Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ann Eshoo (D-Calif.) have given the industry and their colleagues something to ponder over the August recess: network neutrality.
The pair Friday introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, according to a draft of the bill supplied by Public Knowledge, which called it a bold first step that was bound to be a conversation starter.
Eshoo was a co-sponsor of network-neutrality legislation in the last Congress with Markey, and said last fall the bill would be reintroduced in this Congress.
The wide-ranging bill would amend the Communications Act to, among other things, enshrine the FCC's four Internet openness guidelines and its additional guideline on clear consumer notification.
The bill would also essentially mandate that service providers, "to the extent feasible," accommodate the uploading of large peer-to-peer files, saying that service providers need to supply enough bandwidth to "enable the provision of content, applications or services that "require high bandwidth communications to and from the end user."
It is the management of those files that has been at the center of the network neutrality-network management debate.
The bill would also limit reasonable network management with language that echoes that of speech regulations, saying that such management would only be allowed "if it furthers a critically important interest, is narrowly tailored to further that interest, and is the means of furthering that interest that is the least restrictive, least discriminatory, and least constricting of consumer choice available."
Access providers would also be required to offer the option of Internet as a stand-alone service.
Markey and Eshoo advertise the bill as, in part, "establishing a national broadband policy," which makes it sound like a complement to the already-established congressional and FCC and administration goal of a national broadband deployment plan.
The bill indicates that a government network neutrality policy is essential to small business, investors, consumers, entrepreneurs and innovators.
"In essence, the bill would return non-discrimination to communications law, preventing Internet service providers, such as telephone and cable companies, from interfering in that end-to-end relationship," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "The requirements would curb the ability of ISPs from using the claim of network management to impose their own priorities on data traffic, based on financial arrangements or other considerations," she said.
Net neutrality backer Free Press was buoyed by the news.
"All Americans deserve access to a free and open Internet, and millions have already called on our lawmakers to take action," said policy director Ben Scott. "This legislation gives the grassroots confidence that their voices are being heard, and we applaud Representatives Markey and Eshoo for taking a stand for net neutrality. This bill will serve as a great complement to the dedicated work of Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher to make network neutrality the law of the land."
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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