The basic Internet principle of “net neutrality”, where no one’s content is favored over another’s, is now threatened by big telephone and cable corporations (the telecoms) and their allies in the U.S. Congress1. The telecoms, who now serve as gatekeepers (ISP‘s) for most American broadband Internet users, seek to speed their own content and to charge a toll to other content providers who want more delivery speed. If Congress allowed that, the telecoms would have the power to slow or block competitor’s content or other content they don’t like, controlling what their subscribers see and do online. Vinton Cerf, known as the “father of the Internet”, said, “This principle – that users pick winners and losers in the Internet marketplace, not carriers – is an architectural and policy choice critical to innovation online2.” During House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee work on a new telecommunications act, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) offered an amendment that would have guaranteed net neutrality6. The telecoms, which have spent at least $231 million on politicians in the past eight years1, lobbied hard against the amendment, and it failed 23-8, with Republicans voting 17-1 against it, and Democrats voting 7-6 for it3. Hope for the continuance of net neutrality flickers in the Senate, where Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Internet Non-Discrimination Act” to guarantee net neutrality4x5. That bill is pending in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Update 4/25/06: Today Ed Markey introduced his net neutrality amendment to the full House Energy & Commerce Committee. From his opening statement:
Tomorrow, I will be offering a “Network Neutrality” amendment, cosponsored by Mr. Boucher, Ms. Eshoo, and Mr. Inslee, to preserve the Internet and its open, non-discriminatory nature. Since the Subcommittee vote, dozens of web blogs have started talking about this issue. A broad coalition has launched web campaigns, such as www.savetheinternet.com, and www.dontmesswiththenet.com. These coalitions are diverse and growing hourly. They include leading Internet companies such as Ebay, Yahoo, Amazon, as well as entrepreneurs, small businesses, consumer groups, Common Cause, Gun Owners of America, the National Religious Broadcasters, moveon.org, the ACLU, and thousands of concerned citizens. I welcome the support of the Internet community in our legislative efforts. … Ed Markey’s Amendment Introduced
Update 4/28/06: The net neutrality amendment failed in the full committee, 34-22, with Republicans voting 29-1 against it and Democrats voting 21-5 for it. The telecomm bill then passed committee 44-12, as ten supporters of the net neutrality amendment voted for the bill without the net neutrality guarantee. Apparently, for those ten the demise of net neutrality was not a deal breaker. “Markey is now rallying colleagues on the left and the right to support the introduction of his Network Neutrality Amendment onto the full floor next week,” reports
Net Neutrality Links
AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money.)
2 ‘Prepared Statement of Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google Inc.’ – U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Hearing on ‘Network Neutrality’, February 7, 2006
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