10.12.2009 08:10 AM
Net neutrality support split along party lines

Republican members of Congress — trying to throw up roadblocks against strong Democratic support —called for “market analysis” before proposing any network neutrality regulations

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-FL, the ranking member on the House Communications Subcommittee, joined by a dozen and a half House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans, wrote to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski suggesting a delay in his Oct. 22 meeting on net neutrality.

The Republicans want the FCC to identify specific practices they believe warrant “regulatory intervention,” saying that the possibility of discrimination should not be a sufficient trigger. They also suggest the FCC should wait until it has completed mapping of broadband availability and has “seen the results of the stimulus plan.” That would mean a lengthy delay — perhaps years.

Democrats and consumer organizations immediately took on the Republicans. Sen. Al Franken, D-MN, said Internet service providers use “network management” as code for “finding ways to squeeze more cash out of their networks.”

Borrowing language from the Civil Rights movement, Franken said he was concerned that a system where big companies paid for prioritized traffic would divide the Web into a system of “separate but unequal networks.”

There are two main issues: censorship and innovation, said Franken. He called out Comcast, AT&T and Verizon for engaging in censorship, likening them to Internet filterers in Iran.

Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said the latest House Republican letter asking for the FCC to slow action on preserving an open, nondiscriminatory Internet is simply another delaying tactic by those who favor big telecom and cable companies over competition and innovation.

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