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Senate Mulls ‘Net Neutrality Lite’

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The cries of a million or so petitioners have made it a little farther into the aural canals of Alaska’s Ted Stevens, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Stevens has offered up a compromise on Network Neutrality in a provision one critic is calling “Net Neutrality Lite.”

The provisions have been offered as an extension to the Communications, Consumer’s Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, which is set for a vote in the Commerce Committee as early as Thursday, June 22.

Though the addendum has language aimed at preserving the consumer’s right of way on the public Internet by forbidding ISPs from blocking access to web content and officially gives the right to use “any Web-based application,” the draft says nothing about restrictions or bans on tiered pricing, Reuters reports, who obtained a copy of the draft.

Net Neutrality proponents have struggled to offer a clear definition of the concept to critics and politicians leaning toward non-regulatory policies. The Wikipedia definition, however, is evolving to more plain language and columnists are striving to pare down the definition in order to make it more intellectually tangible.

This may be one reason Stevens’ compromise calls for a five year FCC study of the issue to separate “reality from the rhetoric,” while granting FCC power to hear complaints during that time. Stevens’ seeming lack of concern prior to this peace offering and current apparent lack of understanding of the concept have earned him the scorn of those wary of Twentieth Century “dinosaurs” creating Twenty-First Century technology legislation.

The additional language does not delve fully into regulating how the “pipes” are run by ISPs. According to Ken Fisher:

This approach differs from so-called strict Net Neutrality by essentially leaving businesses untouchedAt the heart of the matter is bandwidth. Would internet service providers have to effectively downgrade Joe Consumer’s bandwidth in order to sell his neighbor a “quality of service” add-on that would prioritize his own traffic? Stevens believes that this latter concern, while important, is already under the purview of the FCCCall it Net Neutrality Lite, if you will.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), another Commerce Committee member has stepped in on behalf of Net Neutrality proponents arguing that the compromise does not go far enough to ensure the protection of the Internet as we know it and will be lobbying for stricter guidelines.

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Senate Mulls ‘Net Neutrality Lite’
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