New Bill Reignites Net Neutrality Debate


With Comcast blocking BitTorrent (and staunchly defending its right to do so today), AT&T’s ideas about monitoring your traffic and a raft of other ISPs including provisions in their terms of service that allow anti-P2P measures, suddenly Net Neutrality is a hot topic again. Taking up the cause against Big Broadband is Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey. Yesterday he introduced the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act 2008,” which explores the issue of Net Neutrality. Yet there doesn’t seem to be consensus as to what the bill actually proposes to do.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “The bill would give the Federal Communications Commission more authority to police Internet providers to make sure they’re delivering traffic fairly.” But Multichannel News reports that the measure places more emphasis on data collection by the FCC and would not grant the commission any power to regulate broadband providers.

As it was only introduced yesterday, the contents of the bill had not made their way to for further review. Though the information that was available seems to indicate the bill is more about data collection:

To establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services, and for other purposes.

If they’re right, that’s too bad, because we are at a crucial juncture in the Net Neutrality debate and we need something with teeth. Between streaming and multiple downloading options, including BitTorrent, consumers have more ways than ever to bypass oldteevee. Recognizing this, cable companies like Time Warner, which have an incentive to keep you tethered to your coaxial, are experimenting with usage-based Internet pricing models, as well as the aforementioned traffic-shaping measures.

In response to petitions filed by and Vuze, the FCC is holding an open hearing in Boston this month to look at the issue of Net Neutrality. It could be the first of many. But maybe we could have a little less hearing and a little more doing.

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