Declan McCullagh reports on the latest twist in the Net neutrality saga. In this episode, the Democrats efforts to protect consumers and businesses from overreaching by network operators, such as charging content providers additional fees for faster delivery, were turned back by a House Energy and Commerce Committee vote. Yesterday, the CEOs from Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, IAC and eBay sent a letter to the co-chairmen of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with the following plea for neutrality:
We are writing to underscore the importance of an open Internet and to seek your leadership in enacting legislation that preserves the fundamental and critical nature of the Internet.
The open marketplace of the Internet, or what has become known as “network neutrality,” empowers America’s citizenry, fuels our engine of innovation and is central to our global leadership in Internet technology and services. The rules of the road that preserved openness were eliminated last summer by the Federal Communications Commission, and it is critical that Congress moves quickly to reinstate them.
The Internet has succeeded precisely because of these rules, which have prevented network operators from using their control over Internet access to dictate consumers’ Internet experience. Likewise, innovators large and small, as well as investors, have relied on market and regulatory certainty coupled with their own ingenuity to develop new and better online offerings. This “innovation without permission” is, from our perspective, the essence of the Internet.
We call upon you to enact legislation preventing discrimination against the content and services of those not affiliated with network operators and thereby preserve network neutrality. It is our understanding that Senators Snowe and Dorgan plan to introduce legislation that would ensure the Internet remains open and neutral. We commend their effort. We encourage you to include such language in any telecommunications legislation.
Absent such safeguards, the fundamental paradigm of the Internet will be irreparably altered and that most worthy of preservation will be lost. American consumers will lose basic Internet freedoms, the engine of innovation will be hobbled, and our global competitiveness will be compromised.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and other Members of the Committee to re-establish longstanding net neutrality protections.
The Internet is built on a "public interest model" and funded by taxpayers, according to Democratic Representative Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who is sponsoring an amendment to throttle the power of network providers. The opposition thinks that Markey is overrotating--the network operators say they won't surcharge the delivery of content and services over the Internet, but at the same time they say they need to allocate some bandwidth in a pay model so that they continue investing in a higher-speed build out.
What's clear at this point is that the Republican majority and telco/cable lobbyists have the upper hand, and the well-heeled club of high-tech CEOs advocating more firm declarations in the law regarding Net neutrality need to regroup. Grassroots efforts, such as the Net Neutrality Coalition, have an impact, but now the requirement is deeper involvement in helping to elect officials sympathetic to their causes and lots of lobbyist money. Often, it's the money, not the ideologies, that win the day. Just as in the electoral system--big war chests help win votes.