John McCain moves to block U.S. net neutrality

U.S. Senator John McCain has introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from creating new net neutrality rules, on the same day that the FCC took the first step toward doing so.
McCain on Thursday introduced the Internet Freedom Act, which would keep the FCC from enacting rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet content and applications. Net neutrality rules would create “onerous federal regulation,” McCain said in a written statement.

The move came a day after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ordered Canadian Internet service providers to give wholesale customers 60 days advance notice of any traffic shaping policies and requires them to ask permission before stifling voice over IP or video conferencing traffic.

U.S. regulator voted to formalize rules

The FCC on Thursday voted to begin a rulemaking process to formalize net neutrality rules. The rules, as proposed, would allow Web users to run the legal applications and access the legal Web sites of their choice. Providers could use “reasonable” network management to reduce congestion and maintain quality of service, but the rules would require them to be transparent with consumers about their efforts.

The new rules would formalize a set of net neutrality principles in place at the FCC since 2005.

McCain, an Arizona Republican, called the proposed net neutrality rules a “government takeover” of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an “already anemic” job market in the U.S. McCain was the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, and Obama has said net neutrality rules are among his top tech priorities.

McCain protested the FCC’s proposal that wireless broadband providers be included in the net neutrality rules. The wireless industry has “exploded over the past 20 years due to limited government regulation,” McCain said in the statement.

“Today I’m pleased to introduce the Internet Freedom Act of 2009 that will keep the Internet free from government control and regulation,” McCain said. “It will allow for continued innovation that will in turn create more high-paying jobs for the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeking new employment. Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy.”

President Obama’s congressional allies also concerned over FCC proposal
It’s unclear whether the legislation would pass. Democrats, who generally support net neutrality rules, have majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but in recent days, more than 70 House Democrats have written the FCC expressing concern over net neutrality regulations.

Elsewhere, reaction to the FCC’s decision was mixed.

Supporting net neutrality rules:

— “Network neutrality protects the fundamental rights of Americans in using the Internet and accessing content, applications, and services of their choice. A well-reasoned network neutrality policy also ensures a level playing field for companies large and small as they create an online presence, and will continue to foster the entrepreneurial innovation found not only in corporate office suites, but in college dorms across the country.” — Statement from Senators Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, Maine Republican.

— “It is clear to us that at the end of the proceeding, consumers and innovators will benefit from an open and nondiscriminatory Internet. As a result, the economy will benefit in the future, as it did in the past, from the stability of an Internet that grants equal opportunity to all to participate in an open Internet environment.” — Statement from Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, a digital rights group.

— “This is a down payment on creating a digital democracy. Today’s vote to begin the process of requiring nondiscrimination insures, among other things, that large internet providers will be unable to block or throttle speech from competitors or those who disagree with them. The nondiscriminatory environment in which the Internet was developed fostered unprecedented opportunities for political and artistic expression.” — Statement from Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and CEO of the Media Access Project, a media reform and digital rights group.

Opposed to net neutrality rules:

— “I remain concerned … that the FCC is poised to take intrusive action into a well-functioning Internet ecosystem without either the demonstrated need or clear legal authority to do so. I know of no empirical evidence suggesting that the openness of the Internet that we all value is under threat today, or is likely to be under threat tomorrow. In the absence of evidence of market failure or demonstrable consumer harms, the costs of government intervention are more likely to outweigh the benefits.” — Statement from Barbara Esbin, a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank.

— “As the FCC’s Broadband Task Force said recently, it could take $350 billion to build next-generation broadband across America, and most of that money will have to come from the private sector and companies like Comcast. We continue to hope that any rules adopted by the commission will not harm the investment and innovation that has made the Internet what it is today and that will make it even greater tomorrow.” — Statement from David Cohen, executive vice president at Comcast

— “I understand there is a regulatory revival climate in Washington under the Obama Administration, but the FCC’s launch of a rulemaking proceeding to adopt new Internet regulations stands out as an example of a proposed regulation in search of a problem that will then search for a solution to address the non-problem. At the FCC meeting, there was absolutely no evidence presented by the FCC’s staff of any market failure or pattern of marketplace abuses. It is risky business for regulators to mess with a technologically dynamic environment that is working well for American consumers and the economy.” — Statement from Randolph May, president of the Free State Foundation, a free-market think tank.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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