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On Net Neutrality, the so-called “Internet Freedom Act,” and the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009”

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Something terrible is afoot in both Houses. War hero Sen. John McCain has sponsored S. 1836, a bill to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet with the oxymoronic name, “Internet Freedom Act,” which, true to form, uses the good-ol’ FUD technique the GOP is known for, brings up memories of the Patriot Act. He said, “Internet Freedom Act of 2009 that will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation… It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy.” Yeah, smooth talk in favor of capitalism and laissez-faire, right? Wrong. It is nothing but plain and simple double-speak from a self-confessed tech newbie (when asked if he is a Mac or a PC, he said, Mac or PC? “Neither, I am an illiterate that has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance I can get.”) who also happens to be the biggest recipient of monies from the telecommunications industry (see Surprise: McCain Biggest Beneficiary of Telco/ISP Money), which, in turn, will benefit from this bill.

This bill has a counterpart in Congress sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the “Real Stimulus Act of 2009”, which would prohibit the FCC from “needlessly imposing regulations on the Internet…” and that the FCC’s efforts to enforce net neutrality would “ironically… make the Internet less neutral by allowing the FCC to regulate it in the same way it regulates radio and television broadcasts…” Bull-f’in-$417. These bills would enable the telcos to do as they please, and they have been trying to propose tiered internet plans and throttle internet usage, and their convenient excuse is that it is unfair that peer-to-peer file sharers and child pornographers, who use up massive bandwidth (not to mention commit crimes, atrocious and the not-so-atrocious) as compared to normal users, get to pay the same rates and enjoy the same unfettered access to the internet. Well, how about normal users who subscribe to podcasts (audio and/or video)? Normal users who pass the time (and kill a few brain cells and burn their retinas very slowly) by watching video clips on YouTube? Skype and other VOIP users? Smartphone users? These normal people consume vast amounts of data as well.

Not all hope is lost, however, as Rep. Rep. Edward Markey [D-MA7] and 8 cosponsors( Lloyd Doggett [D-TX25], Anna Eshoo [D-CA14], Maurice Hinchey [D-NY22], Jay Inslee [D-WA1], James McDermott [D-WA7], Joe Sestak [D-PA7], Henry Waxman [D-CA30], and Lynn Woolsey [D-CA6] sponsored H.R. 3458, otherwise known as the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.” Here is a summary, as written by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress:

“7/31/2009–Introduced.
Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009 – Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to set the policy of the United States regarding various aspects of the Internet, including access, consumer choice, competition, ability to use or offer content, applications, and services, discriminatory favoritism, and capacity. Makes it the duty of each Internet access service provider to: (1) not block, interfere with, discriminate against, impair, or degrade the ability of any person to use an Internet access service; (2) not impose certain charges on any Internet content, service, or application provider; (3) not prevent or obstruct a user from attaching or using any lawful device in conjunction with such service, provided the device does not harm the provider’s network; (4) offer Internet access service to any requesting person; (5) not provide or sell to any content, application, or service provider any offering that prioritizes traffic over that of other such providers; and (6) not install or use network features, functions, or capabilities that impede or hinder compliance with these duties. Requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promulgate related rules. Prohibits construing this Act to prohibit an Internet access provider from engaging in reasonable network management. Requires the FCC to: (1) promulgate rules to ensure that an Internet access service provider does not require a consumer, as a condition on the purchase of any Internet access service, to purchase any other service or offering; and (2) take certain actions, including regarding private transmission capacity services.”

One way you can do your part is by heading on over to http://www.savetheinternet.com/ and taking part in this unprecedented movement to keep the internet free, as the father of the internet, Vint Cerf wrote in an article in the Guardian:

“The greatest strength of the internet lies in its flexibility. When Bob Kahn and I were developing the technological protocols that underpin it in the early 1970s, we made a conscious decision that the internet should be platform, and content, agnostic. So the internet does not mind whether it is transmitting information by satellite or fibre-optic cable or whether that information is useful only to internet-enabled refrigerators and surfboards (seriously).”

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