Stirring the pot on net neutrality

Things are heating up.  First there were news reports and a flurry of  blog commentary.  Now the discussion has moved to Capitol Hill.

Two members of the U.S. Senate have taken notice of Comcast’s aggressive “network management” techniques that have blocked programs for legitimate users. (See my earlier posts on this topic).  They are also wondering about censorship of cell phone content by some telecom providers.

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snow (R-ME) have called for a congressional investigation.  They said that

the incidents involving several companies, including Comcast Corp., Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc., have raised serious concerns over the companies’ “power to discriminate against content.”

They want the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee to investigate whether such incidents were based on legitimate business policies or unfair and anticompetitive practices and if more federal regulation is needed.

The two lawmakers have written a letter to the Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chair of the Senate committee, asking for a thorough investigation by his committee.  Their concern is that while the telecoms and cable companies have previously argued against regulations to protect consumers as being unnecessary, there may now be a demonstrated need for new legislation based on these recent incidents.

  “The phone and cable companies have previously stated that they would never use their market power to operate as content gatekeepers and have called efforts to put rules in place to protect consumers ‘a solution in search of a problem,” the letter states.

Equal treatment of all content has been basic to the internet since its inception.  In the past, phone companies have not attempted to censor content.  But now recent incidents seem to suggest a trend in the other direction.

An Associated Press report on Oct. 19 detailed how Comcast Corp. was interfering with file sharing by some of its Internet subscribers. The AP found instances in some areas of the country where traffic was blocked or delayed significantly.

and then this:

Verizon Wireless in late September denied a request by Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to use its mobile network for a sign-up text messaging program.

There seems to be a pattern here — one that certainly warrants a Congressional investigation and some additional regulations to protect consumers.   I hope that more members of Congress will pay attention to this issue.  It definitely warrants lawmakers’ attention.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/22hz7r

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