Defeat for net neutrality backers
US politicians have rejected attempts to enshrine the principle of net
neutrality in legislation. Some fear the decision will mean net
providers start deciding on behalf of customers which websites and
services they can visit and use.
The vote is a defeat for Google, eBay and Amazon which wanted the net
neutrality principle protected by law.
All three mounted vigorous lobbying campaigns prior to the vote in the
House of Representatives.
The rejection of the principle of net neutrality came during a debate
on the wide-ranging Communications Opportunity, Promotion and
Enhancement Act (Cope Act).
Among other things, this aims to make it easier for telecoms firms to
offer video services around America by replacing 30,000 local
franchise boards with a national system overseen by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC).
Representative Fred Upton, head of the House telecommunications
subcommittee, said competition could mean people save $30 to $40 each
month on their net access fees.
An amendment to the Act tried to add clauses that would demand net
service firms treat equally all the data passing through their cables.
The amendment was thought to be needed after the FCC ripped up its
rules that guaranteed net neutrality.
During the debate House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said that
without the amendment "telecommunications and cable companies will be
able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway".
"This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the
internet," she added.
Critics of the amendment said it would bring in unnecessary government
Prior to the vote net firms worried about the effect of the amendment
on their business lobbied hard in favour of the amendment. They fear
their sites will become hard to reach or that they will be forced to
pay to guarantee that they can get through to web users.
Meg Whitman, eBay chief executive, e-mailed more than one million
members of the auction site asking them to back the idea of net
neutrality. Google boss Eric Schmidt called on staff at the search
giant to support the idea, and film stars such as Alyssa Milano also
backed the amendment.
The ending of net neutrality rules also spurred the creation of
activism sites such as Save The Internet and Its Our Net.
Speaking at a conference in late May, web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee
warned that the net faced entering a "dark period" if access suppliers
were allowed to choose which traffic to prioritize.
The amendment was defeated by 269 votes to 152 and the Cope Act was
passed by 321-101 votes.
The debate over the issue now moves to the US Senate where the
Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will vote on its
version of the act in late June. The debate in that chamber is also
likely to centre on issues of net neutrality.
Story from BBC NEWS:
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Personally I think that yes, 'net
neutrality' is a lost cause. The days of university/government
funding for the internet are long since past. _Someone_ has to
pay the bill, and the only ones in a position to do so and who
have expressed some willingness to do so are the telcos and cablecos
of our country. And part of the 'asking price' for their money is
the right to do at least some of what they want. That is, at least
to me, the realistic place things are at now, like it or not. You
may disagree with me, and I hope you will do two things: One, go
to one of the two sites mentioned earlier set up to take 'votes'
and refer these results to the politicians who can make it happen
either way, and two, bring your ideas and suggestions here to this
forum when this special issue of the Digest continues with another
edition devoted to your comments.
Please register your opinions -- your 'votes' as it were, for whatever
they eventually are worth -- at http://moveon.org and/or
http://www.itsournet.org and http://www.savetheinternet.com
These three sites are all very much 'pro' network neutrality, and I
do not frankly know _who_ they think is going to pay the bills if the
telcos and cablecos do not. I would like to let someone else pay the
bills also, but I just do not think it is realistic any longer. PAT]