Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Reply from Congressma
n David Wu
show details 8:44 AM (1 hour ago)
Dear Mr. Margulies:
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 215 the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2007. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.
S. 215 was introduced by Senator Byron Dorgan (ND) on January 9, 2007 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Supporters of S. 215 say the purpose of this Act is to promote competition, to facilitate trade, and to ensure competitive and non-discriminatory access to the Internet. Specifically, it amends the Clayton Act to ensure that network providers cannot discriminate against content and service providers.
I believe that we should strive to maintain the elements of the Internet that have made it such a potent force for innovation, communication and entrepreneurship without any undue government regulation. While one could view this as government regulating the Internet, many believe this is a critical step by the federal government to maintain the access that has kept the Internet vital and expanding.
Advocates of legislation that mandates so-called Net Neutrality might argue that such a move by the federal government now represents a similar attempt to maintain a status quo that has effectively allowed the Internet to flourish but could change dramatically due to some recent rule-making by the Federal Trade Communication and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Specifically, network neutrality is a term describing a legal theory of Internet regulation. This theory holds that the Internet should be subject to common carrier regulations traditionally applied to railroads and the telecommunication network. According to this view, the owners of the transport system cannot use their ownership to favor one company that uses the system over another. So a company that owned the railroads, telephone lines or, in this case, high-speed internet lines cannot use their ownership of the lines to discriminate against other companies who use the lines by slowing or blocking service.
The expansion of the Internet in the 1990s all took place under common carrier rules, because most users connected on modems over regulated phone lines. These regulations ensured that the owners of the lines, telecommunication companies, were not permitted to ban certain types of programs, to ban certain types of devices connecting to the network, or to favor traffic to certain web sites over others.
As more and more Internet users have moved toward connecting through high-speed cable lines, the regulatory picture changed as a series of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and court decisions have moved away from the common carrier system.
In a 2002 ruling, the FCC determined that reclassified cable modem services in such a way that they were no longer subject to common carrier rules. This decision was initially rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court and then reinstated in June, 2005. Shortly after the FCC expanded this new more permissive definition to DSL services, which is the primary competitor to cable companies for high speed Internet service.
Consumer Advocates and even some members of the FCC worried that this change would allow cable companies and phone companies who own high-speed lines on which the Internet runs to change drastically the nature of the Internet and create a system of tolls on what had been essentially open highway. The owners of the Internet system could charge companies and organizations who offer products, services or information to guarantee that they have access to the high speed capability of the lines. It could create a two-tiered Internet, one with guaranteed speed for those who could afford it and one for those who could not.
The concern here is that large companies such as Time/Warner or Microsoft will be able to afford the guaranteed tier but independent media, small businesses, or entrepreneurs just getting started will not have the ability to pay the tolls. A service like Google, which was created by two college students in their dorm room, may not have been able to compete and gain traction had it been unable to pay to compete against bigger companies with enough money to guarantee speed and access but with arguably inferior products such as the search engines offered by Microsoft or Alta Vista. These search engines were some of the largest at the time Google made its debut.
On the other side of the argument are the broadband players, who say they have the right to be compensated for money spent in building the networks. Intrusive federal legislation, they say, would reduce the incentive to invest in speedier networks in the future.
However, many of the groups which now oppose efforts to keep the Internet operating as it has, such as the Telecommunications Industry Association, were hugely supportive of government regulation against taxes that would have changed the nature of the Internet then.
I believe an open and accessible Internet is important for both consumers and for to protect the kind of entrepreneurial innovation ushered in by the Information Age that helps keep us competitive in the global economy.
As proposals move through Congress, I will work to ensure the needs of consumers and tools to create innovation are protected and even enhanced. Thank you for sharing your perspective on these issues. If I can be of further assistance, please contact me at 503-326-2901 or 800-422-4003. If you would like regular email updates, visit my website: http://www.house.gov/wu/.
With warm regards,
Member of Congress