Net Neutrality Amendment Dies but Issue Won’t

Despite activist and Web industry outcries to protect Net neutrality, the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday voted down a Democratic-backed Net neutrality amendment by a 34-22 vote. However, according to a CNET News story, “The final version of the telecommunications bill does include some Net neutrality regulations, including charging the FCC with investigating any ‘violation’ of fair treatment principles. In a case last year dealing with Vonage, the FCC already took action against a broadband provider accused of interfering with Internet phone calls.”

Evidently, some believe Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey’s amendment didn’t go far enough to prevent the potential two-tier system by which ISPs could charge fees for delivery of certain broadband content. Not surprising, lots of Web publishers have gotten their dander up over this one. A letter sent to Energy and Commerce committee chairmen March 1 by an array of Web firms stated, “While it is appropriate for Congress to develop new legislation to promote competition among broadband networks, it must also ensure that consumers and providers continue to have the right to use those networks to send and receive content, and to use applications and services, without interference by network operators.” Signatories included behemoths like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Ebay, as well as littler guys like Match.com, Travelocity, Evite and IWon (‘member them? I never won….)

Evidently, according to the CNET story, “a pair of U.S. senators is circulating a draft bill that adopts stiff Net neutrality regulations. It’s backed by Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and takes largely the same approach as the Markey amendment.”

Interesting to note, the Save the Internet Coalition is heartened by yesterday’s vote. Here’s how they see it, according to their blog: “Ok, so the vote on the Markey amendment to protect the internet has happened, and it was voted down, 34-22. That is a big deal. It’s too bad we lost the vote, but we expected that loss. What we did not expected was the narrow margin. By way of comparison, the subcommittee vote was 23-8, which means we should have gotten blown out of the water.”

Like pretty much every other legislative issue, this one ain’t gonna die anytime soon. There are way too many powerful players lobbying on both sides of it.

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