Dems Rip Net Neutrality Compromise


U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the leading Democrat on the Senate Commerce
Committee, today blasted Republican compromise language on network
neutrality.


The new language, released over the weekend by the Republican majority on
the panel, would institute a Consumer Internet Bill of Rights to be enforced
by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).


The new proposal is part of a massive telecom reform bill by Commerce
Committee Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska. The bill is currently scheduled
for a Thursday committee vote.


“The new draft’s provisions on net neutrality utterly fail to protect
consumers and preserve an open Internet,” Inouye said in a statement.

“Under
the current language, network operators will have the ability to dictate
what the Internet of the future will look like, what content it will include
and how it will operate.


The Republicans’ original network neutrality language simply called for more
study by the FCC.

Earlier this month, the House Commerce Committee approved legislation leaving network neutrality issues to the FCC.


The new Consumer Internet Bill of Rights now included in the Senate bill
would force all broadband providers to allow users to access and post any
lawful content on the Internet and access and run all legal applications and
devices of the users’ choice.


In addition, consumers would be guaranteed to access and run the voice, video and e-mail applications of their choice. The bill would also require broadband providers to offer standalone, unbundled broadband service.


The proposed language, however, would still allow the telephone and cable
companies to implement a two-tiered pricing business model based on
bandwidth consumption for the Internet.


Critics of the idea, including most Silicon Valley companies and a wide
range of consumer grassroots organizations, claim the business models will
create a two-lane Internet with those who can afford it running in the fast
lane and those who can’t in a slow lane.


“[Under the bill] network operators will have the unfettered capacity to
discriminate against unaffiliated online content, degrade their quality of
service or impose steep charges for prioritized traffic,” Inouye said.

“Without further improvements that restore principles of non-discrimination,
competition and service will suffer as network operators begin to dictate
the choices available to consumers.”


Democrats are expected to attempt amending the bill during Thursday’s vote
to force broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast to treat
all network traffic in a non-discriminatory manner.


Similar efforts failed in the House vote.


“I realize that Chairman Stevens and his staff wanted very much to have a
communications bill pass into law and have been working toward that goal for
some time,” Inouye said.

“Without further improvements that restore
principles of non-discrimination, competition and service will suffer as
network operators begin to dictate the choices available to consumers.”


Stevens and the Republicans are banking on defeating the network neutrality
amendments and daring the Democrats to vote against the overall bill, which
highlights national video franchising to facilitate the entry of competitors
to the pay television market.

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