May 24, 2006 10:41 AM PDT

Net neutrality fans pressure U.S. Senate

One day before Republicans plan a Senate hearing on a new telecommunications bill without Net neutrality regulations, backers of the concept have thrown their support behind a competing proposal with far more extensive federal rules.

During a conference call on Wednesday, representatives from Amazon.com, Google, universities participating in the Internet2 project and liberal advocacy groups all called for strict laws that would prohibit what they view as a two-tier Internet.

"Tomorrow is a very important day for the future of the Internet," said Paul Misener, an Amazon vice president. He warned that phone and cable companies will run roughshod over their customers "unless Congress acts to stop them" by approving alternative legislation prepared by Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

Net neutrality's crowded field

Bill numberLead sponsor(s)What It ProposesStatus
S.2360Wyden (D)No two-tier InternetStill in Senate committee
S.2917Snowe (R) and Dorgan (D)No two-tier InternetJust introduced
HR5417Sensenbrenner (R) and Conyers (D)Antitrust extended to Net neutralityJust introduced
HR5273Markey (D)No two-tier InternetStill in House committee *
HR5252Barton (R) and Rush (D)FCC can police complaintsAwaiting House floor vote
S.2686Stevens (R) and Inouye (D)FCC will do a studySenate committee vote expected in June

* Republicans have defeated similar language twice as an amendment to a telecommunications bill

Source: CNET News.com research

Net neutrality, also called network neutrality, is the idea that broadband providers must be forcibly prevented from favoring some Internet sites over others. Strict Net neutrality laws would prohibit providers from inking deals with content providers to, for instance, offer high-definition streaming video with a guarantee that it would be delivered without interruptions.

Behind the Republican-backed bill (click for PDF) is Alaska's Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, who released a 135-page draft bill that does not flatly prohibit preferential treatment for Internet sites or video. Rather, it merely says that the Federal Communications Commission would be required to prepare annual reports on any problems.

That's not good enough, said Alan Davidson, Washington policy counsel for Google. "We believe the Internet works best when consumers are able to control what they see and do online," Davidson said, adding that Google is supporting the Snowe-Dorgan proposal and a similar one in the House of Representatives.

The issue is turning into a classic Washington political tussle between a pair of billion-dollar industries: The nation's largest telecommunications companies are fighting for a laissez-faire approach, while Microsoft, Google and other huge Internet companies are lobbying for strict FCC regulations.

It has turned into a largely partisan debate. In a House of Representatives committee, a Democrat-backed plan for FCC regulation was defeated in favor of a milder Republican alternative. In the Senate, though, the party lines are not as clear: The Snowe-Dorgan proposal is backed by one Republican and one Democrat.

The proposal says network providers would generally not be allowed to "block, interfere with, discriminate against, impair or degrade" access to content or to prevent users from attaching devices of their choosing to the network. Network operators would also be barred from making special deals with content providers to ensure speedier delivery or improved quality of service and would be required to offer all Internet material on an "equivalent" basis.

Network operators from the telephone and cable industries, now allied with some of the nation's largest hardware makers, have said repeatedly that they have no intention of blocking, degrading or impairing content. They say they're protecting their right to manage their networks as they see fit, which could mean charging extra to heavy bandwidth users, such as video providers, that expect to have their content shuttled at priority speeds.

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6 comments

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If only it wasn't motivated by greed
If the plan is too dynamicaly allocaite my share of bandwidth between my current downloads to minimize delivery time based on how different media compresses for transfer; Great, go for it.

I don't know that this would cause such a stire in the media. Changes could be done by the ISP in a seamless and invisable manner for the user. This does not apear to be the case.

So big business ISP want to be able to charge content providers for the privaledge of transfering data across there fiber? They already charge the home user for the data feed. I'm a technical minded guy, show me some specs on how this is supposed to be just a technological advancement with no profit motivated goals?

The Internet is not just the pretty pictures and videos you see in your browser of choice. It's not magic beans. It's just the medium that all the ones and zeros flow over. It's copper or glass fiber a computer at each end seporated by applicable switches and hubs. All the other stuff is just the on or off of the digital signal.

What I'm saying is the ISP is just the company selling you a connection to there cables. Don't try and convince me that the data coming over your wires is your product. Your just the phone company; the middle-man between two modems.

If you can make my ones and zeros transfer more efficiently over your wires by allocaiting the wire's full transfer potential relative to the data's transfer rate and compression. If you can't then keep your finger's out of my data feed. You'll get more money when I find I need to upgrade to your next subscription package up.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah...
but why make $50-$100 a month off subscribes to broadband when you can quadruple(or even more) that revenue by charging content providers. And with they they charge us more. 99 cent iTunes song download becomes 1.99. We get reamed in the behind either way.
Posted by dondarko (261 comments )
Link Flag
What the carriers aren't telling you...
1) ...the text of AT&T's anti-net-neutrality marketing site - &[we] will not block, impair or degrade access to any legal web site, application or service, nor will we intentionally degrade the customer experience or the service delivery of content or application providers.

Funny. None of those words even appear in the version of the COPE Act that I searched ( <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/net-neutrality-word-search-heres.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/net-neutrality-word-search-heres.html</a> ). I wonder why?

2) Has tiering worked in a real-world, multi-domain environment like the Internet before?

Answer: so far as I can tell, no - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/internet2-why-premium-ip-service-has.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/internet2-why-premium-ip-service-has.html</a>

3) Are AT&#38;T's new DSL lines even capable of delivering the HDTV they claim to require tiering for?

Answer: apparently not - <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/net-neutrality-cant-anybody-play-this.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/net-neutrality-cant-anybody-play-this.html</a>

4) In 2002, long before this debate occurred, why were the designers of Internet2 (200+ universities plus hardware vendors like Cisco) unable to get tiering to work in a sustainable way?

Answer: "We expect that if Premium [tiering] were deployed, providers would begin to treat the best-effort traffic of non-customers worse than the best-effort traffic of their customers.

The erosion of best-effort service would lead to a completely different world where all serious work gets done over Premium service and users are generally expected to make virtual circuit reservations for most of what they do..."

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/internet2-why-premium-ip-service-has.html" target="_newWindow">http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/internet2-why-premium-ip-service-has.html</a>

5) Go to <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.savetheinternet.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.savetheinternet.com</a> and take action. Today.
Posted by MercilessUnicorn (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Net neutrality is really just the status quo
The other thing the ISPs fail to mention is that network neutrality
has been the FCC-enforced norm of the internet since its
inception due to federal common carrier requirements.

Phone companies are explicitly required to carry all voice traffic
equally. Otherwise, they would have surcharged dial-up service
at a rate that priced millions of users and hundreds of ISPs out
of the internet business.

In just the last couple years, the FCC (esp. in the Brand X ruling,
leading to the Supreme Court decision) has done some serious
legal gymnastics to free broadband service from this legacy of
monopoly utility regulation. First, cable was declared exempt
from common carrier requirements; once the Supremes upheld
that as legal, the FCC exempted DSL, too. This is all recent
enough (taking effect in about the last year) that telcos haven't
yet changed their business model. Inertia is part of the answer
(setting up the extortion racket takes time to plan and execute),
but really, they're just waiting until they get what they want in
Congress--further deregulation in other areas, sealed by a
legislative stamp that no new neutrality legislation is necessary.

There's another reason that telcos haven't yet capitalized on the
end of common carrier requirements: merger stipulations. The
FCC still approves telecommunications mergers, and they've
been slapping on requirements that merged companies respect
net neutrality for the first few years of a merger. Since nearly
everybody's merged with somebody in the last few years, most
major broadband players are still restricted from demanding
tollbooth charges on 3rd party traffic.

When telcos (and their paid mouthpieces) demand the proof that
something bad has happened without net neutrality legislation,
call them out on what they know to be true: the internet is not
yet filled with tollbooths ONLY because the feds have, until now,
prevented such extortion.

Telco executives, when they thought this would all be played out
in the business pages, were loudly proclaiming (to investors,
they thought) that the new internet would be an opportunity for
them to cash in on their incumbent position in the utterly
uncompetitive broadband market. In doing so, they've
accidentally tipped their hand to the broader public, and people
who know anticompetitive behavior when they see it have cried
foul.

If you care to read more, please see the paper I've just had
accepted to the Federal Communications Law Journal. It's at:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=902071" target="_newWindow">http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=902071</a>
Posted by ShoutingLoudly (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Outrage
Absolutly Not America is making me throw up if this is the "best country in the world" then I can't even imagine how bad the other ones are. I do apperciate it though I just don't like where its going.
Posted by komradkyle (12 comments )
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