Internet Freedom Fight Brewing in the House

Today the House Judiciary Committee passed the “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2006,” HR 5417, which offers what SaveTheInternet calls “meaningful protections for Network Neutrality.” All 14 of the committee’s Democrats supported it along with 6 Republicans. 13 Republicans voted against it.

Today’s vote is shot across the bow in a turf war, as much as it is a victory for net neutrality. Last week the Judiciary Committee was denied a request to review the COPE Act, which creates a national franchise for the telcos’ entry into cable TV, but lacks any network neutrality provisions. Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenned is no fan of the big telcos to begin with, and wanted to examine the COPE act for anti-trust problems, of which the telcos’ power over broadband internet content might be one.

Although the Judiciary approval was bi-partisan, it did not have Republican majority, which indicates that it will still be a tough fight on the House floor, as a pissing match develops within the Republican party between Telco-supporters and Telco-critics.

The “Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act” itself is pretty short and to the point, and I find little to criticize. It provides clear protections against companies like AT&T providing its own broadband video at at speeds faster than other internet video, and requires that internet subscribers get the content they want at the speed they pay for, regardless of who provides it and regardless of what kind of content it is (video, audio, interactive, etc).

Yet, it still protects the ability of broadband providers to take,

reasonable and nondiscriminatory measures… to manage the functioning of its network to protect the security of such network and broadband network services if such management does not result in discrimination among the content, applications, or services on the network.

Should be an interesting fight to watch, especially as the Senate Commerce Committee starts slugging it out in June over the Communications, Consumers’ Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, S. 2686.

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