U.S. lawmakers introduce bill to ban 'paid prioritization' of web traffic

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:41pm EDT

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and his wife, Marcelle Pomerleau, arrive on the red carpet at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, May 3, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and his wife, Marcelle Pomerleau, arrive on the red carpet at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in Washington, May 3, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation in the Senate and the House of Representatives to ban deals where Web content companies could pay Internet service providers to deliver their traffic to users faster and more reliably.

The bicameral bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Representative Doris Matsui of California comes as the Federal Communications Commission is collecting public comments on new "net neutrality" rules.

The FCC's proposed rules, up for public comment until September 10, prohibit Internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to websites but may let them charge content companies to prioritize their traffic as long as such deals are deemed "commercially reasonable."

The proposal, however, also seeks comment on whether all or some such pay-for-priority deals should also be banned.

Leahy's and Matsui's bill would require the FCC to prohibit such agreements for paid prioritization on the so-called "last mile," the part of the network that goes from the Internet service providers to the consumer.

"Americans are speaking loud and clear – they want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider," said Leahy, who plans to hold a field hearing on net neutrality in Vermont next month.

The legislation would not apply to so-called interconnection deals, like the ones that have triggered a spat between Netflix Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc. The FCC is reviewing such deals but has not historically regulated them.

Experts have disputed how much authority the FCC has to prohibit discrimination involving traffic. Its previous set of net neutrality rules was rejected in January by an appeals court in a case brought by Verizon.

Comcast, through a condition placed on its purchase of NBC Universal in 2011, is now the only company bound by the earlier version of the rules, which allowed "commercially reasonable" discrimination of traffic, but signaled that potential pay-for-priority deals would "raise significant cause for concern."

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Comments (3)
TheNewWorld wrote:
“”Americans are speaking loud and clear – they want an Internet that is a platform for free expression and innovation, where the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit rather than based on a financial relationship with a broadband provider,” said Leahy, who plans to hold a field hearing on net neutrality in Vermont next month.”

These Americans mostly have no clue what they are talking about. If Netflix pays a cable company to mirror their content at their servers so it is delivered as quickly as possible to the end user that benefits Netflix, the cable company, and the end user. Why is anyone opposing that? If they are successful these partnerships will not exist and you will continue having to stream your content at slower speeds. I wouldn’t ask the average American for their opinion on pretty much any technical/engineering issue, I would rather ask those in the appropriate industries.

Jun 17, 2014 2:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ralphooo wrote:
TheNewWorld — As far as I can see, the article said nothing about mirroring. It only addressed transmission speeds, presumably encompassing latency as well.

Mirroring is, of course, done all the time, and it causes no problems. The trouble begins when GM pays a lot of money for advertising on, say Huffington Post, then pays Verizon, or Comcast to prioritize that traffic. GM also wants some authority over the content associated with its advertising, rejecting certain cultural or political messages which do not fit with its corporate image. The net result is that orthodox ideas are given an express route to the consumer, while dissenting views are forced to wait, possibly to the point where they cannot effectively be viewed.

The above is conceptually what has happened to the US during the last 100 years, when all commercial radio and TV programming was paid for by advertisers rather than by viewers. That sounds fine until you realize that the corporations selling soap are paying for the power to modify your habits and beliefs so as to make more profits. The profits aren’t the most important things in this picture. What suffers the worst is freedom of expression over the communications media.

Jun 17, 2014 4:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
simbolistic wrote:
The Republican Puppet-Masters won’t let that happen…

Jun 17, 2014 12:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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