From today’s Benton Communications-related Headlines:
NET-NEUTRALITY BILL INTRODUCED
[SOURCE: Multichannel News, AUTHOR: Ted Hearn]
Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would ban cable operators, phone companies and other providers of broadband Internet access from engaging in discriminatory management of their networks to the commercial disadvantage of Web-based providers of content and applications. The Dorgan-Snowe bill resumes the so-called network-neutrality debate after major telecommunications legislation collapsed in the Senate last year over whether it was necessary to protect Internet giants like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and eBay and their customers from potentially discriminatory conduct, such as the intentional blocking or slowdown of unaffiliated services that hadn’t paid to use additional network capacity. Such discrimination would “fundamentally change the way the Internet has operated and threatens to derail the democratic nature of the Internet,” Sen Dorgan said in a prepared statement with Sen Snowe. Sens Dorgan and Snowe said the bill would require broadband providers to “operate the network in a nondiscriminatory manner, but [they] would remain free to manage the network to protect the security of the network or to offer different levels of broadband connection to users.” In another provision, the bill would mandate that consumers have the right to purchase a “stand-alone broadband connection that is not bundled with cable, phone or voice-over-Internet-protocol service.” In addition to Dorgan and Snowe, co-sponsors include Sens John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Barack Obama (D-IL). (Story here. / Read the bill.)
At a glance this looks like a solid idea, but I find myself wondering on a couple fronts. First off, ever since the Telecom Act of 1996 was introduced, telecom has been one of the very issues on which the GOP has sided with the angels (while the Dems were siding mostly with their old-boy network buddies at AT&T). So I find myself being inherently suspicious of this crew (Snowe is Republican but the rest of the sponsors are Democrats). (AT&T EVP of Federal Relations Tim McKone squealed like a stuck pig at the idea, so that’s a positive sign.)
Second, I keep thinking back to how the telecoms have worked to derail municipal broadband initiatives (I think the one that initially caught my attention involved Verizon and Philadelphia, but at the moment I’m too damned lazy to hunt up a link; also, I’m betting that boztopia has a couple memorized). Which has me wondering if we aren’t, in true American fashion, asking all the wrong questions on the issue. Is “net neutrality,” as currently framed, merely a way of deciding how we’ll let the telecom monsters rape us instead of acting in a way that truly benefits the citizenry? (And for those of you haven’t seen the word “citizen” and its derivations before, it’s kind of like “consumer,” only without the money part.)
Somebody, please, enlighten me.