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U.S. House Rejects Net Neutrality 598

Posted by Zonk
from the tiered-internet-here-we-come dept.
tygerstripes writes "A recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives has led to a rejection of the principle of Net Neutrality from the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (Cope Act), in spite of massive lobbying from prominent businesses. According to the BBC, the bill '...aims to make it easier for telecoms firms to offer video services around America by replacing 30,000 local franchise boards with a national system overseen by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'. However, according to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, 'telecommunications and cable companies will be able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway... This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the internet.'"
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U.S. House Rejects Net Neutrality

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  • by paulyche (970668) on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:21AM (#15501543)
    When the war is held to be illegal people are talking about a supposed violation of international, not domestic, law.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,108915 8,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/36611 34.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    You know - illegal in a greater global sense. After all, no country is an island...
    No wait.. ...well you get the picture.
  • Re:US = Fuxx0red (Score:3, Informative)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:22AM (#15501546) Journal
    "Also, can someone clearly list some bullet points of how this will ultimately affect the end user?

    did you RTFA? It's pretty clear, otherwise Save The Internet [savetheinternet.com] dumbs it down for ya a bit.
  • by l2718 (514756) on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:23AM (#15501555)
    Here's the roll call [house.gov] for this bill. You can also get the full record [loc.gov] of the bill (H.R. 5252), in particular see what happened to particular amendments [loc.gov].
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:23AM (#15501557) Journal
    Wait, didn't it say that the house rejected the bill. Wouldn't that mean that the tolls will not be in place? Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but I thought for once The House stopped something that it should. Can someone clear me up on this. Am I backwards or are you complaining about a situation that isn't going to come to light since they rejected it?
    The issue here is simply that instead of having something like 30,000 local franchise boards vying for your moneys, there will be an FCC commission dictating what will be the lowest price for you to access certain things on the internet.

    If you read the article, this means that users will not have competing services (like how capitalism is supposed to work).

    What was struck down was a proposal to make an amendment that would prevent providers for charging more for certain kinds of media & sites being accessed by users. What they wanted to protect you from is a scenario like you stream a lot of videos so you will now pay more than your neighbor who does not stream a lot of videos. The proposal for you to be paying an equal amount has been rejected & now you will begin to see ISPs opening up a salvo of charges to people who are simply accessing large amounts of information or visiting particular sites. It's up to your ISP to essentially decide what is tolled and what isn't now. May god have mercy on us all--because the Slashdot crowd is probably one that demands high bandwidth (if you're anything like me).
  • Re:US = Fuxx0red (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:28AM (#15501598) Homepage
    Solutions? simple do what we did in the early to mid 80's.

    have lots of linux and BSD machines at key locations creating the "freebie-net" that relay information. Typically if you plop servers at universities you get around most of the BS but ploping a server physically near google, yahoo, etc.. you get to route around these "slow lanes" the telcos create.

    Encrypted tunnels from University to University will thwart the best telco attempts to try and detect any subverting of the throttling lanes and you use the grid of freebie-net servers to do your web access.

    Now getting a very large group of geeks to cooperate for such a task for free, that is a completely different story.
  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheGavster (774657) on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:41AM (#15501688) Homepage
    The way the internet works, you have an ISP, Amazon.com has an ISP (probably more than one), and between those networks are a number of other service providers. At each link, the side that is generating more traffic pays a fee proportional to the difference. For example, you generate traffic on your link to your ISP, but you don't pass traffic for your ISP, so you pay for the traffic you pass. The same goes on Amazon's end; they aren't in the business of forwarding traffic, so they pay a hefty fee. Your ISP probably does pass nearly as much traffic for other ISPs as it sends out for it's customers, so it pays something for its links as well. You see, everyone pays already. You pay, Amazon.com pays, and all the ISPs in the middle (with the exception of Tier-1 ISPs that pass and generate traffic equally) pay. What the concept of 'tiered pricing' does is make Amazon.com pay all of the ISPs in between - except they're *already* being compensated for their services. All the charges for passing Amazon.com's traffic already trickles down to their bandwidth bill.

    A car analogy is cliche, but suppose UPS is delivering a package to you from Amazon. Amazon pays UPS to deliver it, and passes that cost on to you. Now, to get to your house, the UPS truck has to go down a toll road. So they pay the toll, because they knew it was coming and added it into the bill they charged Amazon. If this toll road was operating under these new 'tiered services', however, they would also send a bill to Amazon.com for shipping a package down their road. That's not right; they already got their toll.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:45AM (#15501712)
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/internet/06/09/cable. phone.tv.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

    "WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation to open cable TV markets to more competition, possibly saving consumers hundreds of dollars a year, passed the House Thursday.

    The biggest telecommunications legislation in a decade, approved 321-101, would make it easier for telephone companies to enter the subscription television market. A national franchise process would replace the current system where potential providers must negotiate contracts municipality by municipality, sometimes taking months and years.

    The vote came shortly after the House rejected a Democratic-backed amendment aimed at better protecting Internet users from pricing or access discrimination that Internet providers might apply. The issue of "net neutrality" dominated debate on the bill.

    "This legislation can increase competition not only for cable services, but also unleash a race for who can supply the fastest, most sophisticated broadband connections that will provide video, voice and data services," said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas.

    He noted that because of the impediments created by the local franchising system, the United States doesn't even rank in the top 10 worldwide in broadband deployment. "This bill should change that statistic."

    Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, who heads the telecommunications subcommittee, estimated that people could save $30 to $40 each month if given a choice in video services.

    But many Democrats said the measure did too little to ensure that broadband services would be extended to lower income and rural areas.

    They also said the bill does not adequately address "net neutrality," preventing companies from discriminating against competitors or less affluent consumers by restricting access or charging higher fees.

    The telephone and cable companies that provide the service say further regulation is unnecessary and would hamper efforts to expand high speed services.

    Demanding assurances of net neutrality are content providers such as Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Yahoo! Inc., and Internet users ranging from the Christian Coalition to rock musicians.

    Rep. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, offered an amendment stating that broadband network providers must not discriminate against or interfere with users' ability to access or offer lawful content.

    Without that amendment, said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, "telecommunications and cable companies will be able to create toll lanes on the information superhighway. This strikes at the heart of the free and equal nature of the Internet."

    It was defeated 269-152. "You can call an amendment net neutrality," said Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio. "But it's still government regulation."

    "Tilting the cost burden onto end users, which would be the inevitable result of neutrality regulations, will only delay much-needed broadband deployment," said Mike McCurry, co-chair of Hands off the Internet, a coalition of telephone, business and small government groups.

    Barton's bill would give the Federal Communications Commission authority to enforce net neutrality principles and set fines of up to $500,000 for violations.

    Democrats also complained that the bill did not commit providers to spread their services to lower income and minority areas.

    The White House said in a statement that it supported the bill and its language on video franchising. But on net neutrality, the administration said the FCC has the power to address potential abuses. "Creating a new legislative framework for regulation in this area is premature," the statement said.

    Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, a black lawmaker who represents the South Side of Chicago, said he was co-sponsoring the bill because it would make it easier for minority entrepreneurs to get access to the telecommunicat
  • If you have a handful, or only one company controlling how you can use the internet, it's not a free market.
  • by wazzzup (172351) <astromac@@@fastmail...fm> on Friday June 09, 2006 @08:56AM (#15501793)
    I emailed my (Republican) Congressman about this and this was his response for the curious. I disagree with much of what he said but perhaps there are some discussion points here.

    Dear Chris :

    Thank you for contacting me regarding recent interest group proposals for so-called "net neutrality." It is good to hear from you.

    This year, Congress will reauthorize the 1996 Telecommunications Act. One of the key criticisms of that act (and the original 1934 version for that matter) is that, despite supposedly benevolent intentions, Congress essentially picked winners and losers in the various sectors of the telecommunications industry instead of allowing a free marketplace in which competition would lead to new technology, better service, and lower prices for consumers. As a result, many industry experts have concluded that governmental regulation has impeded the emergence of new technology and better applications. Perhaps the biggest example of America's stifled telecommunications progress is that the United States, despite being the world's economic powerhouse, is currently ranked 16 th for Internet broadband deployment. In anticipation of the reauthorization, I believe we must honestly examine and reflect upon the many government regulations already on the books and carefully consider the pros and cons of any newly-proposed regulations before endorsing proposals that may simply sound good on the surface.

    One of the issues that Congress will address is the concept known as "net neutrality." Certain interest groups and press editorialists proclaim that Congress should mandate that cable and telephone industry broadband operators offer control of their networks equally to any and all Internet traffic. In fact, several major software and e-commerce firms have already formed a lobbyist organization called the Coalition of Broadband Users and Innovators (CBUI) to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do just that. In the name of preserving "network neutrality" and Internet "openness," CBUI members argue that the FCC must adopt preemptive "nondiscrimination safeguards" to ensure Internet users open and unfettered access to online content and services in the future. Despite the rhetoric however, there is currently no evidence that broadband operators are going out of their way to block access to any widely used websites or similar online services. In fact, any significant discriminatory behavior on the part of broadband service providers ( BSPs ) would generally be financially counterproductive considering that BSPs make more money by carrying more traffic. On the rare occasion that a BSP may actively regulate traffic or impose differential pricing schemes on their network, it would likely be for rather sensible reasons. Network owners may want to discourage the use of certain devices on their networks to avoid system crashes, interference, or signal theft. They may want to price services differently to avoid network congestion and/or conserve bandwidth. They may want to exclusively partner with other firms to help them reach new customers and ultimately create superior services. And perhaps they may very well direct users towards some content before others because it helps them make the necessary money to recoup the huge investment required to create and build out broadband networks. Outlawing the ability of network owners to favor certain content kills a major financial incentive for entrepreneurs to invent and build new networks in the first place. Ultimately, in the absence of clear harm, government typically does not regulate in the preemptive fashion that CBUI members are requesting.

    Please be aware that the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently passed the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Efficiency Act of 2006. Among other points, the act empowers the FCC
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:18AM (#15501946)
    Now the ISP's infrastructure is private, and there seems to be a competition among ISPs

    What is your definition of an ISP? My definition is a company that provides internet connectivity to residential customers - like Verizon and Comcast.

    These companies like to claim that all their "investments" in infrastructure are private - but that is a load of bullshit. They all rely on government granted right of way to string their wires around, thus they are all public utilities. In many cases they also rely on public subsidies of one form or another - tax breaks, etc. They are also almost always monopoly or duopoloy markets. All are reasons for regulation because either way, they are not free markets to begin with.
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:3, Informative)

    by why-is-it (318134) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:25AM (#15501993) Homepage Journal
    I think it's important to differentiate between protocol based prioritisation and toll based prioritisation.

    Do you think that backbone routers will make that distinction?

    Routers can do QOS based on protocol and source/destination IP address. It's just another set of statements in the config IIRC. My guess is that the telcos will implement MPLS, so the relevant provider can slap their own QOS labels on the packets when it reaches their network, regardless of whether the packet had a QOS bit set in the first place.

  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:5, Informative)

    by JWW (79176) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:51AM (#15502191)
    How many times does it have to be paid?

    Answers from various sources:

    RIAA: Everytime you listen to it.
    MPAA: Everytime you wacth it.
    Telcos: Every time every bit crosses our wires.

    Which reminds me. I the old days, you could get internet access based on your timed usage amount. The market quickly figured out that set rates for bandwidth were better, much better.

    This idea of tiered service is so bogus its just confounding that they are wanting to try it. The only thing a "large pipe" carrier will need to do to win in the marketplace in _not_ charge extra to carry the data. God help (or rather not help, let them go to hell) the telcos if Google starts using its dark fiber to get into the market as an internet backbone carrier.
  • by ianscot (591483) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:52AM (#15502195)

    Why should they have to pay twice?...How many times does it have to be paid?

    Given that the lines here are in place partly because of government spending, I've already paid for this bandwidth once, in the form of my taxes. When we start seeing advanced rate plans that charge me more for the same access I have now, are we not paying again when we already invested in this access before?

    (It doesn't surprise me at all that this would happen in the House. The Republican Party hears two voices right now: massive corporate interests and the "social right," to which they need to pander to get elected. They don't think anyone else even belongs at the table when decisions are made.)

  • by Bimo_Dude (178966) <bimoslashNO@SPAMtheness.org> on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:52AM (#15502201) Homepage Journal
    House Roll Call for H.R. 5252 [house.gov]

    My Representative voted in favor of this. I already sent him a letter to let him know that I am not happy with his action. I'll be sending a letter to my senator later today demanding that he vote against this (not that it'll make a difference, but one can hope).

  • by HoboMaster (639861) on Friday June 09, 2006 @09:59AM (#15502247)
    Do you realized that nothing has changed? This isn't the government deregulatingthe telecom industry. There were no limits in the frst place! The telecom companies haven't implemented a tiered system yet, what makes people think it's suddenly going to happen now? It's not like they passed a bill allowing tiered pricing, they just didn't pass a bill prohibiting it. There's a BIG difference there.
  • You are absolutely correct! Free markets work best... free

    You are confused about what 'free market' means.

    A free market is free from anti-competitive influences, not 'free' as in everyone can always do whatever they want.

    A free market almost always requires a certain level of regulation to keep out specific anti-competitive influences.
  • Re:How Peculiar (Score:3, Informative)

    by stinerman (812158) <nathan DOT stine AT gmail DOT com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:37AM (#15502621) Homepage
    Per the bill (in its current form), there is still a $500,000 fine for anyone who goes against the FCC's broadband policy statement [publicknowledge.org]. Basically you'll have to complain if you think your ISP isn't living up to that statement, and the FCC will investigate. Who knows how effective this will be.

    Also, do remember that the Senate has to consider this. Perhaps they could slip neutrality legislation into the bill. Call your senators!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:40AM (#15502659)
    FYI,

    A Video of the Full Committee Hearing is Available
    http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/witnesslist.cf m?id=1705 [senate.gov]
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:4, Informative)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@CHEETAHnexusuk.org minus cat> on Friday June 09, 2006 @10:52AM (#15502779) Homepage
    But, and here's the question I've been struggling with over the last few days, what happens when the connection is encrypted? HTTPS or SSH or SSL or TLS? What can you route on? Source and dest IP only, I would think. Maybe that will be the lowest on the pole - "if your connection is encrypted, it gets the lowest service, since we can't tell what is going over that connection."

    This is indeed one of the problems of protocol fingerprinting - about the only thing you can tell is that it's an SSL session, or a TLS session, etc. Although you can make a guess that an SSL session on port 443/tcp is probably HTTPS that doesn't stop someone doing some other SSL based protocol on that port.

    SSH is a little easier - if it's an interactive session then the packet sizes will be reasonably small. If the packet sizes are large then it's probably SCP or some other high-bandwidth protocol and should probably be considered a bulk transfer anyway.

    Things get worse with protocols like ESP - you get no access to things like port numbers and very limited access to protocol attributes.

    Encryption and obfuscation is a big problem - some people think that it's a good idea to work around their ISP's traffic shaping by encrypting or obfuscating traffic. These people do not understand the economies of running a shared network and make things bad for everyone (themselves included). It's not possible to provide uncontended connectivity to each end user at a sensible price. As soon as you start contending for the bandwidth you have to do some prioritisation to prevent high bandiwdth protocols ruining the quality of service for everyone else. People who work around the ISP's traffic shaping end up causing the ISP to either buy more upstream bandwidth (which they have to pass on as a cost to their customers) or invest in more rigorous fingerprinting systems, whcih again result in higher charges.

    Maybe that's the next step in the bill - "in order to enforce this bill, we must require that all communications be unencrypted." Kind of a scary thought, no?

    I think that's very unlikely - it would mean the death of internet banking, shopping, etc. There's no way the banks would accept liability for confidential data being sent unencrypted.
  • Re:Not a solution (Score:2, Informative)

    by staeiou (839695) <staeiou@noSpAm.gmail.com> on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:15AM (#15503012) Homepage
    Net neutrality still allows you to prioritize protocols over one another. The bill says that if you prioritize one user's service over another, it has to be done universally for all users of that service. SSH traffic over BitTorrent? Legal under Net Neutrality. Fortune 500 SSH traffic over the rest of our SSH traffic? Illegal under Net Neutrality.
  • by level_headed_midwest (888889) on Friday June 09, 2006 @11:16AM (#15503024)
    And if anybody else wants to get into the game, such as a fiber or wireless provider, the telco and cable co sue. It happened here in Columbia, MO when the University of Missouri paid for and laid a big 160Mbit fiber loop from the campus to the backbone server a couple of miles away and was going to sell excess bandwidth to the residents to The local telephone monopoly, CenturyTel, sued them for "unfair competition" (sic) and won. They also made the university quit selling DSL to off-campus students, staff, and faculty. I guess $2M in contributions goes a long way in a town of 85,000...
  • DemocracyNow.org (Score:2, Informative)

    by Draracle (977916) on Friday June 09, 2006 @12:57PM (#15503915)
    Today's broadcast has a good interview on this subject. http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/06/0 9/1427218 [democracynow.org]
  • by XorNand (517466) * on Friday June 09, 2006 @01:33PM (#15504216)
    C-SPAN has an interactive map that shows you how your reps voted on this issue. The first vote [capwiz.com] was to send the bill back to committee to reconsider the net neutrality issues. A vote of "yes" means that your rep was concerned about net neutrality. It failed horribly, mainly along party lines (surprised?)

    The second vote [capwiz.com] was whether to pass the bill as-is, which passed by a 3 to 1 margin. A vote of "yes" means that your rep didn't think net neutrality was all that important. However, it's not quite as damning as the first vote since the passage of the bill does make certain markets (cable TV) more competitive.

    God I'd love to see the GOPs stranglehold on both houses broken this November. I'm not a Democrat, but it's amazing how dangerously one-sided the federal goverment has become over the past six years.

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