New Congress Likely To Support Net Neutrality - InformationWeek

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11/17/2006
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New Congress Likely To Support Net Neutrality

Congressional Democrats are backing net neutrality legislation.

Internet neutrality proponents believe that the recent change in Congress is likely to boost their efforts to push legislation that would prohibit tiered access to the Internet.

SaveTheInternet lobbied to stop telecommunications and cable companies from setting higher prices for improved speed and access to some customers. The group said election results have catapulted their efforts forward.

"The outlook for better, more public-spirited Internet legislation is now quite good," the group said through a prepared statement.

In fact, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who proposed legislation supporting their cause, is set to lead telecommunications policy for the House majority in 2007. So is U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who said he would propose a telecommunications reform bill with public interest and net neutrality in mind.

Dingell is positioned to take over as the chair of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, which held hearings on the issue during the last congressional session. The committee presides over telecommunications and Internet policies. Markey will chair a subcommittee devoted exclusively to those issues.

SaveTheInternet also sees hope in the U.S. Senate, where all representatives who supported net neutrality were re-elected and several challengers who came out in favor of the issue were also elected.

Telecommunications companies have formed an alliance with other business and technology partners to oppose net neutrality legislation in a Hands Off The Internet campaign. They want the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) to regulate Internet service providers and some have argued for the ability to provide tiered access, which would allow high-density users to pay extra for premium services. They argue that the revenue is needed to improve broadband networks and that government should not legislate the growth of the Internet.

Amazon.com, eBay, Google, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Microsoft and Yahoo! are among the major technology companies supporting net neutrality. The battle was fought over amendments to the Communications Opportunity, Promotions and Enhancement Act of 2006, but issue stalled when members of Congress began campaigning.

The major telecommunications bill, which would have put the F.C.C. in charge of monitoring for unfair practices and pricing, languished in the Senate. Now, the Republican-backed bill is likely to die or undergo major revisions.

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