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Net Neutrality Fails in the House

Net Neutrality Fails in the House
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Jun 9, 2006 10:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
WASHINGTON – The idea of maintaining an even playing field for all Internet services offered to consumers took a nosedive in the U.S. House of Representatives late Thursday.

In a 58-211 vote, with Republicans taking the lead, the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act was firmly rejected, signaling to broadband providers that they can forge ahead with creating a two-tiered Internet and are in no way obligated to treat all Internet traffic in a nondiscriminatory price manner.

The COPE Act, proposed by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., aimed to restrict the major broadband providers from being able to offer varying pricing structures to consumers based on different access speeds.

The rejection of the bill also sends a direct message to the Federal Communication Commission that it can no longer maintain regulatory control over Internet services. The FCC can now only deal with case-by-case allegations of network neutrality violations.

"Unfortunately, the House voted today to protect the big phone and cable companies at the expense of preserving an open Internet," the It's Our Net Coalition said in a statement. "We are not surprised at the outcome, but we are disappointed that the House has abandoned net neutrality."

Network neutrality has been a hot-button issue lately and has spurred support from Internet giants such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon.com, The Christian Coalition, National Religious Broadcasters and Gun Owners of America. Even the founder of the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee, stepped forward to voice his disdain for giving Internet service and broadband providers the right to create an Internet “fast lane.”

“If Congress guts net neutrality, independent music and news sites would be choked off, consumer choice would be limited and the Internet will become a private toll road auctioned off by companies like AT&T,” recording artist Moby said in a statement read on Capitol Hill.

Google President Sergey Brin met with lawmakers prior to the House vote expressing his desire for the enforcement of net neutrality.

“The only way you can have a fast lane that is useful — that people will pay a premium for — is if there are slow lanes,” Brin said. “The thesis is that some content providers will pay for premium service. Why are they paying? I assume they are paying because otherwise they would have worse performance, or maybe it won’t really work.”

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