Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Congress Introduces Dual Net Neutrality Bills

Net neutrality is getting a serious look-over on Capitol Hill, with two bills currently in the House of Representatives. The first is called the “Internet Freedom Preservation Act,” and was introduced in February 2008 by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chip Pickering (R-MS). The bill sets broad guidelines for protecting the open internet, and compels the FCC to hold hearings, gather public opinion and report its findings back to Congress. Currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the legislation was referenced several times in a May 6 hearing on net neutrality.

Another bill was recently introduced in the House Judiciary Committee, which deals with antitrust and free speech issues. In April 2008, OK Go’s Damian Kulash testified before this very committee on the importance of net neutrality to the creative community.

You may recall in August 2007, when AT&T censored a live Pearl Jam webcast, illustrating the free speech implications of a world without net neutrality. The antitrust side of things is a bit more complicated, but basically has to do with stopping network operators from discriminating against applications or content that competes with their own services. The idea is to keep the internet working like our phone system, where all companies, services and users have equal access to the same infrastructure.

The "Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008" was introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on May 8. It differs from the Markey-Pickering bill in that includes antitrust language and doesn’t rely on the FCC for reporting and enforcement.

"The Internet was designed without centralized control, without gatekeepers for content, relevant products and services," Conyers said in a statement. "If we allow companies with monopoly or duopoly power to control how the Internet operates, network providers could have the power to choose what content is available."

It remains to be seen what becomes of these bills, but we’re glad that Congress recognizes the importance of this issue. Musicians should too. That's why you should sign up for FMC's Rock the Net Campaign and show your support for the open internet.

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