Monday, September 25, 2006

Wade Through This

I wrote my U.S. Representative, John Lewis (D), a letter (ok... I took the time at least to send an original email) asking that he support net neutrality regulation and/or net neutrality legislation. Or maybe he could write-up some good kind himself. Heck, at the very least, just please not be led into temptation by hometown lobbyists from massive Atlanta-based telcos. I can't really make heads or tails out of this politico-speak response. Can anyone please offer me your interpretation? Thank you.

Dear Ms. Daughters (Hey, they pasted in the correct name!):

Thank you very much for taking the time to write me with your concerns about the future of information flow on the Internet. I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.

As you may know, some Internet service providers (ISP's) have made public comments about plans to develop a tiered system that would give a larger bandwidth to preferred websites. There have also been reports that some ISP's have restricted access to certain websites to prevent their customers from accessing and using these websites. To pre-empt these plans, a coalition of software and high-technology firms such as Amazon,com, Yahoo, Disney, and Microsoft, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to "assure that consumers and other Internet users continue to enjoy the unfettered ability to reach lawful content and services." This issue will become a key factor as the debate over the rewriting of the
telecommunications law proceeds.

A major Internet service provider in Georgia recently informed my staff of its plans as it increases its bandwidth. They told my staff that they "will not block or interfere with customers' access to lawful content or applications over the Internet" and have "no intention of unilaterally imposing fees on any Internet company."

(Tricky part is bolded by me, SG.) It does have plans to offer tiered service that will provide additional bandwidth to guarantee some services to customers and offer greater speeds to paying Internet companies. The provider says that a tiered service will reduce costs to consumers by offering greater service variations. (NOTE FROM SG: I assume the "major Internet service provider" mentioned is BellSouth?)

As Congress continues its debate over how to write the new telecommunications law, I will work to ensure that the Internet remains free of predatory efforts to restrict access to the tools that consumers have come to expect. The FCC has declared that Americans are entitled to: access Internet content of their choice, run online applications and services of their choice, connect their choice of devices, and have fair competition among network, application, service and content providers. While these principles will guide FCC policymaking, they do not carry any enforcement power. I believe that the new law should reflect and encourage these principles. (This is a good thing, right? Then again, we are talking about giving mo' power to the FCC - always a scary thought. This is where things get really tricky.)

Thank you again for sharing your views with me about this important issue. I hope that you will continue to contact me with issues that are important to you. Also, please visit my web site at for more information on legislation that interests you.

John Lewis
Member of Congress

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