Neutrality opponents start the battle anew

After being mothballed during the summer recess, Net neturality debate is on again, with networking and communications companies calling for a neutrality-free telecom law.

The Net Neutrality debate is picking up steam as Congress tries to get a a few last things done before the November elections. Towards that end, high-tech manufacturers conducted a press conference Tuesday to support passage of the Senate's telecom overhaul bill without net neutrality provisions, News.com reports.

At a press conference here, more than a dozen representatives from companies like Corning, Tyco and Motorola urged the U.S. Senate to pass a massive communications bill--attacked by Net neutrality fans for failing to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment of Internet content--as soon as possible.

Supporters claim the bill would drive down consumer prices by allowing phone companies and cable companies to fight out the digital video market.

"There are a lot of good things in this bill," Tim Regan, a vice president with fiber optic cable manufacturer Corning Inc., said of the Senate's efforts. "Let's not let this get tied up over the most contentious thing out there, which is Net neutrality."

Trying to fight back the groundswell of support for neutrality regs, Senate Republicans released a poll of voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which found that 91 percent of respondents had never heard of Net neutrality, although 78 percent said it was important to enact a "consumer bill of rights" - the language Sen. Ted Stevens uses for the modest protections his bill offers.

Meanwhile, 100 networking and communications companies signed a letter saying it's "too soon to enact network neutrality legislation" - as if it were a radical idea instead of the way the network has run for 40 years.

An aide to [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist said Tuesday that it remains unclear when a vote will be scheduled. She said Frist is still waiting on Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, the communications bill's chief sponsor, to confirm he has the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster.