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Neutrality Divides On Party Lines
David A. Utter
The potential to future innovators to build on the success of the Internet may
well hinge on network neutrality, but the two major political parties in Congress
see the issue differently.
In a nutshell, or at least in a story
appearing on ZDNet, Democrats noted in the article side with the concept of net
neutrality, while Republicans favor holding off on legislating against infringements
on net neutrality.
At the heart of the debate are billions of dollars the phone and cable providers
claim they need to generate in order to continue to develop their broadband networks
across the country. To raise that revenue, the network providers say they want
a two-tiered Internet, where providers like Google and Yahoo can pay extra for
a guaranteed, reliable delivery network.
The debate began in the Senate, as Google VP and chief Internet evangelist Vint
Cerf told a Senate committee how essential net neutrality will be going forward.
On the opposity side off the issue, executives from the US Telecom Association
and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association both say their members
would never discriminate against services like VoIP, nor do they "plan to impede
Now we'll have a little fun with ZDNet's report and the always-useful OpenSecrets.org,
a website that tracks campaign contributions to elected officials.
The article mentions Senator John Ensign (R-Nv), who called for modernizing regulations
to "create more incentives for companies" and generally do all the things they
should have accomplished anyway after passage of the 1996 Telecommunications
Act. Among the big contributors to Ensign's recent campaign cycle is SBC Communications
(now AT&T), whose CEO Ed Whitacre has been very public with his calls for a two-tiered
Senator George Allen (R-Va) showed reluctance to legislate because "no broadband
provider has moved yet to block or impair certain sites." Allen's campaign contributors
include several of the big phone and cable providers in his top twenty generous
givers: Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and Time Warner.
The argument that no one has blocked or impaired sites yet is a dodge. A two-tiered
Internet doesn't mean the existing connectivity would be impeded in any form.
It just means that an improved second tier could be constructed that is faster
than the existing tier.
Think of the way TV commercials frequently sound louder than the programs. Broadcasters
don't pump out louder volume levels for commercials, they just transmit programs
at a lower volume level and the ads at a closer level to the maximum.
Contributions do not mean that any particular elected politician will favor or
oppose a given issue just because a party close to the issue has provided a few
thousand dollars to a politico's war chest; political affiliation does not rigidly
define the 'for' and 'against' sides of an issue either. However, neither should
the influence of money be discounted from the equation.
About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.