The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Net Neutrality suffers committee defeat

In a near party-line vote on the senate Commerce Committee, potential legislation providing for Net Neutrality was defeated 11-11. Maine Republican Olympia Snow was the lone Republican to side with Democrats, and several of her fellow GOP committee members have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in telecom cash.

It's going to be a close vote if this heads to the floor, with both sides acknowledging that they don't have a clear majority.

The underlying telecommunications bill (S. 2686) would establish a consumer-centric Internet bill of rights and would include up to $500,000 in fines meted out by the Federal Communications Commission. But the bill would not allow the FCC to write net neutrality regulations to govern the actions of broadband access providers, an approach adopted in a House-passed bill (H.R. 5252).

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who is sponsoring the telecom bill, argued that net neutrality regulation would address a problem that did not exist.

"The regulatory approach is wrong," Stevens said, adding that discriminatory conduct has not been documented. "Right now, that's not the case."

The disingenuousness of Stevens' argument is astounding. The idea of Net Neutrality is to prevent regulation of the Internet by service providers, and what would amount to collusion between telecoms to charge for access to various sites.

MyDD has a list of the committee members and their votes. The question is how many Democrats will defect when it hits the floor. The telecoms have been spreading their cash pretty freely, but pressure to support Net Neutrality is on from the right and the left. It's going to be about spreading the word and, unfortunately, trying to get senators to side with principal instead of corporate cash.

UPDATE (6/29): A poster at Daily Kos wrote yesterday that Senator Ron Wyden "announced this afternoon that he has placed a "hold" on the telecommunciations legislation just passed by the Commerce Committee until clear language is included in the legislation that prevents discrimination in Internet access," which "is basically a signal of intent to filibuster." At least there's going to be a fight.