Main | Wednesday, September 23, 2009

GOP Fights Net Neutrality

GOP senators are lining up to oppose net neutrality, legislation from the FCC that would prevent internet service providers from favoring their own web applications over those of their competitors, including wireless providers. In other words, all customers should be able to access all available content at the same speed. Major telecom companies, who often operate both broadband and wireless networks, oppose the legislation, preferring a tiered pricing system which many believe would stifle competition and innovation. Because naturally, telecoms would give pricing, speed, and access preferences to companies they own.
Six Republican senators have introduced an amendment that would block the Federal Communications Commission from implementing its recently announced Net neutrality policy. Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced the amendment to an appropriations bill. It would prevent the FCC from getting funding for any initiative to uphold Net neutrality. According to The Hill, the co-sponsors are Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). The move appears to be an attempt to pre-empt the FCC's expected new policy to ensure that Internet service providers don't discriminate between different types of information on their networks.

On Monday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech in which he outlined the FCC's plan to enforce Net neutrality, a position President Barack Obama held during his campaign for president. In recent years, concern has grown that some Internet service providers are slowing down "access to high speed Internet for things like Internet-based voice calls, video streaming, and legal file sharing (that carriers might wish to block or at least charge extra for)," writes Ian Paul at PCWorld magazine. While Net neutrality is supported by Internet-reliant companies such as Google and Microsoft, it is opposed by major Internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. Those three have come out against Genachowski's plan, ChannelWeb reports.
I can understand the desire to throttle individuals eating up extraordinary amounts of bandwidth, (particularly BitTorrent users), which is already done in many countries. Last year Comcast imposed a 250GB monthly usage cap for its residential customers. Exceed that limit twice in six months and you irrevocably lose your internet access for one year. Bandwidth isn't free. And much like heavier cars are more expensive to register because they literally use up more of the road, it does make some sense to charge heavy web users more than others.

But it's obvious that the real intent of the GOP and their amendment is to further line the pockets of their big-ticket telecom donors. That will happen at the expense of game changers like eBay's Skype, Google's YouTube, or anybody else with high-bandwidth applications that telecoms don't own.

This fight's been going on a long time and here's a classic from 2006, featuring all your favorite early stars of the web. This song still kills me.

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