April 26, 2006 1:54 PM PDT
Democrats lose House vote on Net neutrality
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It didn't work. By the time of the vote, around 1:30 p.m. PDT, only a handful of Republicans supported the amendment and a few Democrats opposed it. Democrats could try again to amend the bill on the House floor, but that tactic only works if the Republican leadership agrees to permit it, which seems unlikely at this point.
The amendment was backed by three other Democrats--Anna Eshoo of California, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Rick Boucher of Virginia. It was also rejected in a subcommittee vote, but supporters took heart that Wednesday's vote was closer than the subcommittee's vote of 8-23.
The final version of the telecommunications bill does include some Net neutrality regulations, including charging the FCC with investigating any "violation" of fair treatment principles. In a case last year dealing with Vonage, the FCC already took action against a broadband provider accused of interfering with Internet phone calls.
But it does not do what Amazon, Google, Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, Yahoo and their allies want: to forcibly prevent by law a two-tier business model from ever being adopted on the Internet.
In a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, the chief executives of those companies and their allies said: "We call upon you to enact legislation preventing discrimination against the content and services of those not affiliated with network operators and thereby preserve network neutrality."
It's unclear what will happen in the Senate. A key senator, Alaska Republican Ted Stevens, said last month that a bill to rewrite telecommunications laws may not grant the FCC power to enforce Net neutrality concepts. During a hearing in February, senators seemed divided over the need for new laws.
But a pair of U.S. senators is circulating a draft bill that adopts stiff Net neutrality regulations. It's backed by Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and takes largely the same approach as the Markey amendment.
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