Net neutrality takes center stage in Congress

Net neutrality, the often-contentious issue that killed last year’s Congressional rewrite of telecom legislation, is back on the agenda of the new Congress. Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) last week reintroduced legislation designed to ensure that the Internet remains equally open and accessible to all consumers and competitors.

The proposed network neutrality bill is expected to trigger a new round of fierce lobbying over Internet regulation, extending last year’s telecommunications debate into this year.

In the Senate, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act is intended to restrict high-speed Internet service providers from discriminating against competitors by offering preferential treatment for a fee.

On the House side, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the National Journal last week that passing network neutrality legislation would be a “high priority” this year. He also predicted that, under Democrat control of Congress, there would be major telecommunications legislation in 2007.

The latest developments on the net neutrality came less than two weeks after AT&T agreed to abide by network neutrality regulations for two years as a condition of its merger with BellSouth.