March 2011 Archives

NetNeutrality debate back again

This post is a bit off topic from the normal discourse here on PrivacyWonk; however, given that we frequently discuss topics related directly to the internet in some way, shape, or form I believe it is not too far off topic. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) vowed Monday to eliminate net neutrality rules recently (PDF) enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), referring to the regulations as a "government takeover of the Internet." Rep. Boehner speech came amid a push by House Republicans to overturn the new rules. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology announced Sunday that it would hold a vote on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011, on a resolution of disapproval to reverse the FCC's Internet regulations.  That vote was postponed and the new vote date will be is TBD. 

The joint resolution (H. J. RES. 37) states

"JOINT RESOLUTION
Disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices (Report and Order FCC 10-201, adopted by the Commission on December 21, 2010), and such rule shall have no force or effect."

The rules passed by the FCC are far from perfect; however, they stopped a large lobbying push against network neutrality.  That is a good thing.  Al Franken (D-Minnesota) was recently interviewed by Ars Technica on the subject and does a great job explaining the issues.  Repealing those FCC rules would allow this debate to start all over again.  It would be a giant step backward and it could have lasting consequences.

As the vote as been delayed, there is time to contact representatives on the House Energy Committee to voice your concern over the vote.  Membership of the full committee can be found here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/about/members.shtml. Membership of the Subcommittee on Communication and Technology can be found here: http://energycommerce.house.gov/subcomms/subcommittees.shtml (scroll to bottom). If you believe this issue is important, please take the time to write a letter, send an e-mail, or make a phone call.

To explain network neutrality, I turn to a noted PrivacyWonk friend, @oogali, who offered the following succinct explanation:

"Net neutrality started as a strictly economical issue (i.e. Google who buys IP connectivity from Level3, should not have to pay AT&T extra money when Level3 and AT&T already have an existing non-discriminatory traffic exchange agreement in place).

But now the term is being applied to damn near everything, and becoming highly political.

It is strictly a carrier issue. CARRIER. The entity who owns and operates the 'tubes' your IP packets move through.

If the carrier does anything to or based on those packets (blocking, rate limiting, charging extra), then it is an issue as their network is no longer neutral -- the "net" in "net neutrality" stands for network, not Internet." (Source: http://pseudonym.tumblr.com/post/1406407050/net-neutrality).