The bill, which was introduced Tuesday on the Senate floor, is the brainchild of Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who is one of the few Republicans to come out in favor of net neutrality.
“The success of the Internet has been its openness and the ability of anyone anywhere in this country to go on the Internet and reach the world,” Dorgan said. “If the big interests who control the pipes become gatekeepers who erect tolls, it will have a significant impact on the Internet as we know it.”
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said he planned to introduce similar legislation soon in the House. He also said he would hold hearings on the issue in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, which he chairs.
Net neutrality has been a hot button issue since before the 2006 midterm elections, with companies such as Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon squaring off against telecommunications giants that include Verizon, AT&T and Comcast over proposals to charge different rates for bandwidth intensive content.
Prior to the midterm election, the prevailing wisdom was that Congress would look to pass legislation allowing ISPs to charge for premium access. But the changing political climate in Washington has signaled an opening for media companies eager to secure favorable rates.
One positive signal for proponents on net neutrality, according to a New York Times article, is the selection of Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker of the House. Pelosi, who represents a district in San Francisco near Silicon Valley, has been a longtime supporter of net neutrality.