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Cerf's Up in Telco Tussle

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, gun owners, librarians, and consumer groups are (broad)banding together to push for Internet neutrality protections in legislation rewriting the 1996 Telecommunications Act to reflect the government's compelling interest in speeding the rollout of high-speed Internet service.

Monday, they will announce the formation of the SavetheInternet.Com Coalition in advance of a planned markup of the bill Wednesday in the House Commerce Committee.

The bill passed out of the Telecommunications Subcommittee with strong bipartisan support (27-4), although some legislators expressed concerns that protections against discrimination in Internet access service were not explicit enough and that the FCC did not have enough power to enforce them.

The bill contained authority for the FCC to punish violators of its broad Internet nondiscrimination principles with $500,000 fines, but the authority is only to adjudicate complaints, not to establish regulations mandating network neutrality. An amendment that would have established that authority was defeated soundly as well (23-8).

Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) argued that since noone could even come up with a consistent definition of network neutrality, it was better to simply support it generally, and let the FCC, the agency with the expertise, determine violations on a case-by-case basis.

The coalition wants particularly to turn a spotlight on lobbying campaigns by AT&T and Verizon on the bill, which they say are intended to "gut" network neutrality.