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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 gramboh on 1/16/2007 1:06:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, but no. What happens is the services and products you are used to getting as standard in part become "premium services" disguised by the addition of new crap "services" nobody cares about.

To get back your old service minimum you have to now pay to become a premium service user. And when you do the Telco trumpets in their defence that their new products are extremely popular. It's a matter of companies trying to increase profits without spending more money (e.g. getting more out of what they have).

It comes down to a question of whether internet is a public utility or not.

It's standard business practice and every telco in the world has done it with land lines, tv services and mobile services for years as their networks get stretched. Broadband is not going to escape the same fate all by itself, especially not with the standard memory loss suffered by Joe Public.

This is exactly correct. If you know anything about the telcom/mobile industry you know this, in fact you should have seen it personally with mobile services in the last 5-6 years.

RE: No s**t
By Ringold on 1/16/2007 10:28:30 PM , Rating: 2
Then both of you are ignoring two things.

My cable broadband now costs about the same as AOL cost me in the 90s, and that was dial-up. There were lower cost options, like a 14.95 service I used for a while. Adjust it not just for inflation but also the rise in income since the 90s and now for approximately the same amount you get cable, and for less, you can get "cable lite" and dsl "lite" services -- which still beat the crap out of dial-up.

That supports my argument that "premium" simply trickles down to "standard" service levels. Of course you pay more; inflation ticks along at 3% or so a year. That 25 or so for AOL in the mid 90s is equivalent to 33-37 now, which is in the realm of "lite" services, and alllmooosst there for $45 I pay for cable. About $10 short, but about a hundred times faster.

I can't see how any argument against that could have any legs to stand on. Service has trickled down, and every passing year broadband becomes closer to a commodity.

As for cellular services, thats a little more strange, though for 500 minutes a month I haven't had any *serious* changes in price/service level for five or six years.

As for if it should be a commodity; it absolutely should not be. Verizon is laying down fiber not out of charity, but out of profit motive. The government could be doing that but at a cost of billions; a price EVERYONE would be paying wether they wanted the service or not. Not to mention, it's practically beyond all reasonable expectations for a government agency to manage a roll-out of such a service efficiently.

RE: No s**t
By masher2 on 1/17/2007 2:28:13 AM , Rating: 2
> "Service has trickled down, and every passing year broadband becomes closer to a commodity..."

And let's not forget the even more dramatic drop in long distance rates. I remember paying nearly $3/min for long distance. Then deregulation came along, and now most people are paying a few cents a minute. Many have unlimited long distance for a few bucks a months. In a few years, you'll get unlimited calling free with a Happy Meal.

This happened because the government took its nose OUT of the long distance market. Even though telcos were allowed to keep prices the same (or even to raise them), prices dropped, and dropped fast. If a company didn't drop prices and offer better call quality, its competitors were more than willing to. There was such a frenzy in fact, that telcos lost billions of dollars in the 1990s, trying to keep up with each other.

For you and me, that was FREE MONEY. Telcos wound up selling us services cheaper than their own cost. The immense traffic capacity of the Internet that we use today was mostly built in that period. And it was financed through those losses. Not with our tax money. That's what a free market does for you.

In the local market, though, the government kept control though, with the RBOCs allowed to retain control, competition denied, and tons of regulations to "help the consumer". Seen much of a drop in your local phone bill the past couple decades? Now you know why not.

RE: No s**t
By Hawkido on 1/18/2007 1:48:06 PM , Rating: 2
I'm an IT manager for a half billion dollar bank. I just had a meeting with AT&T about our WAN pricing. Here's what I heard.

#1 Over the past 10 or so years, the telecoms have been forced to sell their backbone bandwidth at cost to their small compititors (local telco's and such) This governmental regulation has recently been lifted (Notice how the telecom's are gobbling each other up?) plus now they can charge what the market will bear. Expect internet charges to increase over the next few years, till this pans out.

#2 Our internet backbone hasn't been upgraded since the 1990's (the move to fiber). Because the people who own the backbones aren't making any money off of it. Ever notice how the internet hasn't really gotten any better? Where's IPv6? Only your connection speed to the internet has improved, and local circuits have been upgraded (these are things owned by the local co's, the ones making the money selling someone else's product at cost with a hefty markup). I know youe are saying that the Internet most certainly has gotten better, but the backbone is still the same only the routers and transcievers have been upgraded. The backbone hasn't grown. Look at the UUNET map. It looks the same as 5 to 10 years ago. No new trunks have been added. No IPv6 with built in QoS and Streaming voice and video.

#3 The telco's are trying to make a profit *GASP* but they have been restricted for so long, if a major event happened to the backbone (natural disaster, etc) the telecoms wouldn't have the massive capital needed to repair it. A bundle of OC48's costs a pretty penny to splice in. Plus you have to buy rights to all the land your bury under, then re-buy rights to dig it up and repair it. No local telecom has the capital to create these backbones, let alone maintain them.

I agree, no legislation is the best legislation. Don't enact prohibition, till you know what the situation is. If the voters aren't complaining, then let it lie. However I beieve that the backbone needs to be ran by a seperate entity, then all the services (companies) that capitalize on it will have to pay to that entity it's entitlement. The end users should only pay their local connection fee. The content providers should pay for their bandwidth consumption. Massive pipes should be a combo of monthly plus consumption. Pretty much the way it is now.

Someone is being stratigized... By whom I don't know. I suspect the US House is the Dupe, because they really aren't there long enough to know or care, or if they are there for term after term then chances are they are in someone's pocket. An honest man (or woman) cannot make the majority of the people happy for more than 2 or 3 years. They either have to sell out and become dishonest, or stick to their guns and go down in flames. That's beside the point. I think the Telecoms are planing how to make their final goal happen. Make threats and watch Congress respond. Cleverly craft a threat and watch them pass a bill that creates the law you want, all you need is one or two dupes on the inside to write it.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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