Committee votes down a provision that would prohibit ISPs from
blocking or slowing customers' connections.
Grant Gross, IDG News Service
Thursday, April 27, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Internet companies and consumer groups calling for a new
U.S. law that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or
degrading some connections lost a major battle this week when a
U.S. House of Representatives committee voted down such a provision.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, during debate on a
telecommunications reform bill, rejected an amendment that would write
so-called net neutrality provisions into U.S. law. Backers of a net
neutrality law want Congress to prohibit U.S. broadband providers from
blocking or slowing their customers' connections to Web sites or
services that compete with services offered by the providers.
The committee rejected the amendment, on a vote of 34-22, largely
along party lines, with all but one Republican opposing the net
neutrality amendment offered by Representative Ed Markey, a
Late yesterday, the committee was still debating the full bill,
largely focused on allowing telecom carriers to offer television
services over IP (Internet Protocol) in competition with cable TV. The
bill would create a national franchising system, instead of requiring
that new television providers seek local franchises across the U.S.
Backers of the Markey amendment said it would prohibit broadband
providers from creating a new online "tax" by charging Internet
companies an extra fee for faster connections to their customers.
The telecom bill, which prohibits the U.S. Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) from making new net neutrality rules, will "put at
grave risk the Internet as an engine of innovation, job creation and
economic growth," Markey said. "This will stifle openness, endanger
our global competitiveness, and warp the Web into a tiered Internet of
bandwidth haves and have-nots."
Internet companies including Google and Yahoo, as well as
organizations such as the Gun Owners of America, the National
Religious Broadcasters, liberal group MoveOn.org, and the Consumers
Federation of America, have called for a strong net neutrality
law. Backers of a strong net neutrality law say it's needed after the
FCC last August deregulated DSL providers, allowing them to no longer
share their lines with competitors.
The committee's wide-ranging telecom reform bill, sponsored by
Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, would allow the FCC to
investigate complaints about the blocking or impairing of Internet
content by broadband providers only after the fact.
Markey's amendment would have required broadband providers that set
aside faster connections for new services such as video over IP to
offer the same speeds to competing services. It also would have
required the FCC to create an expedited process to deal with
Large broadband providers, including AT&T, Verizon Communications, and
Comcast, have opposed efforts to write net neutrality requirements
into law, saying they're unnecessary. There have been few examples of
broadband providers trying to block competing services, they say.
The amendment would have created new regulations for the Internet,
Barton said. "I don't think all the Draconian things will happen that
they think will happen," he said of amendment backers.
Despite support from some consumer groups, the amendment could have
hurt consumers, who now bear most of the cost of new networks built by
broadband providers, added Representative Charles Gonzalez of Texas,
one of five Democrats who voted against the Markey amendment.
E-commerce companies should pay more for broadband because they profit
from those networks, he said.
The bipartisan SavetheInternet.com Coalition accused the committee of
"selling out the Internet." The group, which says it gathered more
than 250,000 signatures on petitions supporting net neutrality in less
than one week, said it will continue to fight for a new law as the
telecom reform bill moves forward.
After being approved by the committee, the telecom reform bill would
have to pass the full House and repeat the same process in
Senate. Congress is scheduled finish its work for the year about
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