Regulation of network management practices may be coming soon. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman, has signed on as a co-sponsor of the latest network neutrality bill introduced in Congress, an indication that this time around network neutrality legislation has a greater likelihood of being passed.
According to the bill’s original sponsors, Reps. Edward Markey and Anna Eshoo, it will require the Federal Communications Commission to examine whether carriers are blocking access to lawful content, applications or services. The legislation calls for the FCC to conduct public broadband summits around the country to gather input from consumers, small business owners, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders “on Internet freedom and U.S. broadband policies affecting consumer protection, competition and consumer choice.”
The bill, H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act , includes a list of prohibited behaviors for ISPs but also makes allowances for reasonable network management practices. “The term ‘reasonable network management’ shall be defined by the Commission through regulations,” the bill reads.
The bill describes how the FCC is to evaluate what’s reasonable when it comes to network management: A technique is reasonable “only if it furthers a critically important interest, is narrowly tailored to further that interest, and is the means of furthering that interest that is the least restrictive, least discriminatory and least constricting of consumer choice available. In determining whether a network management practice is reasonable, the Commission shall consider, among other factors, the particular network architecture or technology limitations of the provider.”
Yesterday, the Energy & Commerce Committee conducted a hearing in which it advised FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that it intends to see this bill through to law.
At the same hearing, Genachowski said he supports legislation to overhaul the Universal Service Fund program, so that subsidies currently used just for phone connections in rural areas can also be used to subsidize Internet access, as reported by The Wall Street Journal .
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