A second House bill emerges as the time for action slips away.
With scant time left in the 110th
Congress and no apparent
interest in network neutrality in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Rep. John Conyers,
D-Mich., reintroduced May 7 the Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act.
The bill would prohibit broadband network providers from charging some
companies extra fees to run content at the same speed and quality as the
network owner's own content or the content of favored providers.
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The legislation is the same as introduced in the 109th
and the only network neutrality bill to date to win a favorable vote either in
a committee or floor vote. Co-sponsoring the bill with Conyers is Rep. Zoe Lofgren,
The bill seeks to add an antitrust provision to the law prohibiting
discrimination in handling network traffic. It would require broadband
providers such as AT&T or Comcast to interconnect with the facilities of
other network providers on a "reasonable and nondiscriminatory
It also requires broadband providers to operate their networks so that all
content, applications and services are treated the same and have an equal
opportunity to reach consumers.
"Americans have come to expect the Internet to be open to everyone. The
Internet was designed without centralized control, without gatekeepers for
content and services," Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
said in a statement. "If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power
to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to
choose what content is available."
Lofgren added in the same statement, "We need a meaningful remedy to
prevent those who control the infrastructure of the Internet from controlling
the content on the Internet. This legislation will help guarantee that the
innovative spirit of the Internet is not trampled."
In 2006, Conyers and then committee chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner,
R-Wis., introduced the same legislation and won a 20-13 committee vote to move
the bill forward. It never made it to the House floor for a vote. That same
year, Rep. Ed Markey, D.-Mass., unsuccessfully tried to get a network
neutrality bill through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The same
effort failed on the House floor.
Similar legislation failed in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation in 2006. Sponsors Sen. Byron Dorgan, D.-N.D., and Sen. Olympia
Snowe, R-Maine, reintroduced the legislation in 2007, but the bill has yet to
even have a hearing. Markey has also introduced
a network neutrality bill that would enshrine the Federal Communications
Commission's network neutrality principles as law.
Click here to read more about Markey's net neutrality bill based on FCC principles.
Despite the fact the Conyers' bill has little chance of gaining
congressional approval before lawmakers call it quits and focus on the fall
national elections, public advocacy groups rushed to praise the legislation.
"The future of the Internet as we know it depends on maintaining the
freedom and openness online that we have always enjoyed. Congress must step in
to defend the open Internet," Ben Scott, policy director of media reform
organization Free Press, said in a statement.
Gigi Sohn, co-founder and president of public interest
group Public Knowledge, said the bill "squarely addresses the issue of the
enormous market power of the telephone and cable companies as the providers of
98 percent of the broadband service in the country."