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Senate Rejects Regulating Internet Access


Bow Down to the King
Political User
A massive effort by Internet users to prohibit telephone and cable companies from providing better service and prices to preferred customers failed to get through a Senate committee on Wednesday.

After three days of debate, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a bill intended to let phone companies and other telecommunications providers better compete in video markets now monopolized by cable companies.

The measure faces an uncertain future because of the controversy over "net neutrality" — how to ensure that consumers and Internet content providers continue having open and nondiscriminatory access to the Internet.

The committee rejected an amendment by Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that would prohibit phone and cable companies from limiting access to their high-speed Internet networks based on site content or financial arrangements. The vote was 11-11, and ties defeat proposed amendments.

Supporters argued that service providers could give preferential treatment to business partners or use pricing and access limits to discriminate between Web sites and other Internet users.

"What's at stake is the Internet in the 21st century," said Snowe, the only Republican to vote for the amendment. "This is the preservation of digital democracy."

Hundreds of interest groups, ranging from the Christian Coalition to Moveon.org., joined bloggers and the big content providers such as Google Inc. and Amazon seeking protections from Congress against owners of high-speed broadband networks.

Republicans argued against interfering in a system that so far has worked well without government regulation.

Phone and cable companies say Snowe's and Dorgan's proposal would stifle investment in broadband technology by restricting what they could charge customers. Both sides have spent millions of dollars on lobbying and advertising on the issue.

The committee chairman, Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), said the legislation would require regulators to preserve the free flow of ideas and information on the Internet by ensuring access to legal content.

Stevens, R-Alaska, also said the House would not accept a measure with the net neutrality language. The House this month passed its version of the legislation after rejecting a net neutrality amendment.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a supporter of the Snowe proposal, said the bill could face a filibuster in the full Senate if it did not protect users from discrimination.

The chief goal of the wide-ranging bill is to make it easier for phone companies and others to enter video markets now dominated by cable and satellite companies. Supporters hope competition will drive down prices and offer consumers more choice.

Source: Yahoo! News

Perris Calderon

Staff member
Political User
all is not lost;

from the daily kos

Wyden Blocks Telecom Legislation over Net Neutrality
by mcjoan
Wed Jun 28, 2006 at 05:03:37 PM PDT
Ron Wyden announced this afternoon that he has placed a "hold" on the telecommunciations legislation just passed by the Commerce Committee until clear language is included in the legislation that prevents discrimination in Internet access.

From his floor statement (in an e-mail to me):

Mr. President, the major telecommunications legislation reported today by the Senate Commerce Committee is badly flawed. The bill makes a number of major changes in the country's telecommunications law but there is one provision that is nothing more than a license to discriminate. Without a clear policy preserving the neutrality of the Internet and without tough sanctions against those who would discriminate, the Internet will be forever changed for the worse.

This one provision threatens to divide the Internet into technology "haves" and "have nots." This one provision concentrates even more power in the hands of the special interests that own the pipelines to the Internet. This one provision codifies discrimination on the Internet by a handful of large telecommunications and cable providers. This one provision will allow large, special interests to saddle consumers and small businesses alike with new and discriminatory fees over and above what they already pay for Internet access. This one small provision is akin to hurling a giant wrecking ball at the Internet.

The inclusion of this provision compels me to state that I would object to a unanimous consent request to the Senate proceeding with this legislation until a provision that provides true Internet neutrality is included. . . .

The large interests have made it clear that if this bill moves forward, they will begin to discriminate. A Verizon Communications executive has called for an "end to Google's `free lunch.'" A Bell South executive has said that he wants the Internet to be turned into a "pay-for-performance marketplace." What they and other cable and phone company executives are proposing is that instead of providing equal access for everyone to the same content at the same price, they will set up sweetheart arrangements to play favorites. Without net neutrality protections, this bill is bad news for consumers and anyone who today enjoys unlimited access to all of the Net's applications, service and content.

This hold is basically a signal of intent to filibuster. Holds generally are requests that any Senator can make that a bill or measure not be considered by the full Senate until certain issues in it are cleared up. It's not officially in the Senate rules, and the majority leader can refuse it. If Stevens's statement that he doesn't have 60 votes is to be believed, then Wyden's hold could keep this bill from the floor. We'll just have to wait to see what negotiations that might be in the offing mean for the future of the telecommunications bill and net neutrality.

Here I need to provide full disclosure: my first job out of college was with Ron when he was still in the House. Though there's been plenty I've disagreed with him about, I'm still a fan. His leadership on this issue, however, has been unquestionably admirable. He introduced the first stand-alone legislation on net neutrality, S. 2360, the Internet Non-Discrimination Act, in March, and is a co-sponsor of Snowe/Dorgan. He was among the first to recognize it as a critical issue for consumers, for the technology industry, for business small and large, and for the non-profit sector.

His willingness to stand up on this issue should be applauded and supported. It should be supported by all Senate Democrats, including the leadership. Don't let up on your pressure on your Senators on this issue. Make them stand with Wyden to protect the Internet.

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