RealTime IT News

Senator Steps Up for Net Neutrality

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to slow down the fast lane proposals of the Bells, the key issue at the heart of the net neutrality debate.

Under legislation introduced Thursday by Wyden, network operators would be prohibited from charging Internet content providers for faster delivery of their product to consumers.

Both AT&T and Verizon have stated they are seriously considering charging high bandwidth users such as Google and Amazon an extra fee for delivery of their content.

The technology industry is fiercely opposed to the Bells' plans and is pushing for a net neutrality provision in various telecom reform bills floating around Capitol Hill. Wyden, a longtime tech advocate, has stepped forward as the industry's champion.

"Creating a two-tiered system could have a chilling effect on small mom and pop businesses that can’t afford the priority lane, leaving these smaller businesses no hope of competing against the Wal-Marts of the world," Wyden said in a statement.

He said he was motivated to introduce the legislation to "stop the powerful interests who control access to the Internet from picking winners and losers.

Wyden said it is important to deny the Bells a priority lane where content providers can buy quick access to consumers, leaving those who cannot afford the fee in the slow lane.

"Neutrality in technology enables small businesses to thrive on the Internet, and allows folks to start small and dream big, and that’s what I want to protect with this legislation," Wyden said.

Wyden's bill, the Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, would deny broadband network operators from "blocking, degrading, altering, modifying or changing traffic on the Internet."

The legislation calls for a "transparent system" in which consumers, content providers and applications companies all have access to the rates, terms and conditions for Internet service.

The bill also provides for a process with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in which both consumers and businesses can file written complaints about violations of net neutrality.

If the FCC accepts the complaint, the burden of proof is on the network operator to show it did not violate the law. The FCC must reach a decision in 90 days.

"It's wrong to create an information superhighway that's strewn with discriminatory hurdles," said Wyden. "This bill is for consumers, innovators and small businesses - it's all about equal access for everyone: the same access, the same content, for the same price."