Ms. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to address the judicial action that would temporarily prevent the National Do Not Call Registry from going into effect.
This privacy-oriented program was recently implemented by the Federal Trade Commission and was supposed to go into effect by October 1. That is just about a week away.
I am proud to join my colleague from Nevada, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, Senator Ensign, in cosponsoring this bill. This bill ratifies the authority of the FTC to establish the National Do Not Call Registry and allows the program to go into effect as drafted by the FTC.
As you may or may not know, Alaska is about a 4-hour time difference from Washington, DC. It seems like just about my dinner hour in Alaska when telemarketers throughout the country get kicked into full gear. I know when my family and I are interrupted at the dinner table by these calls, we feel invaded. I can only imagine that my other friends and neighbors are equally upset. Sometimes we are outraged that our right to privacy is invaded every night when we are sitting down to have dinner with our families. Our lives are busy enough throughout the day with work, school, homework, and just catching up with one another and preparing for the next day. The last thing in the world we want when we sit down for the quiet time is to be interrupted by the telemarketing company that believes it is their right to disturb us during our few minutes of family time.
Those who seek to stop the implementation of this program assert that they are protected by the right to free speech. I say it is the people who have the right to decide that they do not want to be hounded by telemarketers and those who would interrupt the sanctity of their homes.
The entire purpose of the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry program is to allow Americans to opt out of receiving these annoying phone calls. In my judgment, the court's decision to stop this program tilts the privacy rights out of balance in favor of those telemarketing companies.
In June, the Anchorage Daily Newswhich is my hometown newspaperpublished an editorial supporting the National
Do Not Call Registry. They wrote about an Alaskan by the name of Ron Hammett who says he sometimes gets two or three calls a day. Mr. Hammett is a 76-year-old retiree who spent more than 2 hours waiting to get through the registration process once the FTC rule came out. Now he is going to wake up todayor he woke up this morningto find out that his time and the time of many other Alaskans was wasted.
In just a few short months since the FTC adopted these rules, nearly 50 million people have registered to stop these phone calls.
My State of Alaska has its own do not call program that was created in 1996it is called the Black Dot Programwhich allows telephone subscribers to elect to have a black dot placed next to their name in the Alaska phone books.
A computerized version of the list is made available to the telemarketers, but the problem is they are not required to use it. If they call any telephone customer with a black dot next to his or her name, they are subject to a fine of up to $5,000, whether the telemarketer uses the list or not.
The problem with Alaska's statute is that there has been only one complaint filed since it was implemented. Most of the telemarketers are located outside the State of Alaska, and the State law doesn't have the teeth that the FTC rule contains to go after these outside groups. Alaskans, quite honestly, are looking forward to the implementation of this FTC rule to give them the peace and the quiet they have sought for so long. We need this FTC rule to protect our citizens and their privacy.
Americans have spoken. They don't like to be disturbed by unwanted and harassing phone calls from people selling products over the phone. Through this legislation we can have that peace and privacy within our own homes.
I am proud to cosponsor this legislation. I hope the body will act quickly on this measure. I am very pleased to see us moving so rapidly at this point.
Thank you, Mr. President.