Markey’s Network-Neutrality Bill Would Enshrine Open Access
Details of House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman’s Draft
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/13/2008 4:41:00 AM
According to a draft of House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey's (D- Mass.) new network-neutrality bill, it would enshrine open-access principles in the law, require the Federal Communications Commission to establish "baseline" open-access rules and call for the FCC to launch within 90 days of enactment a proceeding into broadband services and their impact on consumers and to hold a series of broadband "summits" with plenty of prior notice.
The bill would add the following to the Communications Act: 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.”
While the language is general and open to interpretation, section No. 4 would appear to direct the FCC to turn its current open-access guidelines into rules -- something it has been reluctant to do, at least on the Republican side.
The FCC proceeding mandated by Markey's bill would include whether network operators abide by the FCC's openness policy statement -- although they would presumably be more like rules per section No. 4 above -- whether networks should be able to charge service providers more for "quality of service," whether parents have parental-control tools, how networks prioritize traffic and a number of other issues.
The FCC would also have to hold at least eight summits in geographically diverse locations, with at least 30 days’ public notice, then summarize the results in a report to Congress.
The FCC held a series of geographically diverse meetings on media-ownership issues, but the agency caught flak from Markey and commission Democrats for what they said was lack of timely notification.
Markey introduced a network-neutrality bill in the last, Republican-controlled Congress, but it did not go anywhere.
The FCC is currently investigating complaints about broadband-network management against Comcast and Verizon Communications, and it opened a general inquiry into network-management practices, including heading to Harvard for a Feb. 26 en banc public meeting that will include a panel discussion on the topic.
Net Neutrality activists at SavetheInternet.com Wednesday sent out an e-mail soliciting support for the bill,. including an imbedded video featuring Markey pushing for that support.
On the other side of the issue NetCompetition.org, which is backed by cable and telecom companies called it a "wolf in sheeps clothing" or more specifically Internet regulation in the guise of Internet freedom. "Congress knows that the free market, not government red tape, is the real secret sauce behind American innovation leadership in the world," said NetCompetition.org Chairman Scott Cleland.
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