Democrats Push 'Net Neutrality

From Variety, the most hopeful news I’ve heard all year (the whole 10 days):

Democrats push ‘Net neutrality

Internet Freedom Preservation Act is introduced


WASHINGTON — Democrats, who all but sank major communications reform
legislation in the previous congressional session over the issue of
so-called ‘Net neutrality, marked the first day of the new Congress by
introducing a bill that will mandate ‘Net neutrality, which is intended
to guarantee the equal accessibility and flow of content over the
Internet.

The
Internet Freedom Preservation Act, sponsored by Sens. Byron Dorgan
(D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), "would ensure that broadband
service providers do not discriminate against Internet content,
applications or services by offering preferential treatment," according
to a statement by Dorgan.

Without a federal mandate for ‘Net
neutrality, Dorgan said, broadband providers could be "gatekeepers
capable of deciding which content can get through to consumers, and
which content providers could get special deals, faster speeds and
better access to the consumer."

The bill "marks another step
toward ensuring the fate of the Internet lies in the hands of its users
and not the hands of a few gatekeepers," Snowe said in a statement.
"The tide has turned in the debate between those who seek to maintain
equality and those who would benefit from the creation of a toll road
on the Internet superhighway."

Last year, the GOP-controlled
Senate tried to move a massive communications reform bill that included
changes to national video franchising rules. Democrats tried but failed
to attach a ‘Net neutrality amendment to the bill while still in
committee. While some Republicans supported their effort, Democrats
took the lead in threatening a filibuster should the bill come to a
floor vote without any provisions for ‘Net neutrality. As a result, the
bill never made it to the floor.

Legislation requires broadband
service providers to operate networks in a nondiscriminatory manner,
while leaving them free to protect the security of the network or offer
different levels of broadband connection to users.

Consumer
groups hailed the bill. "This bill will help ensure that consumers will
continue to enjoy the competitive and affordable services that
broadband has brought them and that big telecommunications companies
cannot use their networks to hinder consumers’ access to those
services," said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst at Consumers
Union, in a statement.

Opponents of ‘Net neutrality say a federal
mandate is a solution in search of a problem "that doesn’t exist," said
Peter Davidson, Verizon senior VP for federal government relations.

"Most
policymakers will focus on how to increase broadband deployment, and
wonder how ‘Net regulation advances that goal," Davidson added. "It’s
ironic that this bill is introduced at the same time the Consumer
Electronics Show is filling the news with broadband-enabled
innovations. There is a disconnect between consumers’ desires for new
products and services and the stifling effects of this bill."

Both
the Motion Picture Assn. of American and the Recording Industry Assn.
of America declined to comment on the bill. Officials at the MPAA have
said that member companies are still split over whether ‘Net neutrality
will be good or bad for business.

Co-sponsors of the bill include
Dem Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Tom Harkin
(Iowa), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama
(Ill.).

A Very Big Deal indeed.  Call/write/e-mail your congressfolk and let them know you want them to support this baby.

About Jon Frater

A gaming industry stalwart dating back to the 1980s, Jonathan Frater is the co-author of roleplaying game books Robotech: Return of the Masters, and Robotech Adventures: Lancer's Rockers, both for Palladium Books. Jonathan also wrote a column on writing and game design called The Tome in Gateways magazine. He's currently a librarian at Metropolitan College of New York. Article 9, the first in his ambitious Blockade Trilogy, is Jonathan's first full-length novel.

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