Net neutrality on Congress's fall agenda?

A day after a federal agency urged against new rules for broadband operators, Democratic leaders in Congress say they're not giving up on enacting the divisive anti-discrimination laws.

Never mind that federal regulators discouraged so-called Net neutrality regulations in a report unveiled Wednesday. Democrats in Congress say they still believe it's necessary to enact a new law to clamp down on the perceived threat posed by broadband operators that want to charge content owners extra fees for priority placement.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), one of the chief sponsors of such legislation that was rejected on multiple occasions by a Republican-controlled Congress last year, plans to revive the effort this year, an aide said Thursday.

The congressman declined to comment on the Federal Trade Commission report itself but expected nevertheless to reintroduce a similar bill "after Labor Day," the spokeswoman said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) likewise still supports the idea of Net neutrality legislation, although she, too, declined to comment more specifically on the FTC recommendations, spokesman Brendan Daly told CNET News.com. "The House will likely hold hearings on (Net neutrality) this year," he added.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past year or so, Net neutrality, as defined by proponents of the term, is the idea that network operators such as AT&T and Verizon should be prohibited from prioritizing any content or services that travel across their pipes--for instance, charging Amazon.com extra fees for the privilege of being delivered faster than, say, Walmart.com.

There was no immediate word on Thursday about plans on the Senate side, where members have just wrapped up another round of all-consuming debate over a contentious immigration bill. (A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, for one, said he had no new information to provide.)

In January, Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) reintroduced their bill, which would bar a so-called Internet "fast lane" for content and e-commerce companies with deep enough pockets to finance that ride. So far, it hasn't gotten any new attention in Congress.

 

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