Bush speech focuses on tech

Josh Verges

President George W. Bush on Monday visited Minneapolis to push for a permanent ban on taxes for broadband Internet access.

“If you want broadband access throughout the society, Congress must ban taxes on access,” Bush told an audience of 2,000 at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual convention.

Bush has already signed into law a two-year extension of the Internet Access Tax moratorium, which expired last fall. Now, he’s calling on Congress to pass legislation that would extend the moratorium to broadband and make it permanent.

The House has passed a moratorium on user taxes levied against consumers who subscribe to broadband; the Senate is scheduled to address the issue this week.

An e-mail from Democratic Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s campaign to listserv subscribers contends Kerry has a record of supporting new technologies. The campaign called Bush’s broadband proposal “too little, too late,” and noted that in 1997 Kerry co-sponsored the first bill prohibiting Internet taxes.

Broadband technology grew from approximately 7 million subscribers in December 2000 to nearly 24 million in June 2003. Approximately 90 percent of all U.S. ZIP codes have access to at least one form of broadband connection – up from about 70 percent at the end of 2000.

Bush said the Energy Department has selected partners for more than $350 million in new research projects for developing hydrogen fuel technology that would reduce pollution and the dependence on foreign energy.

By the time Bush left for a private $1 million fund-raiser in Edina, Minn., approximately 250 protesters had gathered outside the convention center, criticizing the president on jobs and the war in Iraq.

The crowd included union workers and members of the progressive political group America Coming Together.

Remnants of Kerry’s former Democratic challengers were also evident among the protesters. Some wore Howard Dean buttons, and one of the crowd’s many chants was the “Outsource Bush” slogan Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., made popular during his run at the Democratic bid.

University junior Tierney Palmer-Klein said she started out as a supporter of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and then switched to Ralph Nader before settling on Kerry.

University political science senior Charlie Poster protested Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“He lied to an entire country to take them to war and people say he’s a great leader,” Poster said.

University first-year student Giovanna Elli was one of four vocal Bush supporters the crowd drowned out.

“A lot of people are here saying (Bush is) a murderer for going to Iraq, but if he wouldn’t have done that a lot more would have died,” Elli said.

Century College sophomore Anna Ochoa agreed.

“At any minute, we could be attacked,” she said. “We need to protect our people here.”

Also among the protesters were approximately 90 students from nearby Watershed High School. School administrator Scott Cole said the school’s 20 other students stayed at the school to watch the president’s speech on television.

“We saw it as an outstanding opportunity to do some good civic duty,” Cole said.

Joel Friedman, 15, one of the students who pushed for the impromptu field trip, said he came to protest a potential military draft.

“There’s no reason for us to be in Iraq right now,” he said. “Bush’s foreign policies are messed up.”

The University’s College Republicans Senior Vice Chairman Adam Doyle was one of a handful of Bush supporters countering the protest early in the day.

“Jobs is not a problem, especially in Minnesota,” he said over chants from AFL-CIO and other unionized service employees. “It’s a slow recovery, but it’ll be a long-lasting recovery.”

University sophomore Jonna Cohen said she prefers Nader but will vote for Kerry because Minnesota is a swing state.

“I don’t think (Kerry is) much better than Bush, but he is better,” she said.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.