Senate Committee Passes on Net Neutrality

Michael Hayes
WASHINGTON — The Senate Commerce Committee released draft legislation Monday that addresses a range of issues facing the telecom industry, but omits any mention of Net neutrality.

The Senate’s decision to leave Net neutrality to further study by the FCC comes on the heels of an unsuccessful bid by House Democrats to amend the House Energy and Commerce bill to force the telecom companies to provide unbiased billing for Internet traffic.

Net neutrality, which has the support of companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.com, stands for the proposition that ISPs not be able to favor one type of traffic over another under any circumstances.

“We cannot ignore concerns about the potential for discrimination by network operators, but the [Senate] draft appears to do just that by failing to create enforceable protections that will ensure network neutrality,” Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said.

While Inouye plans to address the substantive failings of the bill — namely the omission of a Net neutrality provision — support for that position will run headlong into opposition from major Internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon.

Without net neutrality, ISPs would be free to charge sites that eat up bandwidth — notably sites that offer video.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alas.), who chairs the committee, plans to hold two hearings in the coming weeks on the legislation. Hearings that Inouye will use to voice his concerns over net neutrality.

“Now that the [Republican] draft is no longer a secret, we can begin a full review of the bill and address the many issues important to me and my colleagues,” Inouye said.