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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: Media Reform Conference
By masher2 on 1/16/2007 6:41:35 AM , Rating: -1
> "Telcos can...choose to limit speeds to websites they don't like..."

Telcos can ALREADY limit speeds to "websites they don't like". How many of them do it today, eh? None....and if one tried, there'd be a dozen others standing in line to take the customers money if he switched over.

Seriously, I don't know where people get these paranoid fantasies. Net "Neutrality" (aka Net Regulation) means advanced services are not allowed to exist on the Internet...not unless 100% of customers are willing to pay for them. It's akin to a law that says no cars can be sold, unless everyone gets a Ferrari. No one is allowed to buy more speed than anyone else...regardless of whether or not they need it (or want to pay for it).

RE: Media Reform Conference
By tanishpink on 1/16/2007 7:44:29 AM , Rating: 3
This is not completely true. Most cell phone providers who offer wireless "broadband" connections block access to VOIP (can we say skype?) and other services.

These restrictions are spelled out in their contracts (Not mentioned at purchase or in plain sight). They are usually long sentences mixed with language about how gaming is also blocked because it takes up too much bandwidth. While I understand that the fledgling wireless internet architecture may not be robust enough for a whole network of gamers to be satisfied, I know that it is not blocking VOIP for the same reasons. They block VOIP because they want to charge you through the end for their services.

It is telecos who need to get off the 1900's fence and realized that we want todays technology, not yesterdays. I can VOIP the world for way less than I can call on my cell phone. They know that, but they are to worried about their bottom line to offer what I really want - an unfiltered fat (hopefully wireless soon) pipeline to the outside world.

RE: Media Reform Conference
By masher2 on 1/16/2007 7:55:51 AM , Rating: 1
> "Most cell phone providers who offer wireless "broadband" connections block access to VOIP...and other services....They are usually long sentences mixed with language about how gaming is also blocked because it takes up too much bandwidth...

Err, none of the cell providers in my area block anything. They charge by the byte, so why would they want to block high-bandwidth services? It simply means more money for them. Now, perhaps some fixed-cost unlimited high-speed program might limit your bandwidth...but I'm sure you can see why that would be necessary on a cellular connection-- today, at least.

As for wired service, none of the major telcos block VoIP and AT&T at least is heavily promoting VoIP to consumers.

RE: Media Reform Conference
By tanishpink on 1/16/2007 9:13:26 AM , Rating: 3
It is to unlimited plans that I was referring. If you look at the service contracts from both Verizon and T-Mobile (Two of the larger providers in my area) they both specifically deny the user the right to employ VOIP or gaming on their networks. This is on their internet only packages. If I'm paying for only an internet connection - I want to be able to run my VOIP. $70 bucks a month should give me that right.

This was a big subject a few months ago when a California company that was making skype software for cell phones got blocked. To be honest I don't know how many of these services are mechanically blocked, but contractually all VOIP, and gaming are for at least these two providers. If it's in the contract it can only get worse. Just my 2 cents.

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