April 25, 2006 4:01 PM PDT

Democrats pledge fight over Net neutrality

WASHINGTON--Partisan wrangling over Net neutrality heated up on Tuesday, with Democrats pledging a fight over a broadband bill they say will mean extra fees and content restrictions on the Internet.

A committee vote is expected Wednesday on a Republican-backed proposal called the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act, or COPE Act. Democrats say the bill's portions dealing with Net neutrality don't go far enough to restrict telecommunications companies for levying fees for faster access.

The concept of Net neutrality, also known as network neutrality, says that network operators should not be allowed to charge content providers extra for the privilege of faster delivery or other preferential treatment.

The vote before the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to expose a partisan rift, much as a subcommittee vote did a few weeks ago. "The bill before us permits private taxation of the Internet," said Michigan Democrat John Dingell, who has said he would not support the existing legislation unless it was amended. "Private tax collectors could single out certain Web sites to pay extra fees while they select others for preferential treatment."

Republicans defended the measure, saying it was a bad idea to give the Federal Communications Commission expansive powers to regulate the Internet and companies' business models. For one thing, there's still no consistent definition of Net neutrality from industry representatives, said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican. "The best approach on this is caution, because if we legislate incorrectly, there will be unintended consequences," she said.

Because the committee has a solid GOP majority, the bill likely will remain intact unless some Republicans defect during the vote.

During the April 5 subcommittee vote, Republicans (joined by a few Democrats) defeated an amendment giving the FCC more regulatory authority. Democrats have tended to back detailed regulatory language aimed at prohibiting discrimination by network operators, but so far they have not succeeded in inserting it into the bill.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he planned to join with three Democratic colleagues in re-introducing a nearly identical version of that amendment on Wednesday.

"It is a choice between favoring the broadband designs of a small handful of very large companies or safeguarding the dreams of thousands of entrepreneurs, inventors and small businesses," Markey said. "Tomorrow, we will vote to preserve the Internet as we know it or vote to fundamentally and detrimentally alter it."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, said she was "concerned about e-mails being blocked by advocacy groups and start-ups being shut down by high fees to have their content delivered at adequate speeds."

Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who chairs the committee, said Democrats would be given a chance to make their case on Wednesday. "We are not going to railroad the mark-up tomorrow," Barton said Tuesday evening. "If we need to roll it over to Thursday, we will, but I'm hopeful we can finish early tomorrow evening or late tomorrow afternoon."

The current version of the Republican-backed bill included some Net neutrality language, but critics say it's not regulatory enough.

Net neutrality turf battle?

Meanwhile, at a separate event on Tuesday, members of a House of Representatives telecommunications and antitrust task force indicated that they wanted to be involved in drafting Net neutrality legislation.

A hearing convened Tuesday by the task force hinted that, at least on the House side, a turf war of sorts may not be far off. "House Judiciary must be at the center of the debate to preserve competition," said Rep. Chris Cannon, a Utah Republican who presided over the hearing. Committee members said they plan to grant the issue careful consideration, though they didn't indicate what legislative action, if any, they might take.

"The continued success of the Internet depends on unfettered interconnection," Cannon said. The FCC has already established principles aimed at ensuring that consumers can access sites, use applications and connect devices to broadband networks as they please, but the agency hasn't laid out a clear "enforcement mechanism," he added.

Turf battles over jurisdiction are anything but rare in Congress, of course. But this development promises to make it more difficult for politicians to get any legislation finished this year, and increases the odds that the Net neutrality debate will continue until well into 2007.

Rep. John Conyers, the senior Democrat on the antitrust task force, indicated that he was troubled by recent statements from telecommunications executives indicating that companies like Google and Yahoo shouldn't expect to ride on their pipes for free. "Are you telling me I can sleep comfortably in my bed tonight because I don't need to take these things seriously?" he asked Walter McCormick, president and CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association, which represents the former Bell companies.

"We need to be able to continue to be able to manage the networks," McCormick responded, citing as an example that network operators should be able to create, for instance, virtual private networks for customers like banks and the federal government that are willing to pay a premium for added security. He stood by a mantra that the companies had no intention to "block, degrade or impair" access to content on their networks.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, asked the panelists how they recommended that network operators pay for expanding their networks in order to relieve the potential for so-called "Internet traffic jams." "You think current revenues are sufficient to continue the kind of rapid build-out that's needed?" he asked.

"These companies are making more money than they ever had before, with a neutral network," said Timothy Wu, a Columbia University law professor and supporter of government neutrality regulation. "What the committee has to really understand is the trade-off. The trade-off is the distortion of competition...there are other ways for them to make money that are less discriminatory."

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26 comments

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The network's already paid for
We've already paid billions for broadband, where is it? Basically, over the same copper wires that have always been there. Where's the broadband we ALEADY PAID FOR? These telecom companies received billions in subsidies to build out broadband connections. Where is it?
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing Life?
I have broadband.
In fact, I have multiple broadband connections.

They are priced competitively and provide excellent service. There are options to purchase more bandwidth... and options to work with less.

I fail to see any point to your argument. Unless perhaps you neglected to mention that you live on an island somewhere with no outside communication services of any kind.

There's nothing wrong with reusing copper that is already in place. Especially when it works so well, and requires less investment to upgrade.

and BTW... NOTHING is "already paid for." Ongoing service upkeep and maintenance along with dozens of other necessary business expenses are just that... ongoing. You can't simply make back your installation costs and then give away service for free. Business doesn't work that way.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
The network's already paid for
We've already paid billions for broadband, where is it? Basically, over the same copper wires that have always been there. Where's the broadband we ALEADY PAID FOR? These telecom companies received billions in subsidies to build out broadband connections. Where is it?
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Missing Life?
I have broadband.
In fact, I have multiple broadband connections.

They are priced competitively and provide excellent service. There are options to purchase more bandwidth... and options to work with less.

I fail to see any point to your argument. Unless perhaps you neglected to mention that you live on an island somewhere with no outside communication services of any kind.

There's nothing wrong with reusing copper that is already in place. Especially when it works so well, and requires less investment to upgrade.

and BTW... NOTHING is "already paid for." Ongoing service upkeep and maintenance along with dozens of other necessary business expenses are just that... ongoing. You can't simply make back your installation costs and then give away service for free. Business doesn't work that way.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
And it's also plenty of grass-roots GOP members, too...
Gun Owners Association of America and Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site have been huge advocates of network neutrality.

Some additional resources:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.educause.edu/content.asp?PAGE_ID=645&#38;PARENT_ID=807&#38;bhcp=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.educause.edu/content.asp?PAGE_ID=645&#38;PARENT_ID=807&#38;bhcp=1</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/02/end-of-internet-another-fantastic-deal.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/02/end-of-internet-another-fantastic-deal.html</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&#38;b=1421497" target="_newWindow">http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&#38;b=1421497</a>

Contact your representatives today... and help preserve America's innovation leadership position on the Internet.
Posted by MercilessUnicorn (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And it's also plenty of grass-roots GOP members, too...
Gun Owners Association of America and Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit site have been huge advocates of network neutrality.

Some additional resources:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.educause.edu/content.asp?PAGE_ID=645&#38;PARENT_ID=807&#38;bhcp=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.educause.edu/content.asp?PAGE_ID=645&#38;PARENT_ID=807&#38;bhcp=1</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/02/end-of-internet-another-fantastic-deal.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/02/end-of-internet-another-fantastic-deal.html</a>

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&#38;b=1421497" target="_newWindow">http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&#38;b=1421497</a>

Contact your representatives today... and help preserve America's innovation leadership position on the Internet.
Posted by MercilessUnicorn (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We don't need more governemnt control over the NET
Let freedom rain. The government is always too slow to be effective especially in a rapidly growing industry. Nothing in business is fair. I don't get the same treatment at my bank that the CEO of my companies gets and the same is true on the NET. Fortunatly, the Federal governemnt is so slow to move that legislative action is not expected for at least another year.
Posted by axford (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We don't need more governemnt control over the NET
Let freedom rain. The government is always too slow to be effective especially in a rapidly growing industry. Nothing in business is fair. I don't get the same treatment at my bank that the CEO of my companies gets and the same is true on the NET. Fortunatly, the Federal governemnt is so slow to move that legislative action is not expected for at least another year.
Posted by axford (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Make a note which politicans are for this.
The US gov and its politicians still think the US owns the internet. While there may be a lot of US gov and corporate investment and influence in inter net development - it is a global highway, not a US toll road. I suggest everyone here in the US that appreciates all the potential the inter net brings them - write down all the names of politicians that support this bill and do all things possible to thave them voted out of office in their next election. Yeah, its time to take names and kick ass.
Posted by masonx (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
who's side are you on?
Take names and kick ass? Because people want the Internet and businesses that operate on the Internet to remain free as they have been for a dozen years?

Its the people (democrats) challenging this law that want to govern the Internet. They want the US government to regulate prices and to tell every business and consumer what they should be paying for service.

This type of regulation is a change from the past, and puts financial controls over the Internet that are managed by the US government.

It sounds like you have your argument backwards. Leaving companies alone to operate online as they see fit is EXACTLY what freedom is all about. And it is EXACTLY what we've had for a long time.

Personally, I'm against government mandated or controlled CHANGE of the Internet. I prefer to let it be FREE, and to let users, suppliers, and market forces continually shape and improve the system. After all, that's exactly how we got to the point we are at today. Why should we believe that new Internet business regulations are going to make things better?

As you cleverly stated, "The US gov and its politicians still think the US owns the internet."

Okay so... lets leave businesses free to do what they've always done, and REJECT bills and laws that dictate what people must pay, and to whom.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Make a note which politicans are for this.
The US gov and its politicians still think the US owns the internet. While there may be a lot of US gov and corporate investment and influence in inter net development - it is a global highway, not a US toll road. I suggest everyone here in the US that appreciates all the potential the inter net brings them - write down all the names of politicians that support this bill and do all things possible to thave them voted out of office in their next election. Yeah, its time to take names and kick ass.
Posted by masonx (244 comments )
Reply Link Flag
who's side are you on?
Take names and kick ass? Because people want the Internet and businesses that operate on the Internet to remain free as they have been for a dozen years?

Its the people (democrats) challenging this law that want to govern the Internet. They want the US government to regulate prices and to tell every business and consumer what they should be paying for service.

This type of regulation is a change from the past, and puts financial controls over the Internet that are managed by the US government.

It sounds like you have your argument backwards. Leaving companies alone to operate online as they see fit is EXACTLY what freedom is all about. And it is EXACTLY what we've had for a long time.

Personally, I'm against government mandated or controlled CHANGE of the Internet. I prefer to let it be FREE, and to let users, suppliers, and market forces continually shape and improve the system. After all, that's exactly how we got to the point we are at today. Why should we believe that new Internet business regulations are going to make things better?

As you cleverly stated, "The US gov and its politicians still think the US owns the internet."

Okay so... lets leave businesses free to do what they've always done, and REJECT bills and laws that dictate what people must pay, and to whom.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Democrats want to control the Internet
These articles are so misleading... just for clarification...

The bill that is being *opposed* by the Democrats allows people and companies the freedom to continue operating the way they have been for years.

The Democrats instead prefer a bill that gives control of Internet service pricing to the federal government.

In other words, it is the Democrats working to pass new laws to gain greater government control over the Internet.

The existing law is in place to preserve the Internet freedoms we've always had.

I have no interest in allowing the government to control any aspect of the Internet. Although such is probably inevetable, price-fixing by the Democrats is something that should not be allowed.

Notice also the language of the Democrats... they suggest that the bill allows for "Private taxation." Scary words... although very misleading.

Companies charge a price for a service, and you have the choice to buy that service or not. Its time to think ahead...

Democrats are going to propose more Internet taxation in the future, and their posturing today is such that they are claiming to eliminate "private taxation" and to "keep the internet affordable" for the little guy.

So, instead of paying a fair price for a service, they choke the provider by regulating its service pricing, and instead apply taxes to the service so that the government (which provides no valuable Internet service) profits.

It all comes out of your pocket in the end... why not pay a fair price to the people who provide services rather than restricting their ability to offer good services while handing over your hard earned dollars to a wasteful federal government.

Reject the Democrats rejection. They want more control of the Internet, and its not going to help anybody.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What the hell are you talking about?
Um... so you are against net neutality and for a multi-tiered system that allows for us, the internet consumer, to be charged everytime we access a different website? You do realise that a lot of conservative bloogers, not much different thatn yourself, I'm guessing, are also aganist this multi-tiered system and ARE FOR this net neutality provisions the dems are working to get into the bill? Or are you a House representive looking to distort the truth? Look at the past C|Net articles on this issue, and seems overwhelmingly the people are more informed on this issue thatn you are, or you're purposely trying to mount a disinformation campaign.

If anyone is misleading, it is you, here.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag
Democrats want to control the Internet
These articles are so misleading... just for clarification...

The bill that is being *opposed* by the Democrats allows people and companies the freedom to continue operating the way they have been for years.

The Democrats instead prefer a bill that gives control of Internet service pricing to the federal government.

In other words, it is the Democrats working to pass new laws to gain greater government control over the Internet.

The existing law is in place to preserve the Internet freedoms we've always had.

I have no interest in allowing the government to control any aspect of the Internet. Although such is probably inevetable, price-fixing by the Democrats is something that should not be allowed.

Notice also the language of the Democrats... they suggest that the bill allows for "Private taxation." Scary words... although very misleading.

Companies charge a price for a service, and you have the choice to buy that service or not. Its time to think ahead...

Democrats are going to propose more Internet taxation in the future, and their posturing today is such that they are claiming to eliminate "private taxation" and to "keep the internet affordable" for the little guy.

So, instead of paying a fair price for a service, they choke the provider by regulating its service pricing, and instead apply taxes to the service so that the government (which provides no valuable Internet service) profits.

It all comes out of your pocket in the end... why not pay a fair price to the people who provide services rather than restricting their ability to offer good services while handing over your hard earned dollars to a wasteful federal government.

Reject the Democrats rejection. They want more control of the Internet, and its not going to help anybody.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What the hell are you talking about?
Um... so you are against net neutality and for a multi-tiered system that allows for us, the internet consumer, to be charged everytime we access a different website? You do realise that a lot of conservative bloogers, not much different thatn yourself, I'm guessing, are also aganist this multi-tiered system and ARE FOR this net neutality provisions the dems are working to get into the bill? Or are you a House representive looking to distort the truth? Look at the past C|Net articles on this issue, and seems overwhelmingly the people are more informed on this issue thatn you are, or you're purposely trying to mount a disinformation campaign.

If anyone is misleading, it is you, here.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag
Please, no new laws
Keep in mind, what the Dems are proposing here is an expansion of government regulation of the Internet. It is against all the freedoms that have brought us this far.

Please don't be fooled -- you don't want the FCC regulating "neutrality" anymore than you want them regulating "decency".
Posted by ORinSF (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ugh... You're wrong, but that's your right...
This has nothing to do with "indecency", although if perveted and worded wrong by the fundalmentalist right wing, it very well could end up that way, but the republicans tend to be more right-wing than the dems, here, they are fighting to keep the internet the way it is now, it is the GOP who are allowing for the big TELECOM industries to call ALL the shots on the net, even charging Google for certain queries over others, as they deem fit, and then Google will have to pass the cost onto us, the consumers. This is why the dems are standing up against this, to make the internet a multi-tiered system, in which speech will be dictated by AT&#38;T, Time Warner, etc... I know I'd not rather have this be in the hands of either the FCC or TELECOMs, but if you follow the GOP plan, it will sure make a divide in the internet of the haves and have-nots, as people won't be able to afford the internet the way it is now.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag
Democratic Proposed ??????
Wasn't this bill introduced by the Republican Greed Empire ??????
Posted by ChuckLB (2 comments )
Link Flag
Please, no new laws
Keep in mind, what the Dems are proposing here is an expansion of government regulation of the Internet. It is against all the freedoms that have brought us this far.

Please don't be fooled -- you don't want the FCC regulating "neutrality" anymore than you want them regulating "decency".
Posted by ORinSF (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ugh... You're wrong, but that's your right...
This has nothing to do with "indecency", although if perveted and worded wrong by the fundalmentalist right wing, it very well could end up that way, but the republicans tend to be more right-wing than the dems, here, they are fighting to keep the internet the way it is now, it is the GOP who are allowing for the big TELECOM industries to call ALL the shots on the net, even charging Google for certain queries over others, as they deem fit, and then Google will have to pass the cost onto us, the consumers. This is why the dems are standing up against this, to make the internet a multi-tiered system, in which speech will be dictated by AT&#38;T, Time Warner, etc... I know I'd not rather have this be in the hands of either the FCC or TELECOMs, but if you follow the GOP plan, it will sure make a divide in the internet of the haves and have-nots, as people won't be able to afford the internet the way it is now.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Link Flag
Democratic Proposed ??????
Wasn't this bill introduced by the Republican Greed Empire ??????
Posted by ChuckLB (2 comments )
Link Flag
Evil, and it's been done before.
Internet providers will get to charge for High-Bandwidth Content
(HBC). And while taxing providers of HBC, they will start their own
little companies that provide their own HBC. The new little
ventures will either not be taxed the same or if they are it'll simply
be money changing pockets.

Kinda like going up against BellSouth to provide DSL.
Posted by ChasmoeBrown (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Evil, and it's been done before.
Internet providers will get to charge for High-Bandwidth Content
(HBC). And while taxing providers of HBC, they will start their own
little companies that provide their own HBC. The new little
ventures will either not be taxed the same or if they are it'll simply
be money changing pockets.

Kinda like going up against BellSouth to provide DSL.
Posted by ChasmoeBrown (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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