RealTime IT News

Senate Proposal Toughens Net Neutrality

Reporter's Notebook: While a House subcommittee attempts to pass a telecom reform bill today that the telephone and cable companies wholeheartedly endorse, U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are floating their own legislation on the other side of Capitol Hill that the broadband network operators are sure to dislike.

Why? The senators actually attempt to reign in the power of the network operators.

Unlike the current House version -- which is unlikely to change despite a series of challenges by the Democrats -- the Dorgan-Snowe proposal has a firm non-discrimination policy and a speedy complaint procedure at the Federal Communications Commission.

"The high-technology economy would be severely harmed if Internet content providers could not reach consumers without interference from network operators," the draft bill states.

"A basic non-discrimination policy to ensure that the Internet remains open to independent, service and content providers will give certainty to investors in technologies…and those investment signals will promote the United States' global leadership in high technology industries," it continues.

The 13-page draft is relatively simple in its approach "to maintain the freedom to use the Internet without interference from network operators, which has been the basis for Internet commerce and user expectations since its inception."

The proposed legislation would require network operators such as Comcast, SBC and Verizon to provide content providers access to the operators' pipes that is "at least equal to the speed and quality of service" that the network operator offers to affiliated content providers.

The bill would further require network operators "to prioritize content, applications or services within the operator's network based only on the type of content, applications or services and the level of service purchased by the user, without charge for prioritization."

The bill is similar to one proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in March.

Dorgan and Snowe, however, hold the upper hand since they are both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, where the bill will be heard, while Wyden is not.

CompTIA Backs House "Non Net Neutrality" Bill: The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is throwing in with House Republicans in backing the House's latest telecom reform bill.

"This proposal represents a good starting point in the discussion to update our nation's telecommunications laws," Roger Cochetti, CompTIA's group director of U.S. Public Policy, said in a statement. "Congress should thoroughly address this proposal."

Net Neutrality? Umm, well maybe not.

"We have long advocated that market forces, technology tools and consumer education are far superior to government regulation in any effort to address important issues that arise in the Internet," Cochetti said.

CompTIA believes technologies such as Voice over IP have emerged because of an absence of government regulations.

"In this context, proposals to regulate Internet access need to be evaluated against the questions of whether there is a clear need for new government intervention in this area."

Lucent-Alcatel Deal Draws Yawns: There probably won't be much government action here, although -- in light of the port security flap -- there might be a few congressional show hearings.

Federal agencies will probably have no problem with the deal since the Bush administration has found few mergers it didn't like.

The merger will have to pass muster with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), an inter-agency group chaired by the Department of Treasury and that includes the U.S. Trade Representative, Commerce, State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments.

When CFIUS receives notice of a proposed acquisition, it has 30 days to decide whether to undertake an investigation.

If an investigation is undertaken, CIFIUS must make its formal report to the president within 45 days. The president then has 15 days to render a decision.

A CFIUS review determines whether a particular acquisition by a foreign country has national security issues. Both Lucent and Alcatel have long since been successfully vetted for national security work.

Spitzer Continues Online Antifraud Campaign: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer filed suit Tuesday against adware distributor Direct Revenue for allegedly installing "millions" of unwanted and unsought pop-up ad programs on consumers' computers.

Spitzer said his investigation reveals that Direct Revenue deliberately designed drive-by installation spyware that was difficult for users to detect or remove.

According to Spitzer, Direct Revenue stated in an April 2005 e-mail to a distributor that, "We have a very stealthy version of our adware product…Don't worry. If we do a deal ... these will not be caught."