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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Net Neutrality Bill OK'd by House Committee

Breaking news ... the House Judiciary Committee approved the Sensenbrenner bill in a 20-13 vote -- 14 Democrats + 6 Republicans voted in favor. Roll call noted by Raw Story here. Full text of bill is here. Pertinent provisions:
Sec. 28.(a) It shall be unlawful for any broadband network provider--

(1) to fail to provide its broadband network services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms and conditions such that any person can offer or provide content, applications, or services to or over the network in a manner that is at least equal to the manner in which the provider or its affiliates offer content, applications, and services, free of any surcharge on the basis of the content, application, or service;

(2) to refuse to interconnect its facilities with the facilities of another provider of broadband network services on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms or conditions;

(3)(A) to block, to impair, to discriminate against, or to interfere with the ability of any person to use a broadband network service to access, to use, to send, to receive, or to offer lawful content, applications or services over the Internet; or

(B) to impose an additional charge to avoid any conduct that is prohibited by this subsection;

(4) to prohibit a user from attaching or using a device on the provider's network that does not physically damage or materially degrade other users' utilization of the network; or

(5) to fail to clearly and conspicuously disclose to users, in plain language, accurate information concerning any terms, conditions, or limitations on the broadband network service.

(b) If a broadband network provider prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, it must prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin or ownership of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service.
We now have a turf battle within Congress between different committees, all claiming jurisdiction over the net neutrality issue, and all keen to keep themselves in the game on an issue whose political profile is rising.

The driver for the Judiciary Committee's effort is the antitrust impact of removing net neutrality, which has defined the Internet for the past 20 years. Net neutrality has been the status quo for the Internet, and has proven to be highly pro-competition as witnessed by the endless websites, e-commerce, P2P communities, blogs and e-services that now exist.

In the beginning, there was net neutrality. And it was good.

Can anybody seriously argue that net neutrality has not been a key element of the growth and competitiveness of Internet activity?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What makes you think that adding government regulation to the mix will further progress?

Since the beginning of the internet, we've had no regulation on this sort of thing. This bill, for the first time ever, is seeking to give power to Congress to legislate the internet.

As with any other industry, the more the government gets it's sticky fingers involved in an issue, the more it gets bogged down, and the more slowly that progress advances. Do we really want to entrust Washington to ensure that progress continues?

Check out my coalition's websites, http://handsoff.org and www.dontregulate.org. Both give some good information on the other side of this issue, and it's certainly worth looking into.

Jeff Kaplan said...

Just so everybody understands, these so-called grassroots coalitions, referenced by the anonymous comment above, are pure industry PR.

They and their brethren of the telco/cable cabal have been outed plenty already.

Handsoff.org is an industry front, funded by AT&T, Cingular, BellSouth and others according to its own website.

Dontregulate.org is the URL of its anti- net neutrality cartoon.

Plenty of well-informed folks shred their rhetoric and platitudes, so it's not worth repeating.

And nothing can obscure one basic fact: net neutrality has been the rule for the Internet since Day 1. It is directly responsible for all the innovation and creativity of the Internet to date. Why? Because routers (and network owners) do not discriminate among content. Each packet of data is directed on a best-effort basis, regardless of file type (video, voice, e-mail) or who the sender and recipient are.

It's sent; it's goes. No prioritizing, no tiering, no complicated pricing.

Rob said...

I think, if you read my message, that I outed myself--I stated that I work with the Hands Off The Internet coalition. Attempts to portray my messages and those from others as "so-called grassroots" is merely a spin campaign launched to attempt to deviate from the legitimate points our coalition raises.

Moreover, we've never hidden from who we are. If you look right on our webpage, it states very clearly right here: http://handsoff.org/hoti_docs/aboutus/members.shtml

Pardon me for posting as anonymous previously, by the way.

Jeff, could you be so kind as to inform us of your own profit motives in this matter? I see from your profile that you yourself are an IT consultant.

Jeff Kaplan said...

Rob asks a fair question about my motives, profit or otherwise. In fact, we should all be up front about them.

I have no financial interest of any kind in the net neutrality debate. I do work as an IT consultant, usually for public sector clients outside the US. I also run of technology policy program called the Open ePolicy Group, which has been based at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

I work on issues of technology policy like e-government, standards and public-private parnterships. Never has net neutrality been touched by my consulting work. And I don't expect it will. My only comments on the issue appear here in my blog.

Separately, though of course everyone has the right to comment anonymously, I note that I always comment under my own, very real name. I think it adds more credibility and transparency to discussions.

I respect that fact that many prefer the comfort of anonymity and prefer to let their comments stand (or fall) on their own merits. But people do like to know who's talking.

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