Senators grapple with Net neutrality

Senators grapple with Net neutrality

Summary: Several are troubled by prospect of infrastructure providers charging content providers, shutting down innovators.


Some highlights from's coverage of the Senate hearings on Net neutrality:

  • Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said at the hearing that he plans to introduce a bill that "will make sure all information (transmitted over broadband networks) is made available on the same terms so that no bit is better than another one." The provisions would bar broadband providers from favoring one company's site over another (for example, he said, J. Crew over L.L. Bean), from giving their own content preferential treatment and from creating "private networks that are superior to the Internet access they offer consumers generally."
  • Referring to a recent Washington Post report in which a Verizon executive said Google and others shouldn't expect to enjoy a "free lunch" on its pipes, Sen. Byron Dorgan said such reasoning was flawed. "It is not a free lunch...(broadband subscribers have) already paid the monthly toll...Those lines and that access is being paid for by the consumer."
  • "We risk losing the Internet as a catalyst for consumer choice, for economic growth, for technological innovation and for global competitiveness," Vint Cerf of Google said.
  • Vonage CEO Jeffrey Citron told senators that his company, a major voice over Internet Protocol provider, has firsthand experience with impediments caused by lack of network neutrality. The firm has accused several smaller telecommunications companies of blocking its services. He urged the committee to consider laws that would supply "legal recourse" for companies that face such discrimination.
  • "The fact is that our regulations and our laws need to be modernized to reflect the realities of technology today to create more incentives for companies to invest so that we have those broadband networks that are higher quality, that are faster, that give consumers more competition," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who introduced a generally pro-business, deregulatory broadband bill last summer that has not yet been taken up for debate.


Topics: Broadband, Networking

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  • One broadband world for all

    Well said, senator. If you paid to run your car you expect to have the same access to the roads as everyone else. So if you paid for broadband why should someone else then decide you are a second class citizen and should get a poorer service? The problem is with the network suppliers, who still do not know what business they are in. They sell broadband, which is just capacity, but want to stop VOIP because they still charge a wild premium for voice. And they are still hunting for a value-added service they can deliver, but don't know what it is.
    • Well, not exactly...

      On the surface, this proposal seems like a good idea, but there's a little more to the issue than whether or not it is fair for an ISP or backbone to degrade service to competitors that are transitting its network.

      While I would be very unhappy to see service to Vonage, Google, etc. relegated to second rate service because some ISP is seeking to provide preferential treatment to a competitor's product, the way this proposal is worded is a little frightening. What happens when an ISP decides to blacklist a spammer's network to protect its mail servers? You are now providing degraded service to the spammer's traffic, and from the descriptions of this proposal that I have read, this would be a no-no. Or, suppose an ISP is providing VoIP or other services that require QoS decisions to its customers? In that case, web, e-mail, FTP, etc. *should* be a lower priority traffic--adding a few milliseconds to this traffic won't even be noticed 99% of the time, but delay VoIP or streaming media traffic due to network congestion and the service becomes almost unusable.

      ISP's and backbone providers *have* to have the flexibility to provide varying levels of service to different types of traffic. If they are not, this cure could well be worse than the problem it is intended to solve. For now, I would rather let public and market pressures influence how ISPs handle the bits on their network. If your ISP provides crappy service to traffic that is important to you, write them a letter telling them so, and find a new provider.