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Daily Democracy

Ryan Blethen discusses the press, media and democracy. Daily Democracy is part of the Democracy Papers, a series of articles, essays and editorial opinion examining threats to our freedoms of speech and the press.

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May 6, 2008 3:00 PM

Net neutrality hearing

Posted by Ryan Blethen

I dragged myself into work today at 6:30 a.m. to listen to a hearing on a net neutrality bill that is before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The bill follows this entry.

The differing views by the panelists was expected. Those testifying against the bill were people from the telecommunications and cable industries. The opposition also squeezed in an academic from Penn. Those testifying for the bill were consumer advocates, business owners and Hollywood writers.

What I found more interesting were the subcommittee member statements. The partisan divide was glaring. All the Democrats supported the bill and all the Republicans except for the bill's co-sponsor opposed it. (Disclaimer: I did leave my computer to get a drink and might have missed a stray D or R).

The bill was introduced a while back by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Charles Pickering, R-Miss. More interesting than the divide was the language used by the Republicans. It was as if the same person wrote their statements. A number of them compared a net neutrality law to the government's regulation of waterways and railroads. They also used terms like, "undeniable free-market growth," and "drastic alterations."

I am no waterway or railway historian, but I am glad the government did step in and regulate those areas because they are vital components to our nation's infrastructure. The same goes for the Internet. The Internet is more important, though.

A significant part of human interaction and communication has shifted to the Internet. It has become a conduit for free speech and the spread of ideas. Much like the postal system was for early America. The Internet is too precious a resource to completely expose it to the vagaries of the free market.

The bill would not implement massive regulation. What it would do is ensure that the Internet remain a place where innovation and ideas are freely exchange. This issue is too important for the partisan divide that was on display today. The public clearly gets it. It is time the Republicans listened.

Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 (Introduced in House)

HR 5353 IH


2d Session

H. R. 5353
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.


February 12, 2008
Mr. MARKEY (for himself and Mr. PICKERING) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce


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.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008'.


Congress finds the following:

(1) The Internet has had profound benefits for numerous aspects of daily life for millions of people throughout the United States and is increasingly vital to the economy of the United States.

(2) The importance of the broadband marketplace to citizens, communities, and commerce warrants a thorough inquiry to obtain input and ideas for a variety of broadband policies that will promote openness, competition, innovation, and affordable, ubiquitous broadband service for all individuals in the United States.


Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 151 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:


`It is the policy of the United States--

`(1) to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators, as has been the policy and history of the Internet and the basis of user expectations since its inception;

`(2) to ensure that the Internet remains a vital force in the United States economy, thereby enabling the Nation to preserve its global leadership in online commerce and technological innovation;

`(3) to preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of broadband networks that enable consumers to reach, and service providers to offer, lawful content, applications, and services of their choosing, using their selection of devices, as long as such devices do not harm the network; and

`(4) to safeguard the open marketplace of ideas on the Internet by adopting and enforcing baseline protections to guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source, ownership, or destination on the Internet.'.


(a) Internet Freedom Assessment Required-

(1) IN GENERAL- Within 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Communications Commission (in this Act referred to as the `Commission') shall commence a proceeding on broadband services and consumer rights.

(2) SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS- As part of the proceeding under this section, the Commission shall assess--

(A) whether broadband network providers adhere to the Commission's Broadband Policy Statement of August, 2005 (FCC 05-151), including whether, consistent with the needs of law enforcement, such providers refrain from blocking, thwarting, or unreasonably interfering with the ability of consumers to--

(i) access, use, send, receive, or offer lawful content, applications, or services over broadband networks, including the Internet;

(ii) use lawful applications and services of their choice; and

(iii) attach or connect their choice of legal devices to use in conjunction with their broadband telecommunications or information services, provided such devices do not harm the network;

(B) whether broadband network providers add charges for quality of service, or other similar additional fees or surcharges, to certain Internet applications and service providers, and whether such pricing conflicts with the policies of the United States stated in section 12 of the Communications Act of 1934 (as added by section 3 of this Act);

(C) whether broadband network providers offer to consumers parental control protection tools, services to combat unsolicited commercial electronic mail, and other similar consumer services, the manner in which such services are offered, and the extent to which such services are consistent with such policies of the United States;

(D) practices by which network providers manage or prioritize network traffic, including prioritization for emergency communications, and whether and in what instances such practices may be consistent with such policies of the United States;

(E) with respect to content, applications, and services--

(i) the historic economic benefits of an open platform;

(ii) the relationship between competition in the broadband Internet access market and an open platform; and

(iii) the policy choices and results of global competitors with respect to access competition and an open platform;

(F) whether the need for enforceable rules governing openness, consumer rights, and consumer protections or prohibiting unreasonable discrimination is lessened if a broadband network provider provides significantly high bandwidth speeds to consumers; and

(G) the potential of policies promoting openness in spectrum allocation, universal service programs, and video franchising to expand innovation through protection from unreasonable interference by network owners of an open marketplace for speech and commerce in content, applications, and services.

(b) Public Broadband Summits Required-

(1) IN GENERAL- As part of the proceeding required under subsection (a), and within 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commission shall conduct a minimum of 8 public broadband summits, in geographically diverse locations, around the United States. The Commission shall publicly announce the time and location of each such summit at least 30 days in advance.

(2) PURPOSE OF PUBLIC BROADBAND SUMMITS- Such public broadband summits shall seek to bring together, among others, consumers, consumer advocates, small business owners, corporations, venture capitalists, State and local governments, academia, labor organizations, religious organizations, representatives of higher education, primary and secondary schools, public libraries, public safety, and the technology sector to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues related to broadband Internet access services.

(c) Internet Input- As part of the proceeding required under subsection (a), the Commission shall seek to utilize broadband technology to encourage input from and communication with the people of the United States through the Internet in a manner that will maximize the ability of such people to participate in such proceeding.

(d) Report to Congress- Within 90 days after completing the summits under subsection (b), the Commission shall submit a report to Congress--

(1) summarizing the results of the assessment under subsection (a), including information gained from the public summits under subsection (b); and

(2) providing recommendations on how to promote competition, safeguard free speech, and ensure robust consumer protections and consumer choice relating to broadband Internet access services.

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