Network Neutrality Returns

Efforts to resuscitate network neutrality legislation seem to be gaining some momentum on Capitol Hill. Reports from inside the Beltway say that Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, is close to reintroducing his net neutrality bill. Readers may recall Markey’s bill was voted down last year when offered as an amendment to the House’s sweeping telecom reform bill. Hearings may begin as early as this month. Meanwhile, over in the Senate, the Snowe-Dorgan net neutrality bill, another 2006 loser that was re-introduced and tabled in January, may be coming up for debate in the Senate Commerce Committee. The latest moves come after some rather sensationalized reports of Internet blocking by Comcast and AT&T. First, AP accused Comcast of blocking traffic headed for certain peer-to-peer sites. The truth turned out to be that Comcast merely was slowing down isolated P2P uploads by reducing the number of simultaneous connections the user could have to the file-sharing site. As George Ou, an IT blogger for ZDNet explained Nov. 6, “We can think of it as a freeway onramp that has lights on it to rate limit the number of cars that may enter a freeway… If you didn’t have the lights and everyone tries to pile on to the freeway at the same time, everyone ends up with worse traffic.” (The facts did not stop Free from going into full blather about discrimination, demanding the FCC impose up to $2.3 billion in fines on Comcast.)