Rep. Ed Markey plans to introduce a network neutrality bill within the next two weeks, according to a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Democrat. The bill will be "very similar" to the unsuccessful network neutrality legislation introduced by Markey in 2006, the spokesperson said Nov. 28.
Markeys 2006 bill would have prohibited broadband carriers such as AT&T and Comcast from charging Internet content, application and service providers extra fees based on bandwidth consumption, a practice that network regulation proponents said amounts to price discrimination.
The then-Republican majorities in the House and Senate kept the measure from getting to a floor vote. However, since then the Democrats have regained control of both chambers and AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Comcast have given network neutrality supporters ample fodder to rekindle the debate over the issue.
In August, AT&T censored portions of a Pearl Jam Web cast critical of President Bush. A month later Verizon Wireless was caught blocking text messages from the pro-abortion group NARAL Pro Choice America, a decision it quickly rescinded. Earlier this month, Comcast was hit with a lawsuit and a Federal Communications Commission complaint contending the cable company slows or cuts off peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like BitTorrent and Gnutella.
While none of the three incidents involved discriminatory pricing, the FCC has established network principles stating consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice, in addition to running applications and services of their choice.
The FCC principles also say consumers have the right to plug in and run legal devices of their choice to wireline broadband networks. The FCC also said consumers have a right to competition among network providers, application and service providers and content providers.
None of the principles, though, have the force of law.
The Markey spokesperson said that following the bills introduction, hearings will be held early next year by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, where Markey serves as chairman.
"Ed Markey deserves praise for leading the charge on net neutrality in the House," Adam Green, a spokesperson for Moveon.org, said in an e-mail statement to eWEEK. "Every time AT&T has another Pearl Jam censorship moment or Verizon has another NARAL censorship moment, thousands of net neutrality supporters will flood Congress with phone calls asking their representative to support Markeys net neutrality push."
Art Brodsky, communications director at Public Knowledge, which has long supported network neutrality laws, took a more cautious approach to Markeys bill.
"We would love to see whatever Congressman Markey introduces," Brodsky told eWEEK. "[Our support] depends on what the bill actually says."
In the Senate, Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced network neutrality legislation shortly after the 110th Congress began in January. The bill has yet to have a hearing.
After Dorgan and Snowe introduced their legislation, the Department of Justice said in a Sept. 6 filing with the FCC that lawmakers should not rush into "premature legislation" of the Internet. The DOJ filing followed a June 27 report from the Federal Trade Commission also advising Congress to move cautiously on any laws involving network neutrality.
In a statement issued with the report, FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said the broadband market is moving toward more—not less—competition.
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