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
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
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.”