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Congress to Debate Net Neutrality 227

evw writes "The NYTimes is reporting that legislation was introduced in the Senate on Tuesday in support of Net Neutrality. It is bipartisan legislation introduced by Olympia Snowe, R-Maine and Byron Dorgan, D-N. Dakota, however the article notes that Senator Snowe is one of the few Republicans that supports it. "Senior lawmakers, emboldened by the recent restrictions on AT&T and the change in control of Congress, have begun drafting legislation that would prevent high-speed Internet companies from charging content providers for priority access." This isn't the first attempt. Last year a similar amendment was blocked. However, conditions placed on AT&T in its merger with SBC have emboldened supporters of the legislation."
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Congress to Debate Net Neutrality

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  • oh boy (Score:3, Funny)

    by syrinx ( 106469 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @11:28AM (#17539750) Homepage
    because Elbereth knows, when I think about things that are helpful, efficient, and beneficial to everyone, the first thing that comes to mind is "US government regulations".
  • by AndersOSU ( 873247 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @11:28AM (#17539760)
    Yeah I know, nothing to do with the article, but I'd prefer that congress draft legislation to ban the use of the word embolden. I also nominate incentivize and impactful.

    Feel free to mod me down.

    Oh and to you it's a living language people, I know, but these bastardizations can in no way improve our ability to communicate.
  • C'mon congress, learn from history. The second internet companies are allowed to make tiered internet is the day internet and porn dies. Do you want to be on the receiving end of THAT backlash?

    This is a step to limit the internet companies from rippnig the money from my wallet, but letting AT&T regain itself from a century of being split was a mistake. The evil has respawned, and threatens my porn.
    • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @11:37AM (#17539916) Homepage Journal
      C'mon congress, learn from history.

      If they truely learned from history, the Justice Department wouldn't allow AT&T to buy up its old subsidiaries that it took years of court battles to cleave apart.

      and I'm SURE it wouldn't have anything to do with letting the intelligence agencies have unfettered access to the data flowing through the pipes in exhange for resurrecting Ma Bell with little fanfare.
      • by jrumney ( 197329 )

        the Justice Department wouldn't allow AT&T to buy up its old subsidiaries

        Isn't it more a case of

        In Capitalist America, your former subsidiaries buy you!
    • C'mon congress, learn from history. The second internet companies are allowed to make tiered internet is the day internet and porn dies. Do you want to be on the receiving end of THAT backlash?

      Congress, counting its kickback and PAC money: "Huh... did someone say something? I thought I heard something... 1 million, 5 hundred, 30 thousand and 1... 1 million, 5 hundred, 30 thousand and 2...

  • on those in the center to make the rational choices to help lead our country forward. Olympia Snowe is one such example, and has continually been in her years of public office.
  • Libertarian stance? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by august sun ( 799030 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:02PM (#17540380)
    Dear /.

    I have a confession to make, I haven't been following the net neutrality issue closely at all. The extent of my understanding is that its proponents are calling for federal legislation ensuring that the private companies who do some infrastrutural magic to make the net possible, aren't allowed to discriminate or otherwise let business decisions apply to how they treat network traffic.

    As I see it, this should give rise to a philosophical point of contention:

    Namely, how do you reconcile libertarian free-market capitalism with legislation that at the end of the day will still be restricting the free-market actions of private companies.

    To distill the point, let's put it this way:

    /.ers tend to have strong libertarian leanings. /.ers are also vehemently and overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, which anyway you slice it still amounts to federal regulation of a free market.

    Any good answers to this? I promise there will be many +informatives/+insightfuls in it for you...

    • by Thansal ( 999464 )
      For the msot part you are right. /.ers tend to lean in favor of libertarian views. However, we (like every one else) are hypocrits, and when something will come along and specificly bite us, we want some protection from it.

      Now, there is an actual argument for legislation that is pro-net nutraity, and does not clash (that much with our libertarian ways).

      Most (if not all) of the infrastructre that supports the internet (all those miles of copper and fiber), was heavily subsidized (if not outright payed for)
    • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:37PM (#17540982) Journal
      Listen, the USA is not an entirely libertarian free-market, nor should it be. A completely free market is not a good idea in theory, nor would it be in practice.

      The cable companies/phone companies/etc. are not currently existing in a free market. All corporate utility providers are subject to lots of government rules, and for good reasons. Many of those reasons are purely practical. Running utility lines requires a lot of wires and pipes and whatnot to be strung through our cities, or under the ground, through many different pieces of public and private property. Not setting some regulations for how all of that work would create huge logistic, safety, and performance problems. I wouldn't want six different power companies all stringing lines through my neighborhood, even if it did bring prices down some.

      So why would any businessman want to get involved in this? Because when a company agreed to provide utility services under those restrictions, they were usually given a monopoly in that market, without all the work of crushing their competitors.

      Technology, forever moving forwards, has led to some interesting circumstances, where digital technology is allowing some of those formally separate utilities to start to dabble in each others' markets. It's all turning to 1's and 0's, and our computers don't really care how that information gets into our house. Even the power companies are exploring bringing data to us over their lines. Add in the development of wireless, and all of a sudden these long-time monopolies are experiencing competition.

      There are plenty of examples of how monopolies tend to act in response to competition. They often involve using their current power to exert influence on other companies, and force unfair deals. These deals are seldom beneficial for the consumer. The Net Neutrality movement is an attempt to head off one kind of these dealings before they become a problem.

      To distill the point, let's put it this way:

      The government gave many of these companies their monopoly position. And now the government is trying to keep them from using that monopoly position to unfairly limit competition and new technologies.

      I guess a 100% free market argument would be that their never should've been any regulations on these utilities in the past. I don't think the argument for that is particularly strong, but even if you could, it doesn't change what has already happened, and getting rid of all regulation and pretending like it never happened is not a good solution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Libertarian theory is that government is bad because it's violent and because you can't take your business to another government.

      Telecom companies haven't been out there committing genocide, but they are often monopolies and duopolies. They have power that the market doesn't control. They're in a position to limit other people's freedom and have announced plans to do so. Minarchist libertarians, as opposed to anarcho-capitalists, see a role for government in fighting other enemies of freedom.

      Libertarians, b
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There is a difference, even if subtle one, between adding value (higher speed) for a cost, and restricting access unless a toll is paid.

      In California, we have a couple of toll roads, and a bunch of free ones. Most people choose the free ones and most of the time it works well enough that most people choose the freeways. However during periods of high congestion some people, who have extra cash, can route around the traffic and go through the toll roads.

      I don't have a problem with this.

      However, if the fictio
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BadMrMojo ( 767184 )
      /.ers tend to have strong libertarian leanings. /.ers are also vehemently and overwhelmingly in favor of Net Neutrality, which anyway you slice it still amounts to federal regulation of a free market.

      Ok, I'll bite. You are correct in that this is pretty blatantly hypocritical.

      I can't speak for anyone other than myself (obviously) but on this particular issue, I've weighed the possibilities as I understand them and I feel that governmental regulation is - for better or worse - more likely to produce a desira
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lawpoop ( 604919 )
      There is one concept that you are missing in your analysis, and that is "natural monopoly". Unless we want fifteen different wires coming into people's homes, the telcos, power companies, and cable companies will have a natural monopoly on service to your home. Somebody owns those wires running across the sidewalks. We can't just quadruple the amount of phone poles overnight. If you are unhappy with your phone company, you can't just have another company drive their van to your house trailing copper wire be
    • Namely, how do you reconcile libertarian free-market capitalism with legislation that at the end of the day will still be restricting the free-market actions of private companies.

      If the market allowed for a real free market in Internet service, it wouldn't matter. People would prefer the ISP that gives them fast access to all of the content they want, rather than just the content providers who pay up. Or perhaps we'd end up with a choice between slightly cheaper Internet service that is partially content provider-supported, or more expensive service that is neutral. Letting the consumer choose between the options would be very much in harmony with Libertarian principles, and wo

    • The problem is that the bandwidth providers have effective monopoly status within their respective service areas, at the same time they are marketing their own content to their customer base. They are looking for additional revenue from other content providers for access to those customers, and all but threatening to choke access if they don't play along. The analogy would be SBC-Prime aka AT&T going to Verizon, Quest, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. and telling them there will be additional fees to call into
    • by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:11PM (#17541728)
      I'm not sure why but everyone on /. seems to think libertarian must be 100% free market. The libertarian view is that government should get only get involved when the free market cannot regulate itself. Last I checked, the telecoms aren't interested in playing fair []. This means we need the government to get involved.

      The public highway system is most definitely better than not.
      The USPS is fine for most peoples' needs.
      Corporations can't fund an army.

      The above government controlled systems are working pretty well. There's nothing wrong with the government legislating fair play. We need net neutrality.
    • by aarku ( 151823 )
      Looking past your political generalization... Telecommunications are public utilities that tend to be natural monopolies and therefore fall into a regulated sector.
    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )
      I had to struggle with that myself. I've found several ways:

      1) Telephone service and Internet service are not free markets, so the free market rules do not apply.
      In the Libertarian philosphy, you would not need this regulation because, if the consumer prefers Network Neutrality, then they would pick an ISP who offers it. The problem is that consumers don't have that choice. #1: Most areas only allow for 1 or 2 ISPs. #2: A given packet may travel throug a dozen different networks. I can choose who I subs
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Namely, how do you reconcile libertarian free-market capitalism with legislation that at the end of the day will still be restricting the free-market actions of private companies.

      A "free market" will result in a monopoly in many circumstances. Then, the monopoly abuses its standing to maximize profits with non-competitive pricing (which can be done because with a monopoly, there is not competition). These abuses have been repeated throughout the history of the US and the world. When one or two companie
    • Simple, because the government paid a large percent of the share of the cost of the infrastructure, the telecoms didn't really own it until the telecommunications bill in the late 90s let the telecoms have free reign of the system with a promise they would use that to built the network of the future by 2000. Well they lied, no surprise there. But in effect the government needs to take back control of what it gave away to private industry that what the taxpayers mainly paid for in the first place. Sure in ge
  • How the hell did 'plutoed' beat out 'embolden' for word of the year?
  • by volkris ( 694 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @12:38PM (#17541022)
    I think this Network Neutrality debate is a bit misfocused. If we want to ensure the ability of people to speak their minds on the Internet we would do better to attack the near-universal practice of ISPs blocking ports and restricting the use of home servers.

    THAT is where the free speech comes from: the people. The NN debate seems to be rather focused on the ability to choose between large companies that want to profit through our expression. Even though there may be more options it still represents a consolidation of content. If we want information we must get it from these providers; the only way for individuals to express themselves is to partner with some provider.

    It doesn't have to be this way. If ISPs would let us use even our measly aDSL uplinks (that we pay for) to legally serve our own content people would be able to self publish. Software would be created to deal with the technical challenges that would arise, perhaps with legitimate P2P providing interesting solutions to some of these problems. In any case, that small change in policy has the potential to really change the way people view and use the Internet.

    Network Neutrality proponents love to talk about a level playing field... lets level the playing field between the consumers and the providers as a whole.
  • by Snowgen ( 586732 ) on Wednesday January 10, 2007 @01:18PM (#17541856) Homepage

    Wow, first Congress solved the spam problem, and now they're going to address net neutrality!

    Why don't I feel comforted?

  • This is madness! The Internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

    Congress, don't clog the Intertubes!

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors