Politicians Launch Another Net Neutrality Bid

Dennis Faas's picture

Two congressmen have proposed laws which would enforce the principle of net neutrality. That's the idea that broadband providers should not be allowed to discriminate against particular sites, companies or technologies.

The planned law would be called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. It's a joint effort by political rivals Republican Chip Pickering and Democrat Ed Markey, who described the Internet as "the greatest level playing field ever created".

Though net neutrality is already widely seen as the basis of America's broadband network, the new law would specifically define US government policy as being "against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source, ownership, or destination on the Internet." The law would also force the Federal Communications Commission to hold an investigation into whether broadband firms are meeting their stated policy of not blocking or otherwise interfering with web content.

Previous failed attempts to pass such laws were much more specific about how policies would be enforced. This law would be more a statement of legal principle.

Groups representing the broadband provider industry attacked the bill as being against free-market principles. A spokesman for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association said "Should the federal government decide what the Internet looks like -- or should the free market? To date, it's been the free market, and it's been a smashing success." (Source: enterprisenetworkingplanet.com)

However, Google backed the plans. Company policy analyst Derek Slater said the neutrality of the Internet "enables any and all users to generate new ideas and technologies, which are allowed to succeed based on their own merits and benefits." (Source: blogspot.com)

The political debate seems to be whether net neutrality amounts to federal regulation. Broadband providers argue that the Internet should be unregulated and say that if they choose to restrict access to particular sites or technologies, customers are free to take their business elsewhere. Supporters of net neutrality say it isn't regulation, but rather a means of ensuring that all online voices have an equal chance regardless of their financial clout.

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