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New net neutrality bill proposed; Comcast still under fire

Wed, 02/13/2008 - 7:14am
Brian Santo

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a revised network neutrality bill as the communications industry in general, and Comcast and Verizon in particular, were defending themselves in Congress against charges of violating net neutrality principles.

Comcast is under fire for a specific method of network management known to be commonly used. When Internet traffic is particularly heavy, it cuts off peer-to-peer sessions with the understanding that the P2P applications will automatically try to re-establish the session until successful.

CED reported in October (story here) that this is what Comcast has been doing, but Comcast’s testimony in Congress yesterday was the first official public acknowledgment of the specific details.

Current principles of network neutrality, established by the FCC in 2005, acknowledge that communications service providers must manage traffic on their networks.

Comcast reiterated that the procedure is a necessary network management technique, and said that since the ultimate effect of the technique is to merely delay P2P traffic, it is in fact adhering to prevailing network neutrality principles.

Meanwhile, the bill introduced by Rep. Markey, titled the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, aims “to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators.”

Multiple news outlets report that the goal of the proposed legislation is to make Internet traffic subject to rules similar to those long governing telephony: that all traffic must be connected without delay. There is no direct mention of such in the text of the proposed bill, however.

The 2008 version (a copy is here) does not set any rules at all. Instead, it punts the issue to the FCC.

The bill instructs the FCC to investigate a) whether broadband companies comply with the network neutrality principles the FCC established in 2005, b) broadband service fees and charges, c) the availability of parental controls, d) traffic management practices, e) the value of an open platform, f) the need for regulation, and more.

An earlier network neutrality bill, introduced in the Senate in 2006 with the same title but not passed, allows network service providers to prioritize traffic. That language is also missing from the Markey bill.

Separately, the FCC intends to hold a hearing open to the public about net neutrality and network management on Feb. 26 at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass.

More Broadband Direct:

• New net neutrality bill proposed; Comcast still under fire 

• DirecTV’s revenue increases in fourth quarter 

• Jamaican triple play provider chooses Scorecard Systems 

• Broadband Briefs for 2/13/08

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