January 2, 2007 3:38 PM PST

Net neutrality push expected to resume in Congress

The nation's soon-to-be largest telephone company may have caved to certain Net neutrality commitments for the sake of a merger blessing, but a renewed push for more sweeping rules could return to Capitol Hill as soon as this month.

Breaking months of partisan deadlock among the four voting members of the Federal Communications Commission over AT&T's roughly $86 billion union with BellSouth, the telecommunications giant made a last-minute pledge last week to abide by a series of antidiscrimination principles supported by Internet content companies like Google and eBay, and consumer advocacy groups.

"The agreement once and for all puts to rest the bogus argument that no one can define Net neutrality."
--Ben Scott, policy director for Free Press

Although some FCC commissioners have asserted that the agreement is not a public policy mandate, it could serve as a blueprint for members of Congress preparing to reintroduce bills intended to bar network operators like AT&T from charging extra fees to content providers for added perks.

"The agreement once and for all puts to rest the bogus argument that no one can define Net neutrality," said Ben Scott, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press, which coordinates a pro-Net neutrality coalition called Save the Internet.

Net neutrality is the idea that network operators such as AT&T and Verizon should be prohibited from prioritizing any content or services that travel across their pipes. Ever since telecommunications executives began warning more than a year ago that they should have the right to charge extra for premium placement on their networks, Internet companies and consumer groups have been clamoring for federal regulations barring such a practice. They argue that it threatens users' freedoms. Opponents of regulations say there's no evidence of a discrimination problem and that new rules would stifle innovation.

Specifically, AT&T said that for 30 months after the merger's closure, it would not provide or sell "any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet" transmitted over its pipes based on its "source, ownership or destination."

That description amounts to a "framework for rules that can be applied industry-wide to allow American consumers and small businesses to benefit from deployment of discrimination-free advanced networks," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.

Wyden, who authored the first and perhaps most aggressive Net neutrality bill to emerge last year, hopes to reintroduce his bill in similar form this January, according to an aide.

Also hoping for a late January or early February proposal are Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

The duo teamed up in May to introduce the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which barred network operators from making special deals with content providers and required them to offer all Internet material on an "equivalent" basis. The latest bill will likely undergo only "technical" changes, but the senators' staffs plan to discuss language of the AT&T-BellSouth concessions while finalizing their own, a Republican aide said.

On the House of Representatives side, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., plans to reintroduce an identical version of his Network Neutrality Act, though a representative said a timetable had not been set yet. Markey, who is widely expected to be named the new chairman of a key Internet and telecommunications panel as early as this week, also plans to hold hearings on the topic throughout the spring and early summer.

CONTINUED: Old battle lines…
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10 comments

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Don't trust 'em
Ya know, it's funny. Tied for the number one spot on my list of the most distrusted things in the world are the U.S. Government and the telecommunist companies. The huge company this merger will produce is EXACTLY why they were broken up in the 80s! And they're gonna let it happen again?

Ed Whitacre CANNOT be trusted! No matter what he says in public, he intends to (and will stop at nothing to achieve) gain complete and total control over the majority of U.S. consumer Internet connections. Once he has that, he will then use it to push his own agenda. Quietly at first, then like a bull in a china shop.

Ed Whitacre MUST BE REMOVED from his post before this merger is allowed to go through. Or, mark my words, AT&T will become (even more than now) the single biggest threat to a free Internet since Al Gore.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ATT/SBC is doing it already
if you have SBC/ATT DSL at home or business, you may not be
able to access SMTP server other than the one SBC/ATT provid.

try it, "telnet smtp.mail.yahoo.com 25"

if you can not get any respond, you are blocked by SBC/ATT

SBC/ATT will tell you they are protecting you, in fact they are
restricting you from using non-SBC/ATT sendmail server, spam
can still get to you and there is nothing to do with which
sendmail server you are using.

Talk to SBC support, see what kind of the story the can come up
with. I know it took me 2 hours to get them to remove my
restriction after all the denying.
Posted by Ken_Liou (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Actually...
I agree with this one. With so many idiot consumers out there being infected by botnet software, this is an excellent idea. This prevents compromised computers from becoming zombie computers to send SPAM.

And to have the port 25 block removed is a simple form you fill out and it takes about 24 hours to have the block removed.

In this ONE area, SBC/AT&T should be commended.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Link Flag
not related
A lot of ISPs block outgoing port 25 traffic for the spam-tastic
reasons already listed. It has nothing to do with prioritizing
streaming media packets over other packets, which is the issue
with net "neutrality."
Posted by scottk0640 (23 comments )
Link Flag
isn't Yahoo's smtp on a non-standard port?
As I recall, from setting up Thunderbird last evening, Yahoo's smtp is on a non-standard port requiring username/password to send though I can't remember off hand if they also make use of any encription.

Also, Google uses a port other than 25 for smtp due to the use of username/password and encrypted connection on the encryption's standard port.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Ask your SMTP provider for an alternate port.
Blocking or restricting port 25 has become a standard in the Industry in the effort to stop spammers.

Independant and alternative mail providers all offer alternate ports for outgoing mail transport.

just use the ATT smtp server (which has problems with other spam filters) or, better, ask your email provider for an alternative port.

i have a lot of trouble with the lack of net neutrality here, but this specific case is more or less universal.

the proper solution would be an open port 25 plus active proscecution of spammers, but until our government does something to stop spammers, blocking port 25 IS an effective stop-gap.
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Link Flag
Beware The Fine Print
It is my understanding that there is an exception to the limited time agreed upon net neutral behavior promised. A separate streaming video service is exempt. Apparently this service is over the company's network and somehow is not considered "internet".
This leads me to wonder what happens when AT&T decides in the future to engage in traffic shaping and bit prioritizing for streams only within it's net. At what point does this behavior become unacceptable? If they can restrict the monkey business to within just their vast network is that ok?
Posted by zanzzz (138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
what happens if they trash this pledge?
> AT&T said that for 30 months after the merger's
>closure, it would not provide or sell "any service
>that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any
>packet" transmitted over its pipes based on its
>"source, ownership or destination."

And what will be done if they fail to honor this promise? Will the merger be undone? I'd really like to know that something significant will be at stake to motivate such a huge company to abide by this if it shall be a condition for merger approval.
Posted by amigabill (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
January 2057 - The FCC Finally Protects Consumers Choice
What about naked DSL, shouldn't services be available without requiring bundling of services? Hey I want DSL and Vonage not DSL bundled with a phone line and another phone line from Vonage. Or why can't I just pick the channels I want from my cable company, If Pizza Hut can do it why not the cable and satellite companies.

Baby's crawl faster than the FCC, not to mention walk and run.

Net Neutrality means if you are a network provider selling me a circuit, hook me up and don't mess with my ****. The big network providers see people making all this money using the Internet in new and inovative ways. The big telco's who are moving all that traffic around are jealous and want a piece of the action(they've forgoten they are already getting paid for the circuits) and they aren't really interested in inovating or competing head to head. They want to use QOS to break the connection they sold you and want to charge extra for your VOIP phone to work, then if you want video well excuse me we need to talk, cha ching add on a You Tube surcharge.

Yeah, you'll pay if there is no protection from the multi-billion dollar network providers manipulating network traffic flows so they can protect thier own service offerings and jack you for more cash.
Posted by stlwest (72 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If it's NOT NEUTRAL, it's NOT INTERNET!
anyone selling a data network product that is not neutral is commiting fraud if they use the INTERNET trademark. (yes, Internet is a trademark)
Posted by disco-legend-zeke (448 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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