Thursday, April 27, 2006

Net Neutrality Goes Down in the House

From Daily Wireless:

"The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 34-22 on Wednesday to defeat a Democrat-sponsored Net Neutrality amendment that would have prevented AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from creating "tiered" internet access. Members of the committee rejected Edward Markey's measure that would have barred telcos from creating higher access fees from competing internet content companies.

The issue pits big telecoms companies against Google, Yahoo and eBay. Phone companies say they need a toll structure to fund the "last mile". Services like Skype or Google Video, that compete directly with the phone company services, say they'll be shut out.

The network neutrality issue is part of a much larger House bill, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006, that significantly rewrites telecommunications laws. The bill focuses on providing the telephone companies with a national video franchise, eliminating the time-consuming and expensive local franchise process for Telcos."

From the Red Herring:

"Despite furious protests from a broad coalition of supporters and intense lobbying from Internet companies such as Google, a Net neutrality amendment died in committee as the battle for Internet control raged late into the evening Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

The term Net neutrality has come to represent the concept of an Internet where no traffic is given preferential treatment based on compensation to the companies that own the Internet’s underlying broadband network: the phone and cable companies.

If passed, the bill will significantly shrink the telephone companies’ time-to-market by granting them national entrée into a market that has been the predominant preserve of about a dozen cable TV service providers since the market’s inception about two decades ago."

From TechDirt:

"One of the interesting things about the debates that we have here about legal issues concerning innovation is that they tend not to be partisan. It's never been easy to line up a specific intellectual property agenda with one party or another -- which tends to mean that any debate on the subject at least focuses a bit more on the issues, rather than stereotypes of Democrats or Republicans. However, it looks like the network neutrality debate is suddenly becoming partisan -- which is a worrisome trend.

However, it's telling that everyone is now covering it as a partisan issue, whether the headline is "GOP Gets It Way on Net Neutrality" or "Democrats lose House vote on Net neutrality". This is an important issue to discuss, without there needing to be partisan bickering about it. Network neutrality is quite a complex topic, and unfortunately, it seems like both sides of the debate are simplifying it down to slogans which risk confusing, rather than enlightening, people.

The only reasons the telcos are in the position to violate network neutrality are because they've pretty much been granted subsidies and monopoly rights of way -- and part of that bargain was that to increase competition, there needed to be open and fair access.

To suddenly claim that we need a hands off approach is ignoring the fact that there's never been a hands off approach and the companies involved were granted special rights."

More:
Jeff Pulver: Save the Internet, Win $1,000
Jeff Pulvier's RBOC SMackdown
Many More Net Neutrality Posts

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