Just got off a conference call with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).
Earlier today, Senator Wyden introduced the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006 - popularly called the Net Neutrality Act.
We have all 15 pages of this act posted in a Gallery. Here's the link.
Before I include comments from the conference call, some basic facts about the Act.
The Act's key principles include:
- Preventing interfering with, blocking, degrading, altering, modifying or changing traffic on the Internet;
- Prohibiting creation of a priority lane where content providers can buy quicker access to customers, while those who don’t pay the fee are left in the slow lane;
- Allowing consumers to choose which devices they use to connect to the Internet while they are on the Internet;
- Ensuring that consumers have non-discriminatory access and service;
- Having a transparent system whereby consumers, Internet content, and applications companies have access to the rates, terms, and conditions for Internet service.
Here are some of Sen. Wyden's comments to journalists, including myself:
On the legislation's intent:
This legislation is designed to make sure the country doesn't face an information superhighway strewn with discriminatory hurdles.
Communications companies like Verizon would change the nature of the Internet. The Internet to me stands for equality stands for freedom, and that equal content gets equal kind of treatment. What we do say you cannot make equal content subject to discriminatory treatment.
On the argument that network service providers "built" the Internet because of the expenses they incurred for construction and upkeep- and have a right to charge extra for heavy users of their services;
(Consumers) are already paying to get access to bandwidth. You kind of get the sense big network operators are saying we built he network we own the network. What I am saying no, consumers built network subscribers built the network, they paying for it.
On types of favoritism the Act would allow and prohibit:
My legislation is still going to allow the purchase of higher speed for additional money just like overnight delivery at the post office. But we are in favor of equal content. I am going to allow discriminatory treatment. I am not going to allow a network operator to say a person who buys on line for J.Crrew can stay on hold for five minutes, and where they make the Banana Republic customer wait 30 minutes.
On the argument some are advancing that enacting net neutrality rules will stifle capital investment in new and emerging Internet and telecommunications technologies:
Discrimination is going to stifle the risk of innovation.
On the timing he sees for this legislation going forward:
The Senate is in a very fluid situation. This is a short year because of the election, but a couple of decisions will be made in the next few weeks. A large telecommunication package moves forward, and we are going to try to make sure net neutrality to be part of that legislation.
I then asked Senator Wyden a question about how the bill would protect consumers against covert discrimination - such as server outages and port blocking of content from sources that do not pay fees broadband providers want.
We think we get at the hidden obstacles. There are provisions against degrading or modifying traffic. There are scores of ways in which network operators could find potential ways to make like difficult for least favorite consumers.
There are a host of examples about stealth obstacles. Those stealth barriers could be a problem. Hearings on the legislation will (discuss) how to excavate and on cover as many as we can. A key provision that says we can make sure (telecom providers) cannot block and degrade traffic will be helpful.
Supporters of the Internet Non-Discrimination Act include nearly a dozen consumer and technology interests including eBay-Skype, pulver.com and Consumers Union. <!--[endif]-->