

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Feingold’s plan criticizes congressional efforts to pass legislation limiting net neutrality, which would allow Comcast, AT&T and Charter to charge websites such as Netflix and Google for faster content delivery.

“We have to break the hold of these corporate interests when it comes to something like this,” Feingold said.

Feingold called for a federal law to prevent states from disallowing municipalities, co-ops and rural electric companies to make broadband accessible to all. He said his would benefit small businesses, allowing them to better compete, and help students and families living in places the three large companies don’t cover.

His plan also calls for further investment in technical education and greater support for Trade Adjustment Assistance, which helps workers transition into new careers, as well as investment in more traditional infrastructure.

Feingold said his policies are efforts that should find support from both major parties and, more important, the people of Wisconsin.

“People really want us to work across the parties and embrace bipartisanship,” Feingold said. “It’s not long ago that these were bipartisan issues.”

Feingold pointed at immigration reform, climate change and health care as issues that used to bring Democrats and Republicans together. He said he believes he can find common ground to make real changes if re-elected.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(8) comments


cassandra...you don't understand much

Tim Russell

Says the guy who doesn't understand anything. Except cream pies. That he knows something about.


In most cities Internet access is controlled by a monopoly. They need a firm regulatory hand.


What an incredibly ignorant statement. If you dont like your cable internet, go to the phone, if you dont like that go satellite. Internet is not controlled, you have options, you need to explore them and make a choice.


Sure more government is the answer. Government interference in the energy, education, and health care industries has turned out so well.


Oh how wonderful! Another 'hurr durr gubmint bad!" post. Nevermind the fact that , prior to the ACA's inception, healthcare costs were spiraling out of control, and since its inception healthcare costs have grown at their lowest rate in decades. Nevermind the fact that the unregulated internet we have here in the US costs us more, and is several orders of magnitude slower, than internet elsewhere in the civilized world which is - surprise surprise - regulated as a utility. Nevermind the fact that the lack of regulation has seen internet monopolies crop up, with ISP's entering into agreements with local municipalities to stifle competition, and is largely the reason why we pay higher prices for worse service for our internet.

You idiots who automatically think "regulation = bad" are just as bad as the mouthbreathing morons who think government will automatically solve any and all problems. It requires intelligent, informed, and educated people making decisions on topics which they're passionate about. Not a bunch of tantrum-throwing children who wish for government "just small enough to drown in the bathtub".


Both Charter and Centurytel stink the place up. Third world products.


[innocent][innocent][innocent]The cable companies are conspiring to drive out all forms of competition, whether it be Netflix or over-the-airwaves antenna TV. They will win and you will lose. Enjoy paying your exorbitant cable and internet bills! You're sunk!


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