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House lawmakers close to net neutrality bill

The House Commerce committee is getting close to crafting net neutrality legislation that would give the Federal Communications Commission authority for two years to enforce existing guidelines but leave out some key provisions pushed by public interest groups and some Internet companies.

Democratic and Republican staff members have been in talks for weeks on a bill that outlines how Internet service providers can treat Web content and applications. Their talks, which include telecom, cable, Internet firms and public interest groups, have taken place as the FCC'S own efforts were hobbled by a court decision that questioned the agency’s authority.

“We are working hard on legislation to protect the open Internet,” said Karen Lightfoot, a spokeswoman for the House Commerce Committee. “At this point in the legislative calendar, developing a bipartisan consensus is critical, which is what we are actively working to do.”

According to Hill sources who were not authorized to speak publicly, the committee staffers have gained momentum in recent days on a narrow proposal that would give the FCC authority for two years to enforce its four open Internet principles.

But discussions have moved away from rules against paid “managed services” – where a company can pay for prioritization on a network – and a rule against discrimination. A provision that would include wireless services is still being hotly debated, according to one source. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have vocally opposed legislation that doesn’t pertain to mobile technology networks.

The talks could still fall apart, though lawmakers hope to get a bill together by next week to make it available for vote in his Congressional session.

“This would be a big win for the Bells and cable,” wrote Rebecca Arbogast, head of tech policy research at Stifel Nicholaus. “The strategy appears to reflect a strong stance by House Republicans, and an effort by the Democrats to obtain a minimum level of protection that would get the support of both the Republicans and Democrats.”

One House staff member said the bill will reflect the “least worst” of options for parties on both sides of the issue. Telecommunications and cable firms would get a bill that doesn’t give the FCC authority over broadband and only temporary authority to enforce net neutrality rules. Public interest groups and companies such as Skype, Facebook and other Internet firms would get a bill that at least gives them assurance that guidelines at the FCC are enforceable by law.

AT&T, Verizon Communications, Google, Skype and an open Internet coalition had been in talks with senior officials at the FCC for a legal blueprint on net neutrality. The discussions on the Hill appear to reflect an agreement struck by Google and Verizon that would allow for paid prioritization.

By Cecelia Kang  | September 17, 2010; 5:19 PM ET
Categories:  Net Neutrality  
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Calling this net neutrality, is like calling a chicken burger 'vegan lite'. Its not neutral, it's a sell out.

Posted by: timbern | September 17, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

And, of course, Google's reporter at the Post -- Cecilia Kang -- cheers the idea of regulation that would harm Google's competition and cement Google's monopolies... even though it would destroy broadband competition and pave the way for censorship of the Net.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | September 17, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

And, of course, Google's reporter at the Post -- Cecilia Kang -- cheers the idea of regulation that would harm Google's competition and cement Google's monopolies... even though it would destroy broadband competition and pave the way for censorship of the Net. (By the way, note that this page contains Google spyware scripts. Can you say," conflict of interest?")

Posted by: LBrettGlass | September 17, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Sigh . . . EVEN if the House Bill weren’t a GOP and Blue Dog Dem style sell out, it would still be blocked indefinitely by the totally fascist Senate rule that allows ONE Senator to put an indefinite hold on ANY legislation coming to the Senate!
Easy to see the damage of that particular imbecility by looking at the Oklahoma Senator’s recent blockage of the House's UNANIMOUSLY passed food safety bill (read protection from salmonella, etc.). Absolute Madness - - and the GOP Senators will blame Obama for gridlock! Madness AND Immoral!

Posted by: lufrank1 | September 17, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

The issue and concerns of net neutrality will never be resolved through legislation, there is too much at stake for some very large corporations.

The only way to resolve the concerns is to focus on what is the underlying driver behind the corporate activity in this area.

Remarkably the solution is quite simple and the Internet does not need to be saved because it can save itself.

Posted by: chrellis | September 19, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

What specifically is the problem they think they are addressing here? Why put innovation crippling regulations in place when no problem exists? Is this all because Comcast throttled some traffic a few years ago? Why shouldn't they? It is THEIR network, and just a few users were hogging a large chunk of their bandwidth.

Posted by: moonwatcher2001 | September 20, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

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