[LINK] US upholds net neutrality for content distribution on networks

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Fri Nov 11 10:36:57 AEDT 2011

Senate rejects GOP bid to overturn Internet rules

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Democrats on Thursday turned back a 
Republican attempt to repeal federal rules designed to prevent 
Internet service providers from discriminating against those who send 
content and other services over their networks.

Republicans argued that "net neutrality" rules announced by the 
Federal Communications Commission last December were another example 
of federal regulatory overreach that would stifle Internet investment 
and innovation.

But Democrats, and the White House in a veto threat, said repealing 
the FCC rules would imperil openness and freedom on the Internet. "It 
would be ill-advised to threaten the very foundations of innovation 
in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the 
Internet a force for social progress around the world," the White House said.

The vote to against taking up the bill, along party lines, was 52-46.

The rules, approved 3-2 with the three FCC Democrats in favor and the 
two Republicans opposed, tried to find a middle ground between phone 
and cable companies desiring more control over their networks and the 
content providers wanting unfettered access to the Internet.

The rules bar service providers from favoring or discriminating 
against Internet content and services, including online calling 
services such as Skype and Web video services such as Netflix, that 
could compete with their core operations. They require broadband 
providers to let subscribers access all legal online content and 
prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any websites or 
competing services.

The House, where Republicans command a majority, voted last April to 
repeal the rules, saying the FCC lacked the authority to set Internet 
policy and that there was no need for the federal government to 
intervene in an already open Internet. They said the rules would 
stifle investment in broadband systems.

The rules, said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, are "a stunning 
reversal from a hands-off approach to the Internet that federal 
policymakers have taken for more than a decade."

She brought up the resolution under the Congressional Review Act, 
which allows lawmakers to challenge regulations issued by federal 
agencies. The rules are scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 20.

The FCC, said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., "would rule as a de facto 
police of the open and free Internet."

But Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman 
Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the resolution was misguided. "It will 
add uncertainty to the economy. It will hinder small businesses 
dependent on fair broadband access. It will undermine innovation. It 
will hamper investment in digital commerce."

Without a free Internet he said, "there would be nothing to prevent 
Internet service providers from charging users a premium in order to 
guarantee operation in the `fast lane.'"

The rules give providers flexibility to manage data to deal with 
network congestion as long as they publicly disclose those practices. 
They do not specifically ban higher charges for faster transmission 
of data, but do outlaw "unreasonable network discrimination."

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said those trying to overturn the rules say 
they want to "liberate the Internet when, in fact, what they want to 
do is imprison the Internet within the hands of the most powerful 
communications entities today to act as the gatekeepers."

Rockefeller and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., another backer of the FCC 
rules, cited a letter to the FCC chairman written before the rules 
were finalized saying that "a process that results in commonsense 
baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a 
key engine of economic growth, innovation and global 
competitiveness." Among the signees were the CEOs of Google, Inc., 
Amazon.com, Netflix, Inc., Facebook, YouTube and eBay, Inc.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
blog: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com

Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or 
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer

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