Statement in Congressional Record by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK).
Re: introduction of S 759, the Inbox Privacy Act of 1999.

Date: March 25, 1999.
Source: Congressional Record, March 25, 1999, page S 3511.

Mr. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Inbox Privacy Act of 1999 on behalf of myself, Senators Torricelli, Burns and Reid. Our legislation provides a solution to the burden of junk e-mail, also known as spam, that now plagues the Internet. There are five main components to this legislation:

The burden of spam is evident in my home state of Alaska. Unlike urban and suburban areas of the nation where a local telephone call is all it takes to log onto the Internet, rural areas of Alaska and many other states have no such local access.

Every minute connected to the Internet, whether it is for researching a school project, checking a bank balance, searching for the latest information on the weather at the local airport, or even shopping online incurs a per minute long distance charge. The extra financial cost of the longer call to download spam may only be a small amount on a day to day basis, but over the long term this cost is a very real financial disincentive to using the Internet. Some estimates place the cost at over $200 per year for rural Americans.

If Internet commerce is to continue to expand, all Internet consumers must be able to avoid costs for the receipt of advertising material such as spam that they do not want to receive. As I've said before, the Internet is not a tool for every huckster to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.

Last Congress I was the author of Title III of S. 1618 which unanimously passed the Senate and was supported by a variety of interested Internet groups. Some wanted an outright ban on such solicitations, but banning non-fraudulent Internet commerce is a dangerous precedent to set, particularly where the problem today is caused by fraudulent marketers. I also recognize that there are First Amendment concerns raised by any Internet content legislation and am pleased that our approach has the support of civil liberties organizations.

The most significant difference between this legislation and Title III of S. 1618 is the addition of a domain-wide opt-out system that allows Internet domain owners to put up an electronic stop sign to signify their desire to not receive unsolicited commercial email to addresses served by their domain. However, to ensure that the Internet consumer has the ultimate choice, consumers would be able to inform their ISP of their continuing desire to receive junk e-mail. While I doubt that there will be too many Internet consumers who want to receive junk e-mail, Congress should not make the decision for them by banning junk e-mail outright, no matter how annoying it may be. Not only should consumers have the ultimate choice, but if Congress bans junk e-mail, what else on the Internet will we ban next?

Finally, I have included a state enforcement provision that allows all states to enforce a national standard on junk e-mail. As Congress has seen before in the Internet Tax Freedom debate, a unified approach to any Internet legislation is key to promoting the development of the Internet. Just as having 50 state tax policies on Internet transactions represents a poor policy decision, so would having 50 state policies on spam legislation. My approach solves this dilemma by setting such a national standard that provides for even greater protection that what a few states have already enacted. By setting a national standard, it also solves the constitutional dilemma that many states face regarding long-arm jurisdiction.

Mr. President, the Inbox Privacy Act represents a significant step forward for Internet consumers and domain owners and I urge its adoption by my colleagues.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be included in the Record.

Press Release of Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK).
Re: introduction of S 759, the Inbox Privacy Act of 1999.

Date: March 25, 1999.
Source: Office of Sen. Murkowski.

For Immediate Release


WASHINGTON -- Senators Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Harry Reid (D-NV) today introduced the Inbox Privacy Act to address the growing concerns of Internet consumers over the issue of junk email, or spam.

"Internet consumers nationwide have been speaking out against the growing flood of unwanted and fraudulent e-mails in the inboxes.  It's time that we had a nationwide solution to this problem.  E-mail shouldn't be a way for every huckster to sell the Brooklyn Bridge," Murkowski noted.

Senator Torricelli added, "Accessing the Internet should not be an invitation for every shyster in the world to beat down your door with junk e-mail.  American consumers deserve a level of privacy and protection and our legislation provides it to them."

Junk e-mail burdens Internet consumers by shifting delivery costs onto consumers, particularly in rural areas like Alaska where a connection to the Internet often requires a long distance call.

The Inbox Privacy Act would require e-mail marketers to honestly identify themselves, honor consumer remove requests, and allow Internet domain owners to set up electronic "stop signs" to give domain owners the ability to block unwanted solicitations.   In order to allow the Internet consumer to have the ultimate choice, unsolicited e-mails could be sent to those who still wish to receive such solicitations.   Internet Service Providers, state attorney generals, and the Federal Trade Commission would have the authority to seek up to $50,000 per day in damages.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee where hearings will be held later this year.  Similar legislation was passed by the Senate in the 105th Congress by a vote of 99-0 although a final conference between the House and Senate could not be scheduled prior to adjournment.

Senator Torricelli also noted that "Our legislation continues to allow legitimate uses of e-mail, but empowers consumers and Internet service providers to eliminate the unwanted e-mail they receive."