Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Net Neutrality Legislation Advances in Congress

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary approved by a vote of 20-12 the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act (HR 5417), a bill containing strict Net Neutrality provisions.

Specifically, the legislation would make it unlawful for any broadband network operator "to fail to provide its broadband network services on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions such that any person can offer or provide content, applications or services to or over the network in a manner that is at least equal to the manner in which the provider or its affiliates offer content, applications and services, free of any surcharge on the basis of the content, application or service."

The proposed bill goes on to say: "If a broadband network operator prioritizes or offers enhanced quality of service to data of a particular type, it must prioritize or offer enhanced quality of service to all data of that type (regardless of the origin or ownership of such data) without imposing a surcharge or other consideration for such prioritization or enhanced quality of service."

The bill also includes provisions protecting the consumer's right to connect to legal content and services, and to attach devices that do not physically damage or materially degrade other user's utilization of the network.

Meanwhile the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Science & Transportation sub-committee held its own hearing on Net Neutrality and the proposed Communications Reform Bill (S. 2686). From the testimony:

Amazon's Paul Misener, vice president, Global Public Policy: "In essence, we fear circumstances in which broadband network operators with market power are permitted -- based on payments, political or religious viewpoints, or any other non-technical discriminatory factors -- to prefer some content and thereby restrict consumer access to other content."

Verizon's Tom Tauke, EVP: "A streamlined, national franchise process is a fast and fair route to bring much needed choice and competition to the video market...

"If enacted, net neutrality regulation will potentially prohibit us from offering customers the unique and secure platform required for these next generation services. It will potentially prohibit us from offering a competing video service to consumers. Put another way, radical net neutrality proposals will chill the investment climate for broadband networks, deter and delay broadband rollout, and lock-in today's Internet architecture and levels of performance."

  • Last year, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee voted down other Net Neutrality provisions in a competing bill.

See also