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Congress tries again to keep the Internet a fair playing field; telcos oppose

The topic of Internet neutrality continues to boil in Congress this week as congressional members debate over a new bill called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. The new bill is a refined version of last year's mostly failed petition that did not gain majority house support due to Verizon and AT&T lobbying the stance that net neutrality is a non-issue. Content providers like Google feel differently, saying that a law must be passed to prevent network access providers from charging for prioritized network speeds and access. In fact, Google has taken its stance very strongly, previously announcing that it would take any network provider to court for anti-net-neutrality practices.

The new Internet Freedom Preservation Act proposes the same laws that many members of Congress feel American consumers want: no prioritized access to specific content providers and that all content providers should be treated equally. The new bill takes a step further and requires that network access providers allow purchasing of network services without requiring the purchase of other services.

Despite its incarnation as a new bill, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act faces the same challenges as its predecessors. Network service providers have begun lobbying against the act, claiming that Congress is wasting time fighting a problem that does not exist. Verizon for example, determined through a corporate funded survey that most Americans do not even know what net-neutrality is, nor are they concerned with it. Most people indicated on Verizon's survey that they were more interested in getting better programming for TV.

In an interview, Senator Bryon L. Dorgan said that he supports net-neutrality to the fullest and believes that without such a law, consumers would be hurt. "The success of the Internet has been its openness and the ability of anyone anywhere in this country to go on the Internet and reach the world. If the big interests who control the pipes become gatekeepers who erect tolls, it will have a significant impact on the Internet as we know it," said Dorgan.

Most service providers disagreed with Dorgan's statement, indicating that without corporate ability to charge for different tiers of network access or speed, it would impede and discourage network upgrading. This in turn would harm consumers in the end.

Despite the ongoing battle, a non-partisan group called Free Press is working to increase public awareness of net-neutrality and is also trying to involve public influence in law and policy making in Congress. Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press, told press reporters that he fully supports the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. "The American public has an overwhelming interest in seeing this bill pass into law, ensuring that the online marketplace of ideas remains open and vibrant," said Scott.

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RE: No s**t
By slash196 on 1/15/2007 10:15:50 PM , Rating: 1
The bleeding heck are you talking about? Net Neutrality has been mandated by the government since the birth of the Internet, and the government regulates quite a bit of the standards and practices as well. So really, it's more correct to say the Internet has done just fine in the hands of government regulators.

RE: No s**t
By masher2 on 1/15/2007 10:22:25 PM , Rating: 3
> The bleeding heck are you talking about? Net Neutrality has been mandated by the government since the birth of the Internet..."

What the bleeding heck are you talking about? Net neutrality-- better called "Net Regulation"-- is newly proposed legislation. It attempts to bar service providers from prioritizing packet-based network traffic. Legislation that most certainly does not exist today, and never has.

RE: No s**t
By acronos on 1/16/2007 12:55:12 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the previous poster was correct. Net neutrality was the rule until the FCC changed it in 2005. This ruling changed what was acceptable and began the net neutrality debate. The new law would just be restoring a policy that was already in place before 2005.

If the people who control the pipeline control the content, you end up with something like the channels offered by the cable companies of today. However, if those who control the pipeline don't control content, you end up with something like the internet as it exists today. It is reasonable for there to be requirements for connecting to the public internet. If a company wants to create its own intranet then that is their business, however anything that passes through the pipe to the public internet should have to follow the rules of the public internet. That rule should be net neutrality as it exists today. You can charge more for the size of the pipe but you cannot charge more for bit torrent than you charge for html content. To do so would put massive brakes on innovation on the internet.

RE: No s**t
By masher2 on 1/16/2007 5:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
> "Actually, the previous poster was correct. Net neutrality was the rule until the FCC changed it in 2005..."

No, you're mixed up on the history here. The FCC didn't make any rulings on Net Neutrality until 2005, the Madison River case, in which it ruled against MR's blocking of Vonage...a case in which I, and most people, agreed with the FCC. They went further that year and stated their four principles of Net Neutrality.. Consumers have a right to Internet access, to run whatever applications they wish, to free competition, etc. This is the so-called "Berners-Lee" model of Net Neutrality. Fine principles, that no one should object to.

However, the latest set of "Net Neutrality" bills goes much further, and attempts to prevent QoS technology from ever been implemented on the Internet. This is the so-called "dumb network" model, that the Internet must forever remain unable to provide QoS service guarantees, to prioritize traffic by type, traffic levels, priority, or anything else. This is more than wrong...its simply insane. It prevents the adoption of new, advanced technologies from ever seeing the light of day. Such bills are a travesty, and have luckily so far been shot down by Congress. May it never change.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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