News Q&A with Rep. Peter DeFazio on student debt and Internet censorship

Twelve-term Rep. Peter DeFazio sat down with the Emerald to talk about what he’s been doing in Congress to aid college students and net neutrality.

What are you going to do for students?

I’m a big advocate of making college affordable. The principle role of the federal government has been student financial aid. I’ve fought my entire career in Congress to make financial aid more affordable and flexible in terms of repayment. When the Democrats controlled the House from 2006 to 2010, we started doing national direct student loans with lower interest rates and with flexibility in repayment. There’s an option now where you only have to repay up to certain percentage of income. If you go into a public service job, you have a low income, you won’t have to pay back much, and it won’t bankrupt you. If you make payments faithfully over a long period of time, ultimately you get it forgiven.

I’m also a strong supporter of Pell Grants. We dramatically increased Pell Grants from all the money we saved from doing away with subsidizing banks. I’ve introduced a bill to make national direct loans and lower interest rates permanent for both undergraduate and graduate students. I paid for the bill by imposing a one percent surtax on income over $350,000 per year.

What is your stance on Internet neutrality?

I was an opponent of the so-called SOPA and PIPA bills. I’ve long been an advocate for net neutrality. The big forces behind this are the telecom giants who see how they can channel more business to themselves. They just see this as a way to get a cost center.

Are there still interests in Congress lobbying for censorship or control over the Internet?

Oh yeah. There’s a strong push. There’s also an international convention that is set to expire this year. China and Russia are part of this convention, and they’re pushing to change the rules to allow for much more censorship. They want to essentially legitimize what the Chinese are already doing and maybe the Russians want to emulate, which is almost absolute control over the Internet. I’ve been on letters to our negotiators and the president saying the U.S. can’t let this happen in the negotiations. It could potentially open the door here for that sort of discrimination.

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Dashiell Paulson

Dashiell Paulson