April 6, 2006

Net Neutrality Guarantees Scrapped [8:03 am]

Republicans defeat Net neutrality proposal

A Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Wednesday defeated a proposal that would have levied extensive regulations on broadband providers and forcibly prevented them from offering higher-speed video services to partners or affiliates.

By an 8-to-23 margin, the committee members rejected a Democratic-backed “Net neutrality” amendment to a current piece of telecommunications legislation. The amendment had attracted support from companies including Amazon.com, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, and their chief executives wrote a last-minute letter to the committee on Wednesday saying such a change to the legislation was “critical.”

Before the vote, amendment sponsor Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, assailed his Republican colleagues. “We’re about to break with the entire history of the Internet,” Markey said. “Everyone should understand that.”

[...] “This is not Chicken Little, the sky is not falling, we’re not going to change the direction of the axis of the earth on this vote,” said Rep. John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican. He said overregulatory Net neutrality provisions would amount to picking winners and losers in the marketplace and discourage investment in faster connections that will benefit consumers.

Last week, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton said: “Before we get too far down the road, I want to let the market kind of sort itself out, and I’m not convinced that we really have a problem with Net neutrality.”

[...] A CNET News.com report published last week, however, showed that the Internet industry is being outspent in Washington by more than a 3-to-1 margin.

AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon spent $230.9 million on politicians from 1998 until the present, while Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo spent only a combined $71.2 million. (Those figures include lobbying expenditures, individual contributions, political action committees and soft money.)

Slashdot: Republicans Defeat Net Neutrality Proposal

The Reuters news article in the WaPo pushes another angle: US House panel backs help for telcos on TV service

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet voted 27-4 to allow companies to apply for a nationwide license to offer video service, instead of the current process in which they must negotiate with thousands of cities for individual licenses.

[...] Democrats offered numerous amendments, including provisions aimed at preventing Internet service providers from favoring certain content over others and require new video providers to build out their service to ensure poor areas are not left out.

Most were defeated by the Republicans who have a majority on the panel, including the Internet neutrality amendment. But lawmakers approved by voice vote a provision requiring high- speed Internet providers to sell the service without tying it with voice or other products.

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