Senators seeks Net neutrality


WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan pair of senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would limit the control that big cable, phone and other network companies could exert over the Internet.

Senators Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, have teamed up on the "network neutrality" issue before. In the previous Congress, when Republicans held a majority in both chambers, the pair introduced the same legislation. That measure was defeated. Even with the Democrats now in control, the fate of such a bill is still very much in doubt given the razor-thin 51-49 count in the Senate.

"The Internet became a robust engine of economic development by enabling anyone with a good idea to connect to consumers and compete on a level playing field," Dorgan said. "The marketplace picked winners and losers, not some central gatekeeper. That freedom -- the very core of what makes the Internet what it is today -- must be preserved."

The Internet Freedom Preservation Act seeks to ensure that broadband service providers do not discriminate against Internet content, applications or services by offering preferential treatment. The bill's backers contend that broadband providers may start acting as the Web's gatekeepers, deciding which content can get through to consumers, and which content providers could get special deals, faster speeds and better access to the consumer.

"Today's reintroduction of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act marks another step toward ensuring the fate of the Internet lies in the hands of its users and not the hands of a few gatekeepers," Snowe said.

Network companies contend that its the lawmakers who have designs on Internet control.

"There is a disconnect between consumers' desires for new products and services and the stifling effects of this bill," said Verizon government relations senior vp Peter Davidson. "Turning to net regulation at this point would be a huge step backward."