Several Net Neutrality bills were introduced in the 109th Congress, but none of them succeeded. The Republican-controlled Congress was not interested in interfering with the telecommunications companies, who possess a strong lobby. Many Democrats voted against Net Neutrality measures because of pressure from telecom workers unions, who feel that Net Neutrality measures would slow employment opportunities in the telecommunications industry. After the midterm elections, the calculus has changed. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district is close to the heart of the Internet business boom, and she has voiced strong support for Net Neutrality legislation. Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), the influential chair of the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus, has stated that enacting Net Neutrality legislation this year is a major goal. He is joined by Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), who heads the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. Representative Markey plans to introduce a Net Neutrality bill very similar to one that failed last year. In the mean time, the Senate is already seeing some early Net Neutrality action. Byron Dorgan (D-SD) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced a bill in January. The bill uses the same language as a failed amendment to the ill-fated COPE bill last year. It allows backbone providers to prioritize specific types of content, but only if the prioritization occurs for all traffic of that type, and without an additional fee. Observers present at the State of the Internet conference in Washington, DC in January indicated that while the Dorgan bill is not likely to get very far, it is merely the first salvo in what promises to be a lengthy and complicated fight. While proponents have momentum and the advantage of Congressional leadership largely in favor of legislation, passing a bill on such a large and contentious issue is never easy. Getting meaninful legislation through Congress and past a possible White House veto will be difficult. The sentiment among Democratic leaders seems to be that the telecommunications companies had their chance to reach a deal in the 109th Congress, but they played hardball in an attempt to stall legislation. Now that the political balance in Congress has changed, the telcos may find legislators less receptive to their arguments against Net Neutrality. The debate over Net Neutrality has also opened up discussion of whether the FCC is the best monitor of backbone provider behavior. Some commentators on both sides of the debate have pointed out that the Federal Trade Commission is a more appropriate government agent for policing whatever rules are ultimately put in place. For some of the candidates in the 2008 Presidential race, Network Neutrality has already become a platform issue. Senators Brownback and McCain have come down against Net Neutrality, while Senators Clinton, Edwards, and Obama are for it.

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